February 27, 2010

The winner of the giveaway is...

...saymoi, who says she loves the fire roasted tomatoes and offers this growing tip:

"I just started my seedlings. I sprout my tomato seeds in one of those left over chicken plastic containers, peat pods to for the soil, and put them on top of my dvr for heat to sprout. I buy my seeds at Seeds of Change and this year I bought Zapotec, Thelossinki and Arkansas Traveler. The Zapotec and Arkansas sprouted within a week."

Congratulations saymoi! Please email me at barton(dot)angela(at)gmail(dot)com with your shipping address so you can receive the kit ASAP.

Thank you all so much for entering and for your comments, recipes, and tips. I was surprised how many of you knew and loved Muir Glen tomatoes. I am definitely a convert and will be using them in all recipes that call for canned tomatoes.

A few of you voiced concerns about BPA in the cans, and I have to confess I don't know very much about that. From the little bit of online research I did, it seems that BPA is something that is in ALL canned goods, and so if it is indeed harmful to humans, then it would be best for our health to use canned goods as little as possible. When I have time, I'll try to do more research to see if it is worth trying to persuade Muir Glen to give up the practice, or if that's even possible. I think they're required by government regulations to use it, but maybe they could use another type of container.

Next week I'll do a post that includes all of your great tomato recipes and tips, along with the recipe for fire roasted tomato soup from the recipe book in the kit. And remember, you can order your kit at Muir Glen Reserve. I think it would make a great gift.

February 26, 2010

Who can resist that face?

My brother just entered this photo of his dog Gracie in a photo contest to raise money for the Humane Society's spay/neuter program. Click here to vote for Gracie's photo with your donation. You can give as little as $1, and it will count as a vote! Your donation will help save pets' lives by controlling pet overpopulation and limiting the numbers of unwanted dogs and cats.

Thank you.

Food Waste Friday, Friday Freebies, and Favorite Blog Post of the Week

This is our food waste for the week. Poor cilantro.

This picture might make you think we haven't been eating cilantro, but in fact we've been eating A LOT of cilantro. My husband has been adding it to almost everything lately (burritos, soup, Trader Joe's Indian food, and scrambles), and I used it in several meals, but we got it in our CSA delivery about four times in a row and couldn't keep up with it. This is already very old, because we save it in a glass of water in the refrigerator.

So it was dumped in the compost bin. Visit The Frugal Girl for the rotten food photos round-up (hey, we all get our kicks somewhere). And check out Wasted Food if you want to know how the food that ends up in a landfill creates greenhouse gasses. If that's too abstract a concept, here's one that might hit closer to home: wasting less food saves money.

Are you tracking your food waste? How did you do this week? Let us know in the Comments section.

FREE STUFF ALERT: Universal Studios is offering free admission to educators until March 31st. The offer applies to teachers and other school employees working for public, private, and charter schools in California. Plus up to four guests can get in for half price. Universal says the offer is "a thank you for the tireless efforts of those who help to educate our youth." Click here to read the details.

And I'm choosing this post by Catherine at The Vegan Good Life as my favorite blog post of the week even though it's almost a month old. It's about absolutism and it's really stuck with me these past few weeks. I'm sure it was the inspiration for my post a few days ago about my 90% rule. The post is called "A Plea for Inclusion" and it talks about her philosophy on veganism and life. She believes the "vegan label police" and now the "vegan thought police" have scared millions of people away with their smug attitudes and intolerance. I think her ideas apply to lots of areas of life and I agree with her that no one wants to be part of a group that gives off such a judgmental vibe. I couldn't do The Compact if I thought it was all about "I'm a better Compacter than you!" No thanks. It shouldn't be a competition. Catherine has written a thoughtful and insightful post, so check it out and feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the Comments section.

February 25, 2010

Thrifty Threads: Encore edition

The following is a reprint of a previously published Thrifty Threads post.

It's Thursday, time for another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from the Goodwill, a thrift store, or a consignment shop.

Today's model is Patricia, looking lovely in this gorgeous black silk Maggie London dress she bought at the Goodwill for just $6.99. She also found the shoes for $4.99, which she was thrilled about because she and her friends like to go ballroom dancing several times a month and she needed shoes that were comfortable and secure, but still stylish. She loves the dress because it twirls, so it will be perfect for dancing. Patricia actually found the dress and shoes as part of a challenge issued by her mother to see how much she could buy with $20. Click here to read about it and see what other great items she found.

Patricia's mom is Alea, who blogs at Premeditated Leftovers. Alea describes her blog as a "journal of the ideas I have implemented to save money, time, and prevent waste in our household." Her blog is one of the best I've found as far as offering great time and money saving tips, recipes, and menu plans. She also has a brilliant vegetable garden and posts beautiful photos of her efforts, and she does a lot of canning and preserving, plus swaps produce with the neighbors. Here's just one example of the kind of great information she offers: did you know you can attach a glass jar to your blender and it works like a food processor? That's what they did back in the day. You can read the details here.

Alea says Patricia is naturally frugal, so she knew she would do well with the $20 challenge, but she was still surprised at how much her daughter came home with. And that's exactly what Thrifty Threads is all about: inspiring people with all the great finds they can pick up at their local thrift store or Goodwill. Alea says Patricia loves secondhand clothing because she doesn't want to be a walking advertisement by wearing clothes with logos, and she doesn't want to look like a cookie cutter dressing just like her friends. Instead, she enjoys creating unique outfits and even has some items in her wardrobe from her great-grandmother. She managed to find a beautiful, formal gown on a clearance rack for just $35 for her prom, even though her mom would have been happy to splurge for the occasion. Patricia's attitude will pay off in a big way when she graduates from college debt-free, unlike some of her friends.

Thanks Patricia for sharing that fantastic photo! You'll look so pretty out on the dance floor. It goes to prove that you can be stylish while wearing secondhand clothes, even if you're young and very much aware of fashion. Readers, it's your turn. Put on your secondhand clothes, snap a photo, and send it to me. We all want to see your fabulous finds. So don't be shy. I want to continue this feature every week. So keep the photos coming! You can find my email address on my profile page.

And be sure to check out Patricia's other great finds on Alea's blog, including a gorgeous tango dress and "the most comfortable pants she's ever worn." And while you're there, maybe you'll learn how to can tomatoes or plant blackberries.

Do you shop for secondhand clothing? Do you have any tips about how to find the best scores? Please leave your thoughts and advice, plus compliments for Patricia, in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

February 24, 2010

My 90% Rule

I've been thinking a lot lately about this concept of what I'll call "The 90% Rule," by which I mean that a lot of people doing things at a 90% level makes a much bigger difference than a few people operating at 100%. By "things" I mean recycling, living sustainably, buying secondhand, eating organic, line-drying your laundry, cooking from scratch, even doing The Compact - all the topics I talk about on this blog.

One of the best discoveries I've made about my experiment with Buying Nothing New is that it's so doable, something most "regular" people can do without a lot of sacrifice. I'm not extraordinary, and so if I can do it, so can you. And to me, that's great news. Because I believe that all of these things need to become second nature, part of the general culture, something that's as much a habit as brushing our teeth.

I'm not about to start living off the grid, I'm too attached to people and culture and a lot of the perks of modern life for that, not to mention a paycheck. And let's face it, that's not a realistic option for most of us. What I'm interested in is showing people that we don't need to be mindless consumers, and that we can all do as much as we can to recycle, live sustainably, and all that other good stuff- bit by bit.

People are busy. Things like recycling has to be made easy and convenient for them. That doesn't mean they're lazy, it means they have families and jobs and a whole lot of other priorities, and not a lot of time. Joining an effort toward recycling in your workplace or your community makes more of a difference than hauling your stuff to a recycling center across town if you're the only one doing it. A whole lot of us doing our best means a lot more than a few of us becoming Ed Begley, Jr. Not that I have anything against Ed Begley, Jr. I must have written that before, because I remember that line. Uh-oh, I'm starting to repeat myself.

So that's my message for today. Do the best you can. Try for 90%. You have no idea how difficult it is for me to say that. It's almost cringe-inducing. I'm a perfectionist, and over the years I've come to realize how paralyzing that trait can be. I was raised by a father whose motto is, "If you can't do something right, don't do it at all." And believe me, only 100% was good enough.

But now I think he was wrong. If you're trying to eat local, but your husband begs you to buy some blueberries a week before March, are you going to refuse him? (A hypothetical example, of course). If it's been pouring rain for ten days in a row, and you break down and throw the sheets in the dryer, does that mean you should give up on air-drying your laundry forever? If you can't afford to replace all your cosmetics with organic brands, isn't it better to replace them over time or replace as many as you can afford than to give up on the entire enterprise?

So I encourage you to grow your own food, air-dry your laundry, give up meat one day a week, start a compost pile, cook from scratch, buy your clothes used, shop at a Farmer's Market or join a CSA, give up paper towels, join The Compact, or any or all of the above. Or none. Maybe you're getting up your nerve, getting ready to make a change, or just like to read about it. Maybe you just come by to get a few recipes or a few savings tips. That's cool. We all started somewhere, and it's a process. This blog is a place of encouragement and inspiration, not of judgment.

We all do what we can. And together we can make a difference. No one needs to do it alone.

February 23, 2010

It's A Giveaway! Muir Glen Tomatoes

I'm happy to announce my very first giveaway on this blog. A couple of months ago I accepted this kit of canned organic tomatoes from the Northern California-based company Muir Glen to review on my blog. I have turned down many offers like this, mainly because I don't do ads and in general don't want to promote any products since my blog is about non-consumerism.

But this product won me over for a number of reasons, and I encourage you to purchase this Internet-only package of delicious vintage variety organic canned tomatoes.

First of all, it's a consumable, so it's not something I refrain from buying while on The Compact. We still have to buy food, and since it's organic, all the better.

I was impressed with the packaging when it arrived. The cardboard around the box could easily be recycled, and the crate could be used to store items in the pantry or just about anything else you want to organize, or even as a container for a gift of food items.

Since we're eating organic and local produce from our CSA delivery, we haven't had any tomatoes for over three months and my husband is a big tomato lover. This came at just the right time to satisfy his tomato cravings.

Most of all, the tomatoes are just delicious. The kit comes with a recipe book and so far we've loved everything we tried, including fire roasted tomato soup, vodka pasta sauce, and fire roasted tomato and olive bruschetta. All the recipes are keepers, and we were particularly excited about the tomato soup because it's even better than our favorite that I've been making for years. I think it's because the tomatoes are so fresh. Muir Glen diced canned tomatoes won first prize in a taste test done by America's Test Kitchen.

This kit would make a perfect gift for a foodie, college student, or anyone craving tomatoes out of season. It's just $7, and includes four cans of diced organic tomatoes that were raised without using any pesticides and canned within hours of harvesting, along with the recipe book. Visit Muir Glen Reserve to place an order.

Muir Glen has provided me with another kit free of charge as a giveaway for one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment, and I'll randomly pick a winner. Your kit will be shipped to you immediately upon notification. Your comment can be about anything related to tomatoes- you can share your favorite canned tomato recipe, a growing tip, or just what you love about tomatoes or your favorite variety. If you can't think of anything, just leave a comment saying that you'd like the kit and you'll be entered.

I'll pick a winner on Friday, February 26th at midnight PST, so enter your comment by then and I'll announce a winner on Saturday February 27th. Good luck!

February 22, 2010

Meatless Monday recipe: Vegetable Pie

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative whose aim is to encourage people to go meatless one day a week, for their health and the health of the environment. Click here to find out all about it and to pledge to go meatless on Mondays. When you sign up, you'll receive a weekly email of delicious meatless recipes.

Today I'm going to share one of my favorite winter meatless meals. It comes from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen, and when you're looking for vegetarian comfort food, this recipe fits the bill. I recently made it for a friend's birthday with our fresh CSA vegetables, and it was even more delicious than the original recipe.

Old Country Pie

serves 4

1 unbaked 9- or 10-inch pie crust
1 Tbsp. butter or oil
1 1/2 cups minced onion
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. mushroom, chopped or sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1 medium stalk broccoli, chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
2 tsp. dill
lots of black pepper
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2 cup cottage cheese (lowfat ok)
2 eggs
2 medium scallions, finely minced
optional: 3/4 cup sour cream or yogurt; paprika

1) Prepare pie crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Melt butter (or heat oil) in a medium-sized skillet. Add onion, caraway, and salt, and saute over medium heat until the onions begin to brown (10 to 15 minutes).
3) Add mushrooms, cabbage, broccoli, carrot, and dill, and saute until everything is just tender- about 8 more minutes.
4) Stir in black pepper, garlic, and flour, and cook, stirring, for just a few minutes more. Remove from heat.
5) Beat together cottage cheese and eggs. Add this to the saute along with the scallions and mix well.
6) Spread into the unbaked crust and, if desired, top with a layer of sour cream or yogurt. Sprinkle with paprika, and bake for 40 minutes or until set. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

This last time I used what I had from the CSA, so I left out the mushrooms and cabbage, and used 3 carrots, 2 stalks of broccoli, and about half a bunch of kale. The colors were gorgeous and the flavor was fantastic. I covered the top with a light layer of sour cream and sprinkled with paprika. I think you could use just about any vegetables you like, but don't leave out the caraway seeds or the dill, they're what give the dish its distinctive taste.

What are your favorite meatless comfort foods? Please leave your ideas in the Comments section and I'll include them in the next Meatless Monday post.

February 19, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus favorite blog post of the week

I don't have a photo today, but it's not because we had a "no waste" week. We had about one bowl's worth left of some very mediocre soup I'd made last week. I was actually impressed with both my husband and myself for eating three bowls each before we gave up. He said he just couldn't eat any more beans.

On the positive side, I soaked and cooked black-eyed peas from scratch, and then made a big bowl of nutritious soup that we ate most of, even if it was slightly lacking in flavor. We tried adding salt and pepper, parmesan, spices, but nothing really perked it up quite enough.

Aside from that, we've gone through the entire CSA delivery except some huge radishes and some cilantro, and we're working on the citrus.

Check out Wasted Food to find out why I care about keeping food out of the landfill (it's bad for the environment!). Plus, you'll save money if you make a plan to keep from buying more than you need and throwing away what you don't use. Click here to read an article about the whimsical nature of expiration dates. What it comes down to is that they can't be entirely relied upon. So what can? Usually your nose will tell you what you shouldn't eat.

My favorite blog post of the week goes to Vanessa at Green Ness for this post about going organic with cosmetics. Her husband is a chemist, and she basically tells you all the chemicals to watch out for and why they're bad for you, so that you can go through your bathroom and get rid of the stuff you don't want anywhere near you. Just remember to recycle what you're replacing. If you have an Origins store near you, they'll take the bottles and jars from ANY brand and recycle it for you.

Are you watching your food waste? How did you do this week? Let us know in the Comments section.

February 18, 2010

Thrifty Threads

It's Thursday, time for another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a consignment shop, a yard sale, craigslist, ebay, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothes.

Today's model is Anita, back for the second time on Thrifty Threads with another adorable skirt/vest combo. Anita is one of the very best editors I've ever worked with, and one of the nicest too. And I've been lucky enough to work with some really nice people. Anita is an inspiration for loving her work and being great at it. She edited one of my favorite comedies ever, the awesome Legally Blonde.

Anita says she's been having a lot of fun lately shopping at thrift stores, inspired by her daughter who's in her early 20s. In fact, sometimes she can't find what she wants to wear because they're the same size and they share clothes. Click here to see Anita's other stylish ensemble, and to read all about how she tries to copy looks she sees in magazines while thrift shopping.

At Crossroads Trading Company in Los Angeles, this skirt was $14.50 and the vest was $12.50. The t-shirt was new, but only $4, making the outfit a steal. I love it because it looks comfortable, and it's casual but nice enough to wear to work or almost anywhere. Plus it manages to look both old-fashioned and hip, preppy and pretty. I love the shoes and tights, and the long necklace with the argyle vest. Great contrasts that all work together. Really creative and fun, obviously put together by someone with a sharp visual sense.

Thanks Anita! Readers, it's your turn! I need more photos, so keep them coming! If you like to shop at thrift stores, put on your favorite outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com. Remember, we want to see all kinds of women modeling their fabulous finds, and I'm still waiting for a photo from a man. I'm afraid it's going to have to be at his wife's urging, so if your husband wears secondhand clothes, take a picture and then ask him if you can send it to me. My husband looks great in his Goodwill party shirts, but unfortunately he doesn't want his picture to be used on my blog. He's much more interested in privacy than I am (obviously!) and more mysterious.

Give us your best tips for finding stylish secondhand clothes in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

February 17, 2010

I'm a Citizen, Not a Consumer!

Well, in reality even non-consumers are consumers. My husband and I consume food- both groceries and restaurant food, entertainment- in the form of movies, plays, concerts, and so forth, used goods from ebay, craigslist, Goodwill, yard sales, freecycle, etc. But we're not big consumers of brand-new, cheaply made, throwaway STUFF. As a member of The Compact, I've pledged to Buy Nothing New, and for the most part I don't.

But even though I'm still kind of a consumer, it's really starting to tick me off to constantly hear news stories that refer to people like me as a "consumer." There are the businesses, and then there are the consumers. I could be referred to as a lot of things- a worker, a voter, a neighbor, not to mention a wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, niece, and granddaughter. Even a "customer," which defines me as someone who is giving business to someone who's doing a service for me. But consumer entirely defines me by a transaction, as someone who's buying STUFF from someone else, because if I'm not the one doing the selling, I must be the one doing the buying.

What I'd rather be called is a citizen. That defines me by my role in the community and the world, by what I do rather than what I buy. To me, a citizen implies the roles of neighbor, voter, taxpayer, and person who doesn't avoid jury duty. It's more active and less passive. More about changing things when you can and accepting them when you can't, less about filling your house with junk and your brain with trivia. It's about taking an active part in the culture, rather than being a passive observer. It's about being more conscious and less susceptible to advertising.

I think part of the problem comes from equating democracy with capitalism. One is a political system and one is an economic system, but I feel like the two are blurred and confused all the time. And sometimes any criticism of capitalism is perceived as an attack on democracy.

I think it would make a good bumper sticker: I'M A CITIZEN, NOT A CONSUMER! What do you think? Of course, we're all some combination of citizens and consumers, but how would things change if we identified more with our participatory role as citizens?

Please share your thoughts and opinions on the matter in the Comments section.

February 16, 2010

Jane Austen Ball

This post doesn't have much to do with being a non-consumer, but I thought I'd give you a peek into my personal life, and one of my favorite yearly activities: the Jane Austen Ball. It's held nearby in Pasadena, and I've been attending ever since the very first one in January of 1998. I've only missed two due to work (yes, I was actually AT work on a Saturday night, while I was working as an assistant editor on feature films). I don't miss it if I can help it, it's great geeky fun!

I used to go alone, but my friends David and Colleen have been joining me for the past several years. Colleen comes over early for tea and then she does our hair and we get dressed. I finally had my dress made for me last year, but Colleen made her own dress! The dressing up is fun, but the best part is the dancing. Yes, we do the dances just like you see in the Jane Austen movies.

This photo is without a flash, also taken in our living room.

And this photo was taken at the dance. Can you tell how I excited I am? I think I look a little scary, like I'm about to burst into a maniacal fit of laughter. Colleen looks so beautiful, and David is so popular at the Ball that we have to beat off the other women to dance with him. As you can imagine, there are always more women than men at the event.

Every year I come home so high I can't go to sleep for hours, and I wake up with the tune to my favorite dance in my head. The name of the dance is "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot," I'm not kidding. Apparently the word "maggot" means "whim" in this context. The dance is beautiful to watch and so much fun to dance.

I used to rent a dress every year, but last year I finally had one made, so this was the first year that I didn't have to do anything to get ready the week before. And I only had to spend $30, the cost of the dance, which was well worth it.

I don't know how many cities put on a Jane Austen Ball, but I do know there are groups that do English Country Dancing all across the country.

Have you ever been to this type of dance, or a Jane Austen event? I think Jane Austen would be absolutely baffled by the extent of her popularity two centuries later.

February 15, 2010

Produce Swap

Oh, the gorgeous citrus!

This is NOT our CSA delivery, this is the haul from a neighborhood produce swap called The Hillside Produce Cooperative. It's the brainchild of a super-cool woman who lives near me named Hynden Walch, who says her main goal is to feed people. I've been wanting to participate for awhile. It's a free neighborhood monthly exchange of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers, a collective in which everyone gets to enjoy a little bit of what everyone else is growing.

Once a month, Hynden sends out an email, and you sign up if you have something to share. If you don't have anything, you can volunteer to organize and pack the bags or deliver them to members. The only thing I had was rosemary from a bush I planted a few years ago, and she said that was great. I also baked some brownies, which tasted delicious but were really skimpy so next time I'll make up for that with some more impressive baked goods.

In exchange, we got this amazing array of lemons, oranges, tangerines, a tangelo, and two different kinds of grapefruit, plus various herbs like bay leaves, oregano, and marjoram, a small avocado, some burning sage that smells wonderful, and a container of lemon curd, which I'd already refrigerated before I took this photo. This was too much citrus even for us, so I gave some to our neighbor. We even got a recipe for lemon/rosemary/olive oil cake, which I'll print below this post. I can't wait to try it!

I love this idea for sharing produce. It's taking the concept of sharing with friends and your immediate neighbors an extra step. It's healthy because it's local produce, and it's definitely frugal. Check out The Hillside Produce Cooperative website to find out more. If you don't live in Los Angeles, Hynden says it's easy to set up your own swap. She'll tell you how to do it!

Do you do any kind of produce swapping with friends or neighbors? Does anyone belong to an organized swap like this? Let us know in the Comments section.

Recipe: Lemon Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

Courtesy of The Hillside Produce Cooperative.

4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest and juice of a lemon
1/2 cup regular or extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped off and chopped
a couple more sprigs of rosemary to decorate the top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl, beat eggs for about a minute until forthy. Add sugar and beat for a few minutes until mixture is thick and pale. Add lemon zest, juice, and olive oil and beat again. Combine flour, baking powder, rosemary, and salt in another bowl, then add to egg mixture. Stir by hand until just combined. Pour into prepared loaf pan (sprayed or lined with parchment). Lay decorative rosemary on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until golden.

This would make a lovely gift. I can't wait to try it, since it's an easy quickbread and I've got all the ingredients (thanks to Hynden).

February 12, 2010

Food Waste Friday, plus favorite blog post of the week

Oh dear. Not a stellar week at our house.

First, those little sandwiches were the remains of the tea sandwiches my friend made almost three weeks ago to have with our tea while we were preparing for the annual Jane Austen Ball. I'll have a photo of that for you next week. Anyway, she made these delicious sandwiches, and we ate almost all of them but there were a couple left and we were in a hurry so I asked my husband to put them away for me. I didn't see them in the refrigerator the next day and assumed he'd eaten them, and then this week, more than two weeks later, I found them in one of the containers he uses for leftovers and they were very soggy. Definitely not edible.

The bag of greens I left for him to use for his sandwiches when I went out of town. He said he used some of it but couldn't eat it all. Are you seeing a pattern here? It sounds like "blame my husband" week.

The other greens were from the broccoli that instead of tossing on the compost I thought I'd use, but we had so many other greens to eat, and I didn't even know if these would be any good. And finally, the onion is a storage problem. It got really soggy and grew a green mohawk after only a couple of weeks, so I think I should store onions in the dark pantry.

On the bright side, all but the sandwiches went straight to the compost bin, so not much for the landfill. Which reminds me, we're producing a lot less trash these days. I think it took us three weeks to fill one kitchen bag the last time, and we could easily go at least that long between trash pick ups now.

So why do I care about our food waste? Because it's bad for the environment to send food to the landfill. You can find out more at Wasted Food. And check out The Frugal Girl to see how Kristen and other bloggers are wasting less by sharing their photos. Throwing away food is also throwing away money, and I've cut our grocery budget somewhere between $50 and $100 per month by being more mindful of what we buy and what we toss.

My favorite blog post of the week was this guest post on The Non-Consumer Advocate by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, about the options to buying new. When I read it, I realized the suggestions had become second nature to me, and that made me happy. Doing The Compact has become a normal and natural part of my life, rather than a wacky experiment.

How did you do this week? Please leave your tips and advice for avoiding food waste in the Comments section.

February 11, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, a secondhand shop, ebay, freecycle, craigslist, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Meg, showing off a handmade purse she made herself! I don't usually highlight accessories on Thrifty Threads, but I loved Meg's purses so much that I really wanted to show them to you. You can check them out for yourself at her website Meg Expressions.

Meg gathers her materials from Goodwill and puts them together to create these colorful and super-cute purses and bags. They come in all sizes and shapes, and since they're also very durable, they're both fun and practical. Since her fabric comes from used clothing, I think her purses are the ultimate in eco-friendly and sustainable fashion. I'm planning on making a Compact exception to buy my next purse from her.

Here are a couple more photos, this one shows the purse off a little better...

And for this one she's recruited a younger model to show off a smaller purse...

That little girl sure knows how to mix her colors and patterns! It's amazing what you can do with secondhand clothing if you're creative and resourceful. These purses and bags are just fabulous, and I'll bet they're an inspiration for those of you who sew yourself. And if you're like me and don't know how to sew, Meg's creations are very reasonably priced if you're in the market for a purse, wallet, carryall, diaper bag, or reusable bag.

Thanks Meg! Readers, it's your turn! You know I love to show you all the fabulous ways people are wearing secondhand clothes, but I'm getting low on photos. So put on your favorite thrift store score, snap a picture, and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com. We all love to see what you're coming up with! And click here if you'd like to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

February 10, 2010

Non-Consumer Portland Vacation

I visited my brother in Portland, Oregon last week, and since I love Portland and I love my brother even more, it was a great trip. Without discussing it, we managed to almost entirely avoid spending money and do fun free activities. My only splurge was taking my brother out to dinner and drinks one night. Otherwise, it was an almost entirely non-consumer vacation.

We cooked at home twice. My brother picked me up from the airport and when we got back to his house he had made a delicious quiche. The only problem with it being so good is that I had seconds and then ate another piece for lunch the next day and realized I'd eaten half a quiche in less than 24 hours. The next night he made a delicious soup, while I assisted him washing and chopping the vegetables. He even taught me how to slice an onion, which I had been doing wrong all my adult life! I'd been cutting it in half sideways instead of top to bottom.

We took advantage of Bank of America's Museums on Us program to get in free to Pittock Mansion, which was the home of the publisher of The Oregonian. It's billed as an architectural wonder that soars 1000 feet above the city's skyline. The home was gorgeous, but efficient, creating an interesting paradox of a modest mansion. The view of Mt. Hood from many of the rooms was spectacular.

We took walks every day with his dog, either in the neighborhood or at a nearby park. That's a photo of her at the beginning of this post, modeling the sweater she wears when we go outside. One sunny day we took a two-hour walk on the trails up at Mount Taber, which also has stunning views of the area. Another day we walked the paths of the Rhododendron Gardens, over lovely bridges connecting ponds full of ducks. We had fun identifying the different species, including one with a blue bill. There were many more colorful varieties than the standard mallard.

I used my Editor's Guild Card to get us both in free to the new local movie theater in his neighborhood, where we saw Up in the Air. I had already seen it and loved it, and my brother loved it as well. Even though this is a frugal measure specific to me, most of us have some kind of discount cards or passes we can use. Make sure you get the most out of your triple A card and any other memberships you have, as well as gift cards and certificates.

We visited friends, old and new, including Katy Wolk-Stanley from The Non-Consumer Advocate, maven of all things non-consumer and my favorite blogger. It was so great to meet Katy in person after a year of exchanging emails and reading her blog. She truly makes the lifestyle of The Compact seem fun.

My brother's friends gave a spectacular dinner party where I got to see some of his friends I already knew and meet others I'd heard about for years. The food was absolutely delicious, and guests brought wine and beer to supplement the libation offerings, which included a ginger/whisky concoction. The host and hostess really inspired me, because even though their house was small, they don't let that deter them from having dinner parties often. They made room for several dishes on a table and the 20-plus guests were free to eat wherever they could find a spot. They avoided the temptation of paper plates for a big party and used a set of plastic dishes that could be easily cleaned and stored.

We didn't have time for the ultimate non-consumer activity of visiting the area Goodwill stores, where Katy always seems to find amazing deals. I'll have to leave that for the next visit.

Our visit was packed with fun activities, and the perfect balance of socializing and just hanging out. I didn't feel deprived in the least, and I don't think my brother did either. We both had a great time.

What non-consumer activities do you enjoy while on vacation? Please leave your tips in the Comments section.

February 9, 2010

The Trader Joe's problem

I've been shopping at Trader Joe's for a long time, maybe almost 20 years, and I love it. I especially appreciate their great deals on wine, cheese, and nuts. I like their prices and the way we can fix semi healthy food that's quick to prepare.

But some time ago I started to get annoyed by their packaging. I realized that while some of their convenience food wrapping could be recycled, like the cardboard boxes around the Indian food, most of it couldn't, like the sealed pouch the food itself was in.

Since we've been getting a CSA delivery and I'm trying to cook from scratch even more often, this TJ-generated trash has lessened greatly, but we still buy their convenience foods as backup, and veggie burgers for lunches, and my husband will never entirely give up their frozen pizzas. So I'm really starting to get bugged about their packaging ethos, which seems to run counter to their healthy food, fair trade, employees as stockholders liberal policies.

I'm thinking of asking for a meeting with my local store manager, but I want to do some research first. And since my readers are some of the smartest people around, I thought I'd start right here on this blog. Please leave your knowledge and opinions on the following in the Comments section:

Is there a movement to get Trader Joe's to use more eco-friendly and/or recyclable packaging?

Have you or anyone you know addressed this issue at a Trader Joe's store, on a blog, or in an article?

Have you read anything on the topic?

Do you find their packaging excessive, or is that just the "normal" state of affairs with food in grocery stores these days?

Thanks in advance for your comments. I'd like to get involved if someone is addressing the issue, or get something going if not.

February 8, 2010

CSA Delivery Day: Hooray

I'm not too happy with this photo, but it's getting a little boring to keep complaining about my camera. My lack of photography skills doesn't help the matter. I just wish you could fully appreciate how gorgeous this mid-winter bounty is, colorful and varied as ever.

If you're new to this blog, every two weeks we get a delivery of fresh, local, organic produce from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). This bonanza lasts us a full two weeks and sometimes we have to work pretty hard to use it up. It's so delicious we don't want to waste a thing.

This week we got (roughly clockwise from the back): China Rose radishes, kohlrabi, golden beets, mustard greens, dandelion greens, carrots, broccoli, kale, green oak leaf lettuce, pink lady apples, red onions, ruby crescent potatoes, cilantro, Romanesco cauliflower, onions, and a bag of Bloomsdale spinach that you can't see.

Sometimes right behind my thought bubble along the lines of, "Wow! Look at all this delicious produce!" comes, "How are we going to eat it all?" I immediately start thinking of what needs to be used first and preparation ideas. It's a challenge, but a fun one. I love eating what's fresh and in season, as it's always tastier. When I told my radish-loving husband those huge pink tubers were radishes, his reply was, "That begs the question- how much radish can one man eat?"

Tonight we'll have a kale, white bean, and mushroom soup from a recipe my brother made last weekend while I was visiting him in Portland. It was so delicious that I ate it for lunch the next two days. His soup used bacon but I'm going to make a vegetarian version tonight for Meatless Monday. Tomorrow I'm cooking dinner for a friend and I'll be able to use up a lot more of this delivery while it's still fresh. I'll try to post the recipe for the soup later this afternoon if I have time.

Eating local is better for your health and the environment, and it tastes SO much better. Sometimes I feel sorry for people who've never tasted real produce with real flavor. Click here to find out more about CSA and to find one near you. And please leave me your preparation ideas for anything you see in the photo in the Comments section.

February 6, 2010

My favorite new recipe from the blogs

Welcome to an occasional segment where I tell you about a great new recipe I've gotten from another blogger.

This easy triple chocolate cake is from Alea at Premeditated Leftovers. She's always posting great recipes, and when I needed to come up with a quick yet inspired dessert, this fit the bill. It starts with a boxed mix, but you add a lot to it so it doesn't have that "fake" taste.

I made this cake for a small New Year's Eve dinner party, and it passed muster with not only my husband, but the amateur gourmet chefs who fixed the fabulous dinner. Everyone had seconds and the rest was eaten the next day for breakfast.

This cake is full of chocolatey goodness, and would be a great choice for Valentine's Day. I don't usually celebrate that holiday, and gave my husband a free pass on it the first year we were together (provided he fulfill my requirements for being romantic year-round instead, and he does), but I sometimes bake him a cake if I have time.

Please leave your favorite V Day or anytime baking ideas in the Comments section.

February 5, 2010

Food Waste Friday plus Friday Freebies

No food waste this week. I made sure we used up the vegetables from our CSA, so we ate plenty of sauteed greens and I even put some not-so-fresh broccoli and chopped up bok choy in a fritatta and it was delicious. Frittatas are my new favorite kitchen sink meal.

I also gave away the celery root before leaving on a trip so it wouldn't go bad before I got back. I'm disappointed that I didn't have time to research a good recipe, but I'm glad I gave it away instead of letting it rot. My neighbor was looking forward to making a nice soup with it. I'll have to get his recipe in case we get it in our CSA delivery again. I might have one more chance before it goes out of season.

I don't think I've mentioned Love Food, Hate Waste for awhile. It's a UK-based site that's packed with statistics about how much food we're wasting on the planet, what it's doing to the environment, and how we can stop the madness. It's got tons of great tips and ideas. And check out The Frugal Girl to see how she inspires other bloggers to waste less by photographing and documenting what they toss each week. It's a great way to not only be accountable, but to do it with community support. Any step you take in this area will be a positive one, and will save you money to boot. And don't be embarrassed if you've got a lot. Almost everyone starts off that way. I used to clean out the refrigerator each week when I went grocery shopping to make room for the new supplies and didn't even think that much about it.

FREE STUFF ALERT: I've also got some Friday Freebies for you...

It's the first weekend of February, and that means it's time for Bank of America's Museums on Us program. For B of A customers, all you have to do is show your debit or credit card to get in free to hundreds of museums across the country this Saturday and Sunday. Click here to find out about participating museums in your area.

And if you live in Los Angeles, EATLACMA is described as a "year-long investigation into food, culture, and politics." It kicks off with a fruit tree giveaway on Saturday afternoon. Click here to find out more about the project, which unfolds seasonally as artists plant their gardens on the grounds of LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Have a great weekend! I'll have a "favorite new recipe from the blogs" for you tomorrow.

February 4, 2010

Thrifty Threads

Welcome to another installment of Thrifty Threads, AKA Most Stylish Compact-y Outfit, where readers model their favorite secondhand clothes.

A Compact-y outfit is used or recycled, from Goodwill, a thrift store, consignment shop, yard sale, ebay, craigslist, or anywhere else you find secondhand clothing.

Today's model is Stephanie, who's become my most regular contributor to Thrifty Threads. Thanks Stephanie! You may remember her modeling this glamorous velvet holiday dress paired with seamed stockings last December. Stephanie and I worked together in Los Angeles before she moved to Portland and then Dallas to pursue other dreams, starting with becoming a singer/songwriter. She's a self-taught musician with a beautiful voice, and you can listen to her original songs plus some great covers on her My Space page. Recently, she's also costumed a play, produced a TV commercial, and started up her own company called Sweet Ruby Productions to do PR/Creative Consulting/Personal Styling projects. You can keep up with her on her blog Those Tricks.

Stephanie says this outfit is mostly thrifted, with the exception of the long socks from American Apparel and the shoes which are Payless Lela Rose, a high-end designer that sometimes works with the budget shoe company. The shirt is from Buffalo Exchange in Los Angeles, the skirt is from a thrift store in Dallas, and the belt is from Buffalo Exchange in Dallas. Stephanie estimates the total cost of the resale items at less than $30. Talk about some fabulous finds, and she knows how to put them together! What a great look.

Thanks Stephanie for that super cute photo! It really makes me want to go thrift store shopping. Readers, it's your turn! I always need more models, so put on your favorite secondhand outfit, snap a photo, and send it to me at barton.angela@gmail.com. Don't be shy. It is so much fun to see how one person's trash becomes another person's treasure. And remember, we want to see all kinds of models on Thrifty Threads - young and old, big and small, male and female.

Please leave your tips for secondhand clothes shopping in the Comments section. And click here to check out previous installments of Thrifty Threads.

February 3, 2010

Is it more expensive to be green?

There are a lot of misperceptions about being green and living sustainably, and one of the biggest is that it's expensive. Supposedly only the wealthy can afford to think about the environment.

But like a lot of conventional wisdom, it's just not true. In fact, a lot of "green" choices are frugal as well. Here are a just a few examples:

1. Local produce. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average food item travels 1500 to 2500 miles to get to your supermarket, while local produce is usually grown within 200 miles. That saves transportation and fuel costs, along with all those carbon emissions. So the produce is usually less expensive and it almost always tastes better. Because of our CSA delivery experience, I can attest to that. Plus, many small local growers don't use pesticides or artificial ripeners, which keeps chemicals out of the soil.

2. Turning out the lights, using water-saving faucets and showerheads, and keeping the thermostat at a reasonable temperature are all energy savers that'll save you money as well.

3. Buying secondhand, borrowing, or bartering will not only reduce your carbon footprint, it'll plump up your bank account. So joining The Compact is certainly green, but it's definitely not expensive. And there's no sign-up fee!

Of course, buying "organic" produce at high-end markets and "eco-friendly" fashion can break your budget, but that's not the only way to be "green."

What "green" options have you incorporated into your lifestyle that are also frugal? I love it when they don't conflict and I don't have to choose one or the other. Please leave your examples in the Comments section.

February 2, 2010

Sustainable wrapping for baby gifts

Last week, I asked my readers for suggestions on how to wrap up a gift for a baby shower, and you responded with some great ideas! I loved all of them, and ended up using this basket, because I already had it from a holiday gift from a friend, it was easy, and I thought it would be useful.

I was going to cover the top with tissue paper, but my husband really liked the open basket look, so I presented it like this. Of course, it didn't look as impressive as the big, fancily wrapped gifts and gift bags, but I was happy that it was something they would use and it wouldn't go straight to the trash.

As always, my readers came through with their creativity and resourcefulness, and I thought I'd list some of the suggestions because I think a lot of people will be able to use them. Instead of wrapping with material that will end up in a landfill, wrap with something that can be used for the baby. Here are just a few of the terrific ideas from my brilliant readers (and by the way, none of these ideas were used by my fellow shower attendees. The look of the day was lots and lots of paper that got wadded up and tossed in the trash. I think a few gift bags were probably saved)...

1. A receiving blanket. Hem the edges of a one-yard square of fabric and use it to wrap another gift. Seersucker or muslin is lightweight and perfect for keeping the sun off baby without overheating her for warmer climates, while flannel is perfect for cooler locales.

2. Use fabric to make a pouch for storing diapers or wipes, or a reusable cloth bag that could double as a book bag or diaper bag.

3. A playsilk. They're pretty, soft, great for peek-a-boo, and can be a fun toy when baby is a little bigger.

4. A wicker basket, which is convenient for storing baby items like diapers, lotions, burp cloths, etc. If you already have a basket, like I did, this is a super-easy, convenient option as well.

5. Roll the jacket up and tie with a ribbon.

6. A hat box or other decorative box which can become a toybox or a place for parents to hide toys.

7. A sand bucket or other container from the thrift store which baby can play with when he gets older.

8. Try craigslist or freecycle for a reusable bag or wrapping paper.

9. Wrap in the Sunday funny papers, which can be colorful and fun and depending on the comic, appropriate for the occasion.

10. Wrap sustainably. For example, use brown paper bags turned inside out to hide the print. They can also be painted or decorated. And make a bow using leftover paper.

11. And finally, swap with a friend. Fresh baked cookies or CSA fruit could gain you access to their stash of wrapping paper.

Thank you all so much for your brilliant suggestions, and please forgive me for not naming and/or linking to you. That type of post takes a lot more time, and I just didn't have it today.

Any more gift wrapping ideas, especially for a baby shower, please share your thoughts in the Comments section.

February 1, 2010

Meatless Monday Recipes

It's Meatless Monday, and I've got some great reader recipes to share with you!

Meatless Monday is a nonprofit initiative whose aim is to encourage people to go meatless one day a week, for their health and the health of the planet. Click here to visit their website and find out all about it. If you pledge to go meatless on Mondays, you'll get an email packed with delicious meatless recipes that will make it easier than ever to give up meat as often as you like.

We generally eat meatless several times a week, especially since we've been getting the delicious produce in our CSA deliveries. I confess I never really cooked meat that much in the first place. But these recipes make it even easier by having so many tasty options to choose from.

Here are some reader favorites for easy meatless meals:

1. Alea at Premeditated Leftovers enjoys this broccoli with penne dish, which is easily modified with whatever vegetables you have on hand. She usually adds extra veggies like carrots and snow peas, and replaces the hot pepper flakes with chopped peppers and/or onions.

2. Julia at Color Me Green suggests hearty one-pot dishes with beans, whole grains, sauteed greens or roasted winter root vegetables, plus cheese and salsa or hot sauce for flavor.

3. Carmen at Life Blessons offers one of her favorite winter meals, sweet potato and black bean chili. She says it's easy to make and she loves the unexpected flavors of the recipe.

4. Diane at Tomato Soup Cake says they eat meatless quite a bit and one of their current favorites is this black bean soup.

5. Cate from Budget Confessions loves black bean soup and black bean salsa wraps (recipes on her blog), pizza, soups, and rice and beans with seasonings.

What great suggestions this week! I can't wait to try all of them. I'll have to start cooking more. I recently started making black beans in the crockpot and not only are they delicious, they're so versatile: beans for burritos or a side dish, soup, chili, and Katy's black bean burgers. It's a good thing we like black beans!

Thanks for all your suggestions! Readers, please send in your favorite easy meatless recipes and I'll include them in the next Meatless Monday post in two weeks.