Monday, November 23, 2009

Creature of Convenience - Nature vs. Nurture

So, I admit, I'm a sucker for convenience. Maybe it's in my nature. Maybe it's because I'm a mom of 2 still in diapers/pull-ups, and between juggling them, the household chores and the remodel, I turn to it for my own sanity. Or, maybe it is the environment I was raised in - I don't mean my parents, but the new technologies that have been invented over my lifetime to make life faster like the CD instead of slow cassette tape (do you even remember rewinding?!), the home computer, then the DVD instead of the slow video cassette, then the internet, then the pager turned cell phone (remember having to scrounge up a quarter to make a phone call?!!), now we have cell phones that ARE computers - if I want to know something, I can find out in only a few minutes (and my life's not even half over yet - I wonder what else they'll come up with? Or, maybe we'll go backwards - I vote for that!).
Well, I had the above thought as I popped open one of those pre-made stir fry bags for an instant dinner that I sometimes have around for "emergencies", and I was thinking: why did I even buy this - it is so bad for us! I bought it for when I didn't have time to make something from scratch (or just didn't feel like it!). Why don't I follow my own advice I give to other busy moms and pre-make a bunch of meals in advance from local and organic ingredients and put them in the freezer for such an emergency?!
So, I thought I'd compile this list of tips to make your life easier and greener (or at least, green-ish) and combine convenience with more healthful choices! Even if you don't use the tips all the time, at least you have them in your arsenal!
Tip 1 - Insta-dinner! (a solution for the above scenario, that I didn't follow!) Pre-cut the veggies, wrap them in non-bleached wax paper and put them in a freezer bag (you can put yours directly into the freezer bag if you wish - I don't like the plastic touching my food, plus I can re-use the bag easier that way). Pre-make a variety of sauces and put them into BPA-free ice cube trays or freezer tray like THIS ONE or THIS ONE that have lids, or slip your uncovered tray like THIS ONE into a freezer bag to keep it fresh. You can quickly pop these sauce cubes out and add to your dish! You can also use a freezer-safe glass dish with a lid, and then put a ziplock bag around that. This is also a great idea for homemeade purees and baby foods! You can also pre-cut and cook meat too, but it doesn't last as long in the freezer as raw, frozen does.
Tip 2 - Don't buy into Temptation! If you don't buy it, you wont eat it! (another red mark on my card for my dinner tonight!). When I am the one shopping, I don't even go down the chip or soda pop aisle and I try to avoid the frozen aisle... when my husband is with me, those items magically appear as I watch them be rung up and bagged. It's okay to have these fun treats every once and a while. When I do buy soda pop, I like to buy Hansens because they do not use High Fructose Corn Syrup. Another fun way to get this treat is to make your own from the juice in your refrigerator + some plain mineral water/carbonated water! My daughter loves "fizzy juice"!

Tip 3 - Homemade ice treats! Instead of buying popcicles as a convenient frozen treat, you can pour juice into BPA-free ice cube trays like the ones I linked to in tip 1, and stick a toothpick into it and put it in the freezer - when it hardens, they pop right out! Instead of toothpicks, see if there is an item you can use that you can wash and re-use, like baby spoons (without BPA) or other small utensil. To be frugal, you can mix the juice with water to make it go farther, and the ice pops will still be yummy!

Tip 4 - Stockpile! We like to have food supplies to last us at least a few months on hand. See my previous post HERE on that subject if you'd like! This makes it really easy to have things convenient and on-hand so I don't have to make a special trip to the store to find something for dinner. This has also cut down on our Fast Food consumption! Sometimes I do crave a big juicy burger and fries, and don't even get me started on Burgerville's seasonal goodies - if I see that billboard with the Walla Walla Onion Rings, I have to have them (or the Fresh, Local Strawberry lomonaide, oh, and the Hazelnut shake - YUM!) - Burgerville is slightly more expensive, but they use local and fresh ingredients in many of their items! That's ok to visit every once and a while, just not daily or weekly! The less we rely on the car, the more "green" we are, and the more money we save on gas! So, if you already have food convenient to you, you wont have to seek convenience out (except for as a treat! mmmmm, Walla Walla Onion Rings!)
Tip 5 - Surf before you Turf! I like to look online for which stores have the things I want all in one place, or down the street from another stop I want to make to save the amount of times I have to drive around and waste gas. The internet is one of the most convenient tools there is! Many stores have their weekly ads online, so before you head out, you can view it and then search for printable coupons from places like for the things you intend to buy, to make the sale even sweeter! It can also save you time in the store because you have a goal and are looking for particular products, rather than going down every aisle. Check out my sidebar to the left with links to Organic product sites that normally have coupons you can print.
Tip 6 - Unwrap the Saran! Another convenience item I've done away with is the saran wrap (in most cases). I no longer use it to store food in the fridge - instead, I use a glass dish with a glass lid. I just don't like the idea of plastic touching my food, and it is NOT a reusable item - it goes straight into the trash when I'm done with it, which is wasteful to me. The only time I use it is when I need to transport something for a dinner night at a friend's house, just to keep things in place for the car ride. In place of the saran, I use unbleached wax paper and tin foil. Both can be rinsed and reused if it's not too wrinkled or soiled or soaked. Unbleached wax paper is also all natural - wax is a natural substance that is not dangerous to contact your food. It hardly takes any more time to do this. For picnics, I use a mesh bug guard over the food instead of the wrap.

Tip 7 - Fresh Fruit! Fruit is probably the most convenient food there is - you don't have to cook it, warm it up, de-thaw it or prepare it (well, some are better eaten cut into slices, and the banana does have that annoying peel!). Fresh fruit is also very handy and healthful! HERE is a link to my blog post that may helps with deciding when to buy Organic, and when you might get away with not!

Tip 8 - Nursing! Breast feeding is convenient and healthy. It is always there - you never have to bring formula or bottles with you, saving you time and money! Breast milk is free and formula costs $10 - $30 per can. Breast milk is a natural life force but most of the formulas have some extra ingredients that aren't neccessary for the little babers to eat.

Tip 9 - Un-paper the towels, Sweep the Swiffer Aside! I may never stop purchasing paper towels to have in the kitchen, but, I can stop using them in a wasteful manner! Most spills can be cleaned up with kitchen towels, the cleanning can be done with a cloth, dinner napkins can be cloth... all washable and reusable! You can also find orgainc fabrics at many fabric stores, like - they have an Organic Cotton Waffle Pique that's made in the USA - you can get 8+ napkins out of a yard of fabric easily! Just zig-zag stitch the edges! The Swiffer Sweeper is another wasteful item I own - think about all those swiffer cloths I've thrown away - ACK! Not to mention the cost to replace them! I've kept the stick part around, but I attach a washable cloth instead - those old cloth baby diapers work really well for this! You can also moisten the cloth and sweep it around attached to the Swiffer! Another item I like is my steam mop - the pads are washable and reusable, and it uses natural steam to loosen dirt, clean, mop and sanitize all in one step without using harsh chemicals. Yes, it does use energy to run it, but for now, I like it better than mopping!
Tip 10 - This spot is left blank for your additions! Leave a comment with your ideas for ditching traditional convenience and opting for making being healthy, green or chemical free more convenient!

p.s. We have also gotten rid of our microwave, and that has done wonders for us to eat healthier! We just have to plan ahead sometimes. I heat things on the stove when I want something to be hot, and it also helps that we have a warming drawer in our kitchen! I don't have a substitute for this convenience item, but I don't miss it at all!!

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