Last August we moved out of our tiny home into one that’s not only a good bit bigger but also just plain better distributed–we can use the space we have here. Kids each have their own small bedroom, our master bedroom is small but does the job, we have a respectable looking living room and a comfy (i.e. trashable) family room. And there’s my sewing room that becomes a guest room for the 6 days out of the year that we need one.
It’s in general a great house. There are only two major drawbacks: 1. no master bath, and 2. teeny teeny kitchen without even close to enough cabinet space.
This is actually a change from our other house which, though it was tiny, did have both a master bath and a lot of kitchen storage. It had a whole pantry, bigger than the closet I now have, plus a nice big eat-in kitchen worth of cabinets. The one we have now is long and skinny, broken up by a door to the garage and another door to the patio and in general wasting a good bit of what little space there is.
But we’re making do. We put some Ikea shelving units into the garage, so some of the not-every-day stuff can go there, like beer and soda, baking gear, empty containers waiting to be filled with things, herbal potions, etc. Nothing froze over the winter, which was good. And we have a second freezer in there too. (Greenmama needs her extra freezerspace!)
The whole adaptive process has been really good for me, though, in discovering what items of my kitchen I need and actually use, as opposed to those that are just kind of cool and I don’t. Because in this kitchen, if it’s taking up space, it better be needed.
So it’s made me take a good look at the things I really do use, the things without which life would be of questionable value (or, more to the point, the things without which we’d be ordering a lot more pizza). For the moment I’m not going the Basic Pots And Pans route; I’m talking the other stuff.
Ten Secrets to being a Greenmom on the Fly:
10. Cook in quantity and freeze leftovers. Four (or more) quarts of soup (or cooked black beans or green chili) take exactly the same amount of time to cook as 1 or 2. If it’s something you eat a lot and you have room in the freezer, make LOTS and save yourself time next week. Or next month.
9. If you must use meat, don’t add it to the “in quantity” part unless you’re freezing it right away, and don’t thaw it unless you know you’ll eat it soon—plant-based foods keep in the fridge much longer! If it has meat in it and has been sitting in your fridge for 3 days, you’re taking a chance; it might not taste bad, but it could have lots of live wigglies in there to completely screw up your digestive system or worse. Veggie products are easier: if they look good, feel normal, and smell fine, they generally are. Plus when they are not, they have an obliging way of getting slimy, growing mold, or generating a weird smell which tells us fairly clearly that they are no longer good to eat. And it takes them a lot longer to get there. So much less scary!
8. Avoid generating tons of unnecessary garbage and recycling by making and freezing your own applesauce, pasta sauce, cooked legumes (beans and lentils), etc. (Yogurt too, but you can’t freeze it as well.) (See #10!)
7. Use your crockpot. Use it often. (See #8 and #10! Further posts about how to do this to come!)
6. Know that the difference between “convenience food” and “processed food” has a lot to do with how many ingredients there are in it. Try not to buy anything with more than maybe 6 or 7 ingredients max, and make sure you can pronounce them all.
5. Use yogurt instead of mayonnaise and sour cream, and yogurt cheese instead of cream cheese. (To make yogurt cheese, drain plain yogurt in muslin or cheesecloth for a couple of hours.) Much better for you, and just as versatile and flavorful. Enjoy tuna or pasta salad again without guilt.
4. Use an immersion blender to puree soups or to disguise vegetables in otherwise chunky foods. I used to ignore any recipe that said “puree in batches in your food processor”–too messy, too many things to clean! The immersion stick blender can just go in and whack things up without moving them from their original pot or bowl.
3. Never use white flour or rice products where you can convince your family to eat the whole wheat or brown rice version. This sometimes takes creativity, but every family will be different. Also, beware the term “multigrain” on packaging–that doesn’t mean it’s healthy, it just means that there are at least two different kinds of grain in it. It could be 90% refined white flour and 10% oat flour, or worse, and still be “multigrain.”
2. Grow your own herbs and veggies, preferably near enough to the kitchen that harvesting is a piece of cake. A sunny kitchen window for herbs, if you have one, is awesome.
1. Don’t jump into Greenmom-ness all at once! Start with a couple of small things, and just keep adding. I started this thinking I’d be making sacrifices to be greener, but once my mindset shifted I’ve discovered it’s actually much easier and cheaper in the long run, and my kids are eating good stuff. And it’s fun.