Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mini Tome on Minimal Waste

Shopping and cooking on a budget incorporates a whole approach to living, and one that boils down to a lifestyle of sustainability.

I don't think my parents were aware that they were model life-stylers, but due to memories of the great depression they naturally practiced what today we'd label a sustainable lifestyle.

My mother had a fantastic garden which included a herb plot and almond and walnut trees, passionfruit and Chinese gooseberries vines, lemon, fig, apricot, peach and avocado trees, and she encouraged my father to grow vegetables, which he eventually.

Food scraps went into the compost bin, and the compost eventually went onto the garden. Back inside, our pantry was filled with homemade jams, chutney's, sauces, pickled nuts, bottled fruits, and whatever else my mother could cook up into something-for-later.

One kitchen draw was filled with cloth towels which we used in place of paper hand-towels. We re-used plastic bags, washing them out and drying them after each use. And there were several sturdy bags designated for collecting groceries so we never amassed plastic or paper grocery-store bags.

I don't have a garden like my parents, nor do I can, bottle, or pickle, but nevertheless, this minimal-waste / sustainable approach I grew up with serves me well today.

For instance:

1) I'm vigilant about making sure I've eaten all the perishables in my fridge before I go back to do another grocery shop -- in other words, before I spend more money on groceries, I'll use up what I have at home. This way I avoid throwing out older food in favor of newly purchased food.

2) When I arrive at the grocery store, I have my own plastic bags for my veggies and bulk-food items; my own plastic containers for nut butters, honey, olive/antipasti-bar etc, and my own carry-bag for all my groceries -- in other words, I'm big on recycling.

And before you lament never being able to remember to take your own bags to the grocery store, apply this tip:

Keep a stash of carry bags in your car. And rather than tossing out small plastic and Ziploc bags and small plastic containers, keep some inside your stash of carry bags.

If you follow this tip, when you get to the store, you'll have all the bags you'll need to collect your groceries right there with you.

It takes some practice re-using plastic bags and containers and storing them in your bags in the car, but once you get used to it, it's a great way to start living a paired-down, sustainable lifestyle.

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