This week my ‘granola’ side came out in full force. I pulled all the middle school home economics lessons from the back of my brain and set out to recycle, reduce, and reuse. Menus were created, shopping lists were made with precision, and we made use of every last bit of food that we could. I may have even gotten in touch with my homesteading desires as well. Here are a few of the ways we tried to innovate this week, hopefully saving a little money and bettering the Earth in the process.
- We recycled a household item into a toy
This is one of my favorite ways to upcycle and turn fairly useless waste into a much more fun and useful item. I know better than to go anywhere in my car without our reusable shopping bags, but sometimes we forget them when we go out in my husband’s car! One REI trip later, and we were stuck with a single-use paper shopping bag. Knowing it would make a great puzzle toy for my dog Dart, this bag waited patiently in our house until I could bring it a second life. On one relaxed evening, I poured Dart’s dinner into the bag and voila! Dart had a challenging new way to eat his dry food. I had to stay nearby and help tip the bag over before he got too frustrated, but this was a great way to put his little nose and brain to work together. What fun it can be hunting for doggy dinner!
- Our compost supply grew
I really work hard to use up all the leftovers and food scraps that I can, but it’s not always possible. Sorry to the cranberries from 2020 that got forgotten and freezer burnt! Aside from food scraps, my compost buckets can also handle quite a bit of guinea pig bedding too. I found these great 5-gallon buckets from Tractor Supply, drilled a few holes to aid in ventilation, added some sticks to the bottom to make sure the compost didn’t compact and clog the holes in the bottom, and my compost buckets were ready to go. My poor freezer-burnt fruits, the scraps from peeling and chopping veggies, egg shells, extra kombucha SCOBY, and all that hay and litter from the guinea pig cage can go in here and make wonderful compost to feed my tiny gardening endeavors. Bonus: the buckets were food-safe and it makes me feel so much better about adding this compost to my tiny container garden someday. The things we definitely can’t add are meat, dairy, and dog waste, but the guinea pig litter is safe because they’re herbivores. I haven’t officially used our compost for anything yet, but I’m so happy with how much natural material we’ve saved from the landfill!
- We bottled our own kombucha
Yes, we’re at it again, but with a brand new SCOBY after I ruined the last one. This yummy fermented tea has a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that safely lets us brew our own fizzy drinks at home. Unfortunately, I got a little careless with our prior culture and it started growing mold, yuck! Making and bottling our own kombucha saves me loads of money compared to buying it at the store, and I get to customize my own flavors, such as this experiment with homemade cranberry sauce added to my brew during its second fermentation. My tea concoction will eat up all the yummy sugars from the fruits I added, get a little more carbonation, and in two days a should have a delicious cranberry-flavored fall drink, yum!
- The garage gained some recycled storage containers
Typical me, I REALLY over-booked myself during the school break for Thanksgiving. I primed and painted the garage walls and ceiling, moving almost everything around myself and also re-organizing quite a bit. Talk about a working vacation! We struggled with organization in the garage, lacking a good way to group items together and usually just leaving them in piles on a shelf. Thankfully, my empty paint cans and a few laundry containers came to the rescue. It’s not quite how my husband would have sorted things if he had done it, but finally not everything’s just strewn in piles in the cabinet! Cutting up the plastic containers from our laundry detergent and softener was kind of great too- I got every last drop out of the containers that otherwise would have gone straight to the bin. Yay!
- We bought in bulk and cooked from scratch
Ever since I discovered the simple recipe for cranberry sauce, right there in front of me on the bag of cranberries, we haven’t brought ourselves to be able to buy the canned version anymore. To stock up while they’re in season, I purchased my store’s largest bag of cranberries to cook with and freeze. Cranberry sauce is super simple to make, with just water, sugar, and 10 minutes of boiling required to create this tart fall dessert. It’s probably about to go in my lunch as a snack every day this week, delicious! Buying the bulk bag of berries saved me a small amount on my grocery bill, and I’m reassured that my freezer is well-stocked with cranberries that are honestly difficult to find any other time of the year.
- The leftovers found their way to our bellies and not the trash
Seriously, this lunch was SO GOOD, and the apples and peanut butter made the dog really want to spend time with me too! Practically every bit of leftover food gets saved at our house, until it can be gobbled up in a snack, frozen for the nights my husband has to take food to work, or it gets new purpose in a random lunch or dinner of leftovers. At somebody else’s house, that meager amount of peas might not have been worth saving, but I sure enjoyed adding them to one of my mix-and-match lunches! We definitely maximize our food budget when we use every scrap of food we can.
One of these days I’ll actually succeed at growing my own food too. Keep your fingers crossed, I’ve planted veggies seeds in my container garden for at least the third time now. It was doing so well until disaster struck and a critter ate all my lettuce! I suppose I’ll just keep plugging away at it, and maybe make sure my garden isn’t at dachshund height any longer 😉