Gifts, the dilemma of dilemmas for aspiring minimalists! Giving, receiving – it all becomes fraught.
Personally, I wouldn’t be without gifts at Christmas. I love watching my Dad trying to guess all his gifts before opening them, and seeing my Mum coming into the room late in the day having just found that gift she bought for me months ago and had stashed in a “safe place”.
But then there is the other side – the gag toilet seat golf set from Secret Santa or another hand cream. You do your best to keep things minimal all year, only to be defeated by Christmas clutter creep.
Warning: This post DOES NOT contain affiliate links. My holiday essentials aren’t something you can buy in a shop.
Christmas – you’ve probably noticed that it’s approaching fast. Here in New Zealand, we don’t have Thanksgiving and we don’t really have Halloween, so the shops have been waiting for Christmas since Fathers’ Day in September.
Some people love Christmas, some people hate it. I oscillate between the two. Generally, I enjoy Christmas day, but can’t stand all the hoopla of the whole holiday season. I’m not Christian (or religious at all), so it can be a challenge to find meaning in Christmas beyond consumerism – gifts and food, and lots of them. Not to knock gifts and food, but if you’re looking for real joy in Christmas, gifts and food alone isn’t going to do it.
Christmas is a challenge to my more minimalist and anti-consumerism values. But that’s not a bad thing, because preparing for Christmas prompts me to pause, reflect and clarify my intentions. That leads to my must haves for mindful and meaningful Christmas. Continue reading “My must haves this Christmas”
It is Friday, so it’s time to check in about my food waste over the last fortnight.
I am pleased to report that last week was another zero food-waste week, however unfortunately this week we wasted half a scoop of chips. It was a classic case of our eyes being bigger than our stomachs when ordering at the local fish and chip shop. My husband diligently cleaned up and threw them out before I managed to make a move to save them. I was going to try to reheat them the next day – they’d probably be quite soggy I’d imagine!
Unpacking my groceries this morning reminded me how much I use my freezer to reduce my food waste. This week’s shopping included more frozen food than average as we’d run out of a few things at once. We have always frozen our bread but since we bought a large freezer about two years ago I have used it to freeze an increasing range of things, especially seasonal fruit. I also use the freezer a for batch food preparation, like making a huge pot of chilli and using it as a base for several meals. I often cook up and freeze veggies, like pumpkin and broccoli, which I freeze in small quantities to sneak into my son’s (and my husband’s) meals.
This is my first go at freezing butter. I don’t usually buy much butter, but it was short dated and selling at half price. When I saw the butter advertised via social media I was impressed by more than the price – the supermarket also mentioned that butter freezes well. I often think supermarket specials, especially multi-buys, contribute to the household food waste problem, so it was great to see my local supermarket being responsible and helpful.
How was the food waste situation at your place this week? How do you use your freezer to reduce your food waste?
It is Food Waste Friday and I’m pleased to say that being accountable for my waste is making a real difference.
I got asked a great question this week (thanks Pip): “Have you found that doing it in public has helped more than just giving yourself a stern talking to?”.
The answer is a big YES. Obviously, going public is highly motivating, but there is more to it than that. Before starting this project, I felt guilty about my waste, but harsh self-criticism and bad feelings weren’t making much of a difference. Now when I waste food, I don’t feel as bad about it. I know I’ve made a good effort to reduce my waste and I use it as a learning opportunity to improve my systems.
And it is working! This week I’m happy to report zero food waste – until this happened.
I had my groceries delivered via online shopping this morning. Unfortunately a jar of roasted capsicums broke en-route to our place.
I seriously considered emptying the contents of the jar into a sieve and giving it a good rinse. However, I really don’t want to risk feeding my family glass. That might take my mission to reduce waste a bit too far. Maybe if the jar was just cracked, but it was actually smashed. So, unfortunately, it had to go in the bin.
I used to use online shopping for groceries regularly when my son was a newborn. Now, I only use it once every couple of months. Today, it was because we really needed food and my husband had the car all day for a meeting in an out-of-the-way location.
I have noticed that when I buy my groceries online I always spend less. This isn’t because it’s cheaper, but because I buy less. It is much less tempting to pop extras into my online shopping cart than my in-store one. It got me thinking that online shopping might be a good tool for people who regularly over-buy due to in-store temptation.
Welcome to Food Waste Friday. This week, I fell victim to the supermarket’s super-marketers.
First, the good news. The system I implemented last week – designating a shelf in the fridge for items that need to be used up ASAP – is working well. All leftovers, half used jars of tomato paste, etc., were used up.
The bad news –1 ¼ heads of broccoli in the bin. I went to steam and puree it on Monday (in an attempt to save it) but it was too far gone. This was a clear case of “bargain blinkers”. Broccoli wasn’t on my shopping list, but I couldn’t resist it at a bargain two for $3. Wow, I could save $1 by buying two! So I did, but I barely used any of it – really, I wasted $2 and a lot of broccoli.
I am curious how my food waste stacks up against the average, so I’m going to estimate the value of each item that goes to waste and see how it tallies up.
Planning and routine
I received some excellent tips from readers about reducing food waste. Two things shone through for me – planning and routine.
I now have a designated spot in the fridge for things that need to be used urgently. I wanted somewhere prominent, to keep “at risk” items front of mind. I chose the bottom shelf, on top of the vegetable crisper. I am also training myself to put things into the fridge so that their expiry date can be seen.
Based on this week’s waste, I’m going to add a more thorough check of the fruit bowl to my routine too.
Save of the week
I had half a head of cabbage sitting in the crisper starting to look sad. I saved it by making a batch of Cabbage, carrot and caraway broth from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage: Light & Easy. Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t published online, but it’s a simple mix of cabbage, carrot, onions and stock – great for cleaning out the fridge and perfect for the cold snap we had this week.
However, my best save was at the grocery store this afternoon. Kiwifruit was on sale for a mere $1.98 a kilo. I was tempted to buy some, but I decided against it after remembering the one I threw out this morning. I wanted to buy it more because it was cheap than because I wanted it. So it stayed on the shelves – it’s not a bargain if it’s just going to end up in the bin.
How did you go with your food waste this week? Do you have any good fridge-clearing recipes to share?
My decluttering has really ramped up over the last week. I am still amazed by the amount of junk I have stashed away. While my house doesn’t look much different, the kitchen especially is a lot easier to use.
Freedom from the freebies
As I decluttered over the last three weeks, I’ve been struck by the amount of stuff in the house I acquired for free. It is now clear to me that all this free stuff has a cost.
I have come across various categories of free stuff in my cupboards and drawers:
giveaways and promotional freebies (eg. coffee mugs emblazoned a with logo, stickers, pins and bags)
stuff that was included with other stuff I bought (eg. A measuring cup and spoon that came with a rice cooker and a potato spiral maker)
stuff that has been passed on to me by someone else (eg. half my kitchen items and most of my craft things)
gifts (I think gifts will get a whole post of its own!).
I am fortunate, as a lot of what I consider to be essential items have been given to me and saved me a lot of money. Then there are the non-essential but potentially useful items.
My (former) slow cooker was one of those. I thought it would be really useful and I gave it a premium spot in my kitchen cupboard. However, I got it out more times to get to the special-occasions-only glass jug behind it than to cook with. Turns out I’m just not a slow cooker.
The lure of free
Then there are the more random things (coffee art stencils), the just plain useless things (bobble heads) and the things that would be useful if you didn’t already have 100 of them (promotional reusable shopping bags).
This got me thinking – what is it about free stuff? Why do I feel compelled to bring it into my home?
It is like we are hardwired to want free stuff – just because it’s free, no matter what it is. If there is something free on offer and I miss out on it, I feel disappointed and annoyed. Free stuff evokes a weird mix of feelings – both entitlement and gratitude.
I have a large pile of packaging sitting around. I had been saving it to redeem points on the products to get free stuff. I might get two or three free children’s books a year from doing this. I would never buy these books, as we have plenty of much better children’s books and use the local library heavily. Plus, the free books aren’t great quality so my son tears them easily. But no! I have been wasting time on redeeming points because it’s free stuff and I don’t want to miss out! Well, no more. If I wouldn’t buy it why accept it for free?
Not taking it
That is the lesson I learnt this week – it’s the stuff that I don’t buy that contributes most to my clutter. If I’m going to stop the clutter creep, it’s not just my spending I have to watch, it’s my accepting of free stuff. I need to get more discerning and practice saying thanks but no thanks.
Do you find it hard to resist a free offer? What is the stupidest freebie accepted recently?