May 1 Food Haul

I was way over budget this week, coming in over $100 for groceries for my husband and myself. So this can’t at all be considered a sustainable food haul. To be sustainable, less fortunate folks would have to have some chance of affording it. Well, let’s see how this happened…

First Stop: Downtown Farmers Market

  • IMG_20160430_111537Peaches, 2 baskets: $12.00
  • Brussel sprouts, 1 pint: $4.00
  • Wheat flour, 2.5 pounds: $5.00
  • Whole chicken, 3.18 pounds: $14.31
  • Mushrooms, some: $3.00

Total: $38.31

You can’t really tell from this picture but this is a lot of peaches. They’re delicious, and I need to cut them up and flash freeze them soon to prevent any from going to waste. Frozen peach slices will be incredible when the summer heat comes around if they last that long.

The chicken is for our Mother’s Day lunch, and I also picked up the bag of wheat flour from the vendor while I was there. It’s plastic, but hey it’s also local. By the way, for anyone who doesn’t know this yet, store whole wheat flour in the freezer. It’s stays fresher much longer that way.

Second Stop: Wheatsville Co-op

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  • Watermelon, x2: $5.98
  • Toilet paper, x1: $0.79
  • Soymilk, half-gallon: $3.69
  • Rosemary seeds, 1 packet: $2.99
  • Bronner’s soap, 4.49 pounds: $4.80
  • Cara cara oranges, 0.70 pounds: $1.74
  • Valencia oranges, 0.88 pounds: $1.58
  • Red bell pepper, 0.23 pounds: $0.89
  • Orange bell pepper, 0.52 pounds: $1.55
  • Roma tomatoes, 0.37 pounds: $0.74
  • Cinnamon raisin bagels, x6: $4.95
  • Nut & Oat bread loaf: $3.69
  • Honey wheat bread loaf: $3.69
  • Extra virgin olive oil: $6.99
  • Balsamic vinegar: $4.99
  • Bran flakes, 0.33 pounds: $1.65
  • Sunny bears, 0.45 pounds: $5.40
  • Tofu, 14 ounces: $2.29
  • Peppermint toothpaste: $5.99

Total: $63.78

Whoa, that’s way more than I had budgeted for this week. But there were some staples included in there that should last me for a while. But the gummy bears? This is why you’re not supposed to go shopping hungry, you end up buying stupid things. Without that, I at least wouldn’t have gone into the triple-digits of dollars spent.

On the bright side, refilling my bottle of Bronner’s soap turned out to be less expensive than expected. Sure, there’s some air in the bottle but that’s still much cheaper than when I initially purchased the bottled soap. Buying from the bulk bins isn’t always a win when it comes to the pocket book, but when it is I can’t help but smile.

And the watermelons. My original plan was to wait until I could harvest some from my backyard or at least grab one from Engels Farm at the farmers market. But what can I say, watermelon is my favorite food and I am definitely a sucker for it. So when I stopped off at Wheatsville on two separate trips I picked up one of the little sale watermelons each time.

With the holdovers from last week and all of these goodies, we’re fully stocked up for the week ahead. Time to start eating!

April 24 Food Haul

I missed the farmers market this week in order to take the opportunity to visit the Resource Recovery Center and pick up some ReBlend paint. While there, I also managed to pick up some screws which look about the right size for reattaching the window shutter that came off, some washers for for making Roman shades, a small terra cotta window pot (made in Italy), and a couple of other goodies. (This was all free stuff, folks! Dumpster diving without any of the inconveniences.) There was still time to go to the farmers market afterwards, but I made a mistake thinking I could lug around a 3.5 gallon tub of paint from the pick-up area to the bus stop some blocks away. Even switching arms regularly and making frequent stops to rest, I just wanted to sit back for a while.

So in the end, this morning I made a one stop shopping trip to pick up tons of goodies.

One Stop: Wheatsville Co-op

  • IMG_20160424_090812Acorn squash, 1.50 pounds: $1.79
  • Beets, 0.80 pounds: $1.59
  • Broccoli, 1.30 pounds: $2.33
  • Salad mix, 0.24 pounds: $1.68
  • Carrots, 1.51 pounds: $2.70
  • Kale, 1 bunch: $2.49
  • Navel oranges, 1.40 pounds: $2.51
  • Cucumber, 0.92 pounds: $0.91
  • Golden delicious apples, 0.78 pounds: $1.79
  • Roma tomatoes, 1.03 pounds: $1.33
  • Gala apples, 0.79 pounds: $2.36
  • Pink lady apples, 0.68 pounds: $2.24
  • Orange bell pepper, 0.30 pounds: $0.90
  • White onion, 0.77 pounds: $1.38
  • Valencia oranges, 0.84 pounds: $0.83
  • Ataulfo mango, x1: $0.99
  • Peaches, 0.63 pounds: $2.39
  • Garlic, 0.13 pounds: $0.78
  • Yukon potatoes, 0.92 pounds: $1.37
  • Bagels, x2: $1.98
  • Nut & Oat bread, 1 loaf: $3.69
  • Whole Wheat bread, 1 loaf: $3.69
  • Toilet paper, x2: $1.58
  • Peanuts, 0.91 pounds: $4.81
  • Banana chips, 0.12 pounds: $0.41
  • Crunch peanut butter, 0.70 pounds: $4.89
  • Soymilk: $3.69
  • Smart dogs: $3.99

Total: $53.48

I expected the total to be higher for my packed little shopping cart, but there were a lot of good sales this week (yay, extra bread for the freezer) and it was that time of the year that I got my special 10% off member discount. My only regret is that I couldn’t find raisins in the bulk bins, which is why I ended up getting the banana chips. Oh, and the fact that organic broccoli at the co-op comes with both a rubber brand and unrecyclable tag. But, well, I really wanted some broccoli for my pizza. Yumm.

Pre-food

Since our new house has a large backyard, one of my goals is to gradually convert it from lawn into a garden. Now that we’ve been here for two months, time to check in on what progress I’ve made so far.

First of all, sadly, I neglected both of my baby Meyer lemon tree plants after the move. They were left at my mom’s house, watered rarely, and the last of the unhappy leaves finally fell off when I moved them over a month later. But plants are resiliant. I put this one outside where it could get fresh air and whatever water nature provides, and the leaves have already started coming back. (The one I kept indoors still isn’t happy, so guess where it’s going.)

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So far I’ve built three makeshift raised beds from some bifold closet doors that had already been removed and weren’t in terribly great condition, combined with store-bought compost dug into the existing soil.

The tomato bed was the first of the bunch, and it’s a jungle now. There are just a couple of tomato plants (one uncaged and falling over itself, one bursting out of a cage it has outgrown), many onions planted as sets but now floppy, parsley, thyme, leafy things, and some plants which I’m not sure if they’re weeds or part of the Save-the-bees seeds I added. Since reading Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution, I’m less concerned about weeds in my garden, though. As long as they don’t get out of control. Fingers crossed.

I also planted out bell pepper plants in there a couple of times but both times they disappeared. There must be some critter visiting my yard that really loves to eat young bell pepper plants.

Bed number two is the future home of my cucumbers, with a few watermelon radishes and nasturtiums in the empty spaces.

IMG_20160420_173709Bed number three is a home for melons–cantaloupes, canary melons, and watermelons. They really shouldn’t all be crammed together in such a small space (the vines will crawl out onto the lawn in different directions), but not all of them will make it to adulthood and this is a chance to see which ones win. I also planted melon seeds in random areas around the yard, but they won’t be getting watered so regularly unless it turns out to be a rainy spring. There are just a few nasturtiums in here also to help repel insect pests.

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I’ll be building at least one more bed in the not-distant future, but in the meantime I also found an abandoned pallet and added some compost to give my yellow squashes a home before it got too late in the season. (In Austin summers many plants have a tendency of dying.) Going outside today to take this picture, I was shocked to see that two of them had grown so large already but then remembered that those were the two I started inside. Heh.

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Last but certainly not least are some seedlings still growing inside. Here’s a marigold, tomatoes, oregano (experimental form of plant-the-cuttings-directly-in-soil propogation), jalapeno, and bell pepper.

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And a few more: another jalapeno, zinnias, more marigolds, and rosemary cuttings.

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I need to start lots more marigolds and zinnias inside to make sure they grow happily and make my front yard look nice for a general housewarming party in June.

And with any luck, this summer we’ll have a variety of delicious foods at our doorstep.

April 16 Food Haul

First Stop: Wheatsville Co-op

  • IMG_20160416_102334Jicama, 2.21 pounds: $4.40
  • Cara Cara oranges, 1.79 pounds: $2.57
  • Carrots, 1.53 pounds: $2.74
  • Zucchini, 1.34 pounds: $1.33
  • Navel oranges, 0.95 pounds: $1.70
  • Minneola tangelo, 0.23 pounds: $0.76
  • Roma tomato, 0.21 pounds: $0.42
  • Red bell pepper, 0.44 pounds: $1.67
  • Green bell peppers, 0.36 pounds: $1.26
  • Avocado, x1: $1.99
  • Bagels, x6: $4.95
  • Mozarella, 0.58 pounds: $4.09
  • Tortilla, x30: $1.49
  • Toilet paper, x2: $1.58
  • Coconut almond granola, 0.68 pounds: $2.03
  • Soymilk, half-gallon: $3.69
  • Tofurkey hot dogs: $3.74

Total: $40.44

I looked at the produce stickers this week to see where my fruits were coming from and decided to pass up on the pears (Chile) and kiwis (Italy? really?) and ended up with lots of citrus instead. Also got some mozarella so we can make pizza instead of eating out this week. But I forgot to get broccoli, my favorite topping.

Second Stop: Downtown Farmers Market

  • IMG_20160416_103300Strawberries, 2 pints: $8.00
  • Brussel sprouts, 2 pints: $8.00
  • Acorn squash, x2: $4.00
  • Beets, 2 bunches: $6.00
  • Mushrooms, $3.00
  • Kohlrabi, $3.00

Total: $32.00

The beets last week were fantastic, so this week I doubled up. I’ve been roasting them together with carrots and brussel sprouts. Who would have guessed they would taste well together, but the internet said so and it was true!

Looking around for another new-to-me food, I found a bunch of kohlrabi. They smell like cabbage but are a bit sweeter on the inside. Not outstanding but they’re good for adding a little variety of texture to salads.

Can-Free Peas

In January, I planted the other half packet of pea seeds in my mother’s garden. I forgot to soak them before planting but subsequently drenched the little patch of ground. For a month I watered them semi-regularly. But then I moved away and waterings were rare. This past month the peas only got rain and morning dew. Grass and weeds found a new home in the neglected garden. And yet somehow the peas perservered. Against all odds, they plumped out and my mom sent me this picture of them earlier this week. Nature really is brilliant.

Plump pods hanging on the pea vines

The next day I stopped by to check them out and picked all the pods that seemed full or kind of full. (What do I know about picking peas?) They filled up about half of this two-cup bowl.

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Taking them out of their pods resulted in what looks like only a third of a cup of peas.

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But no matter. I ate a few raw and the smaller peas were the sweetest and most delicious. I stuck them in the freezer temporarily to keep them fresh and will be adding them to our fried rice tonight. Since quitting canned foods, I’ve missed peas so much and here they are better than ever! I’ll definitely be planting more next year. My only regret is that it’s already too warm to plant a new batch now.

April 9 Food Haul

No garden food this week, but I should be able to make a small harvest next week. Watermelon is my favorite food, and on Wednesday I could no longer wait and stopped in at a supermarket to buy a seedless variety. By no means was it the best watermelon I’ve ever tasted, but it should keep me either until my own start growing or until they start showing up at the farmers market.

First Stop: Wheatsville Co-op

  • IMG_20160409_103422

    Fuji apples, 0.42 pounds: $1.05

  • Blood oranges, 0.63 pounds: $2.20
  • Avocado, x1: $1.99
  • Red delicious apples, 1.41 pounds: $3.23
  • Yellow onion, 0.77 pounds: $1.30
  • Red bell pepper, 0.28 pounds: $1.06
  • Green bell pepper, 0.32 pounds: $1.12
  • Zucchini, 0.78 pounds: $0.75
  • Bartlett pears, 0.89 pounds: $1.59
  • Navel oranges, 0.90 pounds: $1.63
  • Kiwi, x1: $0.79
  • Roma tomatoes, 0.61 pounds: $1.21
  • Toilet paper, x2: $1.58
  • Peanuts, 0.87 pounds: $4.50
  • Rice, 2.87 pounds: $8.01
  • Cashews, 1.15 pounds: $10.34
  • Soymilk, half-gallon: $3.00
  • Eggs, x12: $3.00
  • Sandwich bread, 1 loaf: $4.99
  • Cinnamon raisin bagel, x1: $0.99

Total: $51.81

Cashews were on sale this week. I should try using some of them to make cashew milk to work my way towards getting rid of those milk jugs–a regular single-use disposable on my list.

And someday I’ll get back in the habit of making bread again. Someday.

Second Stop: Downtown Farmers Market

  • IMG_20160409_102457Strawberries, 2 pints: $8.00
  • Brussel sprouts, 1 pint: $4.00
  • Beets, 1 bunch: $3.00
  • Broccoli, 1 crown: $2.50

Total: $17.50

Stocking up on more strawberries this week. Good thing I saved some plastic pint containers from previous purchases, so they made their way  home without getting squished. (I had to eat a few to get them to fit, yum.)

I’ve been eating out for lunch two or three times a week at work and figure I’ll probably be more tempted to eat lunch from home if it’s something made with a little bit of meat. So I stopped at my go-to booth to get a chicken. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any yet, but it sounds like they’ll be harvesting chickens for next week’s market. I’ll be back!

Writing up my food haul blog from last week, I realized that I hadn’t tried any new produce for a while, so I was looking around for something interesting but didn’t see anything so decided I should give beets another shot. This time I’ll cut them up to roast with some other veggies. Anyhow, I had a team outing for work yesterday to Ramen Tatsu-Ya, where I had edamame and miso for the first time, so all’s good.

Also: Home Depot

IMG_20160409_103514As part of my Saturday morning errands, I also stopped by the Home Depot to pick up a couple of bags of compost and a packet of nasturtiums since they’re supposed to be a good companion plant for my cucumbers. Turns out they were on sale two for one so I’ll plant them in multiple areas tomorrow. The bags of compost are one of the things that create the most waste for me (big plastic bags), but I’m not prepared to give up the convenience of being able to carry a couple of bags with me on the bus just yet.

11 Reasons to Quit Soda

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For many years I’ve been trying to quit soda. It was a no-brainer. I was (and still am) overweight. I was super sensitive to caffeine. It left me feeling sluggish after the sugar high had worn off. And who knows how many other ways the soda was wearing down my long term health?

But I had varied success in quitting and never lasted longer than a couple of months before falling off the wagon. I had been collecting so many reasons to quit, but it wasn’t enough to break the addiction. Fortunately, as I got interested in zero waste and learned about the other environmental aspects of sodas, that’s what finally tipped the scales for me. I didn’t touch the stuff for several months after making the decision with full justifications. There have been a few times since where I’ve had soda again on special occasions, but it tastes less and less appetizing each time. I’m finally at a point now where I think I just might be okay without ever touching a drop of the stuff again.Water generally is enough to satisfy my thirst. And cold crisp fruit satisfies that sweet spot that often tempts me. Making sure I fill up on healthy foods and reminding myself of the myriad reasons to avoid soda keeps me from falling to temptation.

Are you like me and just reaching for more motivations to stay away from these sweet drinks that you already know are bad for you? Here are a few from my list that may also help you to remind yourself when reaching for a soda.

Avoid the obvious health issues

You’ve heard this one already and it’s probably one of the reasons you’re still reading this. Studies have shown that regular soda consumption can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, liver problems, and other health issues.

Sleep better

Caffeine can stay in your system for many hours and the changes in your blood sugar levels won’t help either. During college I’d sometimes go crazy with the caffeinated sodas to keep me going during finals and then be miserable because when I finally went to bed, I couldn’t get to sleep.

Save money

Sodas at restaurants normally cost two or three bucks these days and even if you stock up at supermarket sales, it adds up. Use that money for something that will give you more than fleeting happiness.

Avoid sugar crashes

I use to drink soda at work to get a bit of energy when feeling sluggish, but that energy doesn’t last long and can lead to a subsequent brain fog. Instead, make sure to get enough sleep at night, and a super quick bit of exercise also works for a pick-me-up.

Save your teeth

The acid in soda can wreak havoc on your teeth. And the enamel can be harmed even more if you brush within 30 minutes of drinking.

Conserve water

It takes around 40 gallons of water to produce one bottle of soda.

Fight monocultures

Many American farms now grow monoculture crops thanks to subsidies on corn and soy. Avoiding all products with high fructose corn syrup and other corn derived crops is a way to vote against the practice.

Stay away from GMOs

For corn, genetically modified is now the standard. So guess where the high fructose corn syrup in your soda comes from. There are many reasons to avoid GMOs but include crops that are designed to thrive even with more herbicides (Roundup Ready) and the fact that big corporations actually own the varieties of crops we rely on.

Reduce -icide use

On that note, these crops do use a whole lots of herbicides and insecticides to get the fullest crop possible, devastating the soil at the same time and letting loose many of these chemicals into our waterways.

Avoid chemicals like BPA

Both plastic bottles and aluminum can linings may contain BPA or other disruptive chemicals without any labeling whatsoever. Fortunately many people have already moved away from BPA use, but without knowing what goes into the containers, there’s no way for us to decide if the material is truly safe to store our beverages in.

Say no to single-use disposables

In addition to the soda ingredients, a lot of resources go into the making of the bottle or can for the container, and most are designed for a single use before being tossed. Recycling doesn’t solve the whole problem as much energy, water, and chemicals are required for transporting and transforming the used containers into new products.


 

I originally wrote this blog post a few months ago and hadn’t published it. But in the past couple of weeks I wasn’t getting enough sleep and reached out to the drink fridge at work for a quick pick-me-up. I had already done it once, so what was the harm in reaching for another the next day? The harm was that each time made it harder to stop. Even if the soda didn’t taste that good and made me disappointed with myself, my body remembered that little bit of temporary energy and provided me with fresh cravings every day.

Work is hard with the free sodas just steps away, but fortunately soda is less convenient on the weekend, making it more easier to abstain. This weekend I made sure to get some extra sleep and this week I’ve done without so far. It’ll be another couple of weeks before the cravings fully fade away again, but hopefully keeping this list on hand will help me make it through and get back to sanity.

 

April 2 Food Haul

Buying a house and everything that entails has really thrown me off my rhythm. It’s been nearly two months since my last visit to the farmers market. Today was a great day to visit, though. They had strawberries!

First Stop: Wheatsville Co-op

I already have a variety of beans cooked and frozen in reused jars, so this week is mostly about accompaniments.

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    Goodies from Wheatsville

    Potatoes, 1.12 pounds: $1.67

  • Plums, 0.48 pounds: $1.34
  • Avocado, x1: $1.99
  • Cucumber, 0.74 pounds: $1.10
  • Mango, x1: $1.79
  • Oranges, 1.29 pounds: $1.28
  • Pear, 0.36 pounds: $0.72
  • Kiwi, x1: $0.79
  • Garlic, 0.08 pounds: $0.48
  • Bell pepper, 0.33 pounds: $1.15
  • Cinnamon raisin bagel, x1: $0.99
  • Fake provolone single: $0.99
  • Spaghetti, x2: $3.00
  • Toilet paper, x2: $1.58
  • Wild rice blend, 1.28 pounds: $5.62
  • Brown rice, 1.15 pounds: $3.21
  • Liquid laundry detergent, 0.26 pounds: $0.91
  • Soymilk, half-gallon: $3.00
  • Butter, half-pound: $2.99
  • Vegan hot dogs, 1 pack: $3.99

Total: $38.72

The butter was to make some oatmeal cookies, which my husband has been craving. I also got him a special little serving-sized cheese.

I’ve been getting lazy about making my own laundry detergent, so I was glad to discover that Wheatsville gets large jugs of detergent and lets you dispense just what you need into your own container. Sometimes a lot of bubbles come out of the dispenser, but this time it was beautiful liquid soap all the way.

By the way, I know that pear looks really beat up in that picture. Now I know to be a bit more gentle with pears and to not accidentally rough them up on the way home. No worries, though, I ate it already and it was still 100% delicious.

Second Stop: Downtown Farmers Market

  • IMG_20160402_111538Strawberries, 2 pints: $8.00
  • Mushrooms: $3.00
  • Tomatoes, x3: $3.00
  • Spaghetti squash, x2: $5.00

It’s strawberry season! My husband and I love berries but have only been buying them on rare occasions due the plastic containers they come in. I still have a few of those containers and will make good use of them next week for transporting more berries safely home. This batch was de-leafed and halved almost immediately and quick-frozen (spread out on a tray in the freezer) so there’s no risk of any of these beauties going to waste. In a glass of lemonade, or on a hot day all on their own, frozen berries are to die for.

Third Stop: My Mom’s Backyard

Until recently, this is where I’ve been doing my gardening. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last checked in, and the garden beds were already getting overgrown with weeds. It is Spring after all. There were a few pods on the peas but all empty. The lettuce had long since gone bitter. The broccoli was a tower of tiny flowers. But there were some good foods to be had.

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I dug out a row of carrots (there are only a few left) and grabbed enough some spring onions to get us through the week (turns out I greatly underestimated how many we needed).

Bonus Stop: The Office

My office supplies us with apples, oranges, and bananas. (And maybe once a year, peaches!) Sadly, bananas are delicate and sometimes quickly become unappetizing to my coworkers, sometimes even being tossed in the trash bin.

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Banana that has partially split open

This week I noticed that a few bananas had split open. I grabbed this one to eat immediately and peeled and froze the others for more delicious frozen goodness during the week. These would be great with those strawberries!

 

Milk Matters

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Milk factory. Photo from The New York Public Library

Last November I decided to learn a bit more about water conservation. After all, this past summer we went 50 days without more than a trace of rain here in Austin, Texas. When picking up the book Taking on Water at the library, I intended to get some ideas on how to save water in the bathroom, laundry, or similar areas, and there were indeed some good insights there. But one thing that stuck out was the whopping amount of water that it takes to produce meat and dairy products. To produce one pound of beef requires 1800 gallons of water. One glass of milk requires 30 gallons of water.

Seeing the harmful effects of meat and dairy in this context just adds onto issues like methane emissions, excessive cow excrement, huge monoculture crops for feed, deforestation. I had already cut down on the amount of meat I eat and have also been mostly successful at sticking to grassfed, but it was time to do more.

Think-About-Your-Drink

To try and get my husband on board, we watched the documentary Cowspiracy. And I stopped by the library and checked out a related book recommendation — The China Study. That first documentary had left me a bit defensive because although it started out well enough with the facts, it ended by pretty much saying that you’re an absolutely horrible person if you ever consume any milk or dairy products. The China Study wasn’t quite so damning but instead discussed scientific studies done which suggested that from a nutrition standpoint animal product consumption may not be required for human health and in some cases is likely harmful. There are a number of refutations of those results out there, but they’re targeted at the second part of that equation. Not many are saying that meat and milk are required.

In grade school I was taught that milk was critical to good health. It even had its own block on the food pyramid. And just now I’m finally learning that it’s not even necessary. The amount of protein I consume daily is more than enough, and it’s possible to get all the calcium I need from produce. Fewer calories dedicated to milk means I can get more diversity in the food I consume. Harvard’s alternate nutrition guidelines list milk as a water alternative, recommending limiting dairy to at the very most two servings per day.

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I’m not an activist for animal rights. And I’m still not quite convinced that drinking two tall glasses of milk a day will kill me. But I am an advocate of wasting less.

As I mentioned in my New Years Resolutions post, my general goal for the year is to consume less meat and dairy to conserve resources. For the first two weeks of the year, my husband and I followed a plant-based diet and the amazing thing was that it was fine. I didn’t miss meat and I didn’t miss dairy (other than when I ate unbuttered popcorn). Making my morning oatmeal with milk turned out totally fine. And I’ve never been a huge cheese fan. I’m not perfect, I’m sure to still have a pad of butter on special occasions when I can fully appreciate it. But it’s good to not have to lug home an extra half-gallon of milk from the grocery store for my consumption.

We have delicious tap water here. Tap is terrific!