blog, City to Country, The Chaos

Why people think I’m a hippie
Damned hippies.

I get told I’m a hippie quite often.  I don’t think of myself in that way.  I think of myself as being a combination of frugal and environmentally conscious.

I’m not necessarily offended by the term hippie, or crunchy, or granola, but what bothers me is the negativity that many associate with those terms.  So much eye rolling accompanies these terms.  I find it confusing that there is such disdain when at it’s core what people who are labelled hippie are just trying to eliminate waste from their lives, get rid of excess chemicals, use more basic and natural items, move beyond the cultural stereotypes of beauty and hygiene. I’m sure it’s the last one that bothers people the most- “dirty hippie” is a term that comes to mind.  But not everyone wants to smell like fragrance.  It is okay to smell human- not dirty, not sweaty, but just plain clean human smell.

What I think is really at the core of this sneering derision is not simple ridicule, but a lack of understanding or the idea that the person feels judged.  I get this all the time as a vegetarian.  My choice to not eat meat for my own ethics makes those who do, feel judged that they do not share those ethics.  Yet the choice is mine, and I acknowledge that others do not share my views.  I genuinely don’t care if someone else eats meat.  The only argument I might make is for them to try to choose animals that are ethically treated in life and death- not a factory product.

Anyways, semantics aside, why do people think I’m so granola?  And I’ve included links in case you want to try any of this!

– I’m vegetarian, and so are my partner and child.  And before anyone asks, yes you can safely raise a child as a vegetarian (or vegan).  I did speak with my doctor before making this choice.  One concern I had was if my child wanted to eventually eat meat, would that be possible or would there be missing enzymes, etc.  While we as parents make many choices on behalf of our child that affects their lives, I just wouldn’t feel right about making this one.  I want to teach them our ethics but it’s their right to make their own judgement in the future.

– I eat almost all whole foods.  This means I buy and consume very few prepared foods, unless they are from a source that I know uses whole food ingredients.  (We even make our own ice cream, and it is so good.)  This is simpler if you have a chest freezer, as I do.  Then when you cook a meal you simply double (or more) the recipe and then pop the left overs in the freezer.  In winter frozen fruits & vegetables are more nutritious than buying out of season produce that’s been shipped a long distance.

– I have banned plastics in our kitchen, and am slowly removing plastic from the rest of the house.  We use glass storage containers, mason jars in various sizes, and the Abeego wraps instead of plastic wrap.  This change was both to get plastics out of our house as well as a frugal move.  Mason jars are very inexpensive compared to buying quality plastic storage.  The jars use the same size lids, and you can replace lids easily.  They are also able to with stand temperatures from boiling to freezing and are difficult to break in spite of being glass.  Mason jars don’t leak!  And lastly, I can use these for many years without them showing any wear, yet I was replacing plastic almost every other year.

I don’t use shampoo!  Yes, I have been sham-less for a year, and my hair is clean and does not smell.  I rinse with a baking soda and water mixture (1:20) first and then an apple cider vinegar and water mixture second (1:8).

– Where possible, I make my own personal care products, or use natural alternatives.  Before my shower I dry brush my skin, which is amazingly invigorating!  For moisturizer I use coconut oil or Avalon Organics.  I use homemade deodorant (which works fabulously!!!  One note, Arm & Hammer baking soda is aluminum free, so there is no need to find a special brand that says so on the box.)  I just started making my own toothpaste… and honestly it is still a difficult adjustment.

– I strive to use only products that are not tested on animals and are cruelty free.  Especially when it comes to cosmetics because it seems irrational that an animal should suffer just because I want to have sparkly eyes, or tinted lips…. that’s not the cure to cancer, it’s vanity.  I strictly use Alima Pure make-up because I like everything they stand for and support.

– Here is where people really get shocked and basically think I’m insane.  I have adapted our home toilet to be a squatter.  There are many arguments for the health benefits of squatter toilets.  I currently just use a household stool, but would eventually like to get one of the options specifically built for this purpose (Squatty Potty and Lillipad.)

– I don’t use traditional laundry detergent or dryer sheets.  Both of these are absolutely awful for the environment, and dryer sheets are particularly unnecessary.  I use soap nuts for my laundry, but am also considering trying making my own.  (A friend has, and she says it works very well.)  The soap nuts leave my laundry clean without making them scented with flowers or some other crap.  These scented residues often cause people with sensitive skin to react poorly.  For my drier I just use dryer balls.  So far no issues with static, even during winter.

– I try to limit our use of electricity and water.  So, we dry our clothing outside when weather permits.  We do not bathe every day (shock!  No, it is not unhygienic to wash less frequently.)  TV, computers, and cell phones are all used in limited amounts, especially when we could be doing other activities outside or as a family.  Phones are shut off at night, as is our internet.  My child has very few electronic toys (though I don’t ban them if it is a present from someone)

– I’m updating this post because I have a new point to add!  We eat bugs!  I have started adding cricket and locust powder to some of our baked goods.  Others can better talk on this issue, so I’ll just quote here “There is a rational, even persuasive, argument for voluntarily eating insects: Bugs are high in protein, require less space to grow and offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to the vertebrates we Westerners prefer.”  For us, it’s a great way to add protein to our diet, and in cookies the powder is completely unnoticeable!

I am an advocate of vaccination.  This may be an odd thing to put on this list, but I just put it here because there seems to be an assumption that someone who strives to use more natural products does not believe in modern medicine or blindly follows anything “natural”.  While I think using natural remedies for minor illnesses or for prevention has it’s place I also think there is a time for drugs.  When my child had an ear infection that was causing pain and severe fever, I turned to my doctor for help not a herbal remedy.  I do not buy into just any argument that supports nature~ vaccines have a proven history of success.  I read a lot before I try something and I also give up on things that don’t work for me.  I will try the homemade toothpaste for a month or so, and may give up on it if I cannot adjust to it.

There is so much more but I think that’s all the blathering any sane reader can take.  I mainly wrote this for people who don’t see the benefit of being more “granola” or just don’t understand.  I do much of this for my child.  I want to give them the best possible start.  I want to eliminate all of my family’s intake of toxicity as well as limit our effect on the planet.

If you don’t currently do any of the things I’ve listed then give one of them a try.  As you can see I didn’t start everything in one day.  It has taken time.


The new freezer

For Christmas my mother bought us a freezer.  I had been toying with getting one over the past year, and everyone I talked to who owned one espoused what a fabulous purchase it had been.  So when my mother asked what I’d like for a present I was prepared with an answer for once 😉  (Just to clarify, I actually asked her to contribute to the purchase as it’s a fair amount of money but she made it our family gift.  Didn’t want you all thinking that I ask for such large ticket items!)

I’ll try not to sound insane but, quite frankly, I’m in absolute smitten with our new freezer.  I’m even considering giving him a name.

While I had time off in December, I started my toll of the internet for vegetarian freezer meals and found quite a few sites that talked about making a “month of meals” which sounded quite appealing, if initially arduous.  Since I generally hate cooking having one day of all out kitchen hell sounded more appealing than my current situation of racing around daily trying to pull together a meal with my child rolling around under foot.

So I followed some of the advice on the various sites.
Tips for Power cooking
Tips on freezing food
Once a Month Cooking Tips
Tips and tricks for doing a BIG cook

First and foremost PLANNING!  I am the worst about shopping for groceries without a plan.  At which point, several days later, I find out I have all the ingredients for fajitas except cheese, or some other such nonsense.   Needless to say, if you plan on making double or triple batches of 5 different meals you will need an accurate grocery list.

Another fabulous tip was from {never} homemaker, and it was to collect all cuttings in one large bowl.  We keep our compost in a bag in the freezer, so it can be inconvenient to repeatedly take it out to collect all the trimmings.  This way, I was actually able to conveniently collect all the vegetable trimmings and set them aside for making stock.

The next tip that I would agree with is to make recipes that cook in different ways: one bakes in the oven, another is a pot of soup, the next is a slow cooker, etc.  Then you don’t have recipes competing for the same pot and you can make more simultaneously.

Several sites say to divide up your work and minimize the use of appliances.  This is one where I disagree, at least for me it didn’t work.  I prefer one tiring day of hell and messy mayhem.  But then I don’t like cooking to begin with, so pacing myself wasn’t going to make this a pleasant activity.  My focus was on accomplishing as much and as fast as possible.  I’m also only cooking each recipe to feed 2.5 people for 4 days, so a family of 4 may need to divide and conquer.
So I collected my recipes and made my grocery list one day.  The next, I did both shopping and cooking and clean-up.  I was able to finish 4 out of 5 meals.  Quite frankly the sense of accomplishment was a huge pay off for me, and has made subsequent meal preparation a tad more enjoyable.  Now that I can cook a large batch and both feed my family that day and also set aside 2-3 more days of meals…. such a thrill!  Does that sound sad?  That I’m elated by frozen food?  Oh well, you get your joys where you can 😉
Also, while cooking I used every appliance I could.  If it made my life easier and the process faster, I used it.  I rinsed everything as I went so clean up wouldn’t be too insane later, but the pile of used kitchen ware was huge at the end of the day.  So my mantra for the day was just to accept the mess.  It’s only dishes after all.  Plus as the person cooking so many meals, the task of dishes was passed on to my partner for the majority.  There’s no such thing as a free meal~ childcare and dishes are the payment here.

At the end of the day I was quite satisfied with how it all played out.  It took far less time than I had anticipated.  My one learning point was in regards to recipes.  In my case I only had one decent freezer meal in my repertoire – white bean, kale and sweet potato curry.  The rest I had to source from the ‘net.
Since I was only making food to freeze that day, it means that our freezer meals are going to be a bit of a Russian roulette, taste-wise, as we haven’t tried any of the recipes before.  Now that we have a starting point (meaning a freezer full of meals) I can, in future, cook a large batch for dinner and freeze the rest knowing if the meal has turned out well or not.

The other point to remember is to make sure you have sufficient storage containers.  For most, this would be a no-brainer; however, for the less fore-thinking types out there, such as myself, this is a good reminder 😉  I have plenty of Tupperware, but I don’t want all of it used as storage in the freezer, so I bought some freezer bags and foil containers to use.  I’ve also started saving my yogurt containers to use in future.  They are a good size for 2.5 servings of soup/stew/chili.

And lastly, if you’re thinking about getting a freezer, do it!  Sam (my freezer, who I’ve now named) and I are in heaven.