week 14: the budget update

Here we are: the last personal project blog. My final budget update on this site. (For those of you still interested–and thanks for the support, all of you–head over to my main blog, where the Friday budget updates will continue.)

I’ve noticed that I’ve gradually gotten worse at reporting impulse purchases, but our approach to them is different. Rather than seeing them as grocer spending, we see them as overall impulse purchasing/discretionary spending. It means if we blow too much money on fun food stuff, no other fun stuff happens–no movies, no coffee out, no shoes. While our food spending may not have decreased overall, we’re definitely budgeting better–still managing to eat well & have fun dates while *gasp* saving for retirement and having a real savings account. #BigKids

I was sick this week, so I never felt like really making food. I mostly drank 50/50 berry & ate crackers (or cookies). Toward the end of the week, we discovered our new favorite winter-weather salad with beets. I found a way to enjoy beets–or at least hide them under other things I like eating & chew them without gagging. Progress!

This Saturday, the winter farmers’ market starts. Between school work & picking up our CSA, we haven’t been to a farmers’ market in weeks. Since I’m hoping to get all but $10 of our food goods at the winter market, this coming week could be very interesting. People sound surprised when I say that we’ll try to eat just from winter market, but there’s loads that people grow through winter, plus several merchants sell dried goods & ground flour. And $10 gets you a lot of grains/proteins in the bulk food section of the store. I say, bring on this next zero-waste adventure! To be continued…

MENU

Breakfast: homemade toast & apple butter or granola with milk or pumpkin cookies (Hey, don’t judge!)

Meals:
Sun. lunch: kale & onion quiche
Sun. dinner: cheese ravioli with homemade roasted tomato sauce
Mon. lunch: home fries & eggs
Mon. dinner: free pizza! (I love student organization meetings!)
Tues. lunch: eggs & home fries
Tues. dinner: egg & cream cheese baguette sandwiches
Wed. lunch: sweet potato ravioli with arugula pesto sauce
Wed. dinner: smashed potatoes & bleu cheese/beet salad
Thurs. lunch: homemade vegetable noodle soup
Thurs. dinner: smashed potatoes & bleu cheese/beet salad
Fri. lunch: homemade vegetable noodle soup
Fri. dinner: lasagna at a potluck, to which we’re bringing pumpkin whoopie pies

Snacks:
vegan pumpkin cookies, chai

SHOPPING

CSA (this is the same list from last week, as it was a double share)
radishes
kale
arugula
pint of pickled beets
a mondo-sized bag of kettle corn, demolished in <24 hours
braeburn apples
pie pumpkin
butternut squash
mint tea
dried fall herb blend
dried oregano
sorghum molasses (the taste of Indiana autumn–incredible)
pint of persimmon pulp
1/2 gallon of apple cider

Organic Groceries ($53)
baby kale
bleu cheese
coffee
ground ginger
almond milk
cream cheese
eggs
pecans
oats
sugar
potatoes
wine

Impulse Purchases ($20)
out for drinks = buying more  drinks & frozen pizza at CVS…

From Garden
spinach
radishes
rosemary

WASTE

  • 2 bunches of radishes (into the trash, because they were GOO after being forgotten for weeks in the back of the fridge–epic failure)
  • several bags from the bulk aisle that were torn or had flour remnants in them, though we’re trying to reuse more of these
  • a box & baggies from a pumpkin whoopie pie mix (hey, I’m not proud if it)
  • 1/2 bag of arugula–composted, but it should have been eaten
  • 1/4 log of goat cheese, trashed after being left on the counter for an entire day
  • beer bottles, wine bottles
  • box from pasta for soup
  • plastic bottles from several juices & milk
  • lots of compost
Posted in Personal Project | Leave a comment

week 14: moving beyond food

Our happy, sustainable Christmas tree: a big splurge on LED lights after inheriting a free, family-sized tree. (It was way more tree than we anticipated.)

This is it: the last week of the zero-waste diet experiment. We’re far from tired of the experiment. In fact, it quickly became routine. And it just felt logical. The more we read–like this NRDC blog post about our massive food waste–the more we felt like, eventually, we would all have to be doing these “radical” small things to improve our diet.

The farmers’ market has ended, but the winter market begins and our CSA continues. While Project V515 stops, we’ll be keeping on the path to no food waste. Let’s revisit some things I’ve discovered this semester:

1. The Freezer
We’re trying to get all of our food from the winter market this year, just rounding out the diet with $10 or less from our co-op, mostly in the form of carbohydrates. This is largely possible because of the summer produce we stored in the freezer. I say, eat mostly seasonally… but save yourself some summer treats to get you through the short, bitter days of winter! Our freezer is chock full o’ berries, beans & squash.

2. The Bulk Aisle
I’ve gotten much better at checking the bulk section of the store for everything on my list before heading down the other, box-filled aisles–and we’ve mostly cut the boxed goodies out of our diet. The best part? It’s felt like an adventure rather than a sacrifice.

3. The Myriad of Ways to Use Food Scraps
I’ve started saving those odds & ends of mushrooms, onions & carrots–the less savory-looking bits that you don’t want on your salad–in a gallon-sized bag. I stick it in the freezer, then when it’s full I’ll turn it into vegetable stock, which can get pricey when you’re making a lot of winter soups.

I’ve learned that, with a few sauces in the fridge (from vegan alfredo to tomato to hummus or even just ratatouille) practically any leftovers can become pizza toppings. I’ve learned that most things put in a pot together will become a pretty tasty (a) soup or (b) mashed potato-like purée. I’ve learned, more importantly, that great food & flavor can be easy & affordable.

4. The Garden
In less than 100 square feet, Joe & I harvested shocking amounts of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, herbs & squash. With just a few hours a week, we became infinitely more connected to the earth–the real soil under your fingernails that can foster so much life. We understood better how farmers spend there days and what it takes to feed billions of people. Of all the things we’ve learned since moving to Bloomington, gardening skills have been the most meaningful & empowering.

5. The Spillover Effect
Can we live a zero-waste life? We’re not No Impact Man, but I’ve felt our buying habits change drastically over the last few months. We’re even more committed to local shopping, ethical sourcing & buying used wherever possible–from a repackaged TV to a used Wii to dishes from Goodwill. We’ve stopped buying a lot of things–from clothes to candy to pizzas. Okay. We’re buying fewer pizzas. This holiday, we’re going local and/or supporting a cause we feel connected to with our gift; we bit the bullet & got LED lights.

I honestly credit our diet with my change to a more long-term thinking with all of our consumption. I’m sure that sounds radical, but I forced myself to think about where our meals were coming from & where the remnants were going. Everything I touched in the kitchen was touched by that thought process. And we live in a small apartment, so it didn’t take long for the aromas of our meals & the ideals the represented to spread throughout.

I can’t thank you all enough for your support & interest in this blog. I hope you’ve found some new recipes, met some new farmers or considered a new ingredient. I hope you’ll keep tracking our adventures in local food & simple, flavorful eating over on my blog, la francofile. There, I’ll be getting back into my passion for French food & continuing our weekly budget updates.

Posted in Personal Project | Leave a comment

response: wrapping up

So, we’re all set to go build that now, right? (No, but it did come from a nice article about the green city v. the garden city.)

The semester is coming to a close, but it seems like I’m just beginning to soak in the tools and ideas of our Sustainable Communities course.

I enjoyed the use of social media–learning from my peers & extending my focus on sustainable living well beyond the classroom. I enjoyed the personal project, challenging myself to live more sustainably & be accountable for my actions. But I most enjoyed how the content flowed throughout all aspects of my life.

Were all the readings great? No. Did I complain about Roseland’s constant summarizing rather than really digging into details? Definitely. Did I gloss over readings when they started to sound repetitive? Too often.

But the content became so ingrained in me that it regularly overflowed into conversations–from sitting in the SPEA atrium to commenting on friends’ facebook statuses (okay, and sometimes becoming too argumentative) to deciding on restaurants. Even walks around town(s) have changed–thinking about zoning, mixed-use, where buildings are in relation to the road, how people are engaging with the space around them.

It’s got me thinking a lot about Zizek’s views on philanthropy & charity. Here’s a great summary:

Sustainability pushes us closer to this model–where social consciousness is the norm & “charity” is integrated into policy & daily life to avoid a sort of do-good rebound effect. This is even more than the “hand up” over a “hand out” philosophy. This is all hands, working together for an equitable society. For me, this is sustainability.

We’re at the end of the semester, but the class doesn’t end. At the beginning of the semester, we were challenged to I’m still working on that, but I have always been most intrigued by the communities that put equity at the center of their planning. The compassion & commitment it fosters–for fellow citizens & place–is frequently undervalued. It’s like the glass on top of those champagne pyramids–fill it up, and equity will overflow into a value of the environment & a robust local economy.

I’ll see you Wednesday for my final wrap-up of the personal project (plus a final Friday budget update)!

Posted in Reading Responses | Leave a comment

week 13: the budget update

Wow. I. am. so. full. It hurts. There’s been a lot of good food–and a reminder of why meat isn’t a part of my regular diet. It makes me feel sad, stale & tired. Man…

Joe & I have been putting a dent in our CSA share, but we still have lots to get us through next week, too. It helped make for an incredible Thanksgiving. I hope you had a great holiday. Now, it’s time for me to start recovering from Food Overload 2012 & get back to homework.

MENU

Breakfast: homemade toast & apple butter or granola with milk

Meals:
Sat. lunch:
barley soup
Sat. dinner: eggs & potatoes
Sun. lunch: red beans & rice with salsa & tortilla chips
Sun. dinner: butternut squash with barley & apple with a side of kale
Mon. lunch: barley soup, radishes & cornbread
Mon. dinner: barley soup, radishes & cornbread
Tues. lunch: red beans & rice with salsa & tortilla chips
Tues. dinner: butternut squash & barley with arugula-honey dressing
Wed. lunch: red beans & rice with salsa & tortilla chips
Wed. dinner: butternut squash & barley left overs
Thanksgiving: cinnamon rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, whipped potatoes, homemade bread, herb-roasted turkey, Mom’s stuffing, Dad’s pumpkin pie, rice crispy treats (a family tradition)
Fri. lunch: left overs
Fri. dinner: aaand more left overs
Sat. lunch:
kale & cheddar quiche
Sat. dinner: Thanksgiving Part II with a friend, where we shared pumpkin bars & wine

SHOPPING

CSA (a double week, so about $50-60 for ALL THIS!)
radishes
kale
arugula
pint of pickled beets
a mondo-sized bag of kettle corn, demolished in <24 hours
braeburn apples
pie pumpkin
butternut squash
mint tea
dried fall herb blend
dried oregano
sorghum molasses (the taste of Indiana autumn–incredible)
pint of persimmon pulp
1/2 gallon of apple cider

Organic Groceries ($50)
granola
large can of tomatoes
cilantro
loose-leaf black tea
walnuts
spelt flour
lemons
yogurt
coffee
eggs
yeast
frozen raspberries
butter

Organic Holiday Groceries ($60)
carrots
celery
pound cremini mushrooms
1.5 pounds green beans
Parmesan cheese
orange juice
pecans
all-purpose flour
bell pepper
gallon of milk

Impulse Purchases ($15)
marshmallows, wine

From Garden
spinach
radishes
rosemary

WASTE

  • lots of compost
  • turkey carcass
  • mashed potatoes
  • stale cornbread
  • lots of wrappers from making chai (no bulk or loose-leaf black tea)
Posted in Personal Project | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

week 13: celebrating

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you’ll be enjoying some time with family & friends & good food her in the next few days.

In Bloomington, Joe & I are hosting our first family holiday dinner: my parents & sister are coming to town. I’m cooking my first turkey (breast). No time to chat. There’s a turkey to get in the oven!

Next week, I’m hoping to order some reusable produce & bulk bags from Mothering Mother’s as an early Christmas present. The final phase of our zero-wast diet–fully committing to the bulk goods aisle. I’ll post a final budget update & wrap-up next week. In the mean time, have a happy holiday.

Posted in Personal Project | Leave a comment

basic barley soup

In place of an outside experience post, since it’s close to the holidays and we’re all hopefully enjoying some version of a vacation, I wanted to share this simple, stay-in-your-PJs-while-your-meal-cooks-itself recipe. Joe & I have recently fallen in love with barley. It’s super cheap–we’re talking maybe $2 a pound. And 1 cup of uncooked grain = 5-6 cups cooked. It’s insanity.

I threw this soup together–a riff on every basic barley stew recipe I found, taking out all meat & using just what I was able to find in our apartment. You can easily manipulate it. Cut back on liquid for a thicker stew. Leave out greens if you hate it. Add green beans or squash for more summer flavor. Obviously, my favorite recipes are the ones I can endlessly use as guidelines, then just throw together whatever is on hand.

It couldn’t be easier. In a large pot, combine:

  • 1 cup barley
  • 4 large carrots, peeled & chopped
  • 5 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 quart tomato (or vegetable) juice
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

Cover & let all that simmer for an hour. Then, add these last two ingredients & simmer for another 15 minutes.

  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 cans of red (or other) beans
  • 1 bunch kale (or collards, etc.)

This was about five quarts of soup–which for us, with a side of cornbread or salad, was five meals. I think this may become even more of a staple than the potato & greens soup we rely on. Enjoy!

Posted in Personal Project | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

week 12: the budget update

This week’s grocery list had a heavy price tag as we stocked back up on some things (stock, olive oil) & splurged on some meet for an incredible barley stew recipe I found. Remember how, ages ago now, our good friends moved to the Big City & gave us loads of groceries? Well, I’m finally sorting out what to do with the barley. It went into two great recipes this week–stew from this Best of Gourmet cookbook & an incredible Happy Yolks recipe (subbing barley for farro).

Confession: I have a cookbook addiction. I counted, and I have 12. And I love them all for really different reasons. (And I’m still dying for a few, like Julia Child’s master work.) I’m trying to sift back through them for new recipes, unique ways to use things up & ways to merge recipes into fun new things. At the end of the semester, I’ll migrate back to my “real” blog & post some new recipes. But for now, you have to try this hearty, heart-warming  butternut-barley dish.

MENU

Breakfast: homemade toast & apple butter or granola with milk

Meals:
Sat. lunch:
Swiss chard tart & apple-radish salad
Sat. dinner: bison chili & tortilla chips
Sun. lunch: more bison chili & tortilla chips
Sun. dinner: root vegetable stew with biscuits on top
Mon. lunch: root vegetable stew with biscuits on top
Mon. dinner: homemade pizza with eggplant & peppers
Tues. lunch: root vegetable stew with the biscuits on top
Tues. dinner: roasted veggies, feta cheese & couscous with salads
Wed. lunch: homemade ratatouille pizza
Wed. dinner: root vegetable stew with biscuits on top
Thurs. lunch: spicy calzone & fries to celebrate Thanksgiving vacation
Thurs. dinner:  misc. leftovers
Fri. lunch: barley soup & crackers
Fri. dinner: NACHOOOOS!
Sat. lunch:
barley soup
Sat. dinner:
eggs & potatoes

Snacks:
text

SHOPPING

CSA (average $30/week)
leeks
radishes
collard greens
apples
salad turnips
gallon of apple cider

Organic Groceries ($60)
olive oil
onions
potatoes
carrots
cremini mushrooms
vegetable stock mix
tomato paste
granola
almond milk
can of tomatoes
2 pomegranates
celery

Impulse Purchases ($40)
OJ + sparkling wine,  dinner out

From Garden
spinach
radishes
rosemary

WASTE

  • a failed attempt at pastry crust–seriously no idea what happened there, trashed
  • lots of compost
  • cheese that got old & grew PINK mold, trashed
  • pasta sauce that spoiled before we could finish it, trashed
  • cooked vegetables that were forgotten after they topped two pizzas, trashed
  • 2 box things from almond milk, trashed
  • several bags from buying bulk goods,trashed (due to holes)
  • wrapper from butter, trashed
  • glass bottles from beer & wine, recycled
Posted in Personal Project | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment