My Slow Cooker Saved My Life (Figuratively)

So, as you have likely noticed, I have not been posting much. It’s that lazy part. It gets in the way sometimes. This is especially true around dinnertime.

I love food. I enjoy eating. If I don’t do that regularly, I become quite snappy and grumpy. Hangry is real and it is a fire you don’t want to play with. But as a lazy independent adult who can’t afford take out everyday, I have to fight to keep myself eating healthy and not being in a rut.

A versatile base is key to a somewhat varied diet. And in comes the slow cooker. For meat eaters out there, what could sound better than a few pounds of chicken breasts cooking without you having to even be there?! That chicken can turn into chicken tacos, chicken salad, a buffalo chicken dip…you get my drift.

For me, my personal chicken is beans. Don’t try to understand that last sentence, just go with it! Beans, beans, the wonderful legume that offers vegetarians a complete protein when paired with a carb. It is not true that the more you eat, the more you toot. Your body only gets gas as it initially adjusts to all that fiber you are suddenly consuming. But it is so worth it! Eat your first few bean-heavy meals alone while binging on Netflix and after a few days feel free to rejoin society. Or not, I won’t push.

I’m offering up beans as the cheapest, easiest way to make some yummy meals. You can even participate in Meatless Mondays without breaking a sweat. Tacos, salads, dips, burgers – you name it and you can probably make it with beans. Mexican is my go to, so I usually make a pound of black beans and have a base for quesadillas, tacos, burritos, and salads for a week at least!

Buy a pound of any bean you love, and in general you can follow this easy recipe:

Sort your beans, take out any broken beans and any debris like rocks. Toss into your slow cooker any aromatics you’d like. I use one diced onion and 3 bay leaves. Add your pound of beans. Add water until it is 2 inches above the beans. Put on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours. Beans freeze quite well, so if you made too much, portion out a cup apiece into freezer friendly containers and they will last 2 months or so.

 

Some tips: I don’t add salt until the end. If you are cooking kidney beans, boil them for 10 minutes before cooking. This neutralizes a toxin called phytohemagglutinin that can cause some noticeable gut distress. Finally, this won’t work for lentils. They take far, far less time to cook.

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Meatless…It’s What’s For Dinner

Confession time: People think I’m a vegetarian, but I’m not exactly.

I did research into where my food comes from. That’s a pretty hip thing to do these days. We all know what happens to migrant workers picking our fruits and veggies. We’re aware of the horrific treatment of animals from birth to slaughter. Everything is coated in pesticides, pumped full of antibiotics, and uses insane amounts of fossil fuels to get shipped to our local mom-and-pop killing supermarkets. Did I cover everything?

So….what the hell do I eat?

Every dollar you spend is a vote for the world you want, so spending wisely is now a two-fold issue. I have decided to make the smallest changes, one at a time, so I can stick with them. After all, as Jon Stewart says:

‘If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values: they’re hobbies.’

You know my mantra by now. My changes are small so I can be lazy, on the cheap because I’m broke, and in general greener.

I am now a flexitarian. I know, that sounds so modern and hipster I want to punch myself for saying that, but it’s the best description. I tell everyone I don’t eat meat. That way I am not pressured to eat meat, say at a grill out. And sometimes I absolutely must have a burger, no matter what anyone else says, so I can have that allowance.

Flexitarianism is perfect for our generation, the fomo generation. We don’t want to miss out on anything, but we want a cause. We don’t like rigid definitions. I know that if I declared myself a full vegetarian, I’d resent it at least for a while. Now, kudos to those who can do this. I would like to get there, one day. Instead of focusing on that one day, however, I focus on my choices one meal at a time.

On to saving money and helping the environment. Skip the expensive convenience food, chop your own damn veggies, and give the meat a pass meals a week. This can make an incredible impact on the food system.

Vegetarian cooking can be daunting if you approach it with your old recipes but no meat. View vegetarian cooking as its own cuisine, just like Mexican, Italian, and Chinese are all different. Find new recipes, don’t believe the marketing hype that you have to add textured soy protein to everything (what the meatless ‘meats’ are made of), and get creative!

I’ll be posting some of my favorite meatless-but-delicious recipes here. Look over your favorite recipes, you may have more vegetarian dishes in your arsenal than you know.

Cheap, Green Cleaners

Do you have baking soda and white vinegar? Good, you have no excuse to have a dirty house or expensive chemical cleaners with warning labels longer than the Constitution.

They make a cheap, home-made, not complicated way to clean your toilets, mop floors, degunk your microwave, freshen your garbage disposal, make your clothes brighter, clear most drained clogs, and reinvigorate and de-Spot your carpets.

The biggest issue most people will have is that even Pinterest may not have all the recipes down for the different cleaning solutions you can make with these two simple ingredients. So what is a lazy person to do? Here are a few basic common cleaners to clean your house without destroying the environment, your lungs, or your wallet. Ready?

In a spray bottle (reuse an old one like a well rinsed glass cleaner bottle) combine 4 parts water to 1 part white vinegar. Boom, all-purpose cleaner. If you want it stronger, make a 1:1 solution. If you want it to smell all fancy, you can add 1-2 drops of your favorite essential oil for every 8 ounces.

  • This can also clean glass. Remember to use newspaper to wipe off the glass to avoid streaks.
  • When you use a broom, spray this on the bristles and avoid dust flying everywhere.
  • In a bowl, microwave the 1:1 solution for 5 minutes. Let sit for 5 more. Wipe. Boom, microwave cleaner.

Get rid of bugs by placing a bowl of vinegar near where they hang out. It gets on their wings and drowns them. You can also line your doors and windows with vinegar to deter ants.

Freshen anything up! Apart from your fridge, you can stick boxes of baking soda in your closets, trunks, or car. If you can sprinkle baking soda onto it (carpet, stuffed animals, shoes, your dog) you can make it smell nice. Sprinkle, let sit for 15 minutes, and vacuum, dust, or brush it off.

Often it seems that baking soda and vinegar are interchangeable. Toss in your toilet a cup of either baking soda or vinegar, let sit for an hour, and flush. Ta da! Cheap toilet cleaner. If you need to give it a scrub, toss in baking soda and before flushing, use a brush to scrub the tough spots.

What you can do with these two common and cheap ingredients is limited only by your imagination. And science, I’m sure. You can always combine the two for a fun science project for the kids or personal entertainment. No judgement, it’s pretty cool. Combine them in the toilet to help with minor clogs, in the garbage disposal for cleaner and fresher sinks, or in a sandwich bag tied over your shower head to clear up the buildup.

What is your favorite clever use for vinegar and baking soda?

Less Stuff Is More You

“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it….Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore.”

-George Carlin

You can own less or buy less. You don’t have to go crazy, sell all earthly possessions, grow all your own food, and live out of a microhome (unless you want to). You don’t have to commit to buying nothing new for the next 365 days (unless you want to).

Remember guys, we aren’t only green, we’re green, broke, and lazy. It all comes back to taking small steps.

I suggest beginning with decluttering. You may have duplicates of things or already own, something you may think you need to buy. Don’t waste your money, use what you have. You may even find, in going through your stuff, that you have excess stuff you can get rid of. This isn’t an excuse to go on a shopping spree later. Why buy replacements for objects you never used and didn’t even remember you had?

Donate or sell stuff you don’t want or use. Toss the trash, recycle the recylables. Give a shout out on Facebook or Twitter to see if any friends want to swing by and pick up your trash and turn it into their new treasure.

Social media is a great forum for finding stuff you don’t have, but don’t want to (or can’t) buy. Buying less allows you to save money. It helps out the environment. And it may just create a more involved community or group of friends in the process. I don’t own a toaster, but I have a friend who does and rarely uses it. I asked if I could have it until she wanted it back. She rarely used it and hasn’t asked for it back even when I remind her I have it. I didn’t have to buy a toaster, this toaster is being used. And if I ever want it out of the house, I can just give it back.

A sharing economy means objects have longer, fuller lives and each person involved generally will spend far less that purchasing their own goods.

Does it work for everyone or everything? Of course not. With some trial and error and basic communication with your friends, family, and neighbors, you’ll figure out what you are willing to share or go without. You’ll know what you definitely need to buy and keep to yourself.

Be broke. Be lazy. Be green. It’s easier if you don’t do it alone.

The Basics

When is the last time you saw you nose without the aid of a mirror?

Our brains selectively ignore the fact that our nose is in our field of vision. It’s not important, and it would actually be distracting to remember to see it. It would get in the way of paying attention to our environment. We know it’s there and let it slide out of focus.

This is how bad habits stick with us for so long: we stop paying attention to them. They are part of our routines.

We don’t mean to slip into bad habits. It happens when we stop noticing. Bit by bit, our good intentions get pushed aside and the rut of our routine changes track. We just need to remember to be more mindful of ourselves and our actions.

Take a step back and look at your green routine. Assess what you are doing and how you can improve. It’s easy to become lax with the basics, those are the things we don’t dedicate much thinking to. Who thinks about cutting up 6 pack rings anymore?

The first step to a green lifestyle is not buying green, but being green. Here are some easy suggestions to make sure your current life is making your wallet and the world a little bit greener.

  • If you aren’t using it, shut it off! TVs, computers, coffee makers, lights, and so much more can be shut off when you aren’t using them.
  • Once they are off, unplug them! Phantom power can waste up to 10% of your electricity bill. Take chargers out of the outlet and plug that blender back in only when you need to use it.
  • Before you put anything in the garbage, can it go elsewhere? Composting gives back to the earth and you may be able to recycle items like batteries and light bulbs. Do your research and see what your community offers.
  • Can that ‘trash’ be repaired? Can it be used for another purpose? Get creative and maybe you won’t have to go out and buy gifts. Pinterest, guys!
  • Got a lot of stuff and not sure what to do with it all? Have a garage sale! Get some friends or neighbors involved and enjoy a Saturday outside making money and giving those goods a second life.

Help your wallet by reviewing your electricity uses. Save the earth by reviewing your garbage/recycling/composting routine. Get involved in your community by donating or having a garage sale. Learn a new skill and fix something. None of this has to cost you much and all of it can be fun.

What is your green routine?

 

What Do I Mean By ‘Green’?

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.”
― Pete Seeger

Green is a hot term these days. Used interchangeably with ‘natural’ and often combined with ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’, and any word that can have the prefix ‘eco-‘ added in front of it, green can mean almost anything to anyone as long as you can picture a happy spot in nature while using the product being sold.

My problem with most of that is either the product seems more expensive or less effective (sometimes both). When I buy something, I often convert the amount of money it costs into how many hours I have to work to earn that much money. That helps me keep myself from mindlessly buying too much. It doesn’t work every time, but anytime I do remember to do that, I know I save money.

Don’t we all like saving money? But how to save money without being inconvenienced? If you don’t buy bathroom cleaner, how are you going to clean your bathroom? Who has time to handle dried beans? (Don’t they taste so boring when you cook them anyway?)

Never fear. My life is fun, exciting, green, and frugal. I don’t regret or resent any changes I’ve made because I keep the bigger picture in mind. I don’t mind any changes I’ve made because I’ve made them a priority. The health of the whole wide world is more important than me ordering in on a lazy evening. The best definition of ‘green’ I can come up with is this:

Green is (the act of) prioritizing the health of you, your community, and nature.

We all know eating whole, unprocessed food is better for us and the earth. We all know coating our bodies and homes in chemicals cannot be healthy for anyone. We all know that buying ‘green’ products doesn’t change how much resources are being used.

What can you do that doesn’t involve living in an off grid cabin, growing your own food, and eschewing any technological advance made since the Industrial Revolution? Small steps.

Being frugal dovetails quite well with being green. Ever notice how minimalism is often paired with green living? I don’t live like a monk, but I am mindful (though not nearly as much as a monk).

Being green means you can save green, keep the earth green, and make others green with envy at your new relaxed lifestyle.

Life isn’t a rat race because we are not rats. Life is art.