Seven Limes

Gwyneth Paltrow's food stamp challenge
This is what Gwyneth Paltrow bought for $29 — to last her a week (one person).


This is what a week’s worth of groceries for one person looks like, if you’re Gwyneth Paltrow on food stamps. She’s not on food stamps, but has attempted the one-week Food Stamp Challenge. My longtime readers know I did the June Food Stamp Challenge* in June of 2010 — 30 days of the food stamp budget for my family of 5. That ended up being about $450 for the month, and we made it — barely. The budget averaged to about $25 per person, and half that for our son who was with us only half the time that summer. (Read more here about my JFSC, all 30 days.)

We were hungry throughout, more so by the end, and came up against a number of hardships we didn’t know would trip us up. Questions like, what if one of the family doesn’t play by the rules? What if you burn the dinner? What if you’re invited to an outing with food and you have to bring something? What if you want to have a party? What if someone veers dramatically off the budget by cooking a gourmet meal? What if your pet suddenly needs special food? How do you deal with the sneers of people waiting on you or behind you in line? I am pretty sure Gwyneth doesn’t ever grapple with questions like that. Other celebs and personalities taking the challenge, including Barbara Lee, my congresswoman, and Corey Booker, mayor of Newark, NJ, have done better.

Props to anyone who tries the challenge. Living on a low food budget isn’t easy, and I do commend Gwyneth for trying it. But her choices? Not quite. I suspect she shopped at Whole Foods or whatever chichi grocery store is near her, instead of haunting the sale papers looking for BOGOs at Safeway. Bet she never set foot in the Dollar Store, either. But here — I’ll make seven points about what works and what doesn’t in her grocery bag.

tiny lime The first thing that jumps out for me? Seven limes. How about seven oranges? Seven bananas? Something you can actually eat. Now,  my Mexican friends have said that limes and cilantro are important in their recipes, also in Vietnamese and other cuisines. I don’t question that. But in my tight budget, food stamps or food bank, when we scrimped along, limes or lemons and fresh herbs were luxury items. If someone gave me fresh lemons off a tree (free), yippee! Otherwise, I rarely if ever bought those.

tiny lime

More luxury items on the list? Garlic and green onions. My friend Sang Kim says in Korean cooking, green onions are essential. The only time I’d get green onions was when my bulb onion started to sprout. And avocados? Please. Hard to get them for under $2, or 4 in a bag for $5, without the option of buying them separately. I don’t have $5 in my mythical $29 budget to spare on just one piece of delicious fruit. Avocados are good and good for you, but that’s one meal, maybe. Or a small part of two meals. Seven days means three squares = 21 meals. That’s a lot of meals. A lot.

tiny limeGood items on the list? That bag of beans. I might have gone for white or navy beans, or garbanzos — which are good hot (in curry or soup) or cold (in a salad). If you can get dry beans on sale, for $1 a pound, that’s the best bang for your buck on the FS challenge. Generally I see them for about $2 a pound now. The rice is also a good buy; brown rice is better for you than white rice, although it takes longer to cook. It also works as a hot cereal in the morning, especially if you have some sugar packets or have even splurged on cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (it’s very cheap in November, $1 a shaker. Buy one then and enjoy all year long).

tiny limeAnother great item? Corn tortillas. Those are whole grain and will do in place of bread in many instances. Quesadillas for any meal; cut, salted and baked for homemade chips if you have a hankering (mash some of those beans up for homemade dip); chilaquiles when they start to get stale for a filling meatless dish. When I was a starving single mother back in the dented-can warehouse days, I lived in the Mission District of San Francisco in a mouse-filled apartment. I used to go to the Mexican open markets and get tortillas, apples, a few tomatoes, eggs, milk and dry beans. My food budget was $10 a week. And we got along, my baby and I.

tiny lime

Eggs are fantastic: a complete protein, easy to cook, boil to take along, mix into other dishes. But the FS recipient isn’t buying free-range, organic-vegan-fed happy eggs. Nope. These are the $1.79 white factory farmed eggs. Because it’s hard to give a crap about the chickens when you are hungry. Caring and being able to afford “happy” meat and eggs and milk are definitely  a luxury, a privilege that not everyone can afford.

tiny lime

A lot of people slagged on Gwyneth for buying one tomato, one pepper, one ear of corn, one sweet potato, but I’m cool with that (remember she was buying for one person, not a family). In summer, when corn is in season and cheap? 20 cents for one ear. No problem there. In winter, when it’s shipped from Chile? $1 an ear or more. Hot peppers are generally so cheap that a few can add a big pop to your meal and not break the bank; however, for me, those go up with the garlic and cilantro and avocado. Didn’t buy them. The tomatoes are delicious, but instead of the on-the-vine organics I buy now, I would buy Roma tomatoes or whatever was cheapest by the pound. Eaten fresh or tossed into soup or eggs, tomatoes are good; even better when in season and cheap. The greens are good, too, though I find that kale has stringy stems, and Swiss chard or bok choy can turn into two vegetables if you use the stems in one meal (stir fry or replacing celery) and the greens in another. Frozen peas? Another frugal pick.

tiny lime

What’s missing for me is a whole chicken or a bag/package of chicken, especially leg quarters or even wings. Some kind of chicken with bones makes two meals. First, the meat, and second, the bones to make broth for soup. A whole chicken, on sale, could be $5-$7, but that could make as many as 4-5 meals for one person. My friend Max Wong even fed two on one chicken for seven days. A chub of frozen ground turkey or chicken is another cheap find that can turn into meatballs, burgers, etc. Less than $5, too. I would have added a bag of bruised bananas, if I could find them, and a bag of carrots (or loose, depending on the price per pound) for snacks and extra vitamins. A chunk of cheddar or jack cheese would be nice, too, if there’s money for it. And a box of tea bags…Iced or hot, tea got me through many broke-ass times.

Poor Gwyneth (irony intended) may never really get it, since she was raised with money and has never had a hungry day in her life. When you have to make every penny scream for mercy, then you can see why she got spanked by the internet. Living a little bit hungry is good for your soul once in a while. But making it easier for families to eat good food would be a far better way to feed our souls.

*Note: My month-long series on the June Food Stamp Challenge won the award for Best Multimedia piece in 2011 from the SF/East Bay Press Club.

10 green things

A friend recently blogged about how she spent her frugal day (hello, Katy Wolk-Stanly and the Non-Consumer Advocate) and all the cool things she did in just a typical day that saved money. Shamelessly riffing on her Frugal Day is this, my Green Day, or how I – without pain or needless suffering – make green choices every day.
1. Reheated yesterday’s coffee. I didn’t finish the pot of coffee yesterday, and sure, I could have thrown it out and made new fresh coffee. But where does coffee come from? Not Alameda County. No, it’s generally shipped from at least Central America or Hawaii, and at most, from Africa or farther afield. Shipping the coffee here uses fossil fuel, and coffee in general has a pretty big carbon footprint (four pounds of carbon per pound of coffee, estimated). As well, it takes energy to grind and brew coffee. Reheating yesterday’s coffee saves the planet in a small way – which adds up if over a year, you make half as much coffee. (You can buy carbon-neutral coffee, btw, or drink tea, which has a lower footprint, and avoid milk, which adds more greenhouse gasses than either coffee or tea. Cows and methane, you know…)

2. Used waxed paper to wrap up the Boy’s lunch. Plastic wrap takes a jillion years to decompose but waxed paper is compostable. Waxed bags are just as handy as plastic baggies for chips or other crunchy snacks.

3. Reused a bag to hold his school lunch. We used to have about five reusable lunchboxes but somehow they’ve been lost along the way. I am hoping to find a decent one at Goodwill or other thrift store; in the meantime, we’re reusing bags that show up at our house.

4.  Parked at the mall and walked to all the storesI needed to visit. I batched my errands to avoid using fossil fuel for repeated stops and starts in the car. Walking to the post office, pet food store, office supply store and more made for free exercise as well as a savings in the fuel budget. Note that green activities often save you money, which is just completely bonus. Took my own bags, too.

5.  Purchased recycled products: 100% recycled paper for the home printer, recycled paper bathroom tissue, recycled aluminum foil, and ball point pens made from recycled materials.

6.  Attended a marketing webinar at home, which saved on travel expenses, fossil fuels and all the expenses of leaving the house (coffee, parking meters, bridge tolls, etc.)

7.  Switched out rechargeable batteries for son’s video game controller.  We haven’t bought new batteries in months – maybe years. Invest in a charger for AA and AAA batteries, and 2-3 sets of batteries. Put one in each room where batteries are always in use (TV remote control or garage door opener?). That way it’s easy to find them when you need them, and the batteries get used over and over.

8. Cleaned out empty paint cans and half-used junk from the basement. These are loaded in the back of the car for next time I swing through Oakland and can drop off (for free!) at the toxic waste place. (More on this in the next blog.)

9. Took own water and coffee in the car; took own coffee cup to the coffee house whenever we go there; hang onto the cardboard coffee-sleeve (or use one of my home-knit ones) for reuse. I keep coffee sleeves in my purse and glove box just for this. I also keep one of those fast-food 4-cup cardboard cupholders in the car, under the front seat, for the next time we do a drive-through. Why not reuse the one instead of getting a fresh one every time?

10. Ate leftovers for lunch. How is this green? Food waste is one of the biggest offenders in creating methane gas. And studies show Americans throw outas much as 40 percent of the food they buy. That’s just not cool.
What are you doing to be green today? And, just a thought, how much are you saving by greening your life?

green guilt, green quilt

The book, Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, has been recommended to me a couple of times and I wanted to offer it in case anyone else wants to read it. It’s on my request list at the library; I’ll post a review when I have read it.

Yesterday was a hot one — hot and smoggy, so they declared it a Spare the Air Day: don’t drive, don’t BBQ, don’t have wood fires, and try to keep energy use low. But I was in my car, driving up the highway to meet the roofer at our soon-to-be house, and man, it was really and truly hot on the road and smoggy in the air. I felt “green guilt” about the driving and have realized once again that my eco-lifestyle has become my new religion. As a recovering Catholic, I’ve noticed this before, and I won’t say a lot about it, just that I notice similarities in “doing the right thing,” “green guilt,” knowing “the litany” and “the sins.” Purging plastic is akin to a Lenten purge, isn’t it? Or maybe, since it’s supposed to be for life — a vow of celibacy from plastics? Something to think about as I ponder (pray?) over my choices and light candles instead of flick on a light switch.

On my journey through Sonoma County yesterday, I visited my parents, and my mom gave me some of her childhood toys to sell at an antiques dealer here in town. Apropos to our current conversation here about toys and plastic, it was interesting to see what her toys were made of:  paperboard puppets and doll furniture; Halloween masks made from starched and painted cheesecloth/muslin layers; aluminum and wooden pots and pans and rolling pins; cloth doll clothes and bedding; wooden beads to string. And the toys are still in good shape. Although there were choking hazards and perhaps lead paint in these older toys, at least they have held up over the years (70+). And they’ll eventually go back to the earth, since they’re all made of organic materials (the aluminum may take a little longer).

Chatting with my parents, who are children of the Great Depression, reminds me again of how many ways there are to do things: to save, to reuse, to resuscitate and revive. My father is an inveterate straightener of nails. My mother makes award-winning quilts (look for hers at the upcoming Sonoma County Fair) for the family, and as part of the Santa Rosa Quilt Guild’s ongoing mission to make baby quilts for the homeless or less fortunate. My parents use what they have, either in the barn or in the fabric stash, to make their creations. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to live with less plastic, look back a generation or two in your own family or neighborhood, and see what you can learn from our elders. (Feel free to post what you’ve learned in the comments section.)

For the past 18 or so years, I’ve slowly been working on what is perhaps the world’s ugliest quilt. I chose some rather bold purple, green, and hot pink fabrics back then, and set to work on it when Ana was a baby. Ana is 19 now, and I finally finished what I could with this ugly thing. I took it to my mother’s and we looked through her stash of fabrics, found some calmer green for the sides and back, and a friend of Mom’s is going to quilt it and finish the binding for me. There were several leftover squares from this Ugly Quilt (it’s so vivid that it will scare the beard off my husband when he sees it). My clever mother took the “orphan” squares and made a couple of baby quilts, using her fabric stash and some very calm lavender and dark green. The result of my mad fabric purchase from two decades back is that two babies will have handmade, warm, soft quilts to sleep in, besides the finished cover for our bed in our new (old) house.

There’s no plastic in this story, but there’s also no waste. There’s no trip to the dump, there’s no plastic bag, there’s no shipment from China, there’s no toxic side effects, and there’s no mountain of refuse. There’s fellowship, years of quiet handiwork; there’s the creative act and the act of sharing and giving. There’s the handing down of tradition, and the act of generosity toward others with less in their lives. I can’t think of a single negative in this story. And that’s a success, in a month of purging plastic or any time.

Guilt or quilt? I think I’ll take the latter.

flea markets and thrift stores

I spent Sunday meandering around the ginormous antiques fair in Alameda and Monday I did research at several local thrift stores. In all of my travels, I looked at how much plastic is discarded and reused, as well as what alternatives there are for non-plastic use in the home. The items in the photo are some of my finds. I’ll name them, clockwise: ice tray, canisters, cheese grater, nut chopper with new red handle, soap-chip swisher, lawn sprinkler head, jar grabber and fireplace bread toaster. The item in the center is a wall-mounted bottle opener (obviously not mounted anywhere yet). As I start to weed out some of the plastics in our house that may actually be harming us (Teflon, for example), I have been looking out for non-plastic items that would work just as well.
The nut chopper has a plastic top that broke when someone dropped it, but instead of discarding it, I found a new handle, a wooden one for 10 cents, as I mentioned the other day. This way, I can keep using the nut chopper as long as no one else drops it. If they do, I’ll then see about replacing the plastic lid with a metal one, so I can keep chopping nuts the old fashioned way (no electricity).
I don’t expect to use the bread toaster so much, except when camping or cooking out, but it’s nice to have non-electric options. The sprinkler head is brass and will probably work for another 50 years. The canisters are enameled tin and will work as well as Tupperware for keeping my baking ingredients dry and tasty. My favorite item, however, is the soap-chip implement.

The other day LisaPie asked what I do about the impossible issue of plastic bottles of dishwashing soap. Well, here’s your answer, LisaPie! I’ve had the swisher on the right (with soap chips) for a year or so. They cost just a few dollars at thrift stores or flea markets, and if you see one, get it! You put your leftover soap chips and slivers inside the little cage and then swish it in water. This makes soap suds for washing dishes or fine washables. It also uses up those pesky little soap chips (unless you use them already to make homemade laundry detergent or liquid hand soap). There’s no plastic involved in this handy instrument; it’s a wooden handle and metal cage. I use it in a sinkful of water, then set it in the silverware drainer to drip dry.
If you can’t find one in your antique shop (I paid $4), try using the plastic netting that your onions come in. Put the soap chips into the netting and tie a knot. Voila — you have dish soap! That netting will last you quite some time. (Onion netting is also a great kitchen scrubber. I sew mine into squares but just tie it into knots and start scrubbing. They *never* wear out.) Yes, the onion netting is plastic, but since you’re reusing it (forever), you are not wasting the effort of making it, etc. It’s a reuse that also avoids further need for plastic-manufacturing, transport, packaging, etc.

That’s how it’s done…(dusts off hands).

What I noticed about plastics at the antiques fair is that there *aren’t* a lot of old plastic things that are useful. Most of what I saw seems to be kitschy stuff like toys or decor that people have saved but not worn out. In other words, not really useful but more fun or decorative items. Another way to consider this is that perhaps plastics don’t hold up under heavy daily wear. I notice that plastic food storage as well as bags get sticky-feeling after a few washes, and then the bags start feeling too gross to reuse. The sticky Tupperware takes a while to get really grody, but when it gets there, who wants to use it? At that point, it;s not going to become an antique. It’s going to get recycled — or very likely just thrown away.

In my thrift store travels, I was happy to find lots of cast iron and simple stainless steel kitchen items. I got a cookie sheet to replace my Teflon ones — the Teflon pans will go into the garden or garage for non-food use. They make great art trays, by the way, keeping beads and such from rolling off the table, if you’re replacing your cookie sheets. I also found several glass containers to use instead of Tuppers for storing food items like rice, nuts, raisins, and so on. I bought metal shower curtain hooks, a wooden Lazy Susan, a couple of baskets and wooden boxes for storage, heavy pressed paper placemats (British-style pub placemats), and a really ugly ceramic tape dispenser (it has a sailboat on it and is so ugly that I can’t bear to show it to you — but… no more Scotch tape dispensers). Since I was thrifting, I don’t think I spent more than a dollar or two on each item, and because they are used, that fits my Compact pledge (the buy-no-new stuff group to which I’ve belonged for four years now). On the other hand, there were lots of cheap plastic toys and tons of polyester clothing, all of which smells bad (polyester traps body odor and then releases it when warm, yuk).

It feels like all I’m doing is shopping and talking about shopping — my point is to show that it’s not expensive to replace harmful items in your home, and I will be able to donate or recycle the plastics I have now and wish to replace. Getting rid of plastics is not an elitist thing. I’m not trying to make people buy stuff — rather, the greenest option is almost always to buy nothing at all! Ordinarily I wouldn’t be out shopping anyway, since mass consumption is not good for my budget or the planet. But as part of the project, I think it’s important to show readers that there are other ways, and that you have choices, and those choices can avoid plastic if that’s what you choose to do.

Last item for the day: another scourge upon the earth…Mylar.

I honestly don’t know what to do with these. They are not even plastic. I can’t recycle them. I was thinking that I;d save and reuse them for gift wrap, but at some point they will be too torn to reuse. Eventually, these will go to landfill. I don’t buy these anymore. My kids sometimes do, and I can’t stop them from every bringing a Mylar bag to the house again. When I start to think about how many billions of bags of chips are eaten in a day, a week, a year, I start to feel like Carl Sagan talking about the universe…”Billions and billions….” It makes me feel sick to think of how much trash is generated by the 5-minute eating of grease and fat and salt that constitutes these snacks.

I can say “no more plastics.” I can refuse to buy these things. But lots of people do, and that’s not likely to stop soon. I know there’s a plan by Terracycle to recycle these, if your school or company chooses to participate. None of my kids’ schools are participating. Terracycle doesn’t accept individual bags. I really don’t want to make a purse or a bracelet out of this stuff. So I’m just offering these if anyone wants them. You want my garbage? I’ll pay the postage.

In 14 days, I’ve grown the point where these really make me feel ill and depressed, knowing how long they’ll sit in landfill. Sigh.

Your thoughts?

shoppy shop talk, Part I

I’m back from a full day of grocery shopping and exploring non-plastic items. I went to three stores today as well as the farmers’ market and a small cheese shop. I have good news to report almost everywhere, except at the bank. There, the news is scary. See that shopping cart in the photo? Those two bags of groceries cost me $98. (falls over in dead faint…) There’s so much to tell that I’m gonna spread this over two days. Because who doesn’t want to talk about food prices and plastic, ad nauseum? I do, I do!!

Today I went to Lucky, CVS, Alameda Natural Grocery, Farmstead Cheeses and Wines, and the Alameda Farmers’ Market. (Last week I went to Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Raleys/Nob Hill.)

Usually I don’t grocery shop much on alternate weeks because we’re out of ready cash. In pay weeks I do a Big Shopping, and in off weeks, a Little Shopping. Little Shopping can mean a trip to the farmers’ market, plus stops for milk and bread. Big Shopping has meant, prior to the Plastic Purge, cutting of coupons, reading of sales circulars, schlepping around town to various stores, a triumphant return home with about 20 bags full of BOGOs, rebate items, sale items and so on, with about 50 percent savings at each location. Then we coast on this food til the next payday. This isn’t how the financial planners would have us do it, but this is how we do it; it’s imperfect, but does the trick, and the savings has really helped us cut back on debt. Cutting out the plastic wasn’t really in the mix — buying local and organic items was higher up the priority list than plastic packaging.

So, shopping:
Snacky things are always on the list for my family — I have two adult daughters at home who work fulltime and frequently need to grab and go — coffee on the run, a granola bar and a piece of fruit. When they get home, they also snack. So does The Boy, who is hitting a growth streak and suddenly wants to eat everything. Snacks, besides fruit and cheese and nuts, are always in demand. As for me, I have a sweet tooth. What’s out there for a sweetie like me who wants candy or cookies — without plastic?

I bake most of our cookies, cakes and pies, but today I purchased a tin of Danish butter cookies. The tin is reusable until the End of Time, and there’s no plastic. Sometimes these tins will have an Ambient Plastic wrap around the edge but this one didn’t. Yay! I was also happy to put an Almond Roca tin in the cart, a roll of Mentos (paper and foil), a paper box of Good-n-Plenty, and two kinds of chocolate bars. Hershey’s — the larger size is paper and foil, but most smaller sizes as well as minis are wrapped in plastic, and possibly packed inside a plastic bag, too. Cadbury and Toblerone bars are also in paper, foil or cardboard. There are a number of exotic chocolate bars that are packaged in paper and foil, if you can spare $4 to spend on a candy bar. I’m trying to keep my shopping as mainstream as possible, if I can — thus, a large Hershey’s, at about $2, and not plastic wrapped, works for me. (Another challenge would be to eat only fair trade foods, in which case Hershey’s would lose out big-time and the other exotics would win a big gold star.)

I’m sorry to say that hard candy, Altoids, and any kind of gum except possibly Tiny Chicklets are out of the question, in terms of avoiding plastic. Altoids is in a tin, then taped shut with shrink-wrap — feh! I am still unable to find any kind of health or snack bar (granola, cereal, protein, etc) that isn’t packaged up like a fly swathed in a spider web. Potato chips, aside from Boulder Canyon and Sun Chips, continue to disappoint me in their packaging, even the most wholesome, organic, flax-seed-studded crunchy thing. Nope. All wrapped in plastic. Since I have yet to find tortilla chips in anything but plastic, I will try using Sun Chips as a base for nachos and tacos later this month. The original variety will work well enough.

I did discover a gem in the cracker aisle — an old friend, the Wasa Crispbread. In several varieties, with a low price point, Wasa is widely available and very tasty. It’s wrapped in paper (though there is a variety in plastic — avoid!), and one could put this into a Tupperware bin of some sort to keep them crispy longer. These are wonderful with cheese or as a pizza base. Every other cracker box (I poked my finger into some and shook and rattled others) has a plastic bag inside the box. Friends, we’re talking about 30 different kinds of crackers at four different stores. Wasa is the only one I could find without plastic. Not even matzos are exempt from plastic, and that’s just not kosher, in my book. A reader mentioned that Grape-Nuts comes loose in a box, a la cat kibble, but I tried several sizes and brands (faux Grape-Nuts are terrible, by the way). All had a plastic bag inside the box. Bah!
I will add that I bought Triscuits, despite the plastic bag inside (I poked my finger in to be sure). But Triscuits has an interesting campaign going on now, encouraging home vegetable growing, and includes a packet of basil seeds in the cardboard of the box. I thought it was worth buying that to explore the green steps Nabisco is taking. Check out the link to the Plant a Seed, Grow a Movement Web site.
Snackwise, I was able to buy sunflower seeds in bulk (raw, so I’ll have to brine and toast them myself for Mr. Husband’s softball nights and spitting pleasure) and pretzels in bulk. I found plenty of bulk dried fruits, nuts, yogurt-covered pretzels, raisins, sesame twigs, and carob or chocolate covered fruit and nuts. I will definitely be back with my own containers for a dip into the bulk bins at Alameda Natural Grocery as well as those at Nob Hill last week. Another plus at ANG is the bulk cereals: Everyone with bins has bulk granola, and I make it myself, so who cares about the bulk granola? But I love my cereal, 24/7, so I was thrilled to discover organic corn flakes and a kind of oat Os (a la Cheerios) at ANG. I brought my own containers to fill and it was easy to do. I wrote down the bin numbers in a notebook frm my purse for check-out. I have already tried the corn flakes, and they blow Kellogg’s away. Much crisper, and they stand up to the milk. Yum!
Speaking of milk, I plunged in and bought the half-gallon of Strauss milk in the glass bottle. True, it has a plastic cap that can be recycled, and there was a $2.50 deposit on the bottle. But at $4.29 for a half-gallon of organic whole milk, from a local dairy, in a glass bottle, with cash back when I return the bottle — this is a sweet purchase. And it’s delicious on the organic corn flakes. I also bought the Strauss half and half, a pint for $2.19, with a $2.50 deposit. I usually pay about $2 for a quart in a general grocery store. This is one change I can commit to — milk in glass bottles. Yes!
Not only that, but I took another reader’s suggestion and sought out St. Benoit yogurt. This comes in plain or honey flavors and is a quart jar full of yogurty goodness. It set me back about $6 for 30 oz., which is more than I would have paid for a dozen Yoplaits, but with one glass jar I can reuse or recycle, instead of a dozen plastic tubs. This was also from ANG. Another highlight from Alameda Natural Grocery: I found ketchup in glass bottles, several varieties. Can’t wait to try it. Got that smoked paprika I was looking for, for when I make my own ketchup this summer with all my homegrown tomatoes, and the spice is in a little tin. I love that!
Other items in bottles purchased today include wine (but why must wines have that stupid plastic wrap over the cork? It’s not lead, it’s plastic.); vodka (glass bottles, yes, metal caps, yes, but a little plastic built-in jigger! What if I want to pour a large tot? Can’t I be the judge of my drink strength?), and locally made vermouth (Gallo, with a metal cap and no plastic). Juice in glass bottles tends to be pricier, so I’ll buy less. And juice is not all that good for you — it’s just sugar, whether you buy the HFCS kind or pure juice (fructose is still sugar). So it’s better for our health if I don’t buy much juice. I just got one quart today, Santa Cruz lemonade, made in Chico, not Santa Cruz.
I found fruit in glass at two locations: the store brand at CVS, where for $1 a jar, you get peaches, fruit cocktail or apple slices in light syrup, and at Lucky I got a jar of mandarin orange slices, about $2 for the jar, same amount as you’d get in a $1 can. I also swooped on some grapefruit segments in a glass jar. These are all great in salads, over cottage cheese, in a lunch box, etc. I like being able to see the fruit, and I appreciate that it’s in a better quality package than plastic — but the downside is that glass is heavier and weighs more to ship. That could add to extra fuel to ship, making the food miles for a glass product greater for a glass item then a plastic, canned or paper-wrapped similar item. (Read up on food miles if you’re unfamiliar with the term — it’s an important part of my selection of locally grown and produced foods.)
As I said, I have lots more to chat about, re groceries, and will continue tomorrow. My purpose here isn’t to tediously outline everything we buy and eat, but to show what is and isn’t available without plastic, and how to decide what’s a better buy. More to come in the Plastic Purge — tomorrow, cleaning supplies, bathroom items, and some surprise discoveries, plus fun at the farmers’ market! Woot!