Earth Day Activities for Frugal Meal Preparation Throughout the Year

Happy Earth Day! The Earth Day Network wants to plant 7.8 billion trees as a way to combat climate change. What a wonderful thing to do! Want to help? Check out how to do so here. You can bet I’d be planting trees if I had the space to do so.

There are many ways the frugal cook might choose to celebrate Earth Day. Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

When Shopping…

  • Use canvas totes or reusable shopping bags.
  • Try making your own produce bags. I plan to do this at some point. Now that I purchase more fresh produce, I seem to collect those plastic produce bags like crazy. I use them as bags for used cat litter when I’m scooping the boxes, but I don’t want to collect them at all. The homemade bags will have to be lightweight, as the produce is measured in terms of pounds. Reusable produce bags may also be purchased, if you’re not a particularly crafty person.
  • Or opt not to use any produce bags at all when possible. It is perfectly okay to place 3 apples, 2 pears, 5 oranges, and 4 peaches on the conveyor at the register, and expect them not to package each type of fruit separately.
  • Look for items with less packaging. Bulk purchases may seem like the way to go due to cost, but they may also provide extra packaging that will only end up in a landfill.

While In the Kitchen…

  • Cook from scratch whenever possible. By doing this, you can by items with less packaging.
  • Use cookware and other items that are meant to last. Cheap cookware ends up in a landfill more quickly, as do cheap plastic measuring utensils. Use items that were made to last, from a material that does not have known toxins. In the long run, you’ll save much money and be less wasteful. I am working toward getting cast iron cookware, as much as is reasonable for my situation. And I’m researching other types of cookware.
  • Bake more than one item at a time to save money and energy.
  • Use small appliances more, large appliances less.

While On The Go…

  • Use reusable water bottles.
  • Walk or bike everywhere you can.

When In the Garden…

  • Use empty milk and juice jugs, rather than dispose of all of them. Save them in the shed when not in use. In the garden, these make wonderful mini greenhouses that will aid you in extending your growing season. Cut the bottoms off and leave the cover off. A jug with a screw on lid makes a good watering jug because you can poke holes in the cover.
  • Start a compost, after constructing your own bin.
  • Plant a vegetable garden to save money and other resources.
  • Plan an herb garden. This alone will save money on your shopping bill if you cook or craft with herbs. You’ll also be able to make your own teas. And you wont be wasting all the packaging.
  • Reuse water from cooking eggs and vegetables to water plants.
  • Collect rain water in buckets or rain barrels for watering the garden, if it is legal to do so in your area. If not, it might be time to fight for your right to do so. This will save money only if you pay for water. It will save on use of this precious resource either way.

In what ways do you celebrate Earth Day, and work toward a better planet?

Shannon

 

Stocking a Pantry for 1

This week we have been looking at shopping and cooking for 1. I’m going to continue the basic topic of doing things for just 1 person with this post, Stocking a Pantry for 1.

A well-stocked pantry allows for a number of events, including:

  • The ability to make meals for unexpected guests.
  • Feeding those in need from your stocks. (Like when your college student needs food after she has given all her money to the landlord.)
  • Having enough food choices on hand to make decent meals during a power outage. No power in the winter usually means no cooking.
  • Being able to eat from your stocks when you are out of work due to an injury.
  • Having enough food on hand for at least a few months in case of layoffs at your workplace.

How much food you store is dependent on factors such as what you think your needs may be, as well as the space you have available for storage. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Does your company lay people off every winter? For how long?
  • Do you end up losing your power for long stretches of time, or does it last less than a day most of the time?
  • How many people do you want to be able to feed? For instance, do you like helping your children out once in a while, or do you want enough on hand to help your neighbors if they get into a bind?
  • Where will you store the food that you want to stock? And how?
  • Will you be storing home canned goods?
  • Will you freeze foods? What is your back up plan for if the power goes out for an extended period?
  • Will you dry foods for storing?

In order to stock what you need, you have to first figure out what you will use.

  1. Make a list of the foods you want to store. No matter who you may be thinking of helping from your stored food, you only want to stock the you will use. Never mind what your children or anyone else like.
  2. Do any of the foods you want to store have special storage needs? Which ones? And what are the specific needs? Can you accomplish it? If not, cross those foods off your list. If the answer is yes, plan how you will accommodate those needs.
  3. Where will you store the foods? Answering this now will help you with figuring out how much you can store. Will it be in one specific place, or many? Do you have an actual pantry? If not, do you have an extra room? How about a closet? Extra cupboards?
  4. Now decide how much of each food you can stock. If you have enough space to stock for a year, that is great. If not, perhaps you’ll be able to stock for a few months. How much you can stock is dependent on how much space you have. Remember: You are only stocking for yourself now. Only record how much you will eat within your chosen timeline. Other considerations will come later.
  5. If possible, average how often you have company for a meal and add these amounts to your list.
  6. If you have an extra shelf or cupboard (or 2) available after you have decided where all your stuff will be stored, then it is time to decide what you’ll stock for others. Make a separate list of items you want, which may be different from your own list. Choose items that are affordable. Remember, you’re not looking to completely support anyone else on your stores of food, just to help them out a bit in a pinch. If need be, you can invite people to dinner once in a while. But the point in creating your pantry is to stock food for yourself, and to save money by doing so. You want to help others, but not let anyone take advantage.
  7. Keep your lists and a pen in an envelope, and take them with you when you shop. Try to add to the pantry a little each week, and eventually it will be fully stocked.
  8. Clip coupons for items you know you will use, to save money.
  9. To save even more, couple those coupons with sales.

Tips for using your new pantry:

  1. Eat from the pantry.
  2. Always place items with later expiration dates in the back, and the items expiring first toward the front.
  3. Keep the pantry clean.
  4. Place bay leaves on the shelves to prevent bugs.
  5. Keep the shelves and cupboards organized so you can easily find what you are looking for.

Are you working on a pantry? How are you going about doing so? What are you stocking? Are you preserving food yourself by freezing, canning or another method? Let us know about your experiences in the comments, or email me personally at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Check out the eCookBook Very Frugal Vegetables: Recipes and Uses, or the eBook Keeping the Single Mom Home: The Kitchen

Shannon

Grocery Shopping for 1

Grocery shopping for one is different from grocery shopping for an entire family and daycare children. When I started shopping only for myself, I had no idea what I was doing. I would go into the grocery store and wonder, what do I want? and how much do I need just for me?

There are a number of things to take into consideration when you begin shopping just for yourself.

  1. What do you like to eat? Never mind what anyone else liked, it really is all about you now. So take some time before heading to the grocery store to decide what you want to eat this week.
  2. Make a note if you want to double or triple a recipe to have enough for leftovers, lunches, or freezer meals.
  3. Now decide how much of each food you’ll reasonably eat. You don’t need to buy for all those people, but you do need enough to feed yourself.
  4. Make a list of the ingredients you need to make what you like, adding those items you don’t already have on hand.
  5. Check the sales papers.
  6. Decide whether you want to stock up on pantry items.
  7. Search out coupons to use while shopping. Mark the items on your list that you have coupons for, so you remember when checking out.
  8. Grab your reusable shopping bags and head to the grocery store. Many stores give a small discount for each bag you reuse. Maybe .05 per bag.

Be aware that, on your first few trips out, you may find things you hadn’t realized you wanted. Decide that you’ll consider these for your next trip. Or, you could bring extra cash to cover one or two items.

How was your transaction to grocery shopping for 1? Let us know in the comments, or email me personally at shannonlbuck@gmail.com.

Shannon