Spring Projects: The Paperless Kitchen

Imagine not having to buy paper towels or napkins. Imagine producing less trash. Imagine cleaning and living more sustainably and frugally 
The fabled paperless kitchen

This one can be difficult, friends. But it can also be excellent, depending on who you are. I will say straight up that it did not work for me, at least not all the time. But it might work for you. 

The concept is simple enough: replace all of your napkins and paper towels with towels and cloths, save money and produce less waste. It’s an excellent idea that got me excited.

I even went a step further and stopped using paper tissues, which was great for the skin on my nose. I cut up several old shirts to use as napkins and tissues, and I bought a 34 pack of cheap, scrubby paper towels for wiping down counters and drying spills. I hung a bag to use as a cleaning-cloth-hamper on the wall of my kitchen. I was prepared. I was excited.

It went really, really well for a week or so, until a friend and I made cauliflower wings, and I realized that hot sauce on my cloth napkins was something I could not abide. And there were some other things – the grime behind my bathroom door, goat cheese, that I just felt I needed something disposable to clean. This is primarily because I don’t have access to my own washing machine, and secondarily because I happen to have obsessive compulsive disorder. Anxiety levels vary, but the fact that I wash everything by hand…not so much. Lacking a proper way to get the gross stuff – sometimes actual food pieces – out of my cleaning cloths, really was in some cases deal breaker for me. I ended up tossing out a few because of it.

But in other cases, cloth cleaning is perfect.

I still use cloth to dry damp counters, wipe up water spills and sometimes to clean sinks, floors and surfaces with soaps  baking soda or cleaning sprays. But I do not use them to clean up food, or anything particularly grimy. 

It’s a part-time compromise that allows me to decide when to use paper and when to use cloth, depending on my anxiety level.

So that’s where I am.

If you happen to be interested in eliminating or reducing paper from your house, I encourage you to try it! Let me know how it works out! 

A Recipe for Bad Money Weeks. (And how to eat well on a small budget.)

If you can’t buy groceries this week or if you find your food budget suddenly shrunken, this post is for you. Here you will find a recipe, and some other ideas for eating well on very little money. You can look up statistics on millenial poverty and the inadequacy of food stamp benefits on your own. Today it’s just practical advice.

This is a bean soup. It is cheap. It is filling. It can easily be vegan. And it tastes really, really good.

At least I think so.

No measurments here. Because, well, in this particular recipe they don’t actually matter. It’s less about precision and more about making whatever you have work- in a way that still manages to be tasty. It does presuppose that you have a few things…pepper, oil, boullion, access to clean water and a stock pot or similarly giant soup making vessel, but all in all you can make it with next to nothing, and it will fill you up with warmth and food and cozy feelings.
(I didn’t take any pictures while cooking today. I’m sorry. I’ll try to paint a picture with my words.)

Ingredients:

An onion, some dried beans, water, oil or another shortening, pepper, a little garlic powder, and some boullion.

That’s it. You might think such a sparse list of ingredients wouldn’t yeild a hearty meal, but it does. Oh, it does. Trust me there.

Here’s how you do it:

First and foremost, soak some dried beans. You can do this overnight or over a few hours, depending on how much time you have to actually cook the soup. Mixed beans (or “16 beans”) are the best for this soup, since they come in all shapes and colors and have some texture and flavor variety. You will need about half a bag.

Take your onion (i used a gigantic red onion, but any kind will do) and chop it into pieces. They can be as large or as small as you like, but i prefer to have bigger pieces, since they’ll add more color and shape to your soup.

Put your onions in your soup pot with a little oil, butter, or really any shortening you like and fry them until they are barely softened and perhaps a little browned, but not anywhere near mushy. Keep those guys a bit crisp.

Next, add as much water as you will need – depending on your pot- and a teaspoon of boullion paste. (I used Better than Boullion’s vegetable base, which happens to be vegan.) If you’re using a premade broth or a dried boullion cube, prepare your liquid soup base ahead of time.

Stir in your boullion, as much pepper as you like and anywhere from 1-3 teaspoons of garlic powder. At this point you should start to see it turn into soup. Add the beans, turn down your heat, and simmer forever. I cooked mine for about two hours.

There will be bubbles and perhaps some foam on the top. It won’t hurt you (it’s a normal bean thing), but feel free to get rid of it if you want. Stir occasionally and taste to see if you want to add any spices.

When the beans are soft enough to eat, it’s done. If all goes well you’ll have a somewhat thick, brown soup full of gorgeous beans and softened onions. It will taste as good as it looks (or better, depending on your definition of comfort food).

And that’s it! You have a full pot of 2-5 meals, depending on the size of your family. Enjoy♡.

Tips & variations: More beans = more food, since they are the most filling part. Adding cloves of fresh garlic to your onion sautee is delicious (just skip the garlic powder). Mushrooms also taste amaaazing  when added at this step. Rice or barley would be a great way to give it a little more heart. Canned tomatoes, diced or pureed, will shift the flavor a bit if that’s your thing 

Some other tips for eating well, inexpensively:

  • Lentils. Lentils!! LENTILS. They are tasty, inexpensive and good in soups, salads and wraps as well as alone. 
  • Pasta. A broke-young-person stereotype for a reason. Always keep a few boxes in the back of your cupboard.
  • Couscous. It grows exponentially when you cook it, and a box is cheap and usually serves two.
  • Frozen vegetables. There are real possibilities here, if you can stop steaming them plain. Frozen corn can become cajun with some butter and spices. Squash or zucchini can be roasted. Carrots are wonderful with a little butter, honey and parsley. Stir fry mix, with a little effort, can actually become a spicy noodle dish. You are missing out, friends.
  • Frozen fruit. Sounds terrible. But frozen fruit actually come in a lot more variety than you think, and maintains its texture if you thaw it corrwctly. Put frozen mangoes and blueberries in your yogurt, make strawberry smoothies- either with a blender, or a fork and some determination, put  mixed berries on your pancakes. It’s good for you.
  • And the usual tips: buy in bulk, less packaging is cheaper, try the store brand, use coupons, etcetera. These common wisdoms are not baseless, they do work.

Do you have any thoughts, tips or opinions? Let me know in the comments.

Spring Projects: The New Washing Machine

I’ve always dreaded doing laundry. I’m one to accumulate heaps of dirty clothes in shockingly brief periods of time, only to do more stressing about it than cleaning. So when I learned that my new apartment wouldn’t have a laundry room, I made a resolution to rethink my process of dealing with my dirty clothes.

First, I did a purging of that laundry pile – I put on Archer and discarded a metric ton of old and worn pajamas, crappy socks, ripped tights, and day clothes that no longer felt like they matched my aesthetic. This article and a few others like it helped me assuage the guilt that (at least for me) always comes with getting rid of old clothes.

Then, I bought this:

It’s a tool for actually making machine-less laundry practical and doable, and it cost me $25. $30 if you count the plastic tub I bought at walmart to do my washing in. And it’s awesome.

I’ve washed a myriad of things so far- towels, delicates, sweatpants – and I can vouch that they’re just as clean as when I used a machine to wash them. And the whole process is freeee. No trips to the parents’ house or weird monetary alchemy required to turn debit cards into quarters.

Majorly important for me, however, is that it’s taken the anxiety out of doing laundry, and given me control over how my clothes are washed. I don’t intend to pull damaged or shrunken clothes out of archaic driers ever again.

So, on to the tutorial:

You will need a bathtub, one breathing mobile washer, some laundry soap or baking soda, and a plastic basin big enough to fill with water and clothes (using your entire bathtub is an option, but if your tub is old or hasn’t just been cleaned, your clothes will be soaking in whatever is stuck to the sides).

1. Fill the plastic tub with water and a very little bit of soap- much less than you’d put in a machine. I use about a teaspoon per load, and usually put it in first so that it mixes well with the running water. Depending on how big your container is, adjust accordingly.

2. Splash it around to get some bubbles going, and put in your clothes. Mix them around a bit, and let them soak for 15 or 20 minutes, or about the length of a half hour netflix show.

3. This is the fun part. Once they’ve soaked, take your mobile washer and put it on the surface of the water, then plunge down. Again. And again. This will take some effort if you’re out of shape like I am, but it’s a free workout!

If your clothes are really dirty or if at any time the water looks gross, feel free to dump it out and refresh, then keep washing. You can repeat this step as many times as it takes, but it really should only take one vigorous wash or a few gentle ones (be nice to your delicates!) to get everything clean.

 

4. Rinse. I’ve found that it’s best to do this in your plastic tub as running your clothes under the faucet can stretch them. Just fill your tub with clear water, and rinse out each item until the soap is out. You might have to rinse, dump and refill if it’s a big load.

5. Hang them to dry! Carefully and gently squeeze out most of the water – consequences from roughly wringing out some sweatpants proved to me this part is essential- and hang them im a way that supports the item’s shape. The top of a drying rack is good for shirts or sweaters that might stretch when hung vertically. You can also lay fragile garments out on a towel, preferably near an air vent or fan.

6. Drying will take so time, so be sure you have clothes to wear in the meantime.

7. Celebrate the fact that you’ve just done laundry the old fashioned / green / frugal / minimalist/ [insert trend here] way, make some tea and relax.

♡♡

I actually really love doing laundry this way. It’s somehow calming to me, and it eliminates a lot of stress that I would ordinarily have in dealing with layndry. I may have wet clothes hanging in embarrassing places – like the top of a giant box I’ve yet to recycle- but that’s a small price to pay for a simple laundry process that doesn’t overcomplicate my life or aggravate my presently miniscule budget.

This is the first of a series of revolutions in how I live, clean, and manage my life. Stay tuned for more practical-green-frugal-&-sorta-minimalist posts.

 

 

 

 

Priorities / I don’t need anything I don’t want to need.

I’m broke. 

Things have just worked out that way. It’s been the case for some months, but it’s truly hit a new low. A good low.

(Yes, it’s terrible sometimes, bursts of occasional horrifying anxiety spirals, oft brought on by awful legislation proposals, but) I really prefer and love the way I’ve been living. I’m thinking far more carefully about how I spend my money, and I’ve reached a conclusion that’s the literal antithesis of everything I was ever taught. And it’s simplified the hell out of everything. Erased a lot of difficult questions from my mind.

I don’t actually need most of the things a person is supposed to need.

I have always, always hated spending money on necessities. Those expensive or frequently-replaced items that add no real (color? happiness? dare I say fun?) to my life but seem to sap my bank account alarmingly quickly. It’s. ..sad. To watch money you could be using for a this-is-why-I’m-alive experience slip away for the sake of something you buy because you should. But I have no children. I don’t own a car. I live alone. So in a lot of ways, I’m able to be quite flexible. 

And I would much rather put my money into something that makes my life a little richer -a concert, a book, lunch with my best friend. Some good tea or a really quality lipstick. Those things matter to me, and the less money I have, the more I want to spend it on things that feel like investments – in self care, in experience, in moments that feel good.

_________

I can’t afford a microwave. Or rather, I’m not willing to shell out that much money for a kitchen appliance I can technically go without. My new place didn’t come with one, so I looked at some blogs to be sure there were other ways to heat up food and make frozen things unfrozen. There are. 

For the past week I’ve been sleeping on the floor of my new bedroom, my top half bundled in blankets and the rest of me stuffed into an $8 sleeping bag my best friend bought me. And I’ve really been enjoying it. It’s surprisingly comfortable, I sleep better than I did before. So why waste the equivalent of my rent – money I truly cannot spare- on a mattress when I have this cozy space I’ve cultivated ?

My laptop recently succumbed to its charging issues. That’s okay, my tablet works. I want to take dance classes, but I’ve been practicing ballet in the empty room at the back of the house and  I love  it. The lack of clutter. The single aloe plant. One me. One screen with a youtube tutorial on it. It’s nice. 

I don’t have any chairs, but I’ve been sitting under my big front windows, coloring, listening to podcasts, unworried. I feel good here, without any furniture yet or any of the decorative nonsense I couldn’t get in the move, stuff I’d previously felt obligated to find space for simply because I owned it.

I honestly don’t want much more in my home than what little is already here. Living without some of the things people would say I need has opened up space in my world, and in my budget, for the things that I really want.

So, without further ado – here’s my blueprint for the the next several months. Commence the experiment.

Things I’m Not Going To Buy

  • A Microwave or a Toaster (a cheap toaster oven or just the oven should do)
  • A Bed (cute bargain area rug to replace the quilt I’m using as a base, a few throw pillows and all the blankets I’m currently under)
  • A Couch (ENORMOUS BEAN BAG SQUISH – yes they do exist, yes it is way cheaper, yes I am 100% trying it.)
  • A Full Set Of Dishes (Just a few plates and bowls will cut down on dishes.)
  • Paper Towels (I go through so many of these. I can’t wait to replace them with reusable cleaning cloths)
  • Cleaning Chemicals (Ew, major OCD trigger. I’ve already long since traded these in for vinegar and baking soda and lemon juice.)
  • Washing Machines (I’ll only be taking my towels and pajamas to the laundromat, and I’ll be doing the rest in the tub.)
  • Meat (I’ve wanted to fully go veg for a long while, plus meat is frustrating to cook and damn expensive)

Things I Am Going To Buy (when I’m able)

  • Some new bras, first and foremost
  • Meals with friends
  • Tickets to Concerts/Live Podcast Shows/Musicals/The Museum I now live down the street from
  • A few new pieces for my tired wardrobe
  • Treats and candy for adventures and depression days
  • Fun, unexpected experiences

    So, here goes a lifestyle I think might lack some of the stress I’ve been carrying around.

    Also, you know. For The Aesthetic.

    ♡.