Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ten days into '10

We've made it ten days into the year, and it's probably about time for an update on my non-consuming progress.

I'm delighted to report that I've remembered to bring reusable bags with me every time I've grocery shopped this year. Sure, on freaking January freaking first, the cashier at the store insisted on wrapping my meat in a plastic bag and putting my milk into a plastic bag, which pretty much negated my use of two reusable bags, but every other time it's worked out okay. I didn't know, until today, that Target gives you a five-cent discount for every reusable bag used in your order. I also didn't know, until today, how much a cashier could fit into a reusable bag. Impressive. Well played, Ms. Cashier, well played.

Frustrations? The big one is how few plastic containers are recyclable in our community. Memphis recycling only takes the type 1 and 2 plastics, but most of the products I buy that come in plastic tubs are the type 5, which has much less carbon impact in manufacture, but it darn near kills me to throw away those tubs. Sure, I could reuse them, but there are only so many sour cream cartons a girl needs! We haven't purchased yogurt in quite a while (the kids lost their taste for it), but I may start making my own, and substituting that for sour cream.

I started some sourdough starter a few weeks back, and that's reduced my family's purchases of yeast and sandwich bread. I'm baking every three or so days, and the recipe I'm using slices very well and has a soft crust. I've substituted whole wheat flour for half the white flour in the recipe and it still turns out very well. It's not a San Francisco-type sourdough...more just a solid bread recipe. My starter is pretty basic...a tablespoon (or one package) of yeast, a cup of flour, and a cup of warm water. Mix in a large bowl, cover, and whisk it frequently for a few days, then put it in a smaller container (mayonnaise jar?) and refrigerate. I make sure to use mine at least twice a week, feeding it with equal parts flour and water when I use it. (Basically, if a recipe calls for 1 cup starter, after measuring out the cup of starter, replace it with 1/2 cup each of flour and water. No need to replace the yeast unless the whole thing goes bad or dies.)

My consumer addiction is very easily swayed by television ads, I learned. We already know that I'm hooked on cosmetics, despite the fact I rarely use them. But a major makeup company has brilliantly bundled some eye makeup products by eye color (three shadows, an eyeliner, and a mascara), and I found myself in a bit of consumer lust. (No, I didn't buy them. I'm not insane.)

One concession I made to the kids: the gift cards they received as holiday gifts? They got to "buy" brand-new products with them. The girl and I went shopping today, and she really enjoyed it. However, she seemed to enjoy our trip to Goodwill too. I think the paradigm can shift, even for a tween girl.

All in all? The first ten days of '10 have gone well.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Yesterday, the first day of my year-long experiment in carbon-footprint-shrinking, we had an early fail.

At the grocery store, I had brought in my reusable bags (yes, I did have to go back to the car to get them, because that's still not a habit), but I still got home with two more plastic bags because the cashier was quite insistent that my meat and milk needed to be in plastic bags so they wouldn't leak onto my other items. And I was tired enough (and polite enough) not to argue.

Yes, we reuse all our plastic bags (when the husband delivers papers, when I walk the dogs, etc.) but I still hated bringing them into the house.

Only one impulse buy at the store, and it was something we do purchase frequently. It was on sale and had coupons displayed alongside, reducing its price to about half what we'd usually pay. If our freezer were less full, I'd have bought more.

The daughter is resigning herself to the no buying new stuff part of the experiment. She was horrified for a moment when she realized she hadn't spend her Christmas gift cards, but I assured her that such purchases were perfect exceptions to the rule, especially because they were technically 2009 purchases.

Too bad it's so cold outside. I'm ready to take down the holiday decorations and put 2009 entirely into the past.