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.

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About meganbetz

human geography PhD Student at Indiana University; wife, reader, writer, baker, gardener
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