Simply Living: Avoiding Plastic Baggies and Bottles.

no plastics
Today’s challenge deals with plastic.

Plastic bags and I don’t get along. Same with plastic bottles. I just can’t stand them.

Many people have already embraced carrying their own water bottles and cloth bags around, but what about other forms of plastic waste, like the little plastic sandwich baggies? And how much do you really pay attention to your consumption of plastic bags and bottles? Even writing this post made me think about the few plastic bags that have somehow made their way into my kitchen. (Yikes!)

They contribute to so much waste. That alone is a reason to avoid them.

After volunteering at a Green Festival nearly five years ago and stumbling across Eco Lunch Gear, I decided to stop buying and using plastic baggies. I had stopped using plastic groceries bags shortly before that. My cabinet is filled with cloth bags of different sizes, mesh produce bags, cloth sandwich wraps, a few cloth snack bags, and assorted jars/containers. I also have a cute pink shopping tote that can be reduced to a little ball (very similar to this one) that says, “I have multiple organics” on it. Cashiers are bewildered when I pull cloth out of my pocket and unravel it into a bag. (Sometimes it is used as the bag to hold my clothes after the gym, too.) With so many stores and businesses now encouraging use of cloth bags, buying bulk foods, and glass containers, it is much easier to find alternate ways to carry and store things.

Kick the plastic bottle habit by:

  • investing in a water filter for your kitchen sink instead of buying purified water.
  • drinking straight tap water.
  • having a couple reusable water bottles on hand. have one bottle in each place if needed — one at work, one at home, one in the car. it’s better than throwing out plastic bottles all the time.
  • stop drinking soda and other beverages sold in plastic bottles. they’re probably not good for you anyway.
  • in the case that you do wind up with a plastic bottle, refill it over and over until you just can’t use it anymore.

Avoid using plastic bags and baggies by:

  • bringing reusable cloth bags with you to the store
  • using glass jars and storage containers
  • storing sandwiches and similar foods in cloth wraps
  • buying or making snack bags for loose snacks like nuts, etc.
  • keeping some of these bags and containers in your vehicle/bag in case you need to make a last-minute purchase and left everything at home
  • being creative with storage solutions
  • putting purchased items in your purse or carrying them in your hands (if possible) instead of in a bag. oftentimes, I tell cashiers that I don’t need a bag.

Unfortunately, plastic bags still make their way into my home. What to do with them?

  • reuse, reuse, reuse! use the same bags over and over until you can’t anymore.
  • give them to a dog owner. many people with dogs go through dozens of bags.
  • use them to line smaller garbage cans.
  • recycle them! visit plastic bag recycling to find some drop-off locations near you. many store chains will also accept clean plastic bags into their own specified recycling areas.

How do you avoid using plastic bags and bottles?

Simply Living: Cooking Without A Microwave.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about all the progress I’ve made in the past couple years towards this happier, lighter life. Back when I consciously started making choices to align with these values, it seemed like a huge task. So much to get rid of! So much to change! So much to do! But I did it. And I’m still doing it. And I still have a lot more to go. It’s just been one step at a time. Another goal to cross off. One more day. Then days go by and boom – life has changed. Life will change again tomorrow. I love it!
I wanted to create a blog series of challenges with these steps called “simply living.” Each post will offer a challenging step that you can take to move towards a simpler, happier life. You can find all the challenges in the simply living page. The process is slow, and might be difficult, but the results are great.

Today, I’m focusing on microwaves.

I haven’t had a microwave for about three years now. Although I always knew there wasn’t something right about radio waves heating up food unevenly over the years, I didn’t think twice about it. Everyone I knew had one growing up and no one seemed to blame the microwave for anything. Bagged popcorn was delicious, TV dinners were consumed regularly, and warming up leftovers was a snap. Then I read something about how microwaves change the chemical structure of your food and is overall, pretty darn unhealthy and unsafe. (Want to know more? Check out this article.) I decided to chuck the microwave and pursue other forms of eating and cooking food. I haven’t looked back since.

If you haven’t already considered breaking up with your microwave, I strongly urge you to do so. Now. Get rid of it. If it’s the kind that’s built-in to the kitchen, cover it up with a lot of duct-tape or a curtain or your children’s art. Hide it somehow.

Nowadays, I consume more whole foods than I used to but I made this guide friendly for people who are transitioning from a diet filled with fast food and/or regular microwave use. Ready to eat healthier? Here we go. These are some tips I have for you based on my own experience in a microwave-free kitchen. Feel free to add some of your own in the comments!!

1. Find alternate ways to heat your food.

stove

When I first started living without a microwave, I still had a couple TV dinners sitting in my fridge. I hate letting food go to waste (although TV dinners don’t really feel like real food), so I looked at the box and discovered cooking directions for a conventional oven! The oven took a little longer, but the food tasted so much better. Who knew!?

  • Use a pot or pan on the stove. If I need to reheat anything, that’s mainly what I use. Add a little water inside the pot if needed to loosen up food and avoid having it stick and burn to the pan. Dried out food doesn’t re-heat well. I repeat: add water!
  • Use the oven. Invest in a small baking sheet and place items (leftover pizzas, etc.) that you want to heat up on them. Put in the oven for a few minutes. Enjoy. I toast bread by placing them directly on the racks and watching until it’s toasted the way I like it.
  • Toaster ovens are good too. I don’t like toaster ovens because I believe it’s not necessary when a regular oven can do the same thing. But hey, it’s smaller than an oven and better than a microwave!
  • Use a kettle. Don’t heat up your water for coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. in a microwave. Boil water in a kettle and get hot water in minutes. If your drink becomes cold after you’ve left it sitting out for too long (I’ve had too many people tell me they need to re-heat their coffees in the microwave), just pour in a little more hot water to bring to desired temperature.

Some suggestions of alternate ways to heat popular food:

  • melting butter: melt butter in a small pot on the stove.
  • popping popcorn: pop kernels in a pot on the stove! it’s pretty amazing.
  • TV dinners: follow the box directions for using a conventional oven.
  • heating up milk/water/drinks: heat up in a kettle or in a pot on the stove.
  • defrosting food: place in the fridge hours before cooking. submerge in cold water.
  • baked potatoes: use the oven! they called baked potatoes.
  • ramen noodles: boil water in a kettle and add to noodles.

2. Eat cold food.

Ever had cold leftover pizza? It’s pretty good, isn’t it? Cold spaghetti? Not a problem — drizzle some Italian dressing on top and you’ve got a quick meal. Cold leftover veggies? Throw them in a smoothie and drink them down. OK, I’m kidding about that last one. But, really — sometimes you can eat previously-cooked food cold and it’s still delicious.

3. Incorporate menu planning into your life.

Think about what you eat. How often do you use a microwave? Why? Is there another meal you can eat instead that can be cooked in a short amount of time? Or how about something that doesn’t need to be heated up? You don’t have to plan elaborate meals, but having spaghetti for dinner every day is still better than throwing something in the microwave. (I really hope you are eating things other than spaghetti, though!) Planning ahead also allows you to consider adding healthier meals in your diet. Throwing together a salad takes very little time and your body loves it so much more than frozen crap heated up with radio waves. Check out The Simple Guide To Meal Planning for some more tips.

4. Cook smaller portions.

By cooking only the recommended servings of food, the chances of leftovers are pretty slim. Not only do you save uncooked food for future use, but you eliminate the potential necessity of heating up leftovers that can’t really be eaten cold.

5. Cook larger portions.

Wait, what? Yes. If you’re making something that can be served cold or heated up on the stove easily, make a bigger batch! Cooking something new every day and washing dishes all the time can become tiresome, so give yourself a break and make something that lasts a couple days. It’s always nice to have something already prepared when you’re in a hurry.

6. Experiment!

Play with your food. See what works. Be creative with the items in your pantry. Just try it out. You may hate it, or you may love it. But you never know until you try.

How’s your relationship with your microwave?