#NoFoodWasted: Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste

A week from today is Earth Day – April 22 this year. Instead of freaking out and trying to learn how to do some new crunchy thing like making my own solar panels out of tinfoil, what I’m doing is sharing with you some super easy ways that you can reduce waste. Specifically, I’ll show you the simple and stress free ways I reduce my food waste. Could I do better? Definitely. But this is where I’m at now, and hopefully there might be a few ideas worth gleaning.

Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste | Living Consciously Blog

Whole Chicken = Bone broth

Since we’ve started eating meat again, I’ve found that it is super simple to cook a whole chicken in the crockpot. Crockpot chicken can be done many ways but always results in me not having to do much at dinner time. If you want to make bone broth from your chicken, though, you want to avoid things like stew or extreme spices that would change the taste of the broth too much.

There are hundreds of blog posts on the benefits of bone broth, go read a few. It is a magical liquid full of nutrition that will give you the strength to leap tall buildings in a single bound and all of that.

Here is how to make use of the leftover chicken: if you have preschoolers or small children like I do, it takes them hours and hours to eat the single piece of food you served them, even when they like it. So after I have eaten my own chicken, I wash my hands, grab a few glass storage containers (affiliate link), and start pulling the meat off the bones while they sit there not-eating. I save the bones and most of the fat in a separate container from the meat. I typically refrigerate everything for a few days until I get around to setting up the bone broth. All it takes a is a quick soaking of the bones and fat in apple cider vinegar and filtered water in a crock pot early in the day or late at night, then fill the crock pot up the rest of the way with filtered water and your choice of spices and herbs. Keep it simple. You can use this recipe for bone broth if you need one. I typically let the broth cook on low for 15-18 hours.

Celery hearts, fresh herbs + freezer = bone broth

If you tend to let your celery hearts and fresh herbs go forgotten in the fridge a bit too long so that they’re still edible (not slimy) but just no longer at the peak of freshness, pop them into the freezer before they go bad. I do this a lot for parsley, of which I never seem to use the entire bunch. Take them out and put them into the crockpot to use in your bone broth. You can also use them in soups and stews if you chop before freezing

Compost and Chickens

I keep two containers on my countertop: one for compost and one for the chickens. My chickens are very spoiled and only like certain scraps. They do not like garlic or onions, despite how cool garlic would make their eggs taste. They do not like kiwi. They have varying opinions about mangoes. And potatoes, avocado, and a few other veggies are toxic to them. So for the things they can’t or won’t eat, I have a terribly unprofessional compost heap (read more about how to compost here). Instead of showing you a picture of my probably-not-genuine compost heap which tends to actually grow it’s own garden, I will show you my countertop containers.

Compost Chickens and Food Waste | Living Consciously Blog

As you can see, they do not have to be fancy. This is also a great reuse of plastic tupperware type containers that I have been given by other people which I will not use with my own food due to plastic leaching issues. And here are my chickens enjoying some of the scraps that they deem acceptable.

Feeding leftover veggies to the backyard chickens | Living Consciously Blog

Obviously, not everyone has backyard chickens, so for those of you who don’t…

Fruits & Veggies = smoothies

When your fruit gets a little too squishy for your enjoyment (bananas, mangoes, strawberries), or your leaves get a little wilted (kale, spinach, swiss chard) but you don’t have chickens or other pets that eat produce, pop that not-so-fresh stuff into the freezer. Then the next time you want to make a smoothie, use the frozen fruit or veggies! Don’t forget to reduce (or completely eliminate) the ice that you use since you are using frozen items. You might also have to increase the liquid a little bit. Here are my simple green smoothie guidelines.

Meat = curry

As I am relatively new to cooking meat, meat waste is new to me. No one in my household except me will eat leftovers. And since I still do not prefer to eat meat more than once every few days, I’m not a huge fan of eating all the leftover meat from weekly dinners by myself. I have figured out a few things that I can do with our most common leftovers.

Pork loin, Ham – curry! Right now I use a curry mix whose ingredients are all written in some form of kanji so it might be fairly toxic, but my family loves it! I just set the rice machine to have rice ready and then curry whatever leftover meat I have.

Making curry out of leftover ham, reduce food waste | Living Consciously Blog

Chicken – Chicken soups. Chicken tacos. Chicken stir fry. I also freeze uneaten chicken breast or shredded chicken to serve with rice to my kids on an evening when my husband and I might be going out, healthier than chicken nuggets!

Fish – Fish smells so bad when reheated! It gets so gross in the fridge. Does anybody have any good ideas for leftover fish? Please email me or send me a tweet!

Meal Planning

Overall, the best way that I’ve found to avoid waste is to plan meals to use leftovers. I am not good at this, and I am not a smart meal planner. For that reason, I pay someone else to do the meal planning. Currently, I am using Real Plans meal planning system (affiliate link) and I love it. It provides a shopping list that I can alter based on what parts of the plan for that week I want to use and what parts I do not, and all the recipes can be adjusted to fit larger or smaller groups. You can find my review of the Real Plans system here. (NOTE: I am an affiliate for Real Plans so I get a percentage of their fee if you sign up for their system). Other meal planning systems that I have used in the past include The Fresh 20 and eMeals.

Those are all my ideas for now, for more ideas on how to reduce food waste, follow the hashtag #NoFoodWasted on Instagram and Twitter. I’ll be posting more from my Instagram on Earth Day with that hashtag as well! 

Happy Earth Day!

Welcome blog #sponsor Cottonbabies: not JUST for babies!

Find out how 6 diapers can change your world! {free shipping on all US orders} Cottonbabies.com

Welcome a new blog sponsor, Cottonbabies! I actually cloth diapered both my children (consecutively and simultaneously) in BumGenius diapers, which is how I learned about Cottonbabies. You can find my posts on cloth diapering here. If you’ve been with me a while, you’ll know that I also wrote for the Cottonbabies blog for several years — definitely check it out, it’s a great resource for parents.

It might be tempting to think of Cottonbabies as a store only for mothers with babies, but it’s actually a great resource for parents of children of all ages. I want to list a few of my favorite products for children who are past the baby stage, like mine are.

We use Earth Mama Angel Baby body products a lot around here, actually. The nipple butter is ALL we use on chapped lips (I haven’t breastfed for over 3 years). It has the staying powder of Vaseline but none of the petroleum byproducts. And it stings less than most chapsticks, although my second favorite EMAB product is their lip balm. It doesn’t sting the kids at all. My son says he likes it because “it isn’t spicy”.

Eco-friendly period products. If you don’t have a tilted cervix like me and can use menstrual cups, Cottonbabies carries DivaCup. For the less adventurous, they also carry Lunapads cloth pads and organic tampons.

Piggy Paint. Little Lady is dreadfully obsessed with nail polish right now. It would be terribly toxic, if Cottonbabies didn’t carry Piggy Paint! Unlike some other eco-friendly non-toxic brands, Piggy Paint really stays put for a long time on little fingers.

All kinds of eco-friendly, educational toys. They have a whole section of Pretend Play – my kids use the tea set made from recycled plastic literally every day in their play kitchen. You can even get an eco-friendly telescope or microscope for your Big Kid from Cottonbabies!

And probably the thing you’ll be most excited about if you shop at Cottonbabies online store: FREE SHIPPING!

The Cottonbabies banner ad will be on the left column for the next 3 months, any time you need it. Visit Cottonbabies today and let me know what you think!

Saving money on organic non-GMO groceries

After a full year of saying we’re going to sit down and go over our budget, my husband and I finally did it. We used to be such superstars about our budget when we were first married, but it’s yet another area that has slipped since we had children. We have so very little time without the kids that it seems like a waste to spend it on budgeting (see what I did there?). Still, we did it, and we survived. The aftermath has left me with the task of saving money on organic non-GMO groceries.

We’ve been eating organic produce when it comes to The Dirty Dozen for many years; that has not changed and will not change. But ever since I attended Shiftcon in October, I’ve been making a more concentrated effort to avoid genetically modified organisms in our food. I have learned so much about what’s happening to our bodies, our health, and our children as a result of GMO’s in the past few years that it’s difficult for me to “unknow” all of these things and go back to allowing these untested organisms back into our food supply. I feel terrible about choosing cheap over safe now. I hate that it has to be a choice, but I know that if I keep “voting with my dollars”, eventually the companies will start listening.

I reached out to some wonderful clean eating anti-GMO bloggers that I know asking for their best tips on saving money while eating clean. I have compiled the best advice I received and hope to implement. Some of these things I already have in place and have already tested out for you! PLEASE NOTE: There are affiliate links in this list, meaning I am an affiliate of some of the online stores, so if you order from them I will get a few cents. Thank you!

Saving Money on Organic NonGMO Groceries | Living Consciously Blog

Saving money on organic non-GMO groceries

1. Buy supplements, specialty (gluten-free, vegan, Paleo, non-GMO) snacks, and pantry staples from online retailers.

A list of retailers that may be cheaper in some cases than Whole Foods, Sprouts, or even Natural Grocer include:

Vitacost (affiliate link)
Thrive Market (affiliate link)
Abe’s Market (affiliate link)
iHerb (recommended by Lindsay Dahl)

I have found that crackers, flours, bulk herbs and grains, bath and body products, dental products, and organic feminine hygiene products are cheaper on these sites than at physical stores. Tip: order with a friend so that your order is large enough to qualify for free shipping (usually $50).

2. Garden: grow your own organic produce and herbs

This would work better if I did not constantly kill everything that I attempt to grow, but I just keep trying! The most valuable thing for me to grow would be herbs, again if I did not constantly kill them. I spend $3-$4 per week on fresh cilantro, parsley or sage. If I could somehow stop killing the herbs in my garden, that would save me $156 per year, minimum. Related: has anyone ever tried the Aerogarden (affiliate link) for this? I have been thinking of ordering one for years to try to stop the constant herb death over here.

3. Meal Planning

I am literally unable to do this inside my own brain, so I pay someone to do it for me. I love buying meal planning and having someone else tell me how to cook and what to cook. Meal planning makes certain that you don’t buy what you won’t eat in a given week. No waste! Clean eating plans that I love:

Real Plans (affiliate link)
The Fresh 20
eMeals (choose the Clean Eating, Vegetarian or Paleo plan)

4. Use the freezer

Maybe 2015 will be the year we get an electrician out to install outlets in the garage for a deep freeze. If you have freezer space, you can buy in bulk and freeze. Things to freeze: organic fruits, organic vegetables (from your garden!), grass fed meat, large batches of soup, large batches of baked goods like muffins, pancakes, and waffles, leftover smoothies and bulk cooked beans (cheaper & safer than buying canned). You can also buy frozen organic produce more cheaply than fresh.

5. Shop smarter

I’ve saved a lot over the years by knowing where each item is the cheapest. For example, conventional marshmallows have high fructose corn syrup AND blue dye (linked to attention issues and hyperactivity in children, actually required to carry a warning label in the UK, largely phased out over there). So I buy organic marshmallows, but there’s a difference in cost depending on where you buy…

Whole Foods: $4.69 per package
Natural Grocer: $4.29 per package
Thrive Market: under $4 per package

Per my blogger friends across the nation, try to find these local chains near you:

Grocery Outlet
Costco (carries a TON of organic and GMO-free items)
Natural Grocer (by Vitamin Cottage, under that name in some areas)

For more ways to shop smarter, check on these posts Organic on the Cheap, Real Food Money Saving Tips, Using Amazon Subscribe & Save makes Real Food Affordable and Real Food Grocery Budget.

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I hope some of these tips help all of us! Here’s to a thrifty 2015, and please feel free to post YOUR money saving tips for organic, non-GMO groceries in the comments!

Dallas City Bag Ban: How to remember reusable bags at the store

How to Remember Reusable Bags at the grocery store | Living Consciously Blog

Since I’ve been crunchy for longer than it was officially cool to be crunchy, I was super excited about the Dallas city bag ban, because it means less waste and less danger to the wildlife. We lived next to White Rock Lake in Dallas for many years, and it always made me sad to see the hundreds of thin white bags lining the shore and being eaten by wildlife who later died. Bag litter is so ubiquitous that They Might Be Giants even wrote a whimsical song about a plastic bag floating along a walkway and attaching itself to the legs of passerby.

Anyway, things haven’t been so celebratory for a lot of folks in the area. The first time I visited Target after the bag ban took effect, the cashier was so defensive about it that she was actually rude when she gave me my free reusable bag (TIP: Target was giving out free reusable bags, at least the first few days!). It was like she fully expected me to throw a fit. I think she might have gotten that response a few times already, which totally explains her surliness.

I know that I spent a few years at first trying to remember to bring my own bags, and there’s nothing more annoying than PAYING for something that you know you already own, but forgot to bring. I made the following video to show you my best tips on how to remember reusable bags at the grocery store. (If you can’t see the embedded video, click here)

To recap what’s in the video:

The door of your car.

Behind the seat of your car.

Tiny, tiny bags. – here’s an affiliate link to the bags I mentioned that fold up into themselves.

Bags that fit in other bags. – another affiliate link to the 5-pack of bags I mentioned.

You don’t use as many. – you can pack a reusable bag completely full and it won’t break.

TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL: produce bags. – affiliate link to mesh produce bags. Or reuse the produce bags that you already have.

I’ll try to have a video next week reviewing the different types of reusable bags. Let me know if you have questions in the comments!

How We Cultivate Thankfulness in our family

If the month of November snuck up on you, you’re not alone! It sneaks up on me every year, with my son’s birthday toward the end and then Halloween. Then I wake up and, BAM!, it’s November! So we aren’t terribly timely with our thankfulness crafts around here. But, it is important to me to cultivate thankfulness in our family. Obviously, November is not the only time we want to be thankful, but it’s a good time to really focus.

There are 100 Pins on Pinterest of great Thanksgiving gratefulness projects. However, I am not a super crafty person. I do not own all the pipe cleaners, tempera paint, and precut turkey foam stickers that most of you people seem to have in your homes at all times. We sort of fell into this tradition of creating a thankfulness list out of things already around our house. Well, I feel like it is a tradition now, even though this is our second year. I do hope to keep it up (no pressure!).

Here is last year’s thankfulness chart and family list. My children were 2 years old and 5 years old, so it was too much to expect that they would each be able to come up with 30 individual things to be thankful for. So we had only one item per day on our list, and some items might have been suggested by Mom and Dad.

Thankfulness List 2013 | Living Consciously Blog

Thankfulness List 2013 | Living Consciously Blog

Supplies used:

packing paper from Amazon packages, flattened out
leaves we found on the sidewalk, pressed for a few days inside books to flatten
construction paper
pieces of coloring book that my kids cut up (their idea!)
sharpie marker
glue

This year, I was actually so far behind that there was no time to press leaves. We didn’t even get these set up until November 10. But this year, my children are 3 years old and 5 years old, and are able to think of their own lists (and also, to disagree and fight if they were forced to agree on just one thing each day!). So we each have our own turkey this year!

Thankfulness List 2014 | Living Consciously Blog

Supplies used:

large white paper, one for each family member
sharpie marker
yellow, red, orange, and brown construction paper
googly eyes (optional – I had these left over from kids yoga crafts)
glue stick

With this sticking-on-feathers-every-day model, we have to keep a baggie of precut feathers, a sharpie, and a glue stick at the table so that we can write our thankful items each day. If you want to get all crunchy, you can put these items in an aluminum box, GOOD FOR YOU!

The next step is, of course, to cultivate this kind of thankfulness throughout the rest of the year. Hopefully that would help with attitudes, right?

How has your family been cultivating thankfulness this season?