A whole bunch of updates

You guys, if you would have told me a month ago that I would be able to get through the grocery store with only three packaged items in my cart, I would have laughed and assumed you were joking.

But that’s exactly what happened this weekend.

I was trying to figure out why I was able to do this when even a couple of weeks ago I thought it was impossible, and the only thing I can come up with is that my talk with the family has given me the confidence to just go for it. No one is going to be shocked when I come with X instead of Y. I’m not embarrassing anyone. No one feels deprived.

That’s just a huge confidence booster.

Now, to be clear, we’re talking kitchen items only at this point – the girls are stressed out about other areas of the house (they keep bringing up toilet paper and face cleaners), and having just one area to focus on at a time makes them feel better. I’m also hoping that any successes here will spill over into other areas.

But we’re not worrying about the whole war at this moment. We’re just going battle to battle.

I forgot to count items, but here’s an after photo:



My three packaged items: Bread for Eric, a gallon of milk, and a package of cream cheese. Oh, damn, I forgot about the band around the lettuce again, so four. But hey, the farmers’ market opens this coming weekend and I’ve got lettuce planted in my garden, so this problem is going to solve itself.

Out of those four, the inner bread bag and the lettuce band are headed for the trash. I THINK I can recycle the rest. The only thing I’m not sure about is the aluminum foil wrapping on the cream cheese. Our recycling center website says aluminum foil is accepted … but is this wrapper really foil? Well, I’ll find out on our next recycling day, because the crew just leaves whatever isn’t accepted in the bin for us to toss ourselves.

Anyway. For the second week in a row, my grocery bill was one of the lowest I’ve had in forever. I usually can’t get out of there for under $120. I always blamed “expensive” bulk items for that, but as my entire cart was basically bulk items and the total was $69.76, I may have to rethink that prejudice. And I didn’t hold back, either – I even got a few extra things because I had extra bags and jars (logic!). I guess one thing I didn’t get that I usually would was a pound or two of meat – I still have chicken from last week’s extravaganza – so …

Maybe it was just a good week. Maybe it’s another coincidence. But here are some facts: Last week I was around $90 with 11 packaged items. This week I’m $70 with three.

IN OTHER NEWS: Today marks our two-week anniversary of the reusable beverage container challenge. How’d we do? I messed up once – I went to get coffee and got one for a coworker, too, totally forgetting to ask if he had a mug I could take with me. (I don’t think he does, but I could have asked.) Karma got even with me, though, because my vanilla latte sent me into one of my artificial-something attacks. It was like my best friend punched me in the face out of nowhere.

I’m still bummed about that.

What I mostly learned is that I go out for coffee a lot. Like a stupid amount of times each week. I started brewing extra coffee at home to bring to the office, warming it up as needed in my good ol’ Ron Swanson mug. That worked pretty well, actually. And gave me plenty of excuses to get up from my desk. (I sit too much, but that’s another issue entirely.)

Anyway, thank you to everyone who participated and shared their experiences here and on The Simple Year Facebook page. Even though the challenge is officially over, it doesn’t have to be – I’ll still be participating, anyway. 🙂 Keep me updated if you do! I’m a dork about this kind of thing – I get so excited when I see others working on their own zero waste goals. (Ask Eric. He’ll vouch.) We’ll do another challenge soon.

IN STILL OTHER NEWS: I posted this to Facebook, but I’m not sure how many of you are over there, too, but anyway, Eric took me out to lunch last week, and I brought a couple of his reusable lunch containers with us for leftovers. Again, no one cared when I took them out and filled them up. And I didn’t hide what I was doing, either.





I still need to get that emergency container kit going for my car – it would be nice to be able to go to lunch or coffee spontaneously and be covered for All The Circumstances. Has anyone made one yet, or is thinking about it too? What should we include?

Next up: More DIY! That’s really the fun part of all of this.

10 Responses to A whole bunch of updates

  1. I have been playing with this idea for a few years, but laziness and the fact that I can’t get my family on board have hampered me. What I did do, though, was see where I could reuse things like chip bags, cereal bags, veggie bags and grocery bags (when I inevitably forget my fabric bags). I cut open a chip bags and lay it on the counter when I make hamburger patties – I make many at a time and freeze them. The patties on the chip bag go onto a cookie sheet and into the freezer (after they are frozen I package them in 4’s). I use the cereal bags and bread bags in place of plastic wrap when I’m pounding chicken breasts. I use the bags that crackers come in (Wheat Thins) to wrap sandwiches. ETC. At least this way, I feel like I’m giving some of this “garbage” another life and saving money by not buying plastic wrap, sandwich bags, and garbage bags.

    • Ooooh, I like this! It’s kind of funny because you’re addressing two things I need to think about here very soon — my plastic wrap/baggie drawer is on my list for an overhaul, and because cereal is Abby’s “one thing,” I still have liners to deal with. As Johanna used to say in kindergarten, “I just made a connection!” 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, especially the specific examples. Very helpful!

  2. Nice work on the price of groceries – meat makes a big impact on my bill to be honest, so I reckon it could be that?

    I also wonder about the foil on cream cheese – sometimes I diligently wash it and recycle, other times, I’ll be honest, it goes in the trash..!

    PS I wrote on your FB for the blog!

    • Meat would realistically add another $8-10… and it was lucky I didn’t need more staples! I probably should be keeping track just to figure out what the average is.

      I’m very interested to see if the recycling center accepts that cream cheese wrapper. The truck comes to the house every two weeks, and we just had pickup last Friday, so I’ve got a bit of a wait.

      P.S. Saw your FB post! I need to join the group so I can read… Sounds interesting and just what I’m looking for!

  3. So the cup challenge went well for me in the second week. There was one day with little sleep while running late, I had to resist the urge to run to DUnkin Donuts without my own cup. Still working on getting the hubby and kids off the pre packaged sports drinks for sports practice. I love your veggie bags and am asking for them as a gift so I can live with less plastic. My eyes have really been opened this week to the trash creation.

    • You get an award, I’m not even kidding — resisting coffee when tired and stressed is the hardest thing ever. Seriously, good for you!

      It’s all about baby steps. I’ve been working towards zero waste for a while … it’s only recently I’ve had to get serious about it. 🙂 I love my produce bags because even if a place won’t allow jars, everyone pretty much accepts bags — it’s a great way to reduce waste, plus they’re so darn adorable. Uh, just don’t get too overzealous with, say, apples or heavy stuff. Ahem, not that I know that from experience or anything.

  4. So, I’m interests in doing more of this. Some I do already but not as much as you. My question is, where do usually shop? Is it a coop or whole foods, Winco ?? Just curious as to where I can direct my efforts. Our regular,store does have bulk food but not a lot.

    • You know, this is an interesting question and maybe I need to devote a post to this. Because I used to tell myself that if I just lived somewhere else, I could be zero waste … and here I am with three packages in my cart this week, so I understand what you’re getting at. I live in a small town with just two grocery stores. My favorite one has a decent bulk aisle, but it’s not particularly extensive. During a solo shopping trip, I actually just went aisle to aisle and really looked at what was available … and found bulk maple syrup in the organic dairy section, for example. Just knowing what is there, unpackaged, is half the battle, no matter where it’s located.

      So I guess my advice is to take a good look at what you do have available, and go from there. You might have more options than you realize. I know I did.

      Anyway, good luck!

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