Friday, May 31, 2013

Food Waste Friday: A Slip, A Recovery and A Save!


I just love The Frugal Girl blog. Really - just love!

Each week (well - most weeks) she blogs about her food waste, a kind of public declaration, aimed to reduce her own food waste. And she invites the rest of us to join her!

I didn't blog about my Food Waste last Friday, in no small part because I knew I had some food waste, and just couldn't face writing about it! I felt pretty awful about slipping up after four zero Food Waste weeks in a row.

So last week I lost half a bunch of kale, some watercress, and about a quarter of a tub of cream cheese. I was upset about each of these, because all of these would have been easy saves (kale and watercress could easily have been thrown into a salad, and that small amount of cream cheese could have disappeared in a single lunchtime meal of cream cheese and jam on toast). But I got busy, and a little overwhelmed and the items all went way past their good-to-eat stage.

But, this week, I picked myself back up, dusted myself off and got back in the proverbial saddle, for another zero Food Waste week - yay me!

Also, I had a huge food save, which I was really proud of. We were prepping for a picnic dinner last weekend, and My Good Man helped out by hard-boiling a dozen eggs for some egg salas. He decided to experiment with a new cooking method, which went a little awry, and we were left with a dozen cold, soft boiled eggs. We tried re-boiling them, but they just started to get tough outer whites, but still soggy inner whites and yolks ... not so good for egg salad. I put them aside, and hard boiled a new dozen eggs for the salad, which worked out fine.

But what to do with the dozen soft boiled eggs?! I peeled a couple of them the next morning, mashed them up a little, and just cooked them in a skillet, making a sort of chunky scrambled egg. Served on toast, no one batted an eye! I served the rest of them on subsequent mornings, until they were all gone - total save! Double yay! (I really felt bad at the prospect of wasting a dozen fresh-from-the farm eggs).

So how was your Food Waste this week? Feel free to share, or add a link back to your own Food Waste blog post; I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A New Grocery Shopping Routine

I have a couple of big factors when it comes to grocery shopping.

1. buy healthy food
2. shop within a budget
3. get food that everyone in the family will eat
4. shop in a way that minimizes waste.

This didn't seem so difficult, but honestly our grocery budget was creeping higher, as was our food waste each week. We always seemed to have plenty of food in the pantry and fridge, but I was always met with deep sighs when I suggested meals or snacks.

Something had to change!

A couple of months ago I inadvertently adopted a new way of grocery shopping, that has seemed to meet all of my criteria. Now this new method is not hugely dramatic, more of a subtle shift, but it has really made a big impact on the way we eat, our budget and our food waste. We are not buying LESS, but shopping and eating with a different focus.

In the past, like most families I would have a look at our pantry and take a few requests for evening meals, and make my menu plan for each week accordingly. Then off I would trot to the grocery store to buy whatever I needed for those meals.

What I eventually found was that I was buying items specifically for meals. There was invariably some of the item left over, and it would sit at the back of the fridge until it went bad.

I also found that despite my plans to use up leftovers for subsequent meals, the family would protest ... and so the leftovers would invariably sit until they wound up on the Food Waste Friday list.

All round not good :-(

So my big solution?! Bulk shopping for everything!


I buy all our pantry items in bulk, keeping them either in the freezer or in airtight canisters. This includes items like pasta (regular and gluten free), beans and pulses, flour and grains, and a few canned items like tomatoes and black olives. I replenish these as I need them, but it saves me buying small quantities each week, at a higher cost. I also found that when I use smaller packets, I have a tendency to prepare the entire bag, creating those leftovers that get wasted.

Our week to week shopping is now centered around perishables only, such as fruits and veggies, cheese, tofu, and dairy free milk (we drink rice and soy milk).  And our meals are then focused around these weekly perishables, rather than around recipes.

For example, in the past we would have burritos, with a package of tortilla wraps, a tub of guacamole and a jar of salsa. Now we have rice and beans, on a bed of spinach, with fresh avocado and tomato.

Before it would have been a specific bean chilli recipe, now it is more likely to be beans cooked in seasoned (homemade) pasta sauce, with roasted veggies and quinoa.

For me the difference is in focusing more on elements of a meal, rather than the meal itself. And, with all of those veggies it is healthier to boot. (When you buy spinach and romaine lettuce in 4 lb bags it takes a real commitment to make sure they get finished each week!)

We are now doing almost all of our shopping at Costco and our local health food store (we buy all of our grains, beans, nuts and flour from the bulk bins at our local health food market).

The photo at the top of the post is of our recent Costco shop, which is fairly typical (save the eggs, which we usually have delivered from a local farmer, along with our milk).

As I said, a subtle shift, but one that seems to be the right fit for our family!

How do you grocery shop? Daily, weekly, monthly? Do you focus on bulk, packet, or a combination of both? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Cocoon Day

Our weekends tend to be quite busy, between errands, swim lessons, catching up with friends and what not. I often find that the first day of each week, in contrast to the busy weekends, needs to be slow paced and quiet. We call them Cocoon Days.

Yesterday was just such a day for us; the three day Memorial Day weekend was filled with adventures, fun and busyness, and I could see that all three of the Little Ones were needing some time to just play at their own pace, read books, lay around for spells of time doing nothing. Perfect!

I often find myself getting a little caught up in the 'busyness' mindset; so much to see, so much to do, and the slippery slope of over-scheduling both myself the the kiddos. But, I am reminded time and again, by my own Little Ones, just how much they need the time to to do their own thing.

A few years ago, I had something on the schedule everyday for The Little Guy and I; our days were full, and honestly, both he and I were feeling the stress of it. The constant rushing and the anxiety over being late were big issues for both of us. 

Even though on an intellectual level I realized how stressful all this rushing was for us, I had not quite anticipated just how freeing it would be to move towards more days that are made up of free time, rather than appointments, play dates and places to be.

So for now our weekly schedule hangs on just one or two events, with plenty of time left over for long conversations, building projects, walks and bicycle rides in our neighborhood, cooking and baking, reading, pottering around, craft projects, playing in the yard, getting muddy, having fun, and all the other 1001 things a child will find to do when given the time and space to do it!

What does your weekly schedule look like? How do you balance appointments versus home time? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Twinning Tuesday, Planning a Multiple Birth

When I was pregnant with our first (singleton) child, we had a pretty clear vision of the birth that we wanted to have. We took Bradley classes, read lots of books, and planned to deliver with a midwife at our local Birthing Center. Everything went to plan, and I was able to deliver naturally and uneventfully.

As soon as we learned that I was expecting twins with my second pregnancy, we started to run into road blocks when it came to having the same sort of birth the second time around.

The Little Guy listening to the babies' heart beats.

Between our health insurance company, and our local midwives balking at delivering twins, we found ourselves somewhat reluctantly planning a hospital birth.

Please, don't misunderstand me; I understand that hospitals do wonderful work every day, but I am not always convinced that they are the best places for women to deliver a baby, in the event of a normal, uncomplicated delivery.

Thirty six weeks pregnant!

That being said, we did a couple of things that I think really helped us have the best outcome possible when it came time for us to deliver at our local hospital.

  • We hired a Doula, who worked with me throughout my twin pregnancy, and then came to the hospital with me when it came time to deliver. She really helped keep me in the best health possible, ask the right questions, and question unnecessary recommendations.
  • We took a tour of the hospital when I was about 30 weeks pregnant, and made a point of meeting the head nurse on the Delivery and Post Natal Wards. We asked lots and lots of questions (where am I allowed to labor? when do I have to move to the operating room for delivery? how much freedom of movement will I be allowed to have during labor, and can I choose my own birthing position? can my newborns room in with me? what will happen in the event of an emergency?) Asking these questions ahead of time helped My Good Man and I develop a plan, and it gave us a better sense of what we could do at the hospital, the limits we could push, and those that we could not.
  • Even though we had taken Bradley Birthing classes for our first baby, we took a refresher course for the twin pregnancy. It helped remind us of the work ahead, and get my body ready with the Bradley exercises.
  • We found a Obstetrician who we loved! I had an OB/Gyn doctor who I had seen for many years; but when he began the asking when I was going to schedule an elective cesarean section for the twins, I knew that I was not in the best hands for my personal care. I changed doctors, at 35 weeks pregnant, and was so, so happy I did. I was fortunate to find a new doctor who I trusted without reservation.
  • We made a birth plan. We took some aspects of the plan that we used for our first birth, and then added multiple specific details. It included labor, delivery, postpartum, and what we would like to have happen in the event of an emergency cesarean section. We were very thorough, asking for as few inventions as possible. I made plenty of copies, and gave them out to everyone on our prenatal, delivery, and postpartum team. I think it really helped! I am happy to share my plan with any interested readers; please feel free to either email me here, or leave a note in the comments below.
  • I read. A lot! I reread my Bradley birthing books, I read books by Ina Mae Gaskin, and I read several books specifically on nursing twins (see below for links to a selection of the books I enjoyed!)
  • I am fortunate to live in the suburbs of a large urban area, where there are several multiple/twin groups, (like Moms of Multiples), including a La Leche League group specifically for multiples. Talking to other mamas who had delivered twins helped me as I walked the same path.
 A multiple pregnancy can certainly have higher risks; it can not only be grueling physically, but can be emotionally stressful as well. This is such an important time, the months during a multiple pregnancy, to treat yourself well, to look after yourself and your babies.

And the outcome of my own multiple pregnancy? Well, I started labor two days shy of my forty week mark, then my Baby B flipped from head down to full transverse. After talking to my doula, my doctor, and My Good Man, and weighing all out options, we had both of our twins via non-emergency c-section. It was not how we had envisioned having our babies, but we were able to make the best out of the situation. I nursed them both while in recovery, My Good Man was able to stay with them both during the immediate postpartum phase, and they roomed in with us for our entire hospital stay. They were both happy and healthy, and both came home with us after a three day stay. Truly, we were very blessed.

And those books? Here they are!

How was your twin or multiple pregnancy? What advice would you give to a friend expecting twins, or more? Feel free to share; I'd love to hear from you!
And don't forget to leave a comment if you are interested in receiving a copy of my Twin Birth Plan - I am happy to share!