Tuesday, June 22, 2010

He's always a surprise!

TK and I have been married 13 years, and together almost 18 years. But sometimes, he's still a mystery to me.

TK is an engineer, and well, for good reason engineers are not known for their fashion sense. To be honest, TK isn't bad--he irons his clothes, he tries to make sure they match, he dresses generally appropriately. He work attire is casual to business casual, so most days he's in khakis and a collared shirt. But this week he has a big presentation. He asked for my help to pick clothes.

He'd pulled out a tie and said that was what he wanted to wear. I reminded him last time he had a presentation that we'd determined he didn't have any shirts that would look good with the tie. His answer: "well that was in the winter. One of my short-sleeved shirts might work with it."

I was literally speechless for a good minute. Then I said, "You can't wear a tie with a short-sleeved shirt."

"Why not?" he asked. "It's hot out. What do you think people wear?"

"Long sleeved shirts."

"No," he insisted. I was forced to inform him that short-sleeved buttondown shirts are pretty geeky, but I let it go because 1) it's cute-geeky, and he pulls it off, and 2) it's pretty appropriate in engineering circles, or at least the engineering circles he runs in. But a short-sleeved buttondown with a tie was just too geeky. I couldn't let it go.

He wouldn't believe me. Convinced he was right, he said, "I'm checking online."

I wasn't worried one bit. Five minutes later he came back and said, "Okay, I'm convinced."

And he let me pick out a nice long sleeved shirt and tie.

I'm not super fashionable, but I could run a service for engineers to keep them at the engineering-geek level of attire rather than letting them flounder into the total-geek realm.


Green tip for the day: Speaking of fashion, keep "green" in mind when shopping for clothes. Some ideas:
  1. Buy clothes to last. Don't buy new clothes every season, even if you can afford it.
  2. Look for eco-friendly and/or organic materials.
  3. Pass your used clothes along: to friends or family, to a consignment store, to a charity, via freecycle or craigslist.
  4. How crafty are you? Turn damaged or stained clothes into something new. Or just use them as rags.
  5. Consider buying used clothes from a consignment store or place like Goodwill.
Any clothing-related green tips to share?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Change the World Wednesday: Food Budget

Every week I intent to write a Change The World Wednesday post, but you see how infrequently I post so it's just not getting written. I have a few hours left in Tuesday...we'll see if we get it done this week!

Though it's a bit ironic that this week I'm *not* participating...

The challenge this week was:

This week, spend no more than $25 per person on food. This includes anything which is consumed ... spices, oil, fast food items, soda, etc. Make smart choices and stretch that food dollar as far as it can go. In addition to budgeting your food dollar, please write about how it went. We'd like to know what worked, what didn't and your strategy for staying within the budget.

I'm not opposed to living on a budget. I already do! But I don't like trying to drastically slash my food budget. Good food: food that's good for you and good for the environment, tends to be more expensive than traditional food. It's a very sad commentary that it can be far cheaper to get processed food-stuff than fresh meats and vegetables, but there you go. What are some of the reasons I can't spend only $25 per week on food? Organic milk is twice as expensive as regular. Unbleached flour is more than bleached. Fair trade organic bananas and coffee are more expensive than traditional. Grass-fed, organic meats are at least twice as expensive as factory-farmed meat. Those are just a few of the items that I'm not willing to bend on, that would bust our $25/person food budget.

I hate that farmers can't make a living wage...there's so much pressure on the price of food! I think we should recognize the value of fresh, healthy food that is grown/prepared in an environmentally-friendly way--and I think it's worth paying a fair price for it.

That said, I do have a few tips for saving money on food:
  • Eat vegetarian/vegan. Meat is pricey, and I believe for health reasons should only be eaten in moderation anyway.
  • Shop your local farmers' markets rather than large grocery stores. Sometimes, though certainly not always, you can get better prices since there's no middle-man. Also, it's almost always tastier!
  • Shop sales/specials to stock up. For example, the other day our local grocery store was running a special on bags of peaches for $3 (probably 15 or so peaches)--only problem was, they were RIPE, and had to be used asap. We had some for lunch, then I pureed the rest for baby food and to make peach ice cream.
  • Eat what's in season. It's always cheaper than when it's out of season!
  • Find a you-pick place. We picked strawberries today and got 4 quarts for $10.30. At the store, I've seen local strawberries priced between $5.99 and $7.99 for a single quart! Special bonus: it's fun, especially for kids.
  • Prepare your own foods. Don't rely on prepared foods or eating out. Probably healthier that way, too, besides saving you money!
  • Don't waste food. Eat leftovers; don't let food go bad before you eat it.
Even with all those tips, though, I'm not even close to $25 per person per week. For a family of 2 adults, 2 preschoolers, and 1 baby, I'm spending closer to $200 per week for food, and that doesn't count my husband's lunches at work. I could certainly do better than that, but I'd never be able to get it down to $25 per person on a consistent basis. Sure, I could do it for a week by eating from our freezer and cabinet stores, but I couldn't keep it up.


I also wanted to comment on a Change the World Wednesday challenge from a few weeks ago:

This week, give up single-serving foods. No single-serving containers of yogurt, pudding or jello. No single-serving snacks or drinks. Eliminate individually wrapped slices of cheese and fruit cups. Basically, if a container holds only one serving ... don't buy it.

I definitely try to do this on a regular basis, but what I wanted to talk about is baby food. Baby food: always in single serving containers! You end up with a zillion little glass jars or plastic containers. Ugh! I wanted to put out a suggestion to make your own baby food. It's pretty easy. I just steam the fruit or veggie, then blend it up with a stick blender. Pretty fast, easy, and nice that I can control what goes in. I freeze it in ice cube trays, then store it in a freezer bag: far less packaging than the jars of baby food! Plus, it's so much less expensive. The other day I bought 2 organic turkey thighs. It made 14 servings and cost $3.72. If I'd bought it jarred, it would have been more like $10! And don't even get me going about when I get a REALLY great deal, like that bag of peaches for $3!

Anyone looking to make their own baby food, Wholesome Baby Food is a great resource!


Every Wednesday, there's a new challenge. Head on over to Reduce Footprints where you can help change the world, one small step at a time!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fear Factor

N-man and B-man have this thing where if we have m&m's, they both always want to make sure they get red ones. They don't care about any other color...they just want red. I figured it was their favorite because they both love the color pink. (As an aside, B-man now calls pink "light red"...I don't know if that's his attempt to make it more boy-friendly??)

Today I asked them: why red m&m's?

The answer surprised me, and reminded me that they're like little sponges, absorbing every little thing I tell them: "because red dye is made from mushed up bugs!"

Yes, I told them about carmine. I thought it was a fun gross-out fear factor thing. Now they avidly pursue red foods so they can be eating insects.


Our garden

I posted about our garden over on our local eating blog. Head over there if you want the whole story, but here, I'll leave you with a few pictures: