Sunday, September 26, 2010

The organic conundrum

Over the past year, we have made some significant changes in the way we eat and the way we shop for food.   It all started last summer, when I first picked up a copy of Barbara Kingsolver's book  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  It chronicles her family's attempt to eat like locavores, grow their own produce, raise their own heritage turkeys and make every meal from scratch for a year.
Our decision to change our eating habits was further fueled by two movies: Food, Inc and King Corn.  Both movies reveal some disturbing secrets and practices in the US agricultural industry.  It's not a pretty story.
So we started shopping for our produce at the local farmer's market, buying the organically grown fruits and vegetables.  Shopping for food at the average grocery store, or even Whole Foods, presents some problems for us.  How hard-core do we want to get with shopping in an environmentally friendly way?
I may pick up an brand known for being organic or all natural, and having sustainable company practices.  I may feel good knowing that I'm supporting a business which is small, or local, or both.  But I may actually be supporting a huge company I am trying to boycott because of GMO's, lack of sustainability practices, or ties to the dreaded Monsanto.
Case in point: I love Kashi Go-Lean.  But did you know that Kashi's parent company is Kellogg's?  That's right, Kellogg's, whom I am boycotting because of their refusal to stop using GMO's in their product.  Another case in point: Cascadian Farms.  An organic label which has been purchased by general Mills, who have fought legislation requiring GMO foods to be labeled as such.
I  suspect the list of safe brands for me will be quite small once I'm done looking into this issue, which begs the question:  Do I buy organic labels because I want to feed my family organic food, or do I follow the food trail and make sure that these labels are not owned by large corporations whose values do not align with mine?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Homemade cleaning supplies

As we use up our store-bought bathroom and kitchen cleaners, we are replacing them with solutions made from natural ingredients that most households would have on-hand anyway, such as lemons, vinegar and baking soda.  We simply re-use the spray bottles once empty, diverting them from the landfill or from being down-cycled.  I found a great resource here for recipes:

We've also invested in a good old-fashioned toilet brush (we used to use the wands with the disposable cleaning heads).  The hubby's old t-shirts and our old socks will replace the disposable swiffer dusters for cleaning furniture.  Shamefully, we've used many a paper towel to clean glass and windows.  I remember using old newspapers on the windows and glass, which did a pretty good job. 

Little momma and the big guy haven't really had to help to the major cleaning; they are only responsible for picking up after themselves.  Now's a good time to introduce housecleaning chores to them and explain why we're switching to homemade cleaning solutions. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's a family affair

We have settled into a nice weekend routine.  On Saturdays, we're up at 7 am and out of the door at 7:45 (7:30 if we decide to grab breakfast out).  At 8 am, we're arriving at whichever estate/yard/garage sale I thought was the most promising when I scouted them out on Craigslist.  We hit about 3 or 4 of them, and we're usually done by 10:00 or 11:00.

On Sundays, we're up at 7:30 am and out of the door by 8:30.  We grab a quick breakfast (usually a pastry and coffee, juice for the kids), then it's onto our favorite farmer's market in Campbell, where we have samples and buy our produce for the week.

This weekend's thrifting was quite successful.  We walked away with a fair amount of vintage Pyrex and other vintage kitchen items from one estate sale, thanks to the well-trained eyes of my family.  While I was happily building a small stash of kitchenware from a box I was digging through  on the front lawn, my industrious hubby was poking through boxes in the house.  Little momma screamed from the doorway that daddy found some "pay rex."

Here's what we bought for a mere $6:

Pyrex "Butterfly Gold" mixing bowls, casserole dishes, loaf pan, 8 inch baking dish and refrigerator  dishes

 Pyrex pie plate, Anchor Hocking custard bowls, Pyrex mixing bowls, glass juice reamer, scale,grater, Pyrex individual casserole dish
vintage sifter, Anchor Hocking baking dish