Starbucks red cup 2017

Starbucks Red Cups, Zero Waste, and the Meier & Frank Holiday Parade

Starbucks red cup 2017Starbucks red cups are here! And people are losing their minds again! Thank god. I mean, can you imagine how sad Starbucks would be if people weren’t emotionally engaged with their holiday-themed marketing product to the point where they write about how mad and disappointed they are all over social media (and incidentally spread the word far better than an ad campaign could)?

Said ad campaign:


And yet . . . Starbucks red cups are special to me. I admit it. Even though I know it’s marketing, and I know it’s wasteful to buy coffee in a disposable, non-recyclable cup with a plastic lid, just seeing it brings me back to the Meier & Frank Holiday Parade here in Portland. Beginning in the ’80s, my mom would take me and my brother to see this homespun local parade—full of floats, high school marching bands, rodeo queens, and Shriners—and we would cheer and wait to see Santa ride up at the very end, and then we’d race inside to see Santaland.

Later, it was something just me and my dad would do (Mom wanted a break, my brother was living out of state), and then all four of us would go as a family. And as adults, part of the ritual became getting white chocolate peppermint mochas (oh, I am full of embarrassing confessions today) in Starbucks holiday cups. And I would feel warm and cozy and loved, and connected to my family and my city, because we were joining together for a yearly event that we’d done for decades, and all was right with the world.

But at some point, Meier & Frank (a department store with a rich and important history in Portland) was purchased by Macy’s, and after a few years they changed the store’s name. And then it was the Macy’s Holiday Parade (but not that Macy’s Holiday Parade). And then the downtown Macy’s store (still referred to as the Meier & Frank Building) closed this year. Goodbye parade. I even missed its final year, because of kids and rain and life, because I couldn’t imagine that even with the store closing, that someone wouldn’t take on the mantle of this historic, homey, seemingly essential parade. Such is life.

But Starbucks red cups are still here! I figure that much of our modern waste is due to convenience (individually packaged pre-sliced apples?), but so much is due to nostalgia and the kind of emotional connection that can only be forged by the epic collision of personal history and ad campaign.

Whew! This is a long essay to say I figured out a way to participate in this yearly controversy while eliminating the pesky paper-and-plastic waste (mostly): I bought a reusable Starbucks red cup and yes, I broke it out today (with coffee I made at home). It’s not colorable like this year’s model, but I can take it into Starbucks and get it filled with my yearly white chocolate peppermint mochas (no judgment) and I can go visit Meier & Frank’s erstwhile Santaland at the Oregon Historical Society with my brother, and something will be sacred, and something will last, and okay I may be a little stressed out right now.

But my point is, you can reduce your waste without cutting out the rituals and traditions that bring you joy—even if they seem a little silly when you type them down. Next up: how the heck do I get around holiday wrapping paper?!? If you have any suggestions, post them below!

Zero Waste Travel

Zero Waste Travel: On the Road

Zero Waste Travel

Pack your zero waste travel kit before you hit the road!

Okay, so first things first: calling a road trip “zero waste” is a misnomer, since we drove a car and used up a lot of fuel. But when my husband and I went on a weekend trip (by ourselves!!!) for our anniversary, I knew I wanted to at least generate as little trash as possible. And we did pretty good! Here are the essentials I gathered:

  • Backpack. I picked this one up for $14 on Craigslist because one, I’m cheap, and two, there was zero packaging. I was really resistant to getting a backpack for a long time (so dorky!) but I realized that if I’m going to bring gear, I need something to hold it while keeping my hands free. This Black River Camping Company model (some Amazon special from years ago) is great: lightweight, with two insulated side pockets for food and drink, and mesh pouches for water bottles, keys, etc. I’ve also been using this for our day trips to the zoo and the fair!
  • Water bottle. This is a no-brainer, and yet it’s usually something I forget, filled with water and ice, on the coffee table as I drive away. Not this time!
  • Travel coffee mugs. I love my Aladdin stainless steel travel mug (it’s no longer available, but here are some similar ones). The handle is convenient, it fits into my car’s cup holders, and it’s perfect for hot and cold drinks. My guilty pleasure in the summer is getting Starbucks frappuccinos, and this cup keeps them so cold. I found the National Geographic cup (classy!) for my husband–never used, it still had the washing instructions inside–at our local Goodwill.
  • Extra shopping bag. This is essential in case you do any shopping (see more on that, below) or want to bag your dirty laundry. This was a gift–one of those parachute silk bags that actually tucks inside itself to be a teeny tiny bag. Sweet!
  • Snacks. I brought along some La Croix and a container of chocolate almonds I picked up from the bulk aisles of our local WinCo. I could have gone healthier, but I have no illusions about myself and I didn’t want to be tempted by candy at the gas station.
  • Rubbermaid containers. This was in case we had any leftovers to bring back to our room (we didn’t). I used Rubbermaid because one, I had them already, and two, I am not coordinated enough to bring breakable glass with me.

Things I could have used and will pick up before our next trip:

  • Metal straws. Although my cup is great for those frappuccinos, you still need a straw to drink one. Glass scares me.
  • Bandannas/handkerchiefs. To use as napkins, etc.
  • First aid/medical kit. I usually have a small container ready to go with ibuprofen, Band-Aids, Pepto, etc. I did not have one for this trip, and I regretted it.
Zero Waste Travel Snacks

Snacky goodness from the bulk bins!

Other food-related things you can do to cut down on trash on the road are eat at sit-down restaurants with real plates and silverware (bring bandannas!) or pack your own food. But what about the other great pleasure of travel–shopping?

Once you get into the “I-don’t-need-more-stuff” mindset, shopping while on vacation can be a bummer. I’ve accepted that I don’t need most knick-knacks–and neither do my friends. I get my books from the library. So why would I enter the local boutiques and bookstores and waste their time? Fortunately, I found a couple of strategies to amuse myself.

  • Go on a treasure hunt. You see, there are a few weird things I would absolutely buy on sight, if I came across them. For example, a coffee cup that looks like a terra cotta pot. I bought one for my Mom for Mother’s Day decades ago, and when we used to visit the Fish House Inn in Dayville every year, I was delighted to see they had one! I used it for my coffee every morning. The last time we went there it was gone–broken? Stolen? So while I will likely never see one ever again, the search is always fun (do not buy me one).
  • Shop thrift stores. I used to do this all the time when I was young and broke. Thrift stores can be souvenir gold mines, especially in touristy locations, where people are dying to get rid of things they bought after one too many frozen margaritas. Years ago, my best friend found me an old Martha’s Vineyard sweatshirt at the Dumptique–for free. It was much cooler than the brand-new, overly rubbery options at the local tourist traps. Plus: no packaging!
  • Shop local. At the very least, shop the locally owned bookstores, gift shops, and pharmacies where you travel. Use your own bags, refuse a receipt, and support the local economy!

While absolute zero waste travel is impossible, with a little preparation, you can avoid most trash and save yourself some money–and even generate a little extra fun! Who has more tips for me? Post them below!

Fried Clams Clam Box Ispwich

Eat Better on the Plane & Other Musings

IMG_1093Hello all! I’m so happy to be blogging today–I’ve been dying to post the snack boxes I put together for our plane ride to Massachusetts last week for Spring Break (Spring Break!).

Now when I say “eat better,” I don’t necessarily mean we ate healthier–that’s not usually my primary goal in life. However, I was tired of spending too much money on food that wasn’t that great and came in too much packaging. I knew that if I could find the time, I could make us homemade in-flight snack boxes that would be tastier, cheaper, and offer more food.

I took my inspiration from one snack box that I actually love: Alaska Airline’s fruit and cheese platter: a triangle of brie, Beecher’s Flagship cheese, Tillamook cheddar, grapes, apples, Partner’s crackers, and a Seattle Chocolates truffle.

I only have two problems with this delightful platter: one, it tends to sell out (and I tend to be in the cheap seats in the back of the plane), and I need more cheese (on my headstone: Here lies Elisabeth Allie. Needs more cheese.).

I started with our longtime lunch containers from EasyLunchboxes.com, which I bought five years ago and use constantly. The large, medium, and small compartments make it easy to pack a lot of different types of snacks without them getting gross.

Next, I hit the grocery store for supplies. Here’s where I went:

  • The $5 and under box at my local supermarket’s cheese counter: here, I scored brie and some lovely estate gouda.
  • The salad bar: this is a great way to get just what you need with minimal packaging. I packed one of their large containers with salami, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and chicken.
  • The bulk section: using my own containers, I gathered nuts, veggie chips, and yogurt-covered pretzels.
  • I also picked up some Babybel cheese, tangerines, and Ritz crackers (all favorites in our house), as well as some braunschweiger.

Here they are!

IMG_1093My box! Clockwise from top left: a tangerine, Ritz crackers, mixed nuts, brie, salami, cherry tomatoes. I asked for a plastic knife from an airport restaurant, since I doubt I could have gotten a metal one through security!

IMG_1094 (1)Sarah’s box: tangerine, Cadbury mini eggs (so irresistible), chickpeas, chicken, braunschweiger, baby carrots, estate gouda.

IMG_1097 (1)Scott’s box: My husband is, horrifyingly enough, forgoing cheese. So we have veggie chips, Ritz crackers, salami, chickpeas, tangerine, mixed nuts, and baby carrots.

IMG_1098 (1)

Sid’s box: Yogurt-covered pretzels (my son loves them), Ritz crackers, salami, mixed nuts, cherry tomatoes, tangerine, Babybel cheeses.

I put all the boxes in our sole remaining lunchbox cooler, popped them in our larger soft-sided cooler, and brought it on as a carry-on. Easy! When everyone got hungry, I passed out the boxes, and we were able to seal up the leftovers and minimal trash back in them to take them off the plane! Plus, portions were generous enough that we had leftover snacks to eat once we reached our destination, which was great!

So we spent a week in Ipswich, Massachusetts, visiting my in-laws. My brief notes (mostly food related):

The Clam Box has the very, very best fried clams I’ve ever had. Ipswich is known for its clams, and these were fresh and delicious. Look at them! Whole-belly fried clams are hard to come by in the Pacific Northwest, so I treasured my time with these.

Fried Clams Clam Box IspwichThe correct way to order coffee (or rather “a coffee”) at Dunkin’ Donuts: size, temperature, style. For example: a “medium cold coffee, black” is an iced black coffee, no sugar. A “medium hot coffee, regular” is a hot coffee with three cream, three sugar. I’m sure there are countless variations! And yes, we went to Dunkin’ Donuts with my in-laws for breakfast every single morning, where I got a “medium hot coffee, black” and a plain glazed donut. Yum.

The Ipswich Museum is delightful! They have a large collection of paintings by Arthur Wesley Dow, and their winter exhibit features a historically correct model train set that takes up an entire room and depicts Ipswich’s railroad in the 1800s. My son had a blast operating the trains and picking up cars! Also, one of the volunteers’ wives baked some incredible chocolate-chocolate chip-sea salt cookies that they gave out to visitors. Always back to the food with me!

It was a delightful trip, but I’m very happy to be home! More blogging soon, especially about a cool project that I have in the works that I am very excited about!

 

Happy New Year & Zero Waste Jar Gifts

jar gifts lentil soup zero waste

Filling my Curry Lentil Soup jar gifts with my trusty canning funnel!

Happy New Year everyone! Wow, I did even less blogging than usual over the holidays, partly because of GeekCraft Expo Seattle and working with The Doubleclicks, but also because my computer went down, and then when it was functional again, Portland had a snowstorm (and wicked icy roads) that prevented me from getting it for about a week. Plus, I’m crazy.

I also didn’t want to blog about the things I was actually making this year–I’m keeping that as a surprise until the Epiphany, which is when my friends and I usually exchange gifts. However! I did want to share the jar gifts I made last year. If you, like me, are a little behind in your gift giving and want something easy, zero waste (or close to it), and cool to give your friends–or you’re making a game plan for next year–pull up a chair!

Jar gifts are great: not only do they look cool and handmade, but they’re useful and quite economical. They’re perfect for the holidays, hostess gifts, teacher appreciation day, etc.

jar gifts zero waste

Supplies to Make Zero Waste Jar Gifts:

  • Jars. This is probably a no-brainer. You can save glass jars throughout the year, pick them up at thrift stores, or buy a box of them at the grocery store. The grocery store option will include some plastic packaging, but in a pinch, they’re convenient.
  • A canning funnel. This is an essential piece for creating jar gifts, and the best way to get pretty layers–it’s like a regular funnel with a much wider neck, so pouring things like beans or marshmallows neatly is easy.
  • Reusable produce bags or containers for shopping. I got almost all of my supplies from the bulk bins at my local WinCo. Not only was this incredibly cheap, but I had nothing to throw away afterward–especially nice around the holidays.
  • Scraps of fabric for decoration. I used pinking shears and cut squares of decorative fabric to cover the lids.
  • Card stock and twine. I printed up recipes for those items that needed it–soup mixes. etc.

Jar Gift Recipes:

These are all the recipes I used last year, ranked in order of “would I make them again.”

  1. Curried Lentil Soup: Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I loved this recipe and will keep it in the rotation. Not only was it very pretty in the jar, but the recipient doesn’t need to add much to make it (onion and garlic, perhaps broth), it can be vegan, and the soup itself is delicious and easy to make. Yummy!
  2. Sriracha Salt: This looked fancy and was useful. It only takes the second spot because it takes a couple days to dry before you can pack it up.
  3. Cowboy Cookie Mix: Everyone gets cookies around the holidays, but what about after Christmas and New Year’s? Now your friends can have something to tide them over. This was visually appealing and tasty, but the resulting cookie dough was a little dry.
  4. Classic Cocoa: This was very pretty and very tasty, but I wouldn’t make it again. Why? Because to use it, the recipient actually needs to dump it out, mix it up, and then put it back in the jar–silly and needlessly messy. I didn’t really think this one through.
  5. Almond Joy Energy Balls: I took this recipe and made it into a jar mix, layering the ingredients. I was, frankly, searching for something Paleo for some of my friends, but if I made this again, I would just make the balls and pack them in jar.
Jar Gift Lentil Soup Zero Waste

The winner: Curry Lentil Soup–so cute, and tasty!

The method is simple: line up all your jars, and have all of your ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, and canning funnel ready. To get the most attractive layers possible, I like to pour in each ingredient and then tap the jar on the counter to level it.

Cocoa Jar Gift Zero Waste

Layered cocoa is cute, but a loser for the giftee, I realized too late.

There are tons of jar mix recipes out there, and it’s also pretty simple to take a regular recipe and jar-ify it. My rule of thumb is to make sure your giftee doesn’t have to go out and buy a lot of things to actually make the gift, like meat. If the recipe needs extra stuff, it’s better if they’re pantry staples like butter or eggs. The recipe itself should be simple, too–you don’t usually want to give two hours of active cooking to someone, unless you know that’s how they like to spend their time.

Have you ever gotten a jar gift for Christmas or a hostess gift? Did you ever use it?

Coffee Grinder Zero Waste

Shopping With Less Waste: the Caffeinated Version

Coffee Grinder Zero Waste

My shiny “new” coffee grinder!

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Zero Waste post, mainly because I’ve just been doing the same things: using reusable bags (including produce and bulk bags), doing as much bulk bin shopping as I can, and doing monthly meal planning to try to cut food waste. Unfortunately, I am still buying meat and cheese in plastic (although I’m buying large quantities to at least cut down on the overall packaging). But I did have a revelation a couple weeks ago that will propel me down a path to less waste.

Our house guest, Alise, stayed with us for a month after Emerald City Comic Con. That was enough time for her to acquire enough souvenirs and gifts from people and publishers that she needed another suitcase before she flew home to Latvia! Not wanting her to spend more money than necessary, I took her to the massive Goodwill Superstore near us. If you’ve never been to a Goodwill before (how?!?), it’s a thrift store filled with donations from people clearing out their closets, as well as some new things donated from companies.

I usually only go there to get rid of things (so many things). I rarely go in, because I’m trying not to buy more stuff. And yet. When I went down the aisles stuffed with electronics, kitchen gear, books, and more, I kept seeing things that yes, I had purchased new this year. A five-gallon drink cooler! A stainless steel travel mug! Pyrex (I bought a 10″ x 14″ glass casserole dish for $7.99, score)! My mind boggled as I realized I probably never needed to buy anything new again.

So this was fresh in my mind when I opened Sid’s Mother’s Day present to me, which included a bag of coffee! Yay, I love coffee! However, when I opened the bag, I realized it was coffee beans. And I have no grinder. Or rather, I had one, but I lent it to a neighbor 15 years (and about 12 residences) ago and never got it back (I am pretty weird sometimes).

Off to Goodwill, where I found two identical white Mr. Coffee grinders, one for $4.99, one for $7.99 (I picked up the $7.99 one just in case). Took it home–no bag, no packaging to toss–gave it a quick clean, and then made a pot of coffee. Perfect! I looked up my grinder on Amazon and saw an identical one for $15.44, so I felt very smug. Also caffeinated.

Thrift store purchases might be hard to stomach, for some. The stuff usually seems “used,” rather than “vintage.” It can make you feel poor. There’s definitely something in our culture that makes stepping into a shiny-new store and buying a brand-new, brand-name object feel so good.

But how many of those things have you donated to Goodwill–or a similar outfit–over the years? The “new thing” smell wears off pretty quick. And oh man, the gadgets I saw: Ninja blenders, juicers (juicers are like the gym memberships of kitchen appliances), espresso machines, old-fashioned giant coffee urns like you see at church suppers (that might be something only I coo over)!

My tips: thrift stores in wealthier areas tend to have more brand-name items. And if you want something very specific (like a coffee grinder), I’d suggest going straight to a Goodwill Superstore rather than one of the smaller stores (you’ll waste less gas or have a shorter bike trip). Also, when you realize that no, you really don’t want to buy 20 pounds of produce to juice every week . . . donate that juicer back so another sucker can pick it up.

What’s your best thrift store find? Post below!

Monthly Meal Planning Take 2: Bulk Overload

Meal Planning Zero Waste

So many lentils and beans. And almonds! Next month . . .

So I dusted off my old Monthly Meal Planning spreadsheets last month and gave them a spin. Overall, it was pretty great: not only did I feel more prepared at mealtimes and waste less food, but we saved 25%–even though I threw a Super Bowl party. Yay!

However, when I started planning this month, I realized I still had some issues to work out: mainly, the jars and jars of dry bulk food in my cabinets. I love to purchase beans, grains, etc. from the bulk bins with my own bags! My problem: I am a terrible judge of how much we actually need. Plus, I decided to make mason jar mixes as gifts for Christmas and really went overboard.

So, Challenge #1: create a menu that would use up my surplus, focusing on:

  • Black beans
  • Lentils
  • Couscous
  • Pecans
  • Oatmeal
  • Sundried tomatoes

Challenge #2 was I wanted to still save 25% or more over our average monthly grocery bill, yet I wanted to splurge for Valentine’s Day with steak and lobster tails. However, I think Challenge #1 will actually make that quite easy, since we’ll be eating so many things we already have on hand.

Challenge #3 is that we’re having house guests this month for a couple of days. Yay! My problem is I always want to go a little bigger when guests are here. Just yogurt doesn’t really seem like an adequate breakfast! The other issue is one of our guests is a pickier eater and doesn’t care for vegetables. But this is actually something I can really work with. I mean, I’ve already gone through Sid’s picky period. And really, this is just an excuse to make a lot of comfort food like meatloaf (with Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix) and homemade macaroni and cheese (with the rest of the Velveeta from the Super Bowl party.

So here’s what I came up with! You can download my February Meal Plan here. You can also peek back and download my January Monthly Meal planning spreadsheets here.

If you haven’t read my previous posts, here’s the deal: I make a meal plan for the entire month, create a shopping list, and sort it by store, department, and week. I try to buy almost everything for the month in Week 1 at WinCo, because it’s the cheapest, and freeze all of our meat, etc. That mainly just leaves weekly dairy and produce, which I buy at our Fred Meyer grocery, which is closer and more convenient.

This month went according to plan, except . . . when I went to WinCo, I discovered that I had someone lost my list of like 53 items. Aargh. With no other choice, I buckled Sarah into our cart and went to work. When I got home and checked against the list, I was surprised–I had remember 51 things! Clearly, writing everything down and having an idea of what I was going to cook helped a lot. But still. What a dumbass.

We’re in the middle of Week 2 and going strong! Here are links to several of the recipes we’re making this month:

Banana Wheat Muffins
Black Beans with Couscous and Avocado (recipe calls for brown rice but I subbed)
Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies
Butter-Poached Lobster with Orzo
The Best. Coffee Cake. Ever.
Curried Lentil Soup
El Dorado Casserole
Lipton Onion Soup Meatloaf
Shells & Cheese (With Bacon & Peas)
Spaghetti Squash Noodle Bowl with OMG Sauce
Tenderloin Steak

Is anyone else trying to plan their meals? What have you done in the past? Comment below!

 

 

Zero Waste Gift

Happy Wednesday! Zero Waste Valentine’s Gifts & Nerdy Fun

Zero Waste Gift

Zero waste Valentine’s gifts!

Happy Monday I mean Wednesday, folks! It’s been an insanely busy week, but I’m back to share some fun ideas for a Zero Waste Valentine’s Day and some cool, nerdy stuff that’s coming to Portland!

Links!

Valentine’s Day

Last year I made some Zero Waste Valentine’s gifts by filling half-pint mason jars with bulk candy (either unpackaged or in foil) and topped it with fabric I had on hand. They were super cute and I’ll be doing it again this year, with one change: I’m going to get my candy from Enchante’, an excellent chocolatier in Milwaukie. They’ve got lots of gorgeous, delicious candy in large glass jars–I’m going to ask them to use my cloth bags instead of their paper ones.

VdayPlatter

Except for the beets, it took me five minutes to put this Valentine’s Day platter together!

Need an easy, elegant, Valentine’s Day dinner idea that can be–well–cheap, too? Take a peek at the antipasto platter I made last year in I Made a Romantic Meal for My Husband, and What He Did Next SHOCKED Me! (my favorite article title ever). Platter dinners are the best–they’re portable, you don’t have to cook, you can personalize them to your exact tastes, and they can be if not zero, at least low waste. Plus even inexpensive cheese (bulk store brands can be tasty, too) can look indulgent and beautiful when it’s sliced and arranged nicely.

Geeky Stuff

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the official announcement for GeekCraft Expo PDX went live yesterday! This is going to be an amazing show showcasing the best of Portland’s geeky crafters June 11 and 12. Plus, it’s free to the public!

I’m seeing Deadpool this Friday with a friend and I cannot wait, mostly because Ryan Reynolds was born to play this role–he’s hilarious in the trailers and TV spots. I’ve included the red band trailer below (SWEARING! VIOLENCE! NUDITY! CHIMICHANGAS!). Plus, ComicsAlliance reports that Reynolds is open to Deadpool (pansexual in the comics) having a boyfriend in the sequel!

That’s what I’ve got! I’ll be posting an overview of my first Monthly Meal Planning experiment either today or tomorrow–catch you later!

Monthly Meal Planning: Eat Better and Save Money & Time

 I’ve been in a rut after the holidays–feeling stressed, uninspired, and like I’m always playing catch-up with my grocery shopping. I love to cook, like, I love to cook, but it was getting to the point where I couldn’t even figure what to make for dinner. I felt like I was spending too much money, wasting food, and just generally working way too hard. So I decided to brush off my old Monthly Meal Planning spreadsheets (something I started working on last year) and use them this month.

Plus, I’m sharing them with you: one, because hopefully they might help someone else, but two, I would love feedback on their usability, etc. Help me make them better!

Download my Monthly Meal Planning spreadsheet now, and then I’ll break down my method. Note: This is an example, not a complete list of items you would need to make all of these meals. This is because I had some items on hand, so I didn’t need to buy them.

This is a six-page Excel workbook that I’ve found very helpful. But first, as with any project, you should establish your goals. Here’s what I’m trying to accomplish:

  • Feed my family a variety of meals, but:
  • Choose recipes that have common ingredients
  • Go only once a month to WinCo (an amazing, large, cheap grocery store we have with dozens and dozens of bulk bins that is a 20+ minute drive for me, hence the once-a-month schedule)
  • Save time (both cooking and doing dishes) by making large quantities of meals and freezing/rotating them
  • Be as zero waste as possible by shopping from the bulk bins using my own containers, and by shopping wisely and selecting common ingredients (see above) so I use everything up

Here we go!

Menu

Monthly Meal Planning

As you can see, I plotted this out via several categories, beginning with dinner (which is my top priority). To help jog my creativity and make meal planning easier, I try to choose a pasta or rice dish each week, a taco (Taco Tuesday!), a soup, a meat or other entree, and seafood. Monday is devoted to either Kraft Macaroni & Cheese with a vegetable or grilled cheese and tomato soup (or something else I have in the freezer that is virtually instant). I like Mondays to be easy. As a rule, I only plot five or so dinners per week, because we may go out to dinner or eat leftovers.

Lunches are basic–I pack a bag for my husband and feed myself and Sarah sandwiches or leftovers.

Breakfast is my crucible, so planning really helps me. Categories include muffin or cake, smoothie, griddle, or yogurt. I used to have eggs in here, but I’m not a huge fan and our son Sid’s been saying he hates eggs, so we’re taking a break.

Snacks are pretty self-explanatory–for me and Scott to munch on, and for Sid after school. Desserts are also standard.

You’ll notice that some things repeat every couple of weeks this month: spaghetti, salmon, muffins, sandwiches, cookies. I’ll be making large batches and freezing them (and freezing half our fish and lunch meat) for simplicity’s sake.

Master Shopping List

I can only show you a small portion in the screenshot–this ended up being a list of 83 items! In addition to food, I went through and figured out what items we needed for cleaning, personal care, etc. I then added categories for stores (I’ll be shopping at four places: WinCo, the People’s Co-Op–I can get oils and such in bulk there–Fred Meyer, and Flying Fish, our local fish market), department, how much I need, and what week I need to buy it. Then I sort by week, store, and department.

I try to buy as much as I can in Week 1: non-perishables and freezables, weekly dairy and produce, etc. Then in Weeks 2-4, in a perfect world, I’d only need to pick up the weekly dairy and produce at the store. It never works out that way, but I can dream . . .

Week 1 Shopping

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 4.08.31 PM.png

I then copy and paste each week’s items in their own spreadsheet. Again, I can only show a small portion of Week 1–it contains a whopping 59 items. The only thing I would do to improve this is to move the departments around to mirror how the store is actually laid out–produce, then deli, then meat–but I’ll continue to refine this until it’s just the way I want it–then I can save it and pull it out every couple of months and save myself some work. In an ideal world, I would have four or five perfect months planned out that I could rotate and update, depending on what I have on hand.

Week 2 Shopping

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 4.08.43 PM

I won’t bore you with screenshots of the rest, I just wanted to show you the difference in the rest of the month–11 items in Week 2, baby! I’m living the dream! I’m only buying cavatappi pasta at Fred Meyer’s because they don’t sell it at WinCo and it’s my son’s favorite.

Sunday I went out to WinCo and did Week 1’s shopping. While I bought tons of food, including a whole chicken, four pounds of chicken breasts, two pounds of shrimp, ground beef, Italian sausage, bacon, breakfast, four pounds of dried beans, 25 servings of fruit–and on, and on–it totaled about a quarter of what I usually spend on groceries in a month, so I’m hopeful!

So what do you think? What changes would you make? I’ll continue to blog weekly and let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll link to a bunch of the recipes I chose, in case you’re interested!

Banana-Spinach Smoothie
Chicken Soup With Rice
Chicken Hash
Coconut Braised Spinach With Chickpeas and Lemon
Cowboy Cookies
Coconut Curry Spaghetti Squash With Shrimp
Free French Vegetable Soup
Kale Smoothie with Pineapple and Banana
Pumpkin Smoothie
Refried Beans
Roast Chicken and Potatoes
Sid’s Chicken
Spaghetti
Strawberry-Flaxseed Smoothie

I’m Sucking at Zero Waste

Regular readers of the blog know I’ve been interested in zero waste since my pregnancy, and I’ve taken measures to reduce what we bring to the curb–both garbage and recycling.

While some habits–bringing cloth grocery bags as well as reusable bags for produce and bulk items–have become second nature, this week I have to admit it: I’m sucking at zero waste.

This came to a head yesterday as I took bags and bags of food waste out of my freezer and fridge to bring to our curbside compost bin. Why am I hoarding it? Because our compost bin got maggots (huge maggots!) and my husband still hasn’t recovered from cleaning them all out.

I can’t save veggie scraps to make broth! It’s been 95-plus degrees this summer! Plus: vegetable broth kind of sucks!

I can’t bring glass containers on our camping trip next week–are you kidding me? I’m still finding shards of glass in the freezer from jars of (vegetable!) broth self-destructing, perhaps from an understandable sense of self loathing!

Okay, Elisabeth, breathe. Like I said, many habits have become second nature, and I’m psyched. The bulk bins at WinCo are fantastic. We only need to take out the trash once every two weeks. Summer will be over in a couple months, and I can go back to making broth–with some bones added.

But! I realize that despite my best meal-planning efforts, our food waste is out of control, and I need to radically rethink how we eat–and how I shop–to get a handle on it.

If I come up with any answers, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, you’ll find me pouting into my (Kraft!) macaroni and cheese.

Quiche

Yes You Can: Make a Big-Ass Quiche

Quiche

This is not my quiche. My quiches are eaten too quickly for pictures. This is Martha Stewart’s quiche!

Fact: quiche is the best food you can make. It’s all the best things about an omelet, but with lots of cream and pie crust. You can eat it for breakfast. You can eat it for lunch. Dinner? Serve it with a salad. It’s delicious cold, warm, or at room temperature. Plus, it can contain almost any kind of leftover meat, vegetable, or cheese in your fridge. You must make quiche now!

Note: My son Sid just asked me, “What about mac and cheese?” So I must amend my earlier statement: quiche is the second best food you can make. But you should still make it.

When I need a large brunch dish or appetizers for a crowd, I like to take a page from Martha Stewart (O Captain! My Captain!) and make a big-ass quiche in a cookie sheet. It’s easy, tasty, and versatile. You can cut it into three-inch pieces for a luncheon, or one-inch pieces for a cocktail party.

Since I prefer to make up my own quiches (or use up veggies, meat, and cheeses in my fridge), I’ve developed my own rule of thumb for fillings: about 2 cups of sauteed vegetables/meat/seafood, plus 1-2 cups grated cheese. You can further adjust this to your taste: for example, you don’t need cheese (but why not?). So let’s get it started!

Large Quantity Pate Brisee–From The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook

You need:

3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/2 to 1/4 cup ice water.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8 to 10 seconds.

With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: If it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Flatten dough into a large rectangle and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least 1 hour.

Roll pastry on a floured board until it’s about 2 inches wider and longer than your cookie sheet. Press into the pan, folding down the edges and fluting them. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or uncooked rice; bake for 15 minutes. Remove weights and foil, prick crust all over with a fork. Return to the oven and bake 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown.

Now get ready for filling!

Big-Ass Quiche Filling–Adapted From Martha Stewart’s Entertaining Cookbook

You need:

3 cups heavy cream
9 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 large pinch nutmeg
Pepper to taste
About 2 cups of sauteed veggies, meat, seafood–whatever you like
1-2 cups shredded/crumbled cheese
Fresh herbs of your choice

Whisk the cream, eggs, salt, nutmeg, and pepper in a large bowl. Sprinkle your veggies/meat/seafood into your cooked crust. Cover with cheese. Carefully pour the cream and egg mixture over your filling in a slow stream (so you don’t disturb your filling ingredients). Bake at 350 degrees until puffed and golden, about 35-40 minutes.

Filling Ideas

Red, White, and Blue Quiche

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved
One large white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 6 oz gruyere cheese, grated
Crumbled blue cheese, to taste
Fresh chopped basil, to taste

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add peppers, onions, and garlic. Saute until tender, adding salt and pepper to taste. Proceed with recipe above.

Quiche Lorraine

1 1/2 cups cooked bacon, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 cups gruyere cheese, grated

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil (or bacon grease, if you’ve cooked the bacon that day). Proceed with recipe above.

Sausage and Apples Got the Blues Quiche

1 lb bulk breakfast sausage
2 large apples, cored and chopped
1/2 to 1 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 to 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Fresh thyme, to taste

Saute the sausage in a frying pan, adding the apples when halfway cooked. Sprinkle with thyme when apples are tender but not falling apart. Proceed with recipe above.

Lox of Love Quiche

1 1/2 cups Nova lox, chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1 lb cream cheese, at room temperature
Fresh chives, snipped with scissors

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned.

Place the cream cheese in a large bowl and stir in the capers, chives to taste, lemon zest, 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle the lox over your cooked crust, and top with the onions and cherry tomatoes. Dot with cream cheese. 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half. Proceed with recipe above.

So there you have it! I encourage you to go rogue and use my general guidelines to make your wildest quiche fantasies come true (come on, everyone has at least one, right?), or to utilize all the leftover goodies in your fridge and pantry.

So what’s your quiche fantasy? Mine involves eating in the bathtub.