Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Looking back, moving on.

I've been tracking my consumption for a month now.  I've enjoyed it and I've learned from it, but I'm putting the blog on hiatus.  I'm writing a play, and quite a few days I've said, "I'll work on my play as soon as I finish today's blog post."  And then an hour or two goes by...and I'm ready for bed...and my play languishes.

But here's what I've learned:
  • I do have two hours to write every day if I commit to it. 
  • I don't waste as much money as I thought I did. (I spend about 25% less each week then I'd realized.)
  • I don't generate as much waste as I thought I did.  Usually less than an ounce of packaging per week.
  • I drive or buy something every single day.  I didn't go even one day this past month without doing one or the other, usually both.  
  • Much of my consumption revolves around my social life.  Most of my driving and almost all of my restaurant/bar/coffee shop expenditures have to do with meeting up with some or all of the playwrights.  And Fiddleheads, the food co-op, is also a meeting place for me.  I don't just go there for the local, organic, minimally-packaged food.  I also go there because I'll almost certainly bump into friends, whether they're customers or other volunteers.  This is especially important to me because other than farmers market days or waitressing days, I work alone from home.  I would feel isolated without these near-daily excursions. 
On this, the day beforeThanksgiving, I also want to say how grateful I am for much of what I consumed.  I ate well in large part because local farmers--some of whom had given up more lucrative careers in order to do something they believed in--grew wonderful food.  And because enough volunteers have given enough hours so that Fiddleheads remains open.  And because quite a few people, knowing my low income, have tucked sweet potatoes into my market bag or bartered or given me discounts. And, too, I saw plays because someone drove me or someone bartered.  I read plays because someone organized a writers' group.  I wore clothes I love because someone took the time to donate them to a thrift store instead of tossing them in the trash.

What next for this blog?  I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll bang out my play and get back to tracking my consumption.  Or maybe I'll find that I'm still not writing my play, therefore I might as well go back to writing my blog.  Or maybe I'll post occasionally, not tracking everything every day, but posting when I have something interesting and useful to share, like a tutorial.  Or maybe I'll just find that I miss this, and that it's worth the time I put into it regardless of what else is going on.

Thank you for reading.  Writing this blog made me more conscious of what I consume and why.  I hope it has done the same for some of you.

--Laura

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

And Even More Theater! Plus weekly consumption totals

Yesterday afternoon one of the playwrights, Anna, finished a draft of a full-length play.  And so by 6:30 yesterday evening most of the playwrights were gathered yet again, eating pizza and reading her play out loud.  We all hate Anna now because she wrote the whole play in four days and it's brilliant and emotionally true and, as Mike said afterward, she managed to make cancer both funny and sexy.  Did I mention we hate her?

Jubilant about having read such excellent work, Jake and Mike and I headed to the Dutch Tavern, where Mike was kind enough to buy us a round.  Thanks, Mike!

In other consumption news, I bought chocolate-covered almonds at the co-op earlier in the day.  I bought something else too...what was it...broccoli.  Somehow the chocolate made more of an impression.

I ate the chocolate almonds, and even the broccoli, before I thought to photograph them.  So here, instead, is a photograph of our sprout garden. They're ready to move into the fridge now.  Yum.


Monday's Consumption Totals:
Food: $4.08  (Are chocolate covered almonds food?  Or are they entertainment?)
Miles Driven: 6.5 (again, my half)
Given to me: pizza and beer!  (Anna bought pizza for all the readers.  Okay, we don't really hate her.)
Weekly Consumption Totals for 11/15-11/21
Food: $37.44  All of this came from either the co-op or local farmers. Woot woot.
Entertainment: $20 
Book: $4.19
Clothing: $3.99
Coffee: (my share) $5
Cat food: $5 (Jake went out and bought some that didn't show up in the blog.)
Bartered: Theater tickets, eggs, lettuce, pie
Waste generated: packaging from the cocoa mole sunflower seeds, the hazelnut milk, a plastic bag.  The usual recycling bin full of cat food cans.
Miles Driven: 71.6  Woah!  Almost all theater-related. In my defense, these were miles Jake would have driven anyway if I hadn't joined him.

More Theater.

Theater, theater, friends, theater.

This past week our playwriting group has been exceptionally active.  First we went to Westport for the reading of Mike's It Comes From Beyond.  Then we saw Kato's production of Eurydice.  Then Sunday we met for our bi-weekly meeting.  During these meetings we give cold readings of any new work, which helps the author hear what is and isn't working, and helps the rest of us develop our acting chops.  After we critique what we've read, we usually head out for drinks afterwards.  And by usually, I mean always.

I'm not much of a drinker.  If I never drank again, I wouldn't miss it.  But after our more formal meeting, I'm not ready for the night to end.  Besides, this group of writers has been meeting in various incarnations for over a decade.  They're my closest friends.  So although I sometimes can't afford this night out and could take or leave the beer, I'm willing to pay for another hour of camaraderie.

No photo of the beer--I forgot to bring my camera--so I'll show you a photo of Trilby instead.  He tore all the feathers out of his feather wand, but Jake replaced them with some blue rope and he's happy with that.
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Sunday's Consumption Totals:
Entertainment: One beer plus tip $5
Miles Driven: 7 (I'm claiming half because Jake and I carpooled.)
Stuff Made from Other Stuff: cat toy

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice and Barter Barter Barter

Last night Jake and I went to see a production of Sarah Ruhl's Eurydice.  This play just leap-frogged to the top of my Favorite Plays list.  How does someone write a stage direction like "A child, the Lord of the Underworld, enters on his red tricycle."?  Or a line of dialogue like "I can do chin-ups inside your bones."

Our friend Kato McNickle chose and directed this play, which was performed by Ledyard High School students.  It was an ambitious choice, one which demonstrated trust in her young cast and crew. It also gave both the actors and audience a chance to experience a little-known play rich with metaphor, gorgeous language, humor, and tremendous theatricality.  A chorus of goggle-wearing stones (who advocate eternal sleep untroubled by memory or grief)?

Tickets for Eurydice were a $6 bargain.  However--and this was a theme today--I bartered an Urban Eden gift certificate for tickets for Jake and me.

I also bartered, bartered, bartered earlier in the day at the Fiddleheads farmers market.  Soap for duck eggs, soap for lettuce, soap for apple pie.  I bought a few things, too: chocolate hazelnut milk (big sale), pears, kale (can you believe I'm out of kale already?)  and...everybody in unison...sweet potatoes.

Lastly, because I had a coupon for ten dollars off any purchase, I went to Borders after the farmers market and bought a book: The Break of Noon by Neil LaBute.  I've been a fan of LaBute ever since I saw his play Bash.  This one has the intriguing line on the back cover: What if God told you to be a better person but the world wouldn't allow it? 

The photo from Eurydice was taken by Kato McNickle.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food: $8.48
Book: $4.19
Bartered: theater tickets, duck eggs, lettuce, pie
Miles Driven: 17 (I'm claiming half the mileage to Ledyard because Jake and I rode together.)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Black Bean Soup (Recipe)

Yesterday I came so close...so close...to a day without buying anything.  But when I started to make black bean soup, I realized I was out of onions.  This gave me an excuse to walk up the street to the Hispanic American Super Fiesta Market, a store I don't frequent often enough considering how friendly the owners are.  So my sole purchase of the day: two onions.

One of my friends has asked me to post more recipes.  So here's my soup recipe.  It is slightly adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Lean Bean Cuisine by Jay Solomon.  If you're looking to expand your bean repertoire, this is the book I recommend.  It's out of print now, but you can buy it used for barely over a dollar.

Southwestern Black Bean Soup with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup black beans, soaked overnight and drained
water
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons dry sherry (Optional.  I didn't use it because it wasn't on hand.  But it's good.)
3/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, diced (The books' recipe is for regular canned tomatoes.  That's good, too.)
1 teaspoon salt
parsley, cilantro and/or scallions for garnish

Directions:
Generously cover beans with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 45 minutes.  Sautee the onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, green pepper for 5-7 minutes, until they start to soften.  Add beans and their cooking water, carrots, and all the seasonings except the salt.  Bring to a simmer again and cook for about 20 minutes or until the beans are good and soft.  Add the salt and the tomatoes; cook for another 10-15 minutes.  You can puree a cup or two of the soup in the blender to thicken it.  Garnish and serve.  The next day it's good served over brown rice or thickened into a vegetable dip or burrito spread.

I have a full weekend planned: farmers market this morning, a play tonight, waitressing tomorrow then dashing off to my playwriting meeting.  I probably won't have time to post again until Monday--when I'll be able to do my first monthly consumption analysis.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food:  .93
Miles Driven: 0

Friday, November 19, 2010

Retail Therapy

Some people eat emotionally.  I tend to shop emotionally.  So when I received panic-invoking news from one of my suppliers (No the coconut oil has not shipped yet.  So sorry you still can't make soap and won't have enough for the Christmas season) I first went to every Asian market in the area looking for coconut oil.  When that failed--and this was my back-up plan all along--I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Goodwill next to the Asian market in Groton. 

Before I go any further, I have to say that I have a lot of clothes.  A lot.  I love clothes and I love combining them and I love getting artfully dressed even if I'm home all day and nobody sees me.  And yet...I am also deeply drawn to the artist Andrea Zittel, who when she lived in a 200 square foot apartment in Brooklyn (where she also raised chickens!) pared her wardrobe down to one single dress that she sewed herself and wore daily for six months until she sewed another.

Someday I may also pare way down to see what it feels like to own as little as possible.  Would it feel liberating?  Or would it feel like a form of anorexia?  And if I didn't turn to thrifting when I needed some head-clearing, where would I turn? 

Yesterday my retail therapy did tamp down my anxiety, at least for a few hours.  I tried on various combinatins of black, gray, putty and brown; was wow'ed by a nubbly eggplant jacket, and asked several strangers if a certain camel-colored,  corduroy dress with a black collar and cuffs made me look like I was swimming in my Mommie's clothes. (It was a maternity dress, size large and I'm maybe a size 4.)  Despite the maternity dress's charms, in the end I limited myself to a black corduroy miniskirt, perfect for waitressing.  And it's only a little too big.

In other consumption news, before I went to Goodwill, I volunteered a few hours at Fiddleheads, where I also bought these:

Almonds, an avocado, barley flakes, a carrot, a pepper, whole dates, date pieces and some rice. With my volunteer discount they came to $16.05.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food: $16.05
Clothing: (thrifted) $3.99
Miles Driven: 10.8

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Road trip! Restaurant! Oh the horror.

It Comes From Beyond!
A horror movie in which a vegan do-gooder is transformed into a gas-guzzling, cheese-sucking, cookie-chomping alien.

Readers, beware: last night four playwrights forced me into the back of a Subaru, drove me to Westport and made me eat cheesey, sour-creamy chicken chili and corn chips. 
Horrifying, isn't it?

Okay, okay.  The playwrights didn't really make me eat this. I could have opted to eat a bowl of black bean soup.  I admit it.  But all around me people were ordering sausage-fried cheese, and cheese-smothered sausage; and jalapeno, sausage and cheese quesadillas with sides, toppings and bottoms of cheese.  And...and...I was planning on making black bean soup later this week...and...oh heck, the sausagey, cheesey restaurant smelled too tempting and I caved.

Maybe this is a good time to mention where I am with my ever-evolving eating choices.  I'm mostly vegan.  I just about never buy animal anything except local honey.  But sometimes I run out of almond milk and I'll have a splash of Jake's cream in my coffee.  Or sometimes I'm out with friends and I don't want to be a pain in the ass, or sometimes I just want to loosen up a little and eat whatever. (At other times I have opted to be a pain in the ass, or at least a damn difficult house guest, and I regret that. ) So I'm not quite strict enough to call myself a vegan or even a vegetarian..  Still, that's how I eat for all but a couple of meals a month.

But back to my night out.  the real reason I ate chili and cheese at a Mexican restaurant in Westport was because a group of us traveled together to hear a reading of our friend Mike's play "It Comes From Beyond." . 

Jake and I are members of Mike's playwriting group, so we were familiar with the script.  But it was a treat to sit back and enjoy the cast's fine performance.  And it was also a treat to meet Slant of Light Theater Company's founder and director, Stacy Ruttenberg.  She's welcoming, engaging, and  dedicated to making the theater a safe space for artists to explore and learn.  And her mother makes awesome cookies.

I've been tracking my consumption on this blog now for three and a half weeks, and this is the first restaurant meal I've had during that time.  It was also the first longish road trip, but because we carpooled I'm going to claim 1/5 of the mileage as my share of the consumption. 

Daily Consumption Totals:
Theater Performance: free! Slant of Light Theater Company's monthly readings are free!
Dinner including tip: $13.  Jake bought my dinner (thanks, Jake!) but I'm going to include it in my totals.  If Jake doesn't like it he can start his own blog and call it "Lies Laura Tells."
Miles (in which I was) Driven: 30

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chickweed foraging, coffee, and a wicked sweet tooth

My two pet rabbits, Yogi and Cleo, eat a lot of greens.  Soon I'll have to buy them their veggies, but right now I can still forage for them.  During the spring and summer they eat a lot of clover, dandelions, plantain and Queen Anne's lace.  But in cool weather like this, one of the most plentiful edible greens is chickweed.  And guess what?  People can eat it, too.  The simplest way to prepare it is to eat it raw in salads, but you can also add it to soups or, lightly sauteed, to omelettes.  I also found a recipe for chickweed pesto here (This site also has a good photo to help you identify chickweed.)  I've also used chickweed in an herbal salve for Jake, who is prone to eczema.

Other than the chickweed, I don't have too much to report.  This morning Jake and I drove downtown to the coffee shop to meet our friend, the playwright Michael R. McGuire.  (We normally walk but it was raining.)  Although I've posted in the past that all other things being equal, I'd rather buy tea than coffee so the shop owner makes a little more money, today I was dragging and opted for coffee. 


When the weather cleared I walked to Fiddleheads.  I've had an awful, awful craving for sweets the past few days, the kind of craving that sweet potatoes couldn't touch.  I thought I'd buy a chocolate muffin, but instead I discovered my not-very-junky favorite new junk food: Cocoa Mole sprouted sunflower seeds by Kaia Foods.  These were delicious!  The ingredients were organic sprouted sunflower seeds, organic raw agave nectar, organic raw cacao powder, organic vanilla extract, organic cayenne pepper and sea salt.  A really piggish amount was only 2.99--a small price to pay to be able to finally think about something other than chocolate.  And now that I've tried them, I can probably replicate them at home.

I bought a little lettuce and a carrot, too.  And I managed to bring them home in something other than clear plastic bags. :)
Tomorrow Mike has a reading of one of his plays down in Westport.  A bunch of us are carpooling down to see it (yay) and we'll be getting home late.  So I probably won't be posting again until Thursday. 

Daily Consumption Totals:
Entertainment: $2 (I've been vacillating, but I've decided not to include tips.)
Food: $6.10
Miles Driven: 1.5
Foraged: chickweed  (There's been lots of foraging since I started this blog.  This is just the first time I've mentioned it.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

homemade sprout shelf; homemade cat toy

Now that our outdoor garden is petering out, it's time to focus more on growing our food inside.  We don't have grow lights or a heating mat or anything fancy, but we can still grow sprouts.  In fact sprouts are a little easier to grow in the winter because they're less likely to mold.

Even in summer when produce is plentiful, I usually have some sprouts growing.  I love how in just a few days, a tablespoon of seeds can turn into a whole quart of food.  But we didn't have enough space to grow more than one jar at a time...until now!  Check out the sprouting shelf that Jake built:

Pretty, isn't it?  And see the plastic shelf underneath? That's to catch the draining water.  (The shelf where the jars sit has drainage holes.)    What a great design! 

Sprouts are easy, easy, easy to grow.  My rabbits could grow sprouts if rabbits had opposable thumbs.  All you have to do is soak a tablespoon or so of sprouting seeds overnight.  Then drain them, add some more water, swish them around, and drain them again.  Wash and drain them twice a day and...that's it!  You'll have sprouts in less than a week.  I use the plastic mesh lids on my mason jars for washing and draining my sprouts, but lots of people use cheesecloth, and one of my regular readers uses a different system with coffee filters.  (Maybe she'll explain in the comments?)  I always keep my jars at a 45 degree angle so all the water drains out and the seeds don't rot.

I'm lucky because the co-op has a huge assortment of sprouting seeds: alfalfa, broccoli, radish, oats, clover, and lots of seed mixes with interesting items like cress and fenugreek.  I'm currently growing a French blend, a salad blend and a legume blend.  I'll post pictures when I get a full jar.

Another side effect of colder weather is that Trilby doesn't get to go on many excursions, so he needs more toys.
I made this catnip fish's face from some thrifted linen.  The body fabric came from a great local store, Affordable Fabrics, which sells manufacturer's overstock fabric for 1.99/yard.  I had bought it for another project a while ago and still had some scraps lying around.

I did do a little driving and shopping today.  I went back to Connecticut College's library for Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail.  And because the college is so close to the supermarket, I bought twelve cans of cat food, four organic pears and one bunch of organic celery.  I didn't need apples today, but while I was there I noticed that the price of conventional apples is hardly any cheaper than the organic apples at the co-op.  I was relieved, because I wondered if buying organic was a big splurge.  Nope, not really.

Daily consumption totals:
People Food: 5.86
Cat food: $4 (on sale and generated a $1 coupon)
Miles Driven: 6.3
Stuff we made from stuff we had on hand: sprout shelf and cat toy.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Foiled again! Plus this week's consumption analysis

Once again, the odds looked good for a purchase-free, zero-driving day.  Not only did we have plenty of food in the house, but Sunday is my waitressing day. I walk to and from work, and I figured I wouldn't go zipping around buying stuff and wracking up the mileage in between serving pumpkin roulade and mulled cider.

Ahem.

The trouble started when, as I walked into the kitchen after work, I saw Jake at the door with our cat Trilby wearing his harness.  So we three headed back--more specifically, drove back--downtown.  I bought...well, it wasn't sweet potatoes so it must have been coffee.  And Trilby got to explore the cafe's landscaping.

After we drank our coffees, we walked through downtown and stumbled upon a new gallery where Trilby was welcome.  Then we drove to the communtiy garden , picked some greens, and came back home. 

I have to admit, I don't regret my zero consumption plans being foiled.  This was a really sweet surprise outing.

Sorry I haven't had any useful information these past few posts!  But hang on, because I've got a few good posts planned for next week.

Today's Consumption Totals:
Entertainment: $3 (includes tip.)
Miles Driven: 1.5

Consumption Analysis for 11/08-11/14
Food: $37.92 All of this came from the co-op or directly from local farmers.  $3 was an impulse buy of a muffin and a coffee.
Entertainment: $33.  Of this, $25 was the annual library card fee.
Personal Care: $4.98
Household: $3.98 (the sprouting lids)
Gifted to me: bok choy, granola, sweet potatoes, homemade raspberry jelly.
Cat Food: $5 (my share)
Waste generated: the packaging from the sprouting lids, the ear plugs and the cotton swabs; two clear plastic bags
Miles Driven: 19.2

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Maybe I should change the name of this blog to What People Gave Me.

Today was the kick-off of the co-op's winter farmers' market.  We celebrated with a pancake breakfast

and live music and even a dancing cat (or is she a mouse?).

Of course this required a lot of volunteers, which got me thinking about the gift economy again, and how Fiddleheads is a place where the market and gift economies not only coexist, but support each other.  As a vendor I was part of the market economy.  I was also a shopper, buying the usual: almonds and dates to make almond milk, apples and bananas for breakfast smoothies, and (wait for it) sweet potatoes.

But it was the gift economy that made the day so special. First the vendor next to me gave me some of her homemade coconut granola.  Then one of the Fiddleheads volunteers gave me some vegan minestrone. (This was part of the farmers market celebration; she was giving it to everyone.)  Then Anita gave me this beautiful bok choy:

And Janice gave me her homemade raspberry jelly.  This is extra special to Jake and me because we used to rent an apartment where Janice lives now,and we remember picking raspberries from those same bushes.

And then when I got home, I realized someone had anonymously tucked into my bag yet another gift: more sweet potatoes!!! One of them is my favorite sweet potato ever.  It looks like a big inch worm or a little Lochness monster, and up until today it was perched on a shelf over all the other sweet potatoes, where it made me smile every time I saw it.
I gave a bit away as well today, but I have a long way to go before I am giving as freely as the people around me.  And although I don't think of myself as a sentimental person--I actually get angry at sentimental movies--this kind of sweetness brings me just this side of tears.

In other consumption news, after the market Jake and my former writing instructor Glenn and I went to the Dutch, where I consumed a baby Brooklyn ale. :)

Today's Consumption Totals:
Food: $13.47
Entertainment: $3
Gifted to me: granola, soup, bok choy, sweet potatoes, raspberry jelly
Miles Driven: 1.5



Friday, November 12, 2010

La La La La I Can't Hear You.

I thought, I really really thought, that today would be my first no purchase, no driving day.  Even though I had eight packages to ship, I walked rather than drove to the post office.  And oooh, I was smug about it.  I was planning an awesome blog post about my own awesomeness even as I was awesomely walking.

It turns out I'm not all that awesome.

I hadn't been home an hour when I realized I didn't have enough distilled water to make soap.  And I was getting low on time.  So I drove--on a beautiful, sunny 62 degree day!--9/10 of a mile to the CVS and back.

I also bought some ear plugs so I wouldn't hear you all jeer at me (okay, so I wouldn't hear Jake snore) and 350 cotton swabs so my ears would be clean when I plugged them.

And then, just to ram home the point that I'm not even a little awesome, I realized I had to go out again for ink cartridges for my printer. 

Today's Consumption Totals:
(excluding business purchases)
Personal care: $4.98
Miles Driven: 5.3

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Kale Came Back, or Lewis Hyde and the Gift Economy

Remember how good I felt being able to give away a few bunches of kale?

Today some of the kale came back.  And when it did, it looked like this:
That's granola with kale chips!  Homemade by my musician friend Gabriel, a talented, think-outside-the-box cook.

When I told Gabriel how much I've been noticing and appreciating the gifts people give me, he asked if I'd ever heard of the writer Lewis Hyde.  Nope, I hadn't.  But it turns out he is the author of The Gift, a book about gift-giving in different cultures and about the contrast between a gift economy and a market economy. 

Here's a nugget from  JoAnn Schwartz's review of The Gift:
In a market economy, one can hoard one's goods without losing wealth. Indeed, wealth is increased by hoarding--- although we generally call it 'saving'. In contrast, in a gift economy, wealth is decreased by hoarding, for it is the circulation of the gift(s) within the community that leads to increase--- increase in connections, increase in relationship strength.

I think part of the reason I love Fiddleheads is that although money changes hands at the check-out counter, it is also a hub of the local gift economy.   People donate books to the co-op's honor system library; musicians donate performances; someone even donated much of the shelving and refrigeration.  On top of that, it is 100% volunteer run.  Many people are giving the gift of time so that the co-op can stay open.

In other consumption news, I bought brightly colored plastic:
red, green and yellow plastic lids for sprouting jars, along with an assortment of seeds. 

Lastly--gasp--I bought these:

A gluten-free chocolate muffin and a coffee.  I didn't buy these to rent table space at a cafe while I talked with friends.  I didn't buy them because I was hungry and needed food.  (I'd brought split pea soup from home but ate this instead.)  No, this was strictly an impulse buy, probably the most wasteful (but delicious!) purchase I've made since I started tracking everything.  Let's just call it a gift I gave myself for volunteering at the co-op.

No driving today!  I think I deserve another muffin.

Today's Consumption Totals:
Sprouting seeds and lids: $7.76
Lunch (muffin and coffee): $3
Gifted to me: kale granola
Miles Driven: 0

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Today I bought a year's worth of reading for $25

Didn't need food, didn't need clothes, didn't need anything except  a few pine needles from the tree outside the Connecticut College library.  (I use them for one of my soaps.) "Woo hoo," I thought. "I'm going to go another day without buying anything."  But of course I can't pass within a hundred feet of a good library without going inside--especially when I'm doing some research for a play.  And also of course, once I've spent an hour choosing fifteen pounds of just the right books, I'm not going to let a little thing like an expired library card come between me and my reading.

So when the librarian said it was time to pay the annual $25 fee for people not affiliated with the college, I gulped and paid.

Because where else am I going to find books like Women's Rights and Transatlantic Anti-Slavery in the Era of Emancipation and The Bloodless Revolution: a Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times. 

You couldn't live without these either, could you?

Today's Consumption Totals:
Library Card: $25
Miles Driven: 4.6

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Supporting the coffee shop by not buying coffee.

See that?  That's a cup of tea.  Tea as in, not a cup of coffee.

I've mentioned before that when I go to a coffee shop to see friends, I'm buying coffee as a way of renting table space and supporting a small business.  But coffee's pretty expensive, even for a coffee shop owner.  How much profit could there possibly be in a cup of coffee?  So this morning, when Jake and I met two of our fellow playwrights at Muddy Waters, I opted for tea instead.  Tea's cheap!  Tea has a high profit margin!  So if I buy tea rather than coffee, I'm supporting the coffee shop just a little bit more. 

Later in the day I went to the co-op and bought this:

Locally-made tofu, bananas, split peas, almonds, four dates, celery, lettuce, a carrot, a parsnip, some apples and (of course) a sweet potato.  The apples were in the free bin next to the register.  I'm planning on making some more chocolate almond milk tomorrow morning, a tofu/veggie stir fry for tomorrow's dinner and a split pea soup later in the week. Those, some salads and some kale should last until the weekend, so I probably won't have to buy any more food until Saturday.

Well, maybe just a few more sweet potatoes.  :)

I walked downtown and back twice today--about three miles.  No driving.  But I forgot to bring my reusable produce bags!  So the mushrooms and dates came home in the dreaded clear plastic.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Food: $17.77
Entertainment: $2
Miles Driven: 0

Did hell freeze over? I didn't buy anything yesterday.

Finally!  For the first time since I started tracking my consumption, I went a day without buying anything.  In possibly related news, we woke up to sleet, snow, thunder and lightening.  If that was hell freezing over, you know who to blame.

I did have some business-related errands to run, however, so I've got some milage to report. 

And remember when I canceled Netflix?  Last night Jake and I were both tired and cold and a little down-hearted (I made a bookkeeping mistake and spent the electric bill money on overdraft fees) and we both would have opted to watch a movie if we'd had one here waiting for us. But because we didn't, I worked on a play instead.  And I'm feeling pretty good about that.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Miles Driven: 6.3

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kale, Ale, and Weekly Consumption Analysis

Kale, kale, kale...ale.

That pretty much sums up yesterday's consumption.  I drank kale in my breakfast smoothie, shared kale chips with my coworkers at my new job, came home and ate navy bean and kale soup.  Then Jake and I raced off to our bi-weekly playwright's meeting where we read and critiqued new work.  Well, we read and critiqued new work during the first half of our meeting. The second half looked more like this:
That winter ale in the left foreground is mine. :)  I thought that would be the limit to my big night out, but at the last minute Jake decided to get a carrot cake, too.  Unfortunately for Jake, our server placed the plate in front of me rather than him.  Heh heh. 
We drove to the Avery Point campus for our writers' group, to the bar and home.  I walked to work at Mangetout but drove back for safety.  (Jake left the car downtown for me.)  Because we carpooled, I'm going to claim half the mileage in my consumption totals.

Daily Consumption Totals:
Beer: $5 (ate some of Jake's cake, too.)
Miles Driven: 7.5

Weekly Consumption Analysis 11/01-11/7
Food: $47.54  Of this, $40 came from either the co-op or directly from local farmers.  $7 came from a chain grocery store.
Entertainment: $13.  I went out a lot this week. 
Clothes: $6.  Thrifted.
Personal care: $6.49 (includes the infamous old-growth forest t.p.)
Household: 1.98
Cat food: $3.  We had good deals on cat food this week.
Miles Driven: 30.3
Waste generated: light bulb and hair tie packaging; one clear plastic bag; one take-out coffee bought for me which I appreciated very much.  As always, there's a pile of catfood cans in the recycling bin. 

I was surprised to see that we don't go through coffee as quickly as I thought.  We didn't need to buy another pound this week.  Good.  I really don't want to give up coffee.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Buying from friends; enjoying a puppet show

I'm starting to notice that when I'm bored, I like to do one of two things: eat or shop.  And because today was a slow day at the farmers market, I was usually either eating oat groats or prowling the aisles looking for something tastier.

Also on slow days the vendors try to support each other a little more.  I bought raw apple cider from my friend Anita, whose apples are in the process of transitioning to organic.  Here in CT, you can't buy unpasteurized apple cider unless you buy it directly from the farmer.  It tastes so much better than supermarket cider.  It's especially a treat for Jake, whose family had an old-fashioned cider press and ran the cider booth at the Danbury Fair when he was a kid. 

The vendors next to me--a mother and daughter--were at the market for the first time.  They had some peppers they just barely saved from the frost, which they were selling three for a dollar.   I bought three to make kale chips.  And don't laugh, but I bought another sweet potato.  Before I started this blog I hadn't eaten a sweet potato in over six months, and suddenly I'm craving them four or five times a week.  I've bought sweet potatoes from four different local farmers in the past two weeks.  I also bought three tomatoes which I'm using tonight in a navy bean/kale soup.


(I didn't buy all this.  I just wanted to show you their display.)

I also bought navy beans and cashew pieces from the bulk bins.  As I'm writing this, my bean soup is cooking and my cashews are soaking.  Before I go to bed I'm going to make another batch of kale chips using  this recipe.  For yesterday's batches I coated my kale with a mixture of olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, minced hot pepper, salt and nutritional yeast.  I love the cheesey flavor of nutritional yeast.

After the market I made soap, ate my sweet potato and an astounding number of kale chips, then drove downtown for an enchanting puppet show.  Jake and two friends were the puppeteers, and they were performing a piece based on a children's book written by another friend.  I adore puppet shows for their inventiveness, and for the way they bring you back to your childhood ability to accept a sock or a string or a piece of cardboard as a toy.  Here is a video of some shadow puppetry snippets in case you're unfamiliar with the form. This isn't from the play I saw tonight, but it gives you an idea of what's possible.

I drove both to the co-op (I always drive when I vend) and downtown.  I usually walk downtown and back during the daylight hours, but not at night, especially lately.  We've had some violent crime between downtown and home these past few months, including the fatal stabbing last week of a local artist as he walked home from work.  Even the guys in town are nervous about walking by themselves.

Today's Consumption Totals:
Food: $9
Cider: $3
Puppet Show: free
Surprise gift: a cup of coffee
Miles Driven: 2

Friday, November 5, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Almond Milk

When I looked at my consumption for last week, I realized that the only processed food I bought, as well as the food that generated the most packaging waste, was a carton of hazelnut milk.  So this week I decided to make my own nut milk instead.  Making nut milk is easy, and if you remember to soak your nuts the night before you can make it while your morning coffee is brewing.  Yup, it's that fast.

Chocolate Almond Milk
(as always, I'm more of a wing-it cook than a meaure-it cook)

Ingredients:
a generous cup of almonds, soaked overnight
half a vanilla bean or a splash of vanilla extract, alcohol-free if possible
about a tablespoon and a half of cocoa powder
four dates, or honey or agave to taste

This is so easy, I'm almost embarrassed to post it as a recipe.  But here goes: drain your almonds and put them in the blender.  Add enough water to fill your blender about 2/3 full.  Add your cocoa powder and whatever you're using to sweeten it: either dates, honey or agave.  I really like dates.  Start blending and walk away.  Come back in a a couple of minutes and tah dah!  almond milk.  But unless you have a super-expensive high speed blender, your almond milk has little bits of almonds in it.  Strain them out with cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer.  Tah dah redux!  Taste it for sweetness and consistency.  I initially used two dates, then added two more.  I also added a little more water because it tasted so rich.  This made enough chocolate milk to turn my morning coffee into a delicious mug of mocha heaven, fill a quart mason jar and leave just enough left over for a can't throw this out treat.

In other consumption news I, uh, have a lot of kale in the house.  (See yesterday's post.)  So I decided to make kale chips.  This entailed going to the supermarket for extra virgin olive oil, and while I was there I also picked up some ginger and cat food.  By some miracle I remembered that I had a dollar off coupon, and then the cat food generated another coupon.  I promptly spent my savings on hair ties, because I didn't want to be getting ready for my waitressing job Sunday and discover Jake or the cats had stolen my only one.

This reminds me of the time my mom came to visit and asked if I had a hair comb.  "No," I said.  She did a double take and said, "What kind of a woman are you?"



So now the cats are fed, kale chips are dehydrating, and if my mom ever asks for another comb I can at least give her a hair tie.

Today's Consumption Totals:
Food: $7
Cat food: $3
Personal Care: $2
(Prices rounded to the nearest dollar)
Miles Driven: 5.3



Thursday, November 4, 2010

I heart FRESH and FRESH hearts me.

This morning when I walked into the cooler at the co-op I saw the most beautiful thing:


That is a whole lot of kale with my name on it. 

And it came from an organization that I'm insanely in love with : FRESH New London.   As their website states, "Since 2004, FRESH has been working on transforming the food system of greater New London, from the belief that public health, social justice and ecological sustainability are inextricably linked." They run a large organic market garden and a few community gardens, including one in which Jake and I have two plots. They also teach gardening and leadership skills to children and teens, donate fresh vegetables to meal centers, and run a mobile farmers market which stops in the city's lowest-income neighborhoods.


In most areas, fresh organic produce is a luxury poor people can't afford. But because FRESH keeps their prices low--all that kale for $12?--and because their van reaches people who don't have cars, here in New London even very poor families can eat well.  I should say, too, that one reason FRESH can sell vegetables at these prices is that they also sell vegetables at higher (though still reasonable) prices to different markets.  People are used to medical clinics with sliding scale fees, but the notion of food at a sliding scale fee is unusual.  Yet food is an even more basic need.

I think I've mentioned that my friends have been generous with me lately: they've bought me a Guinness and a coffee; given me a half gallon of freshly-pressed raw apple cider, and--because I'd mentioned in this blog that Jake and I only had one soup spoon--a whole set of silverware.  So it felt really good to be able to share some of this kale with my fellow co-op volunteers.

While at the co-op today, I also bought some half-price bananas, an avocado, some almonds, some raisins, a sweet potato (this is sounding familiar, isn't it?) and some dates.  You can peel and freeze very ripe bananas, then use the food processor to turn them into an ice cream-like dessert.  Or--also in the food processor--you can make a vegan chocolate pudding with bananas, an avocado, some dates or honey, vanilla and cocoa powder.  (This is my go-to dessert when I have an irresistable chocolate craving.) 


Oh shoot.  I see a clear plastic bag. 

I walked to the co-op this morning despite the rain, but because I had so much kale I ended up going back for the car.  Then I ran a few other errands: some banking and a jaunt to the FRESH office to pay for the kale. 

Today's Consumption Totals:
Food: $23.14
Miles Driven: 4.5


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Aunt Sally's Boutique and a Quick Alternative to a Sandwich

This winter I have to look somewhat presentable at least three days a week because I'm volunteering at the co-op on Thursdays, vending on Saturdays and--yay yay thank you thank you--waitressing at Mangetout, a local organic cafe, on Sundays.  This Sunday is my first shift, and I realized I'd been layering the same black turtleneck under all my sweaters for the past week.  I also noticed that the sleeves were stretched out and likely to dip into people's food if I wore it to work. 

"Yahoo," I thought.  "I need to go to Aunt Sally's Boutique."  Black turtlenecks are exactly the sort of thing you can count on finding at a thrift store, and today was no exception.  And because I might have a teeny weeny thrift store problem, I also came home with a cute skirt and an organic cotton tee.  Wednesdays are half price day, so these three items came to $6.  These are the first clothes I've bought since I started tracking my consumption.    


With the exception of socks, bras and shoes I'm planning on not buying new clothes this year unless they're thrifted, fair trade or handmade.  In the past I've taken this pledge for a few months at a time, but this time I think I can go a year.  I don't plan on doing much refashioning, though.  I've found in the past that going into a thrift store looking for interesting items to refashion only causes me to buy more.  I do enjoy wardrobe refashioning, but for now, because I'm busy and because I want to cut down on clutter, I'm only going to buy it if I love it and if any work it needs is minor.

No food purchases today, but I thought I'd show you what I made for lunch.


In the foreground is a raw vegan take-off on sushi.  Instead of rice, I used a mixture of parsnip, a little olive oil, salt and pepper that I buzzed up in the food processor.  The texture is similar to couscous.  I then laid out a sheet of nori seaweed, topped the bottom third (beginning about an inch and a half from the bottom edge) with Romaine lettuce, the parsnip mixture, some home-grown sprouts and some carrot peelings.  If you have a sushi mat, it's easy to roll your nori so that it looks professional.  But even without a mat, it doesn't look too shabby.  Use a little water to seal everything shut, then slice into bite-size pieces.  You can make a simple dipping sauce with tamari or soy sauce, garlic and ginger, or be lazy like I was and just sprinkle plain  tamari on everything.  That and a salad with a peanut butter-based dressing makes a dandy lunch. and takes under ten minutes to prepare.

In the evening, Jake and I went out again for a monthly treat: a free concert by local violinist Gabriel Kastelle.  Gabriel offers 40-minute long concerts/music theory talks in his studio on the first Wednesday of each month.  Although the concerts are free, donations are welcome and we did donate.  But it would be gauche to say how much.  So I won't include that in my consumption totals

I walked everywhere I went today, including to the cafe for our weekly pre-thrift store coffee. 

I was also the happy recipient of a gift:  After the concert Jake, another friend and I went to the Dutch Tavern where our friend bought me a baby Guinness. :)

Today's Consumption Totals:
Clothes: $6
Entertainment (coffee) $2
Miles driven: 0

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Voted (Drove) Today!

Today is election day!  Here in New London, that means I started the day with some driving, as I now live about two and a half miles from where I vote.  I used to walk to my polling location, but last year our city reduced the districts from seven to three.  This cut some money from the city's budget, but now more people have to drive in order to vote.  Volunteers are driving people to the polls, of course.  But volunteers and people in need don't always connect.  I live in one of the poorest municipalities in CT--there are many people here with no cars, and many more weighing every dollar they put in the gas tank--and I can't help but wonder how many people will be disenfranchised.

On the way home from voting, Jake and made a rare stop at Walgreens.  I bought lots and lots of toilet paper--12 rolls, almost 500 square feet, for $4.49--as well as two compact fluorescent light bulbs for $.99 each  These were both great deals,  both of which I found through the flyers in the Sunday paper.  So by supporting our local paper I generated a profit for our household.  On the downside, the toilet paper is bleached and is 0% recycled.  Reading about 200 year old trees being cut down for toilet paper, I'm not feeling so good about this purchase.  Why is it a luxury to wipe my butt with something other than old growth forest?  Yay for the light bubs, though.


Later I drove to the supermarket for olive oil for soapmaking and catfood.  A lot of driving!  This is the most driving I've done since I started the blog.  I did walk for some of my errands: a soap delivery and a run to the post office. 

Jake and I don't have TV, so now we're off to the local watering hole to watch election results and drink a glass of wine.   Democracy's expensive.  Tee hee.
Todays Consumption Totals:
Personal Care: $4.49
Household: $1.98
Cat food: $4
Democracy: $4
Miles Driven: 11

Monday, November 1, 2010

Building a free season-extender for the garden and my first weekly consumption analysis

Last night we had our first frost, and today's high temperature was predicted to be 50 degrees.    So this morning I walked to our community garden plot with the top of an old rabbit cage, some re-purposed plastic bags that I'd sewn together last night, and the remains of our cats' feather wand toys.  I turned them into this:

Although some of the gardeners have built gorgeous, large, professional-looking row covers, I'm happy to have made this mini-greenhouse from odds and ends I found in the basement.  (I used the cat toy wands as stakes to keep the cage from blowing away.) 

In other cold-related news, this morning Jake turned on the heat for the first time this season.  We've gotten used to waking up in a 55 degree house, with temperatures barely reaching 60 by afternoon.  But 50 degrees was awfully cold.  I would have hung on a little longer, but this consumption project is mine, not Jake's, and he gets to have his say, too.  We turned the heat on for one cycle to warm the house to 62, then turned it off for the rest of the day.

Last night Jake made a great red sauce from garden peppers and tomatoes which we ate over brown rice.  Today I decided to extend it with some black beans, which entailed another trip to the co-op.  The prices you see on the bags of beans and rice are per lb, not totals.  Beans, rice and celery cost $5.40 after my volunteer discount.

And then I bought another $2 of happiness at the fair trade coffee shop.  Mondays are a low-key work day for me because the next farmers' market seems so far away.  I try to set a portion of Mondays aside for socializing or relaxing.  This afternoon it was a treat to sit with a dear friend for over an hour talking about playwriting. 

I walked everywhere today: to the garden, the co-op, the post office and the coffee shop.  However, my friend, who lives a few towns away, drove into New London to meet me.  She also gave me a ride home because she'd given me a gift which would have made walking awkward.  (I'll talk about this gift and gifts in general in another post.) So although I didn't technically do any driving, miles were driven on my behalf.  Sometimes she drives to see me and sometimes I drive to see her.  I hope it averages out.

Today's Consumption Totals:
Food: $5.40
Entertainment: $2
Miles Driven: 0

And because daily consumption totals don't reveal very much, I've decided to also do a weekly round-up. 

Weekly Consumption Analysis (10/25-10/31):
Food: $51.55, some of which was for Jake.  This wasn't the total food bill for the household, as Jake buys his own bread, meat and other items I rarely eat.  Of this, $3.49 came from a chain supermarket; the rest came from either the co-op or farmers' markets.  Everything except the nut milk was either organic or locally grown or both.
coffee: $7.30, $2 of which was a take-out coffee.
Entertainment: $6 ($4 for sitting in cafes and $2 for the local paper)
Personal care: $1 toilet paper from recycled paper
Cat food: $5 (my share). It didn't show up in the blog because Jake bought it. Together we spend $10 on cat food every week.
Bartered: one dozen eggs
Miles driven: 18.5
Waste generated from my purchases: some clear plastic bags, the hazelnut milk container, some glossy paper from the newspaper. I think we'll either compost or recycle everything else. We'll use the glass peanut butter container for food storage.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Supporting the Local Newspaper, Fair Trade and a Simple Curried Lentil Soup Recipe

One of the regular readers of this blog has commented about the amazing amount of money she saves by combining coupons with store-run specials. I've never been a coupon-clipper because I try to eat as much locally grown, minimally processed, minimally packaged food as possible, and that's not the sort of food you can buy with coupons. So for me, coupon-clipping hasn't seemed worth the time.

However, I do buy personal care and household products which aren't made locally or available at the co-op. And, as this reader points out, I could contribute more to my local food bank if I were finding the sorts of deals she finds.

This gave me a great excuse to buy our local paper today.

As it happens, I've been feeling badly about not supporting The Day. The paper is struggling. Employees have been laid off and others have taken furloughs in order to avoid being laid off. I rely on this paper for information on local politics, other local news, and events around town. I have friends who rely on The Day for employment. And yet, because I read most of my news online, I'm part of the reason the paper is fighting for survival.

The truth is I can't afford to buy a newspaper daily, nor am I comfortable generating so much paper waste. Even $2 per week for the Sunday paper adds up to $104/year--a lot for someone with my income. However, if I were to start using coupons from the Sunday paper for items like tooth brushes and toilet paper, I could potentially give the paper a little support at no cost to myself. And regarding the paper waste: Jake and I can use most of it to line our pet rabbits' hay area and recycle the rest.

Jake and I also went to Bean and Leaf today to buy a pound of coffee. We pay $10.60/lb. for their locally roasted, organic fair trade coffee. Other than pet food, this is the biggest luxury in our weekly budget. We don't pay this much because we're coffee snobs (although Bean and Leaf's coffee does taste remarkably good.) We do it because we believe in fair trade. I'd rather stop drinking coffee than buy it cheaply because I exploited people I'll never meet. (It may come to that very soon.) We also each drank a small cup of coffee at the cafe while listening to a local musician.

Sorry about the bad photo.  I took it late in the day with poor light.
Lastly, in case you were wondering what I did with the lentils I bought earlier in the week:

Simple Cheap Good Curried Lentil Soup
Ingredients:
2 cups lentils (I used small brown lentils)
1 fairly large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 hot pepper, minced (more or less to taste and depending on the heat of your curry powder)
1/4 cup curry powder (I used organic curry powder from Mountain Rose Herbs, one of the suppliers I use for my business.)
A few tablespoons olive oil or other oil of your choice
salt to taste

Soak lentils in plenty of water overnight or most of the day. (This is optional, and I know most cookbooks say not to soak lentils. But I find that soaking lentils makes them more digestible as well as shortens the cooking time.) Rinse and drain lentils and set aside.

Lightly sautee garlic and onions in the oil without letting the garlic brown. Add celery, carrots, hot pepper and curry powder and cook a few minutes more. Add lentils and water to generously cover. Bring to a boil,then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Stir once in a while and add more water as needed. When the lentils are soft--in as little as half an hour if you've soaked them--add salt to taste. I like quite a bit of sea salt, about a teaspoon. If you have a blender, blend a portion of the soup and return it to the pot. But it is also good as is.

I like to eat this as soup the first night, then serve it over brown rice the next day.

Consumption Totals:
Newspaper: $2
Coffee for home (my share) $5.30
Coffee as entertainment: $2
Miles driven: 0

Tomorrow I'll take a look back at my weekly consumption totals.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Netflix, I love you but it's time to say goodbye (at least for now.)

Today I put my Netflix account on hold. This stung because I love watching movies, and I think Netflix offers a great service at a great price. But this month there's at least one local play I want to see--Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Kato McKnickle--and my entertainment budget is limited. And just as I'd rather support local farmers than big agribusiness, I'd rather support local theatre than Netflix.

At the farmers market where I sold soap today, the vendor next to me was an author and former writing instructor of mine. Along with his books, he sells eggs from his free range chickens.


Beautiful, aren't they? We bartered soap for eggs and talked about solidarity economics. This was a term I'd never heard before, but it encompasses everything from worker-owned cooperatives to local currencies to social justice issues. In short, it's buying and selling with not just money, but also the greater good in mind.

Today is a short post because, having been a vendor at two different events today, I'm low on time. But I did want to briefly post that I bought more food: bananas, an avocado and some hazelnut milk (on sale) at the co-op. And I had my first wasteful impulse purchase of the week: a take-out cup of coffee. I bought it because my author friend said, "I'm going to Bean and Leaf. Would you like a cup of coffee?" And I felt like one of Pavlov's dogs. "Yes" flew out of my mouth before I was conscious of having made a decision. I even used a disposable paper take-out cup because my travel mug was full of soup.

On the other hand, Bean and Leaf is owned by friends of mine. They run a socially-responsible business, using compostable cups, and roasting organic, fair trade coffee. I'm sure I would have turned down coffee from Dunkin Donuts.

All of my driving today was to and from the events where I was a vendor.

Consumption Totals:
Food: $7.02
Coffee: $2
Bartered: one dozen eggs
Miles Driven: 3.5

Friday, October 29, 2010

Generating a Little Less Waste at the Farmers' Market.

Photographing my purchases for the last few days, I've been bothered by the clear plastic produce bags.  They're ugly; they're non-biodegradable.  Yes, they're recyclable, but...

And then it dawned on me--a couple of decades later than it should have--that oh my god, I don't need to use them.  I can buy lettuce without the clear plastic bags.  This is probably obvious to you.  But for me, this was like the earth cracked open and I fell into an alternate reality.

The funny thing is, a few days before I started this blog I'd bought some reusable plastic produce bags which are supposed to keep veggies fresh longer. 

So I'd been buying kale and whatnot in the clear plastic bags, then transferring them to the reusable bags when I got home.  (Yes, I hear the collective duh.) But today I saw the light, and brought my reusable bags to the farmers market, bypassing the clear plastic bags altogether. 

About these bags: they work by allowing the produce to breathe, thereby reducing the ethylene gas which causes vegetables to rot.  They also prevent the vegetables from staying too wet.  Thinking about this, I don't understand why these bags would be better than cloth produce bags.  So although I'll give myself a few points for switching to something reusable, I'm going to subtract a few for not making the bags myself (using this tutorial?) or buying them from another Etsy artist.

I walked to the farmers market and came home with as much as I could carry.
Five green peppers, two yams, a head of broccoli, a head of purple cabbage, a head of Romaine, a carrot and a dozen pears for $11.  (I got a little discount from my vendor friends because I was a vendor at this market last year. ) I bought more peppers than I can use immediately because they were only 25 cents each.  I'm going to dehydrate most of them early next week.

Despite my best efforts, I did come home with one clear plastic bag.  The Romaine was already packaged that way in the farmers' cooler.   What are you going to do?

This was the last day of the season for the New London Farmers Market, held in the parking lot of Fiddleheads Food Co-op.  Fortunately the Fiddleheads Winter Farmers Market, held inside Fiddleheads, will begin for me tomorrow. 

The farmers' market is dead!  Long live the farmers market!

Consumption totals:
Food: $11
Miles driven: 0

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I thought today would be a purchase-free, zero milage day. Ha. Ha. Ha.

I really thought I wasn't going to buy anything today.  It was my first day volunteering at the food co-op, and I brought lentil soup for lunch so I wouldn't buy something pre-made.  I had plenty of food in the house for dinner, and I wanted to wait until tomorrow's farmers market to buy more produce.  And because the co-op is only half a mile from my house, I wouldn't be doing any driving.

"Heh," I thought.  "No purchases.  No driving.  Today's blog post is going to be awesome."

Then I got an e-mail asking me to pick up 15 lbs. of locally roasted coffee for the co-op.  So much for no driving.  And then I spent much of the day trimming, arranging and admiring the leeks, the collards, the fennel, the kale...cleaning the bulk bins...Who was I kidding?  Did I really think I wasn't going to buy anything? 

I limited myself to these:
Two yams and a cup of pecans from the bulk section for just under $5.  I only wanted about a tablespoon of pecans, but I didn't want to waste a paper bag for so little.  If I'd brought my own little bag instead of using the bags the co-op provides, I probably would have bought less.

As soon as I got home, I steamed both yams, then mashed them with a little organic extra virgin coconut oil, some cinnamon, garam masala and salt, and topped them with a few chopped pecans and a drizzle of honey.  So good.  So satisfying.

Late in the afternoon, Jake and I decided to enjoy the rare 70 degree October day.  We walked to our community garden plot and pulled up some plants that weren't producing anymore.  We also harvested a few  beets, tomatoes, peppers and lots of arugula.  And look: our late planting of mesclun mix is coming along nicely.

After we finished tending the garden, we decided to take our cat to Harkness, a coastal park on Long Island Sound.  This involved yet more driving, but hey, I'd already blown my zero-milage day.  My camera batteries died, so I don't have photos from this excursion to show you.  But here's our cat Trilby at Harkness on another day:
Overall, I'm happy with my consumer decisions today.  The food I bought was nutrient dense and delicious, and though it might have cost less at ShopRite, I really love shopping at the co-op.  I also volunteered enough hours there today so that Jake and I will have a 5% discount on our groceries for all of November.  And to top it off, because I was at the co-op I ran into someone who bought two bars of soap.  That's the way local economies work!

I will say that I was startled when I checked the odometer and realized how many miles it is to Harkness and back.  

And do I ever, ever go a day without buying anything?  I'm starting to wonder.

Consumption totals: 
Food: $4.97
miles driven: 9.3