Updates: What’s working, what’s not

I can’t believe it’s already been a month and a half on the project – time flies! – but here we are. I’ve been thinking a lot about what our family has managed to accomplish, what I thought we had accomplished but actually didn’t, and what is not working. Surprisingly, more IS working that isn’t, so yay us, I guess.

I don't really have art for this post so here's a picture of Skilly, who helped me write it.

I don’t really have art for this post so here’s a picture of Skilly, who helped me write it. Until he got bored.

But it’s definitely a work in progress. It’s been humbling, frustrating and fun. Sometimes it’s eyeopening. Sometimes it’s just depressing. So basically life in a nutshell.

What’s working

Even though cereal was Abby’s “bye” item, and even though the family doesn’t seem ready to give that up yet, I’ve noticed the girls really, REALLY like the bulk granola we can get at the store. Johanna will pick that for breakfast over any other option, and Abby tends to like it as a snack after school. Another surprise has been their acceptance of the peanut butter I can get in bulk at the nut butter machine. These girls have been raised on Skippy, so this is no small feat. I expected a little bit of a fight, at least, but Abby claims to like it better. Johanna is just resigned.

Other items in this category: Taking our reusable bags and jars (although I’m wondering about the longevity of those jars … they’re getting banged around pretty good. But that is another post for another time), leaning on the bulk aisle and produce section … getting bread at the bakery for myself and Abby in my bread bags (Johanna and Eric are stubbornly stuck on store-bought bread, although that IS Eric’s bye item, so I can’t technically complain) … taking our reusable mugs and water bottles everywhere … those two DIY kitchen cleaners I shared not too long ago … haven’t missed plastic wrap or paper towels … and that car kit of reusables has come in quite handy a time or two as well.

What I thought was working but isn’t

Oh, how I jumped the gun when I reported I’d gotten my grocery cart down to a mere three packaged items. I kind of wish I could take that post back. I’ve never managed to get to that level again (last weekend’s cart contained seven packaged items and rang in at $112: Butter, milk, ice cream for Johanna – she had pointed out that she hasn’t had any in over a month even though that’s her bye item and I felt bad – bread, cream cheese, sugar and soft cat food), mostly because there are staples I haven’t figured out how to replace with zero waste options. Like cheese. I COULD get pre-cut deli cheese, but it’s not very cost effective – plus there’s the whole “where did this food come from” ordeal (I realize it’s not an issue for everyone, but it’s important to me). I’d rather get my packaged, tried and true Tillamook (yep, Oregon-made; it’s pronounced “till – a – muck,” by the way) than chance an unknown deli cheese that may or may not have additives that will upset my stomach. I enjoy a quiet life.

One other thing comes to mind: When we had our family conversation about the project, everyone was sort of freaking out about the big picture, so I told them we were going to concentrate on food first and leave the rest for later. But I assumed that “zero waste year” was self-explanitory and that everyone sort of just knew that packaging was out. I realized my mistake when Eric came home from a big box store that shall not be named (kinda like Voldemort, only worse) with a load of plastic-wrapped toilet paper and other random items that I can no longer remember. Ah, well. So I’ve been adding a couple rolls of 100 percent recycled, paper-wrapped TP to the ol’ cart each week, but we haven’t used it yet. Incidentally, I’ve also picked up a couple of bars of unwrapped sandalwood soap because when Eric’s beloved Dial runs out, I don’t want him tempted back into the store that shall not be named.

P.S. I know, I know: We could just use family cloth. But you guys, that is just NOT in our future, although if you want to have some fun with your teenager, tell her what a family cloth is and maybe imply that’s how you’re leaning and watch her reaction. You can’t put a price on entertainment like that. Anyway, none of us are mentally there yet, and I have other fish to fry.

What’s NOT working

I haven’t made anymore instant compost and I keep forgetting about my jars of scraps for broth, but I suppose the good news is that, thanks to a comment received on that particular post, it’s occurred to me that I don’t HAVE to peel at all. (That was a lightbulb moment!) I actually still peel carrots, because that’s the way the family will eat them, but I’ve been letting the cucumbers and potatoes go. (Well, when I remember. That peeler is ingrained.)

I just asked Johanna what wasn’t working for her, and she said without any hesitation: “No chips.” She’s lucky though because she’s got a big sister with a car and a job and a weakness for veggie straws. Being all on the same page has not happened yet.

Sigh. I’m reminding myself to just keep swimming.

Next up: I’ve been having perhaps a little too much fun experimenting with homemade facial cleaners, deodorants and the like. Not all have been successful, but that seems almost beside the point.