Aquilegia formosa

on not buying packaged foods February 22, 2010

I started writing this post Jan 22nd, a month ago today, when I saw this post by Chiot’s Run over at NDiN. I chose a title, pasted in the link, then wrote these two notes: “about not buying ‘manufactured foods'” and “no more cereal boxes and bags, etc.” Today I read the same post over at Simple Green Frugal Co-op. It sounded vaguely familiar to me, but cooking from scratch was a staple of my childhood, so I thought it could be that. Turns out I needed to be reminded about this topic.

Then, somehow, I was surfing around, and I landed here, at Bad Human! and started reading some of their ‘top posts’, especially the ones about The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I got to the one on ch7, with a picture of McDonald’s french fries, and I thought about my kids, and their love for McDonald’s. I thought about Kim, the Inadvertent Farmer, and her posts over at NDiN about her Real Food Challenge. I was especially inspired by this one, about her momentary hopeless response to watching Food Inc.

She wrote:

Why care? Why try?

I had to look not farther than the two small faces that sit across from me at the dinner table.  The food system that we are putting in place now will be the food system that my children and grandchildren will be nourished by for the foreseeable future…unless we do something about it now.

When I first read that post, I started another unpublished draft post, where I quoted the following from Kim’s same Food Inc. post:

Starting March 1st and for the whole month I am challenging myself to eat nothing commercially processed that I cannot make myself. No more canned beans, or spaghetti sauce, no more pre-made pasta or tortillas.  Gone will be the crackers, chips, and store-bought cereals.  No meat or dairy that is not local and organic for my husband or pre-made veggie burgers for me. Just real food made from ingredients in their simplest forms…no added corn syrup, fillers, or preservatives.

I cannot change the system by myself, but if enough like-minded people come together I must believe that we can and will make a difference.

I would love for you to join us!  Come back March 1st and see what we have in store…

Then I wrote, “Maybe I will, Inadvertent Farmer, maybe I will. :)” I was momentarily as gung-ho as the Inadvertent Farmer… but I didn’t publish that post. Why? Maybe I was afraid of making such a huge declaration. Not that I think anyone actually reads this blog, but, in some senses it’s a way to hold myself accountable to a personal commitment. I’m not always good at that, I love trying out new things, but get bored when the novelty wears thin. So I devise structures (like this blog) to keep myself interested and, hopefully, committed.

I doubt my ability to be successful at such a challenge. I think of all the foods we eat that fall into this category. I think of my kids, and their pickiness about vegetables and their love of processed crap. I think about my husband; he’s not much different. I think about the button on my sidebar, the one that claims “I’m a Food Renegade!” but am I?

I know I try. When I’m feeling ‘less poor than usual’ I will buy organic packaged foods: crackers, cookies for my kid’s lunches, jams and peanut butter, yogurt, maybe even sometimes cereal. Never milk, or butter, or eggs, or cream, or cheese, or bread or any of the staples of our diet.

I grow a lot of vegetables in my garden, but we’re just coming to the end of the winter, and I don’t have a greenhouse yet, so there’s not much going on out there right now. Although it’s been gorgeous and sunny for days and the plants have all been flushing with new growth for a couple of weeks, now, so things are starting up early this year. 🙂

But giving up processed foods?! What would my family eat? I’ve had great success with introducing new vegetables to my husband; sauteed winter greens with lemon and hot sauce are a new favorite, as are rutabaga’s in the stew. However, my kids won’t eat stew; they won’t eat most winter vegetables. They like chicken nuggets, cereal, peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I know there are things I could make from scratch that they would like, which would reduce our dependency on boughten stuff, like muffins, bread, pierogies, pizza, cookies, even crackers. I can follow a recipe. But I’m already over-scheduled, and I don’t want to make myself crazy.

I’m trying to follow my ‘baby-steps’ principle (can you see the Flylady in your mind’s eye?). I’m trying to make real, sustainable change for my family, which means I can’t do this on my own. I have to solicit their participation, their input. I have to educate my husband about being a “label Nazi”, he wants to buy all sorts of crap. My family is very different from the Inadvertent Farmer’s family. For one thing, she’s vegan. For another, she’s made all her own bread for a long time. She has taken on challenges, like granola instead of cereal, making her own nut milks instead of store bought rice milk, so it’s not like it’s going to be ‘easy’ for her, either. Still, I feel much less prepared to take on a challenge such as this.

So, then, what challenge do I feel comfortable taking on right now, considering midterms and research papers and developing trainings on intimacy and sexuality of long term care facility residents with dementia and developing a community even on anti-racism to mark the International Day  for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination? I’ve been in the ‘consciousness raising’ stage too long, it’s time to impact more than just the coffee I buy or the way I grocery shop; it’s time to shift the way my kids and my husband eat, too. We all eat processed, packaged grain products. I’m going to start there. Bread. Tortillas. Pasta. Friday night Pizza Night. Cookies. Pierogies. The things I know they eat every day.

I’ll hold off on their cereal for now, but maybe try oatmeal and granola? They whine when they don’t get what they want. 🙂


another one about plastic January 10, 2010

Filed under: Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 9:00 am
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Yesterday I wrote about the state of recycling in the city of Surrey and our new inability to put plastic bags in our curbside recycling bins. Also, I wrote about my inability to remember to bring my cloth bags into the store with me when I shop. Today’s theme is similar, except I’m thinking about all the plastic bags we ‘consume’ that aren’t grocery bags. Bread bags. Bags inside boxes of things like crackers and cereal, or pasta. Bagged veggies like cauliflower and lettuce and carrots. Cheese wrapped in plastic. Also, other plastic wrappers that aren’t quite a bag – cellophane around boxed tea bags. Chip bags and the bags coffee comes in. Or are those foil? Can they be recycled? And what about children’s toys? They are placed inside individual plastic shells, which are elasticked or wired to plastic-impregnated cardboard. Is this plastic recyclable? I put it in the bin, but do they chuck it into the garbage at the recycling plant?

My Nana was born on a farm in Manitoba. She grew up during the Depression and the 2nd World War. She went to school, became a nurse, and got the heck outta Dodge. She spent her whole adult life living in the suburbs in BC. She grew gardens and baked her own bread, but she was certainly glad for modern conveniences. When my son was an infant, I tried out some cloth diapers a friend had loaned to me – not old-fashioned cloth nappies with pins, a new-fangled variety that was shaped like a disposable diaper and had elastic at the legs and Velcro closures. One time she was visiting, and I was dealing with the diapers – trying to fold them out of the dryer, with the Velcro clinging to everything, and dealing with a bucket to soak the dirty ones until laundry time. She wondered why I was going to all the trouble. She thought disposables were so much easier, and that I had it so much better off than either my mother or she had had it, because I didn’t have to mess about with cloth diapers if I didn’t want to. I was easily swayed; life as a single mom was hard enough.

Which brings me to my point: we live like over-consuming gluttons in the Global North. We want everything to be shiny and new. We throw out perfectly usable goods because they’re not the latest and greatest. For example, my cell phone is about 5 years old. My mom gave it to me when she bought a new one. It doesn’t even have a camera. According to the laws of over-consumption, it is ridiculous that I still use this thing (and people actually laugh when they see my phone). But it works. And I don’t need a camera on my phone, that’s why I have a camera.

So I’m trying to find pathways to lowering my consumption in general, and specifically my reliance on plastic packaged products. The major culprits (that I see right now – this may change) are plastic bags for veggies and fruits, bread and coffee. I’ve already stopped placing my veggies and fruits in individual plastic bags at the produce store and I wash out the old plastic produce bags to reuse in the crisper drawer. I’d like to eventually move away from using these plastic bags entirely, but I’m not there, yet. Maybe I could wrap my celery in cloth to prevent it from going limp? Any suggestions?

To avoid plastic bread bags, I’m going to have to get into the habit of making my own, or start buying it from a bakery where I can get around using a new plastic bag each time. This means altering my shopping habits, and making a separate trip from the rest of my groceries. Changing my habits is doable, but also difficult – humans are creatures of habit, of course.

As for coffee, I’m just not sure… Hubby suggests buying coffee in bulk from the grocery store. But hubby doesn’t drink coffee, so he doesn’t know that I am a coffee snob; I don’t like the grocery store brand bulk coffee. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would buy his coffee for a specialty shop. This was before the days of a Starbucks on every other corner, it was actually a local business. They’re not around anymore, but maybe I can find another place? Again, more habits of convenience to change, but that’s the point of this blog, right?


this is how I roll, yo January 9, 2010

Filed under: Sustainable — aquilegiaformosa @ 1:15 pm
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y’know, because I’m so ghetto, with loads of street cred. Na, really, I’m white, white, white. Dude, I’m whiter than white – I’m Anglo-Canadian. And us whitey’s, we know how to consume. We buy so much sh!t. Plastic, plastic, everywhere!!

I didn’t mind so much in the past, probably because I didn’t really notice it, because I could throw so much of it into the blue box (curbside recycling bin). Like, all those grocery store plastic bags – into the bin to be carted away every week. But last January, my city changed recycling service providers, and now they don’t take plastic bags. Before, we sorted out our recycling. Newspapers went in a blue bag, cardboard went in a yellow bag, everything else went in the blue box. Now, we have “single stream” recycling – they dump it all out onto a mechanized assembly line and pay people (probably immigrants making minimum wage) to sort it out. And the plastic bags are a hazard – they can get caught in the mechanism, and possibly start fires.

So the city publishes a garbage/recycling calendar every year, and the January page listed all these details. I didn’t read it until July, of course! I couldn’t figure out why they kept taking my blue and yellow bags away! I was pissed 🙂

But now those plastic bags pile up in my house until I take them with me to the grocery store – they’ve got a bin there to recycle them. This makes our plastic consumption a bit more obvious. One of my New Years goals is to never use another plastic bag again, i.e. to remember to get those cloth bags out of the trunk whenever I go into a store.

So, hubby and I went shopping yesterday. My mom gave us gift cards to the mall for our Christmas presents. Hubby was looking for new clothes. We, of course, left the cloth bags in the trunk. Then we went grocery shopping. It’s pizza-movie night around the ol’ homestead. Also, we were out of milk and eggs. (oh, for the days when we’ll live on a real homestead, and we’ll have our own source of eggs and milk!) It was raining. (I mean pouring buckets, like it can in the Pacific Northwest. This is a rainforest, yo!) We ran into the store, not remembering the cloth bags until we got to the til.


This isn’t going to be as easy as I’d hoped.