29
Dec

Just Say No To Plastic Food Storage Containers

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Plastic free safe food containers

Glass storage dishes are classic and classy. They are what moms decades ago used to store their extra food and leftovers. Vintage Pyrex refrigerator dishes anyone??? Then we had to go and get all “modern” and start using plastic. Why did we DO that? Why did we mess with such a good thing?

Yes, glass usually does have a problem with breakage but plastic has its own issues, many of them. Did we really need to be so concerned about glass breaking that we had to start mass producing an alternative that is so indestructable it will sit in landfills FOREVER. In addition to the fool hardy practice of filling our planet with plastic it also has many unsavory chemicals in it and the propensity to leach them into things it comes in contact with. Plastics used to store food often have BPA, PVC, and phthalates. They are all things we don’t want to come into contact with let alone eat.

BPA or Bisphenol A is a hormone mimicking chemical that can cause a lot of health problems, especially for children. PVC is known as the poison plastic. Phthalates are a family of industrial chemicals that are used as plastic softeners or solvents. They can damage the liver, the kidney and the reproductive organs. Why exactly do these sound like safe ingredients for dishes to store food in? Call me baffled!

This page highlights some great alternatives for storing your food, alternatives that don’t use harmful chemicals. Don’t go to all the trouble of feeding your family healthy meals only to store them in toxic containers. Just say no to plastic.

The first thing you can do is look to see what you can recycle and reuse so that you don’t have to buy anything new. Buy your food in glass whenever possible and then you have glass to reuse.

Juice bottles
Condiment containers
Pickle and kraut jars
Pasta sauce jars
Coconut oil jars

All these things can be saved and used to store food in after you give them a good cleaning. Store your leftovers, sugar, dried goods, pre-cut veggie snacks, anything you could ever need or want to store you can store with stuff you already buy typically. If you lose the lids or they get rusty try these silicone food savers (below). They actually stretch to fit containers perfectly. You can even put them on canned goods to re-seal.

foodsaver for jars

The next step is to see what you can buy second hand? Why buy new when you can buy used and save items from being tossed into the landfill? Check out thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, and Craigslist to find what you need. There are lost of vintage glass refrigerator dishes out there to be had…I find them all the time.

If and when you do need to buy new though look into these options…

Glasslock Snapware Tempered Glass Food Storage Containers with Lids 20 Piece Set – If you need lots of food storage containers then this is a good buy. Donate all your plastic ones and start fresh maybe?

Lifefactory Glass Food Storage with Silicone Sleeve – Lifefactory makes some awesome glass water bottles. I have several. So I was super pleased to see that they now have glass food storage and refrigerator dishes. The silicone sleeve makes them less breakable and thus a good way to transport leftovers in your lunchbag the next day. There are three different sizes.

lifefactory glass food storage containers for the frig

Abeego Flats Food Storage Liners –  These can replace suran wrap, tin foil, and even plastic food storage bags. They are slightly adhesive and malleable at room temperature but they stiffen when cooled – holding the shape you created. This means you can take all kinds of foods on the go from sandwiches and wraps, to fruits and veggies and more. Made of all natural materials: hemp, organic cotton, beeswax, tree resin jojoba oil, and hand washable with soap and water.

abeego food storage liners

Flip & Tumble Reusable Produce Bags – I love these bags and have many of them myself. You can take these with you shopping and collect loose fruits, veggies, grains, beans, etc. at the store, bulk bins, or at the farmer’s market. Then you can store them in the same bags if you wish and you never have to take the flimsy plastic produce bags from the store.

flip and tumble

Not only is plastic free getting easier, the options above look better too!

22
Dec

10 Rules for Cast Iron Care

by Tiffany in A Green Home

10 Rules for Cast Iron CareFollow these tips and your cast iron pots and pans will last forever.

#1 Use it often – Unlike so many other types of cookware the more you use cast iron the better it will work. Amazing.

#2 Show some respect – If you take care of your cast iron you will end up handing it off to the next generation in the same condition in which you received it.

#3 Clean after each use – Don’t throw it in the sink and forget about it. You need to cleanup afterwards, right after cooking. Rinse with hot water while the pan is still warm/hot.

#4 Don’t do it! – Never wash cast iron with soap and never put it in the dishwasher.

#5 Scour when needed – Use as stiff bristle brush and/or some course salt to scrub when needed.

#6 Water works – When you have grime and caked on food just add a bit of water and place the cookware back on the hot burner, bring to a boil. This will usually get rid of any food debris and you don’t even need to scrub.

#7 Dry & oil – Don’t throw these in the dish rack to dry or put them away when still slightly wet. Dry them completely off after washing put them back on the burner for a couple minutes. Use a towel to rub a thin layer of vegetable oil on the inside.

#8 Store them right – Keep cast iron in a cool dry place with good air flow. For pots and pans with lids a thin towel placed between the pan and the lid will allow for air flow.

#9 Keep it seasoned. Cast iron creates it own no-stick surface via seasoning. To season, coat the pan well with vegetable oil and bake at 400 degrees for one hour. Re-season as needed. Seasoned cast iron is shiny, smooth and non-stick!

#10 Get rid of rust – If you were neglectful and your cast iron got rusty or you pickled it up secondhand looking sad just use steel wool to scrub away rust and re-season when completely dry.

Happy cooking!

 

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

9 Comments on 10 Rules for Cast Iron Care

24
Mar

Going Green Has Personal Benefits Too

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Why do we try to make our lives just a little greener? It is because we care about our planet and the future that our children will face someday. They inherit the problems we have created as a society and the problems we fail to do something about. We are also concerned about the present. Numerous global challenges we now face… air pollution, water pollution, climate crisis, wildlife facing extinction… these things impact us all every day and give us cause for alarm and motivation to do what we can to affect change.

There are reasons though that going green benefits us personally and perhaps will help sell those who don’t identify as environmentalists on the idea of “greener” pastures. Going green can help us save money and it can be better for our own health and the health of our families. Most of us are amenable to ways to save some cash and ensure that we have the healthiest and happiest lives we can. Maybe we won’t all unite for the exact same reasons but there are plenty of reasons in general to unite and do better by our planet.

Greener Living Saves Money

Green home building an renovations are all the rage right now and it is only partly because the home owners care about Mother Earth. They also care about saving money! Adding solar panels and wind turbines allows them to produce their own energy. Others insulate their homes with reclaimed jeans or install uPVC double glazed windows to keep their homes warm in winter and cool in the summer so that energy costs are reduced. Working with a home improvement company or sourcing your local experts gives you a variety of ways to reduce your carbon footprint while making your wallet just a bit fatter.

There are many of us though that cannot afford snazzy solar panels or the price tag of some of the greener building and renovation materials. There are options for just about any budget though. We can reduce energy costs by replacing our old appliances (washing machines, dishwashers) with energy efficient models. They cost about the same as any high end appliance.

Shopping used at thrift stores, consignment shops, and yard sales is good for the planet and the wallet too. We reduce the amount of new products entering the marketplace because we lower demand. We give new life to products already out there, keeping them from the the landfills. Buying used can save us an outrageous amount of money in the long run. Once you get used to that cost savings, paying full price for anything starts to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Greener Living Is Healthier

Fixing our broken food system benefits not only the planet but also our health. All the pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers we use to grow food with on a large scale are doing terrible things to our soil, to our groundwater, and to local wildlife and ecosystems. They are also extremely bad for our health. Going back to organic, local, and smaller space food production systems will benefit our health as well as the planet’s health, and it will invigorate local economies. Also important is the fact that is takes money away from gigantic corporations who actually work against our interests and health.

Many conscious consumers are now creating their own green cleaners, making batches of crockpot soap, and growing and preserving their own food. They are returning to homestead activities of days past. This is beneficial for saving money but also it allows us to control the ingredients and products we allow to enter into our lives. Conventional cleaners are often filled with nasty ingredients that can make us sick. Good old baking soda and vinegar though is effective and healthy. Growing food at home allows us full control over how it is grown and what is used to control weeds and pests…usually just some brainpower and some bodily effort.

Many greener living enthusiasts moderate their use of a car. This can mean public transportation, which is certainly better for our planet but it can also mean more walking and bicycle riding. This translates into less impact on the planet and a more active lifestyle, which in turn improves our health. We are far too sedentary as a society but the green movement is helping us move away from so much car driving and pushing us toward people powered transportation and more walk/bike friendly cities. Everyone benefits.

How has greener living helped you to save money or improve health?

17
Feb

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Easy Ways to Reduce Kitchen Waste (2)

According to a research, the average kitchen wastes approximately $1000 in food per year. Roughly 40% of all food produced worldwide ends up in the garbage.  Think of how many hungry people could be fed if we cleaned up our act and actually used what we purchased and thus only purchased what we actually needed. Our budgets would be immediately helped by making a few changes and wasting less food. I know personally I cringe at the idea of throwing away $1000 a year. I can think of many ways I would rather spend that money.

Food waste also impacts the planet because we are wasting resources to grow food that we allow to rot and then eventually throw away. Just think about all the energy used to grow crops and the taxation of the soil. Throwing food away is highly wasteful and hurtful to our planet.

Here are a few very simple ways that you can avoid unnecessary waste in the kitchen…

Don’t buy food without plan: Probably the biggest mistake we can make when grocery shopping is buy food without a meal plan of some sort. We need to know when we buy something how and when it will be used. Sometimes we buy things on impulse and think will figure out later what to do with it. Perhaps those tomatoes look ultra appetizing or asparagus is in season, so you buy. Then they end up sitting in the frig or on your counter to rot because you had no clear idea what you would do with them. It is essential to make plans before buying so that everything is used per your plan and does not get wasted. 20-30 minutes spent planning a menu and ingredients list will save you money and it will reduce waste.

If meal planning is not your thing. Outsource!! I like eMeals. They even have a paleo meal plan.

Buy Foods At the Right Time: This is part of the menu plan. If you buy a bunch of avocados because they are on sale then taco night needs to be within 2-3 nights of purchase, not a week later. Coordinate your menu plan with what is on sale, what is in season, and what is available at your local farmer’s market and then use them up within that week.

Buy Less Food: Some people like to buy in bulk and/or buy most of their of food at once. Others like to make several shopping trips a week and buy a little bit at a time. The latter method will be more advantageous if food waste is a problem for you. Lots of groceries means you have to be very good at prioritizing and planning so that nothing goes to waste. If that is you then congrats…if not change your shopping habits and pick up groceries a couple times a week rather a couple times a month.

Organize the Kitchen: A big food waste culprit is a disorganized and cluttered kitchen. If your frig is stuffed to capacity and your pantry is overflowing how do you even know what you have in there??!? Once a month do a pantry overhaul. Once a week do a frig clean-out. This keeps your inventory fresh in your mind and it allows you to see what you need to use up. Make a list of the stuff you need to use pretty quickly and build your menu plan around that.

Store Foods Appropriately: If you buy apples by the bushel then you need to know how to store them so that they last. Wrapping the best apples in newspaper and keeping them in baskets or a boxes in a cold place for instance. Potatoes and onions are usually kept in well ventilated wicker baskets. I like these.

Also some fruits and veggies emit high levels of ethylene gas and can cause your other produce to go bad more quickly so make sure to keep them separate. Don’t keep your peaches and apples anywhere near the greens and celery. Do a bit of research on the foods you buy and find out how to store them properly.

Use Up Leftovers: Some families have a night set aside to enjoy leftovers so that they can use up the food in their frig/freezer before it goes bad. This may mean that your meal includes a mish mash of different foods but you aren’t allowing good food to go to waste. Just call it buffet night!

I also like to pack leftovers in school and work lunches and usually design our dinner menu plan around meals that will work well as lunches the next day.

Freeze Food Before It Spoils: If the food in your frig or on your countertops is looking pretty sad make sure to freeze it before it goes bad. Bananas that are browning can be peeled and frozen for fruit smoothies or for baking. Apples that are starting to go bad get turned into crockpot applesauce, which is then frozen. Greens that are not looking terribly fresh get frozen for green smoothies or for homemade vegetable stock. Small bits of meat get frozen for use in frittatas. Small bits of veggies can be frozen and used later in stir fry or casserole.

Buy Dried Foods:  If you have a problem using up mushrooms before they go bad then make a switch to dried mushrooms. I love using dried mushrooms and wood ears in soups. Yum! They last a long time in the pantry and you don’t have to worry about using them up fast. Fruit is another thing you can buy dehydrated or dehydrate yourself (to use up seasonal fruit stores). It can then be used in smoothies, baked goods, snacking. etc. If your kids let bananas go to waste but they love dried banana chips, think about making a switch.

Don’t Toss It – Compost It: If the food is too far gone make sure to compost it and turn it into black gold for your garden and your houseplants. If you don’t garden, compost it anyway…I am sure that many folks would love to take the compost off your hands when it is ready.

Consider the Packaging: Waste in the kitchen isn’t just about food. What about all of the packaging waste that ends up in the landfill?? To mitigate this buy food without packaging whenever possible…its usually healthier food anyway. Buy fresh broccoli rather than frozen, buy ingredients to make bread rather than buy it in bags. Choose packaging that can be recycled before any that cannot be recycled. Bring your own glass jars and shop the bulk bins for grains, beans, cereal, etc. Be intentional when it comes to what you purchase.

You can also go a step beyond…

Be a Freegan: Freegans look for free food (usually in grocery store dumpsters) that has been discarded. The food is usually still perfectly good but it is thrown out on freshness dates that are very conservative. If you want to explore this option read my post on Freeganism or watch the movie Dive. It’s a great film!

14
Feb

6 Reasons Why Living in a Small House is Better

by Tiffany in A Green Home

Reasons a Small House is Better

We live in a society where people frequently purchase huge lavish houses in an effort to flaunt their social status and fit in within a certain “lifestyle” they deem superior. For many the cost of these homes digs a huge hole in their pockets and they ultimately have to forgo their other desires and expenses. Or they may work extra jobs or hours to keep this lifestyle afloat at the expense of their families and their health.

On Facebook this weekend I saw some discussion about a new Cadillac commercial that aired during the Olympics. I didn’t see it myself, as I am not interested in watching the games, nor do I watch much (any?) live TV. I did catch it on YouTube though after I heard some rumblings. Many are saying it highlights the American dream and sums us up as a society perfectly. Others are rightfully looking at the message a little more deeply and thinking we are being sold a bunch hooey.

Here is the commercial:

Obviously the intent is to sell cars and make their car and brand desirable. It IS a commercial after all. Though IMO we should all be alarmed that so many can identify with and glorify the attitude so prevalent in it. Basically…European cultures are lazy for taking vacations and for taking leisurely strolls to the cafe to enjoy themselves. Americans are so  much better because they keep their noses to the grindstone and skip all that family time and relaxation because it allows them to enjoy fine things… like a $75,000 car and a huge house. Vomit.

If you take a quick look back in time, you’ll see that smaller homes historically were the norm for most of us. In 1950, the average home size was roughly around 900 square feet but home size made a significant jumped up to 2350 square feet by 2004. That is a huge leap for just a few decades. Lately the trend has reversed a bit, with the increasing price of real estate and the cost of maintenance going up. People are again shifting towards the purchase of much smaller and compact houses rather than purchasing a huge house which is not in their budget. The tiny house movement is gaining some traction as more folks realize that bigger is not better. Here are some of the reasons why small houses are an investment in a happier, richer life:

Small homes costs less

Homebuyers tend to forget the fact that the expense of buying a huge house does not end with the initial purchase. The cost of maintaining it and decorating it also tends to get steep. A big house means a big roof. A big house means a large furnace, perhaps two. The bigger the house the more square footage needs to be maintained. It also costs more to heat and cool large houses, LOTS more. On the other hand, small homes costs less in all these areas and your money can go to more important things and you can usually pay off your home faster, because it was more affordable to begin with.

Small houses save time

It takes a significant amount of time to clean a big house and maintain the yard, unless you hire a cleaning crew and a landscaping company to come in every week. In that case see the point I made above about money. Living in a small house means you spend less time cleaning and maintaining.

Small houses help you live with simplicity and intention

When you live in small house you have to think carefully about what you buy and what you keep. A small house can get cluttered because space is an issue. Thus you are forced to make purchases carefully and mindfully. You are also much more likely to attack clutter and to simplify. A lifestyle that requires you to “think” rather than exist on autopilot is much preferred.

Smaller homes mean more quality

It costs a small fortune to upgrade countertops, hard wood floors, cabinets and appliances in a restaurant sized kitchen. You have to buy so much more that you may have to make sacrifices in terms of quality. You can renovate or improve a small home using your first choice materials because you don’t need much. You may also be able to buy better furniture, art, or tech because you have more wiggle room in the budget thanks to your humble abode. Your money goes further and buys more.

Small homes may be easier to sell

Energy costs continue to rise. The economy is unreliable at best. That means energy efficient homes, especially small affordable homes, will be always be high in demand in the future, which makes them easier to sell off if one needs to.

Smaller homes mean more togetherness

A happy benefit of having less room to spread out is that families spend more time together. You spend more time together at home because you have less room to sprawl out and it may also mean that you opt to get out together more often.

The advantages of living in a smaller home are pretty clear and hopefully this is a trend that will gain some steam in the future as more people realize they are overworked, in debt, and losing out on meaningful family time. The new America dream should be about seeing past the consumerist bull-crap being sold to us and saying “no thanks, I don’t need it.”