Archives

Day 24 : Pre & Post cooking work

Our food is now greatly simplified. We just eat salads for lunch and dinner every day. The vegetables vary, dressing remains the same. The prep time is very time consuming, may be not that bad if it comes down to 2-3 hours for 3 days’ worth of food. And then packing the food in containers layering it from one of the greens , quinoa/cracked wheat/brown rice,  lentils of variety (one type every week), two steamed vegetables ( carrots, broccoli, beets, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts), I shop for veggies every 3 days so that they do not sit in the refrigerator and escape my memory. I have been diligent about that lately as I often forget and throw out the veggies. Bringing in only when I plan to cook is greatly helping me.

This obviously entails cleaning of veggies, chopping them, steaming and packing the food in containers. And all of them should be done in a day. I have also stopped using canned products that requires me to perform additional two steps of soaking a day before and cooking them. But, that is a lot of work as I am greatly un-coordinated and inefficient in the way I organize my cooking. Additionally, I make spicy peanut powder inspired by one of my favorite chef’s recipe, along with dressing. These items all combined make up for a fulfilling meal and I cannot be happier to have found something that is sustainable. The dressing which is supposed to last for 3 days usually does not. I think we overdose ourselves greatly. Still, not very bad compared to my earlier days of trying to make homemade food. Let’s just say I am able to manage and see a scope for improvement on being more efficient with my energy and time.

When I have some time and mood for cooking, I make a simple Italian, Indian or Mexican dish to satiate my taste buds or find a new recipe to play with. Then comes the cleaning part, which is where I am still struggling with, I am trying to wash them off immediately but the constraint of storing wet dishes makes it challenging. I have timed it several times, the dishes are done under 10 minutes’ tops, but motivating myself to do that work takes hours of cajoling. Additional stress if I have guests over.  And that is why, I have not been keen on inviting anyone over. Sure, we can order food outside, but it undermines the whole idea of saving when we are tight on budget. It’s any day cheaper to cook healthy meals at home than eating outside.

This is partly bragging as well as ranting about the benefits and dis-advantages of homemade meals and where I stand. Hope you have ignored all my rants and took only positive aspects. After all, in America – those added sugars, salt, canned and refrigerated goods are neither tasty nor healthy anyway.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”  ~Hippocrates

Now, your turn – speak up about your cooking adventures.

Advertisements

Micro fiber cloths vs paper towels

Ever since I came to america, I was relieved to use paper towels for anything and everything. Growing up, we have used just cloth based for everything, one thing that was very handy when stepping out was “Handkerchiefs”, cotton clothes were used for all other necessities.  Fast forward to last decade, we use paper tissues for facial, bath room, cleaning kitchen, floor cleaning, spot cleaning, numerous paper towels were used while cooking/cleaning home. I use a lot. Ever since I started looking at reducing trash, minimalism or becoming responsible for our environment, I have been paying attention to the amount of  paper I consume in my day-to-day life and have conscious decision to reduce the usage and replace it with clothes.

So, in an attempt to reduce my current usage to even further, not only have I started using my old cotton clothes, but also ended up ordering color coded micro-fiber clothes to further aid my decision in cleaning and reinforce re-usability and reduce paper waste. The whole process feels like – been there,done that and conscious decision to go back to my roots with the knowledge gained. Back then, there was no option, now there is a choice and I am choosing more environment friendly option.

I am sure, going back to inconveniences is not something fun, but I am trying to reduce, recycle and reuse things. That way, hopefully some day, I will have minimum amount of things to maintain and deal with. Also, I do not foresee forgoing paper usage, instead, I will research and buy compost able paper towels. Any suggestions here?

I am still discovering all the areas where I could use micro fibers for it’s efficiency. Your suggestions are valuable.

Embracing green living continues… stay tuned as I take steps in those directions.

Path to chemical free life style..

I have been spending numerous hours of time reading and watching videos to educate myself with making my own home made chemical free products. Almost everything that we consume this day are constituted of toxin including food. It baffles me to no end that how in the name of comfort that we ended up here. The body wash/soap, laundry detergent, beauty products, home cleaning products, bath products, food products and almost everything under the sun are contaminated with harmful chemicals. The realization hit me gradually.

From the day I moved to small home – I started questioning about accrued material possessions, and ever since, I have been very conscious of my purchases and It has drastically brought down my shopping habits. That led me to plastic-free phase- I got rid of 80% of my plastic utensils at home, I still need to let go of teflon coated dishes, oh and please let me know if you better suggestions. I still use lot of plastic in day-to-day life, it is slow but I am trying to be conscious and this requires bit of planning. Most of my plastic waste comes from impromptu-grocery-shopping and take-out food. It then led me to composting food to produce less waste – and now I am trying to go as much natural as possible.

In that attempt, I have created my very own body lotion out of all natural ingredients and feel proud of it. I have been using it for a week, I must say it has been great so far. Very moisturizing and I kind of got used to the smell. My next step is currently scattered in all different directions. Few areas I am trying to tackle head on with natural ingredients.

  1. Bath room cleaning products
  2. Beauty products – includes deodorant, eyeliner, mascara, foundation cream, blush and make up powder.
  3. Cleaning dishes – I still have not figured out this one yet and not sure if I ever will (one suggestion that I found which I am very concerned that it might clog the drain – in the past my grand parents used to wash their dishes with ash produced when cooking with woods, scrub was coconut coir/fiber – it is the exact same suggestion that i found online) – rest of them were mostly borax/baking soda and castile soap related – isn’t there any other better way to do this?
  4. All purpose cleaner for kitchen related  and floor cleaning.
  5. Laundry detergent
  6. The most important – tooth paste, body wash, face wash, hand wash and hair wash.
  7. Food – now this hard being in east coast. Farmers markets are done for the season. But, the conscious effort to eat meals completely prepared by not using processed seems to be in right direction. Almost there, but life is not easy!

You may think, why not buy eco-friendly natural products – a. They are way too expensive, b. Since, natural ingredients usually has less shelf life, it requires me to buy it more often. c. Fresh is always better. d. I feel great.

Anyone out there, who are currently doing their own products? If so, I would love to hear your suggestions. It definitely seems like a lot of effort, but definitely worth it for our own sanity to protect our-self from being exposed to such harsh chemicals.

And you dear readers, please make conscious effort and decline chemicals in your day to day life. Not only will it harm you, but the environment is getting damaged. During this process of education myself, I read some where that they schools from primary education are offering environmental classes. I could not be happier. But, how about us? why do not they consider, that they have discounted-work-shops for environmental awareness by government in respective communities to education people like us? I take that back – they would not – for simple reason, how can they make business – it is all one big political-business-survival drama!

The onus is on us to do what ever we can to protect ourselves as much as we could. What do you think?

Wardrobe rental and facebook

.. no, I am not renting any of my wardrobe. But, this idea lingered in my mind forever. I have thought about it several times, and shared with few of my close knit social group about how each of us buy and get bored so quickly and it would be great to be able to rent it out. Especially, with my Indian clothes. They are so beautiful, expensive and unique that it stands out. If rented among neighborhood, the chances of people choosing the same attire will be high, not a very practical approach and the liability for the damaged expensive clothes were higher.

This wardrobe rental ad that popped up in my facebook suggested ad is the reason behind this post. Whenever, I thought about something, it usually showed up as though it was a miracle. I thought, the facebook uses a caching and cookie reading ability in my browser to see what I am browsing, searching and based upon that it will suggest. After all, facebook is one of the very few top social medias to have more personal information about people across the world. Is that not scary enough, that someone is watching over what you do on the internet?  Recently, facebook phone app did introduce another feature, which is by default turned on is to record your conversations that you have. It is taking the advantage of your phone’s in-built microphone and is passively active in recording what you speak all the time. The recorded conversation is then ran through their algorithm and the ads are aimed to facebook users accordingly. As much as I admire at it’s brilliance, and I am impressed with their creativity of spying on voice chats and come up with a way to advertise the products, I am equally eerie about not having sense of any privacy. Please beware of this, and if you are concerned, then you can turn it off as well. In the future, it would be your smart TV that has inbuilt microphone. As such, all public email services use your text conversations to suggest the ads. Watch out. They are not harmful in anyway, it is good to be aware of what you use.

I digress, this wardrobe rental, have a free trial for 30 days and have various pricing plans to choose from depending on your need. I believe, this might be useful for people who love the variety of clothes for affordable pricing. And most importantly, I feel, there will be no clutter, rather, no accumulation of clothes. Want to know how it works ?.

Please note: I did not use this, I am just marveling at this idea that came into practicality and how it was suggested on my facebook. Also, there might have been services that were there before, but that did not come under my radar, I am not sure if this fits my-not-so-much-fashion-sense-minimalist-life-style.

And I found this news article on bbc about how apps spy on people. Click here to read.

Do you see such ads showing up on your social media sites? And what do you think about wardrobe rental?

Baby steps – minimalist wardrobe

If you were my regular blog reader, you probably know, how I have been suffering from excess-ism and also trying to be minimalist in many areas. The shopping freeze that I have and with numerous clothes that were accumulated over past few years, despite getting rid as much as possible, giving away, I find myself with lot more clothes that were hard to part with leaving me with congested closet. I came across this un-fancy blog few months back and loved the idea of having only seasonal clothes available in the closet and been trying to implement since then.

The procrastinator in me, delayed it for longest time possible. Travelling and staying out of my home for a day or two gives me a much needed break to formulate some of my pending, long-wished plans to solidify. So, as soon as I came back home this evening, I marched straight into my closet with “under-the-bed-box” bags that I purchased couple of weeks ago. Got all my fall & winter clothes including night-dresses from closet and packed them and kept them out of sight. That still leaves me with lot of clothes, but it looks way more manageable than it was before. I love it, my idea is, when fall begins, I would slowly be swapping my summer clothes to fall, then fall to winter and that way, I keep track of one-in-one-into-box or into good will bag. I hope this makes me feel a lot better when I look at clothes in my closet.

Have you ever done something like this? Switching to seasonal clothes on need basis?

un-fancy capsule wardrobe

Just when I thought, I am done with organizing my closet and put a freeze on purchasing for 2 years, I came across an interesting website. As I still suffer from excessism (did I just invent this term??, not really, google tells me that there is quite a bit of usage of this term), this website gave me a beautiful idea.

This website un-fancy.com will help me solve my problem in some way – she is a minimalist, fashionista, not an extremist. She has her 37-piece capsule wardrobe for every season. She has a budget and buys her clothes every season if required. Once the season ends, she packs most of them away, roll over to next season or gives it away if they are bit worn out.

I just loved her concept, not that I will follow her 37 piece concept, but I liked the idea of dividing my clothes into seasons. I will take it up once I am done with high-level of de-cluttering around the home.

One step at a time. Just the concept makes me feel good about having to choose from less.

Cleaninggggg

Yes, I am stuck at cleaning the home forever. I just feel like, there is never ending session of organizing, getting rid of stuff and most importantly cleaning. It is exhausting. You might say – what’s the big deal in cleaning isn’t?

For me, the very thought of cleaning home is daunting. I think of 100 things to clean and want to actually deep clean, then in turn it gets delayed for ever. For instance, if I were to clean kitchen this weekend (which I am right now), I need to organize pantry, clean greasy dishes/bottles/stove tops, microwave inside out, fridge inside out, cabinets – re-organize all the dishes, oven – this is in worse condition, thanks to our previous one’s who lived here, it is so dirty that I have been researching quite a bit as to how to handle that. Stove tops are worse. I just couldn’t get the gunk out with my numerous attempts at washing them. Oh.. the cabinet corners are dirty and I need to find a way to clean them and bring back the shine. To top it all, kitchen floor is mostly white, how do you clean linoleum floor eh? I tried bleach, it got better, but it has to be cleaned very regularly.

I took this as an opportunity, to get rid of most of the duplicate dishes. I could not be happier. I tried finding a place and hopefully, I’ll maintain those things in place. I like the clean and clutter free places, but mine seems to be a long way.  I do not know how and why and all it started.. may be it’s just that I feel, most of my weekends go into organizing, re-organizing, cleaning and cycle repeats that stops me from enjoying the summer time doing something that re-rejuvenates me is missing. This is the only topic that I have lately been talking at work, with strangers, neighbors, family, friends. Guess what, of course they are not interested in hearing the same story on repeat from me? I think, dream, live and basically obsessed with cleaning-organizing-leading-a-clutter-free-life. At times, I feel helpless, exhausted, mentally drained and yet I fail to wrap it up fast enough.

I do not even want to talk about living/bed/ storage room.  I am dreaded to even think about tackling them. The problem with me is, I have no artistic vision, I appreciate the homes that are tastefully decorated but I fail in that area. I panic the moment I see the stuff flowing into the home.

Thankfully, I have addressed the closet area, and put a stop to purchasing clothes all together. So, I have a hope.. some day, one day in the near future, I will have a clutter free, organized clean home.

Dear you, I know your homes must be bigger, and have children, or many people in the home – how do you live a relaxed life? how do you manage your chores? I would be interested in hearing your daily/weekly/monthly maintenance activities to have a clean and organized home.

Goals

Having goals is one thing and reaching them is altogether a different ball game. I love to have goals; after all they will help you grow as a person.  Some of the goals, that I am planning to achieve in next few months, that I believe will not only change current lifestyle but also makes us more environmental & health conscious person.

Goal 1: Eat fresh home prepared meals.

I have signed up for CSA farm share and I will be receiving bi-weekly organically grown vegetables directly from the farm. I do not have a say on what I would get as part of that package. They all will be fresh and directly from the farm. For people who are not aware of CSA farm share is – it is community supported agriculture, where we pre-pay the farmers to farm their lands. Give the farmers loan and expect fresh veggies in return.

Last year, I tried one bag and it lasted for about 2 weeks. They were mostly green leaf veggies and I had to find ways to make it edible for me.  Also, there is considerable amount of work – the veggies are directly from farm and needs a good wash. It is quite some work.  Plus, the veggies are not only expensive, but will go bad soon, so you are forced to prepare them fresh.

Goal 2: Compost all that can be composted

We have a tiny little back yard, so we sure can make use of this composting.  I need to upgrade my knowledge in this area.  There is a long way to go.

Goal 3: Produce very little trash

In my earlier posts, I did mention about few people who produce almost-nil-trash.  Of all the goals, this will be the most difficult to achieve and it might be the slowest and hardest of all. It requires lots of discipline, especially with all-plastic-packages-everywhere. I have to use my re-usable bags, pouches to store veggies (I am planning to make from my old-t-shirts), find convenient places that offers non-plastic like whole foods to buy lentils from, prepare our own bread, eventually get rid of all plastic containers and have only glass or steel ones.

Goal 4: Grow few vegetables in a garden

Learning to gardening is challenging. It took plenty of my energy to just pluck the weeds out. Sowing seeds and growing plants wasn’t that easy. I failed at it miserably and my timing of shifting was not good. So I plan to learn.

Goal 5: To write the weekly status update on this blog.

Goal 6: the most important of all, to follow through the above list of goals.

Dear readers: I would greatly appreciate your valuable inputs & provide if any website links that will help me find better ways to achieve any/all of the above goals.

Unwanted Inheritance

This was sitting in my drafts that I wrote 6 months back and never got around to complete and publish it.

***

I just read an article about offsprings are declining the “unwanted stuff offered” collected by baby boomers.

Read the article here.

I suffer from “de-cluttering” syndrome.  America is driven by consumerism. Growing up, I have had very few dresses and and we were never trained to hold onto stuff. My mom gave away all our stuff regularly, either to cousins, neighbors or maids or even to exchange clothes with something useful – mostly new kitchen utensils. And my mother was so good at taking care of things, even the oldest possible thing is in great condition. We still have those bamboo stick chairs in mint condition. They condition it every year and they are so comfortable to sit in. I was never interested in buying things and my mother along with her sisters would shop for me that I would be happy to wear them without any complains.

The day I knew that I will be travelling to america, I went on a shopping spree and got quite a number of clothes that would have lasted life time, if only I stayed that slim and “not cared about current fashion trend”. The real pain started after I got my first pay check – the shopping started there and it has never really ended (I try hard to not shop). American market is all about consumerism. Sale every where, the favorite past time is spending time in malls and drinking that expensive starbucks and caribou coffee. That is the trend back then among my peers and cousins.

I digress,  recently I went to a baby shower party, there were all generations of people. During the gift-opening-ceremony (and people going “awwww…” over every gift opened – entitles for another post), I ended up striking a conversation with a person of my previous generation about how nice to have some things inherited, especially the kids stuff from sibling or a cousin with older kids. The lady tried to pass on some of the home & kitchen furniture to her kids. Her kids have outright refused to accept it. She says – the current generation prefers minimal things and want to lead a simpler life.

It got me thinking – really? I feel, the cost of living has gone up. Affording a huge home, ergo inheriting furniture is out of question, especially with not-so-stable-ever-moving jobs. I am not surprised why some people would decline the offer. Myself, have inherited lots of furniture from near and dear ones. Unfortunately, I had to let go when ever I  moved. So it doesn’t work for me.

How about you folks?

Temptation to buy new clothes

This website my cousin suggested where we get really good clothes for great pricing. They have been purchasing great stuff and they really look cool in those outfits. I recently vowed to myself that I will not buy anything until I exhaust all my options. There is a strong reason behind my decision.

I am a victim of american consumerism. I have purchased quite a number of clothes, shoes and accessories with or without sale. The problem now I face is – organizing them, or the time it takes to decide what to wear when I have to step out. I tried sorting clothes and shifting 25% to the “Good Will”(a charity based organization) bag and yet I feel overwhelmed. The clothes fill my huge closet space and 3 big suitcases. I have hard time letting go of my clothes.

Despite, having so many clothes and shoes, I get tempted now and then to buy more. Every time, I think of buying more I try to think of hassle that I face everyday and the less space that I have at home to accommodate more. It is a very hard decision to follow through.

I lived a simple life growing up, never had to worry about what to wear and what to organize. We were a family of 4 and I had very few clothes growing up. Simpler times. I feel it’s complicated now more than ever. The biggest problem I am trying to tackle is letting go. I wish I could be more generous. Hopefully, some day I will.

Somewhere, I came across “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… I can resist everything but temptation.” This is never going to apply for me in this case.