Sunday, June 12, 2011

30-Day Challenge

Everytime we go out "west" (which can be as central as Texas), we are overwhelmed by each consumer's sense of responsibility: responsibility to their health, well-being, and their environment. We see this through the vast amount of recycling bins throughout the city in Austin. In 2009 we were in Seattle and there was a newly imposed citywide law that would charge for every plastic bag used in a grocery store as a way to encourage people to stick with cloth totes. While in Salt Lake City, we were overwhelmed by the cleanliness and folks' attitudes towards organic and local food. I read many blogs from the midwest areas that really encourage composting, using rainwater, and growing your own garden with those tools. People are athletically fit, preferring long weekend hikes over bar-hopping and couch potato-ness.

When we see all of this progressive action toward the environment and personal health, which is such a stark contrast to the places we have grown up in and now live, I get really motivated to make major changes. A lot of it falls through eventually; we are creatures of habit, and it is difficult to facilitate change without the support of your friends and family.

Most of you know that about six months ago (actually, maybe longer?), I started diverting from the vegetarian diet. I am living in a culture that generally promotes fried and buttery foods. Most restaurants cook their vegetables in animal fat or include meat in the mixture of greens. While living here, it has seemingly become impossible to keep up with any sort of healthy lifestyle [though this might be out of my laziness to seek healthier alternatives; I lived with a girl during my externship who was a devout vegetarian, but then again, she was surrounded by her supportive and like-minded vegetarian friends]. So, I've been eating chicken and turkey mostly and still feel wary about cooking it at home. With that said, I have created delicious Chicken Parmesan dishes and different Crock Pot varieties of sauce-based flavored chicken. I sometimes forget that I was vegetarian for three years because it has become so commonplace to not even think about what I am putting in my mouth. It is not until I am around older friends that I am reminded of my former sense of responsibility.

With all of this in mind, I am really wanting to make our household more progressive like those wonderful cities we have encountered. For most of our friends "in the South," progression is a scary, communistic word. We kind of think that's funny, but I know people, in their learned habits, are afraid of change and what that could mean. I think living in a progressive way makes more financial sense; the increased price of organic food now may save you the cost of health ailments in thirty years.

My mind has been festering with all sorts of ideas. Our friend, April, who writes about the sufferings of a corn allergy (which I believe is a result of this corn country we live in), recently rid her pantry of anything with corn in it. You should go to that link just to see the food products that each of us probably buy with some type of corn-based product in it. It's just weird. Anyway, April has inspired me to do some of my own pantry (and fridge) cleaning.

I don't know if every household is like this, but I definitely grew up with this problem: We tend to keep food in our pantry/fridge for inordinate amounts of time. The food was probably purchased with the purpose of using it for a meal, but maybe we changed the recipe or bought too much, or now we have part of a product leftover because we didn't need all of it. The food in our fridge tends to be half-used condiment bottles (other than ketchup or mustard) or items 1/3 used for a specific recipe that has now become forgotten behind the egg carton.

I would like to make use of these odd items, so I spent an hour after Sunday School cataloging each and every one of the things that I have been opening the door to for way too long, that has been sitting there collecting dust. My challenge is to use each of these items within the next 30-days. I am hoping that in that time frame, J. and I can think about what we want to do for future grocery purchases (do we want to switch to all organic?), which is one out of the many changes I want to make in our household.

Here is a list of the "odd items" I have identified in our cabinets/fridge. (Please note that I did not include arbitrary items that we do use frequently enough, such as... bread crumbs or peanut butter.)
- chickpeas (2 cans)
- vegetable broth (2 can)
- refried beans (1 can)
- black-eyed peas (1 can)
- sweet corn (1 can)
- baked beans (humungo can)
- jasmine rice (1 large bag)
- light red kidney beans (bag - 16oz)
- white albacore tuna (3 cans)
- pasta sauce (2 jars)
- orzo (1 lb)
- spanish flavor boxed rice (2 boxes)
- tomato sauce (8 cans, size 8oz)
- corn muffin boxed mix (1 box)
- flame roasted peppers (used, approx. 4oz)
- diced jalapeno peppers (used, approx. 9oz)
- buffalo wing sauce (used, approx. 14oz)
- Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce (used, approx. 12oz)
- SBR's Hickory Brown Sugar (used, approx 9oz)
- SBR's Hickory Brown Sugar (18oz)
- Texas toast (6 slices)
- chicken tenderloins (6 pieces)
- chicken tenderloins (full bag, 32oz)
- salmon (1 fillet)
- green peas (18oz bag)
- cut broccoli (16oz bag)
- Green Giant Valley Fresh Steamer (1 bag)
- peaches (29oz can)
- fruit cocktail (15oz can)

Do you shop organic? Do you find it silly or does it have some real benefits? Have you seen Food Inc.? I haven't, but our friends seem convinced after watching it. What ways are you trying to be responsible to your health and environment? Does your kitchen pantry have odd items that should be used or donated soon?


Kathleen said...

Amber, I often think about this. How important is buying organic? Is this can in my hand REALLY organic, or did Hunt's find a way around the system and label it organic without it being much better for me or my environment.

As you know, Michael and I are down with eating beef, but we recently tried grass-fed. It was good, but normally expensive. When we have our own home, and a good freezer, I want to start buying all grass fed beef. A cheaper way to do this is to buy a portion of a cow from the farmer.

M. said...

Not much to add except, HEY GIRL. And, I resonate with a lot of the feelings in this post (e.g., feeling inspired after vacations and then losing steam to do anything different).

Miss you!

David Rose said...

K - Your first statement really resonated with me. I think if we get to the point that we are questioning the legitimacy of a product, we probably shouldn't be buying it. I think this is a perfect example of why we should try to buy from our local community farmers were we can. Of course, they may not be selling ketchup... (:

I am glad to hear about your new meatly endeavors! Someone at work told me about buying large portions of meat directly from farmers, so it's funny that you should mention it.

Dawn said...

A- I seriously doubt I will ever be a vegetarian, but I love what my mom has been able to do with her yard. . . I can't keep wildflowers alive on our small porch though, so I doubt that I will be able to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, or green beans. That being said, any of compost bin would clearly be useless at this point in my life. One day, when we have a yard. . . that's the plan. You can't get more eco-friendly than eating from your own garden!
Dan and I recently (last night) went through the cabinets to look for food items that we can use for the rest of the month. This was more out of financial necessity for us, but I agree that far too much food sits in the fridge or freezer or gets thrown out.
I've been rollerblading to and from work for the past few months too. My bike gets 55ish mpg, but I just *feel* better when I blade.

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