I ain’t buyin’ it

When I saw Crunchy Chicken’s latest challenge – Buy Nothing (with the exception of food, medications or other essentials) for the month of April – I said heck yeah, I am down with that! I’d actually been considering joining Mamas on The Compact for a two-month stint, but figured this would be a little bit easier and a good trial run for me since it’s just for a month. (And I’m a little chicken nervous about committing to longer than that, especially since summer is coming up and we might be planning a couple trips.)Buy Nothing Challenge - April 2008

Of course, wouldn’t you know it, the very first day (April 1st) I ran into a dilemma with the challenge. The kids and I went to pick up Jody from work and decided to go out to eat before heading home. But hmmm, is going out to eat allowed I wondered? It’s food, which is allowed, but the act of going out to eat does seem sort of extravagant. Too bad I didn’t have Crunchy Chicken on my speed dial. Decisions, decisions.

As luck would have it, the first two places we tried to go were closed anyway. The first was Alexander’s, my favorite healthy Mexican food place in Boulder, which has apparently gone out of business. :( What’s up with that?

Next we tried Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli because we had a coupon. We parked two blocks away, fed the meter, then walked over only to find a note on the door – “Closed at 3 p.m. today for company meeting.” On April Fool’s Day of all days. I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t.

I decided the fates were conspiring against us and a dinner out was not in the card and was ready to just give up and head home when we passed a health-conscious restaurant called Turley’s that includes some local food and organics on their menu. I commanded Jody, “Just go to Turley’s,” and he did. :)

After all of that, I’d like to say that we had a nice, relaxing dinner, but in reality the kids were tired, Julian was not content to sit in a high chair, and the whole meal was very rushed (but tasty).

Feeling a bit guilty about my possible failure on the very first day, I sent Crunchy Chicken an email asking for clarification if going out to dinner counted as food or not. She said she was a little unsure about that herself, but basically concluded that it can be allowed but it depends on where you go, what you are eating and that no disposable packaging is involved. So, McDonald’s (eww anyway) – definitely a no. A restaurant with healthy food and no disposable takeout containers – OK. I can deal with that. I will confess that we brought home a small cardboard container on Tuesday, but I recycled it.

If you feel you are up to the challenge, you can still join. Head on over and sign up to Buy Nothing. If you absolutely need something non-edible or not essential to growing your own food or for your survival, you must acquire it by borrowing, bartering or buying it used. If you buy something new that is non-essential, Crunchy Chicken will have a Sunday Confessional post for everyone to spill the beans.

Good night and good luck. :)

Dumpster Diving for Dinner – Freeganism explored

I confess. I watch Oprah sometimes – not religiously, but sometimes. I TIVO the show, then take a look at the description. If it looks interesting, I’ll watch it. If not, it gets deleted.

Yesterday’s topic du jour mentioned something about Lisa Ling investigating the lifestyle of “Freegans.” I had never heard of Freegans or Freeganism before, but I am a fan of Lisa Ling, (anyone remember her from “Channel One News” in high school?), so I decided to take a look to see what it was all about and I’m glad I did.

Freegans are “a grassroots subculture is made of people who have decided to live outside consumer society. Freegans say our culture’s emphasis on buying the newest products—and throwing away perfectly fine older things—is a waste of the world’s resources. Instead, they focus on buying less and use only what they need. One of the main ways freegans do this is by salvaging food and other goods from the trash.”

The focus of the episode was really on how much we as Americans consume and how much we waste. What and how much do we really need to live? What void are we trying to fill as we consume and consume? Will we ever be happy?

freegansOn this episode of Oprah, Lisa Ling followed around Madeline, who previously earned a 6-figure income before becoming a self-professed freegan, and others as they went on a “trash tour” in New York, exploring dumpsters at grocery stores and bakeries for salvageable food that had been tossed. The quantity of edible food was both remarkable and disturbing in that stores are letting so much go to waste. Some of the food was slightly past its sell-by date, some was getting close to the sell-by date, and there really was no explanation as to why some of the food was in the trash. There was produce, eggs, but also a lot of packaged food, still perfectly wrapped.

The food Madeline and the others find is far from gross. “‘It’s not toxic waste,’ she says. Much of the food is still in its original packaging and has been discarded largely for cosmetic reasons, not because of poor quality. She shows Lisa how cartons of eggs are regularly thrown away when there’s one broken egg—even though there are 11 perfectly good ones remaining. Fruit is often thrown away when it has only minor dents, she says.”

Official surveys indicate that every year more than 350 billion pounds of edible food is available for human consumption in the United States. Of that total, nearly 100 billion pounds – including fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, and grain products – are lost to waste by retailers, restaurants, and consumers.

Lisa and Oprah also talked with a newlywed couple, Daniel and Amanda – a doctor and civil engineer – who believe in freeganism as well. I read a bit on their blog last night. Good food for thought – pun intended. ;)

The show definitely got me thinking and I hope it did others as well. While I don’t know that I’m going to run out and go dumpster diving for my dinner tonight, I admit that the idea does have it’s merits, namely that by salvaging food from the dumpster you are keeping it out of the landfills. I do have my concerns regarding safety and whether or not it is legal. I noticed the people on Oprah did their dumpster diving in the dark. Is that because that’s when the food has freshly been tossed or is it because they shouldn’t be digging around in the dumpsters by law or both?

Ava watched some of the show with with me (I turned it off when it got to the part about the mom who works as a stripper to provide for her kids, not that I disagree necessarily, but I didn’t think it was appropriate for Ava to watch) and when I half-jokingly, half-seriously talked about going shopping for our groceries in the trash next time, she commented, “I don’t want to eat food out of the trash. That’s gross.” It spurred a good discussion between us where I pointed out that all of that perfectly edible food being wasted wasn’t good either.

Eating food found in dumpsters might be too extreme for most people, but the message from the show was clear, consumerism and excessive waste in this country is out of control and something needs to change.

So what do YOU think? Do you think Americans in general consume and waste too much? Would you ever consider eating food out of the trash?

If you are interested in doing further reading, I came across some other interesting articles on the subject.

There’s also a site dedicated to Freeganism – Freegan.info – including a dumpster directory and a link to “find freegans near you.” It was down for a while after Oprah’s show aired, but it’s back online now.

Happy Valentine’s Day from the IRS

On Wednesday Jody and I got a surprise letter from the IRS, an early Valentine if you will, stating we owed $2,000 in back taxes from 2006. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?

Apparently we made an error in filing our 2006 taxes and failed to include some stocks Jody received through work. He was under the impression that taxes were already deducted; they were not. It was an honest mistake on our part, but a mistake nonetheless and the IRS has come a-knocking to claim what is theirs – with interest.

The shock of finding out we will need to part with $2,000 by March 15 has put a damper on the love-fest that should accompany Valentine’s day. Thankfully, we have the money to send, but it was earmarked for paying down debt and preschool tuition, and will pretty much wipe out our savings account.

I’m trying to take it all in stride, but it’s hard and I admit I’ve been in a funk most of the day. It messes with our short- (debt) and probably long-term (moving) goals, but I know we will make the money back eventually.

This has made me consider returning to photography, perhaps just for the spring and summer, when it’s optimal to work outside with natural light anyway. We shall see.

For now I’m going to try to forget about it for at least an hour while I go eat a brownie and watch LOST. So there. ;oP

Insurance update – the home birth saga continues

A while back I posted that I was trying to get our insurance company to acknowledge a claim for Julian’s home birth. I made phone call after phone call asking them if they had all of the information they needed to process the claim and each time, they would come back with one more thing that was still needed. I’d send them that “one thing” and then there’d be something else. It was always something.

I received an “explanation of benefits” in the mail from them a few months ago that said the claim had been closed because they hadn’t received everything they’d requested from me (BS!), and that they’d consider reopening it if the information was sent in. I threw up my hands in frustration and pretty much resigned myself to the thought that we would never get anything from them.

Then my midwife told me that she had contracted with a billing company and they could take over my case for me. So I sent them the information they required about two months ago and hadn’t heard a word from them until a couple weeks ago. Jody got a call saying that they needed the “explanation of benefits” that the insurance company sent to me and that they were “very optimistic” that we’d get some money from them.

I dug up that form and Jody faxed it in so now we wait and see. It would be awesome if they end up paying for part (or all!) of my midwife’s fees. Considering we paid $2200 for prenatal care, the birth and postnatal care, it would be a serious bargain for the insurance company. If I had had a hospital birth, which would have involved a c-section since Julian ended up being breech, it would have been tens of thousands of dollars and that’s just for the birth and not including the prenatal/postnatal care.

I’m not holding my breath, but I sure would love to see some of that money back in our pocket. :)

What a deal (squeal!)

I’ve happened upon quite a few deals the past couple of weeks and, being the benevolent person that I am, I thought it was only fair to share them with you, my awesome readers. :)

Last weekend Target had baby and toddler winter clothes on clearance from 30-75% off. I stocked up on some clothes for the kids for next winter, including a coat, two pairs of pants, and a jacket for Ava and four shirts and a pair of jeans for Julian. It’s hard to turn down shirts priced at $2-3! We also got $40 off this Baby Trend Sit-n-Stand stroller. From what I could see, many of their strollers were marked down.

Thanks to The Natural Mommy and one of her readers, I learned about Hot ‘n Ready pizzas from Little Caesar’s. You can get a large pizza (cheese or pepperoni) for just $5 any time. You just go in and the pizzas are uh, hot and ready. ;) Pair it with a salad and it makes a quick and cheap dinner on those nights you just don’t have the time or desire to cook. Wonder if they will give me some free pizzas after that glowing endorsement?

Mamanista currently has a contest going on for $100 to spend at Vincent Shoes. Well, I headed over there and was AMAZED at the winter sale they have going on. Several of their boots, shoes and indoor shoes (like slippers) are priced at 50-75% off. I bought four pairs of shoes for the kids yesterday – Dennis and Max for Julian and a pair of each of these Stripe indoor shoes for Ava and Julian – for $37 (plus shipping, it was $47). Not bad at all. By the way, the indoor shoes are perfect for Ava for inside time at her Waldorf preschool. All of the kids have to have a pair of inside shoes to keep at the school. At $6.25/pair, you can’t beat ’em!

Lastly, over a week ago, Steve & Barry’s had a sale going on (and it might still be going on) where everything in the store was just $8.98 (or less). EVERYTHING. I got a pair of Sarah Jessica Parker’s new brand BITTEN jeans and they fit really well. I’m quite smitten with them. In fact, they were the jeans I was wearing when Julian’s yogurt explosion happened. And Jody, who had been rockin’ the two pairs of jeans he was down to and free “work” Google shirts a little too often lately, got two pairs of jeans and two shirts. All five items for just $48.50.

I’m not one to advocate consumer whorism, but if you need the items you might as well get good deals on them, right? ;)

Going green without breaking the bank – Blog Action Day 2007

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day

Today, Oct. 15, 2007, is Blog Action Day where I join over 15,000 other bloggers to write about the environment. I have chosen to write about ways to go green without breaking the bank.

The decision to go green is a wonderful one – both for you and your family and for the environment. However, it can be overwhelming at first, especially if you are living on a budget as most families are. Today I’m going to make some suggestions for ways you can become more environmentally-friendly without breaking the bank.

Something important to keep in mind is that going green is a work in progress. You don’t have to do everything today to make a difference. You can start by selecting one or two things and add onto it every week or month. Every little bit helps. By the end of a year, you’ll be amazed at all of the changes you’ve been able to make.
Here are just a few things to get you started to go green without spending a lot of money.

  1. Make your own household cleaners. Vinegar and baking soda are two important ingredients for homemade cleaners. They are inexpensive and, chances are you already have both in the house! I found some great recipes here and here. Imagine how nice it will be to clean your bathroom with your kids nearby or in the same room without the fear of toxic fumes in the air. And you can breathe a sigh of relief when your teething toddler chomps down on your coffee table because you don’t have to guess what chemicals are on the table (and in her mouth) when you know it was cleaned naturally with olive oil and lemon juice. Not convinced that homemade products can cut the mustard? Here’s an interesting science project that compared the efficiency of both commercial and homemade cleaning products.
  2. Unfortunately, along with better health for you, organic foods also tend to come with a heftier price tag than their conventional counterparts. However, the good news is that not all foods are horribly pesticide-laden. Get yourself a copy of the Organic Dirty Dozen, keep it in your purse or wallet and shop for organic foods accordingly. Here are the 12 most contaminated that you should buy organic if you can: • Apples • Bell Peppers • Celery • Cherries • Imported Grapes (from Chili) • Nectarines • Peaches • Pears • Potatoes • Red Raspberries • Spinach • Strawberries. On the flip side, here are the 12 least contaminated where buying organic isn’t as critical, especially if money is an issue: • Asparagus • Avocados • Bananas • Broccoli • Cauliflower • Corn (sweet) • Kiwi • Mangos • Onions • Papaya • Pineapples • Peas (sweet). Even better and cheaper than buying organic is to grow your own organic produce. Here’s more about which organic foods are worth the extra money.
  3. Use reusable bags instead of plastic or paper bags at the grocery store and ALL stores. Stores like Vitamin Cottage, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, IKEA, Trader Joe’s and even Safeway are now selling reusable bags – some places for only $0.99 each. You can buy 6 for under $6 which should accommodate your groceries for the week. The bags are sturdy and hold a lot more than plastic bags do. You can also buy reusable bags at Reusablebags.com and 1 Bag at a Time. Unsure why plastic bags are so bad for the environment? Here’s a 10-minute film to enlighten you on the curse of plastic bags.
  4. Unplug your appliances when you aren’t using them. Even if items are in the off position, they are still using energy. Unplugging doesn’t cost you a cent to do and will save you money!
  5. RECYCLE your plastic, glass, aluminum and paper! Go to Earth911 and enter your zip code to find out what is recyclable in your area.
  6. Shop at second-hand stores for clothing, etc., and donate, give or sell your old clothes, shoes, etc. to others. It is especially easy to buy gently used clothing and items for babies and toddlers. I just bought the kids some “new” (to them) clothes this weekend. They are cute, in good shape and very affordable. Again, this tip will save you money.
  7. Change the light bulbs in your house to energy-efficient Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)CFLs are four times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents. They cost more upfront, but will save you money on your electricity bill almost immediately and they last from 8 to 10 years!

For even more tips on going green, please visit my Earth Day 2007 post.

While today is a special day to blog about the environment, you can be sure this is not my last post on the topic. There will be more from me in the months ahead as I learn more ways that I can do my part to help save the planet. :)

Lastly, I want to say congratulations to Al Gore for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I hope this honor helps bring more immediate attention to the serious matter of global warming.


Did you participate in Blog Action Day? Please sign Mr. Linky below with the link of your Blog Action Day post so that others can go read what you had to say about the environment. :)