Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cooking For One

When marriages begin, there are lots of announcements. We take out notices in the newspaper. We send out invitations. When marriages end, however, we are rather more discrete, embarrassed even. Changing one's status on Facebook seems tacky, a post quickly and quietly deleted. The legal blotter lists petitions for dissolution of marriage, alongside the birth announcements ironically, but these are in tiny print, buried on page 5 of the local and cannot be relied on to share your news. We do not invite friends and relatives to ceremonies for divorce, indeed no ceremonies exist to mark such a transition. There seems no proper way to announce the change to friends and neighbors, to shopkeepers and owners of restaurants you frequented with your ex.

I am single. I have joined the 82 million single adults in the US. We can boast several categories of statistics. My new home is now one of those swelling the rising percentage of single person households. Twenty-five percent of all US households belong to single people. Fifteen percent of those singles are women. That’s a lot of single serving Ben and Jerry’s. But other statistics suggest that these single women are not wallowing in shabby apartments poor and alone. Twenty percent of all new homebuyers are women, the second largest group of homebuyers, according to the National Association of Realtors, behind couples but ahead of single men. These women are likely to be professional and active. Like me, they work full time. They have dinner with friends. They jog, practice yoga, walk their dogs, travel, and mow their own lawns. Many of them, like me, are single mothers. They do the diapering, feeding, bathing, doctoring, soothing, tickling, and disciplining alone.


Marriage is not a 50/50 arrangement, but a division of labor arranges itself. I cooked, but

rarely washed dishes. I washed baby bums, but not cloth diapers. I brought things into the

house, but did not take them out. When you are single, who takes over when you're tired

and hungry and have to pee and the baby has just spit up the only food you've managed to

get him to eat all afternoon? Who carries the heavy grocery bags while you carry the baby?

Who scratches your back? Who zips the zipper on your dress? Who pokes you when you’ve slept through the alarm? Who takes out the trash, or kills the bugs? Singles have to tackle all these tasks on their own. This can be exhausting and frustrating and sometimes a little sad and lonely. Frances Mayle remarked that the most surprising thing about divorce is that it doesn't kill you. Yet, there are small joys in single-hood. When you live alone you can drink milk from the carton. Singles never have to close the bathroom door or wear robes. I especially enjoy leaving my shoes all around the house. I control the volume on the television. No one squeezes the toothpaste in the middle but me. I can listen to Madonna or NPR without complaints. No one uses my towel or eats my cookies. I do still share the bed, but my current bedmate is much smaller than the previous and doesn't complain if I snore. I zip my own zippers. I take out my own trash. I carry all the groceries.


I also do all the cooking and all the washing up. These days, I am cooking for one, well one and a quarter; the baby doesn't eat much yet. And I'm the meatatarian these days. A whole, organic, free range roast chicken is a lot of food for one and a quarter. But, I still cook and I still eat at the table nevertheless. Judith Jones calls cooking "one of the great satisfactions in life" and argues that cooking for one is both an honor and a pleasure as you have only yourself to please.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Steps to Healthier Eating

I've been talking and writing so much about food choices lately, with the nurses here at the hospital, with friends and with family. Last week's post offered web sites and books I've found helpful. This week's post suggests steps to eat better for you and the planet.

1. Shop the periphery of the grocery store. The dairy, meat, and vegetable aisles tend to be located on the four walls of the store. Shop the center aisles for only those packaged foods you've written on your list and absolutely do not want to make yourself: bread, jelly, crackers, toilet paper. I have big ideas of making my own own crackers and cookies and canning my own jelly. It doesn't happen so I buy these.

2. Read the label on every thing you buy that comes in a package. Avoid corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, bleached, enriched flour, and food dyes. Avoid products with more than 6-10 ingredients and if you or your kids can't pronounce some of them, pass. Most grocery stores stock organic or at least clean, all natural packaged foods. Don't be fooled by the words all-natural. There's no regulation on this so read the ingredients. Check out Self Magazine's list of the best packaged foods each year too: http://www.self.com/fooddiet/2009/09/healthy-food-awards-shopping-list. Here's my list too. I get them all at Publix:

Back to Nature cookies, granola, and crackers. These are really delicious versions of traditional favorites like Ritz, Wheat Thins, Oreos, and Chips A-Hoy, but they are all natural and have only a few ingredients.

Arnold Bread Whole Grain. I buy the organic whole grain wheat or honey oat or honey wheat and their whole grain English muffins. This bread has a lot of fiber and protein.

Grape Nuts and other Post cereals: few ingredients, whole grains, usually no corn syrup or hydrogenated oil, but read the label. These are usually high in fiber and protein too.

Eden Organic canned beans. They are made with sea salt and kombu (a sea vegetable but you can't taste it. I think it's for thickening) and their cans don't include bpa plastics.


Organic Valley milk, butter, and cottage cheese. Organic dairy really is much healthier than conventional, even conventional that claims not to use growth hormones. Organic dairy has higher levels of good fats and low levels of the bad fats. Check out the Cornucopia Institute's ratings of organic dairy producers and this article about organic dairy.

If you use margarine, get Earth Balance, NOT Smart Balance. It comes in sticks and a tub and is great for cooking, baking, and on toast and muffins.

Use olive oil rather than vegetable oil like Wesson or Crisco.

Polaner All Fruit jellies and jams

Smucker's Natural peanut butter

2. Buy fresh or frozen veggies and fruit. Buy the precut if you are really short on time even though these are more expensive than whole. If you end up throwing away whole fruit and veg because you can't get around to preparing it (I'm notorious for this), you haven't saved any money. Recycle the packaging though :-) Frozen fruit is great for smoothies. Check out this
article about storing fresh vegetables and fruit. Here's a list of what's worth it to buy organic. I figure that spending a little money on organic now saves me health care costs later.

3. Write a menu a week ahead. Include breakfasts, lunches and snacks for the kids. This takes me a whole evening to do, but is worth it because if I don't know what I'm going to prepare before I get home, I haven't shopped, I'm not into it and then we just go out. Include nights on the menu when you think you do want to go out or when you will need to get take out because of other time commitments. Check out this article from Self Magazine on healthy snacks:
http://www.self.com/fooddiet/2009/06/30-healthy-snacks

4. Let the grocery store do the cooking for you: rotisserie chickens are great. My husband eats this with frozen veggies and white rice. I can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes. Same with a slab of salmon or other fish--throw it on the grill, or more usually for me, in the oven at 400 degrees and it's done in 20 minutes. I put nothing on the fish but olive oil and salt and pepper. Buy wild caught if you can. It tastes MUCH better and is way better for you. Check out last week's post for a site on healthy fish choices.

5. Get the kids involved. Kids like to prep and cook and shop and are likely to eat what they've picked out. It might take longer, but it becomes part of play time. There are some great kids cookbooks. I confess I like the old fashioned
Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook. You can get it at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. There are plenty of more contemporary books too. I also like Jessica Seinfeld's book.

6. Buy whole grains: brown rice, old fashioned oat meal, quinoa, amaranth, pearled barley (not technically "whole," but good in soups and stuff), millet. All these are even delicious for breakfast with real maple syrup, not the corn syrup kind like Mrs. Butterworth. Again, it's more expensive, but is actually cheaper because you only need a tiny bit. I add whole grains to soup, which I make a lot because it's easy and makes a ton. We eat it for leftovers and lunches. Whole grain pilafs are good and easy too: just some onions, green peppers, carrots, and garlic cooked mixed in with the grains. I often add something sweet too like raisins or dried cranberries.

7. Buy nuts and dried fruits as snacks. A little goes a long way.

8. Have a bowl of fresh fruit sitting on the counter.

9. If you have time, cut up fresh veg and leave it in the refrigerator for snacks. I buy the pre cut like carrots and celery to just grab for work or snacks. Buy some hummus for dipping or use peanut butter or cottage cheese.

10. Portion control. I actually measure out a cup of yogurt, half cup of fruit, half cup of cereal, half cup of ice cream. I don't always only eat the recommended serving, but at least I know what I'm getting.

11. Finally, a few no cook or quick ideas:

get a crock pot and don't pay attention to the recipe instructions to cook veggies first. Just throw everything in. There's tons of recipes online. Crock pot is good for cooking beans or grains overnight or during the day too.

you can throw anything into a wrap and people will eat it. Slather it with hummus or even mayo and you can make beans, leftover meats and veg and grains and beans taste delicious. Add some cheese and you've got a quick lunch or dinner

make salads with the pre-washed organic spinach or lettuce mixes and buy other pre-cut or shredded veggies. Open a can of beans, rinse them, and throw them on top with some cheese or even shredded or diced meat if you are into that and again, a quick, no cook meal.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sites on Organic and Sustainable Food

My blogging time is now divided between this blog, still focused on food, and The Roo Report at http://rooreport.wordpress.com, a daily dairy of my hospital bed rest. Food has been even more on my mind during my pregnancy and especially now that most of my meals come from the Winnie Palmer Hospital food service kitchen: read no organics, little variety, lots of packaged foods including corn syrup and food dye. Thank goodness for my family who brings delicious, whole foods from home.

I'm hoping that the first 6 months of healthy whole foods I fed my developing baby will compensate for 2 months of less than whole, less than nutritious food. All this has got me thinking too of sites and books I've valued over the years for information on making healthier food choices. Perhaps I've shared these in the past, but I find them worth reposting.

  • The Cornucopia Institute rates organic milk and soy producers
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma--a real watershed for us on food production
  • Feeding Baby Green by Dr. Alan Greene is an excellent resource for pregnant and nursing mommies, but also for anyone who wants to benefit from a variety of whole foods
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman is an excellent reference work for vegetables and grain. I use it as a reference work for side dishes and ideas for what to do with cool stuff I find at the farmer's market
  • Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson includes lots of quick cooking and no cook ideas for every meal.
  • The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone is a great introduction to vegan and macrobiotic cooking. Silverstone's voice is friendly and her plan to introduce whole foods into American diets is simple and fun. She sells it by touting the beauty benefits of whole foods. Whatever works. The site is quirky, but the recipes and forums are smarter than most I see on the Web.
  • Smart Fish Calculator--stay away from farmed salmon for heaven's sake. I'm stuck eating it here in the hospital, but seek out wild salmon when you can. The frozen Alaskan salmon from the health food store is good in a pinch. Noah's Market has wild from Scotland, but it is not nearly as good or as fresh or as in season as the Pacific salmon
  • Laurel's Kitchen is still my go-to book on vegetarian and whole foods nutrition. It includes pages and pages of nutritional information on a variety of fruits, legumes, and vegetables and excellent information on dietary needs for men, women, children, and pregnant and nursing moms. Plus, the essay on bread baking is compelling.
  • Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and Gourmet taught me so much about cooking real food
  • EatWild.com and LocalHarvest.org connected me with find local food producers
  • Evan Kleinman's KCRW radio show Good Food is always inspiring and directed me to urban homesteading resources
  • The Environmental Working Group is a clearinghouse for primary and secondary research on everything from food to household chemicals and cosmetics
  • The Daily Green consumer friendly advice



Tuesday, April 27, 2010

If You Can't Eat It; Don't Put it On Your Face!

For some women it's shoes. Or handbags. For me, it's cosmetics. And I'm not talking about eyeliner and lipstick. I mean creams, lotions, and serums. I call these "the beauty potions." Every few months whether I need to or not, I drop $100 on moisturizers, exfoliators, under eye creams, nighttime serums, body lotions. I'm very picky and while easily seduced by colorful packaging and beautiful models, I'm easily disappointed by heavy scents and sticky residues. I rarely give a product even a week. One or two applications and if I don't love it, I stop using it. My friends and colleagues benefit from this fickleness. I pass on barely used bottles and jars. I also expect immediate results. No 4 to 6 weeks of use for me. Who has time for that when there are so many other products to try?

Last week, the "free gift" lured me to the
Clarins counter, a place I haven't visited in years. Clarins products are super silky, but strongly scented and, according to the Environmental Working Group, toxic. The EWG Cosmetic Database evaluates thousands of products for toxicity and purity and posts ratings and reviews. Before buying any cosmetics I usually search the Cosmetic Database first, but this time, despite knowing Clarins' scary rating, I dumbly succumbed to the "free facial" and free gift with purchase. For a week now, my skin has glowed. Others have complimented me, but I've been wilting under the guilty cloud of parabens and fragrances.

Parabens are preservatives used in nearly all mainstream cosmetics like soaps, creams, shampoos and conditioners, and make-up. A number of studies have identified parabens as human endocrine disruptors and linked the chemicals to breast cancer and reproductive toxicity. Like soy, parabens behave like estrogen in the body. Because many cosmetics also include ingredients that increase absorption, our skin--the largest organ in the body--can absorb parabens and process them as too much estrogen. Bad for breasts and bad for baby boys. Parabens are among what cosmetic purists call the "Dirty Dozen." Check out the list below and check out the labels of your own cosmetics.

  1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfates/SLS
  2. Parabens
  3. Propylene Glycol
  4. Phthlates
  5. Petrolatum
  6. Cocamide DEA/Lauramide DEA
  7. Diazolidinyl Urea
  8. Butyl Acetate
  9. Ethyl Acetate
  10. Toluene
  11. Triethanolamine
  12. Butylated Hydroxytoluene

If you have a bottle of hand lotion in your pocketbook or a compact of pressed powder, chances are it includes most or ALL of these chemicals. Even products labeled "natural" or "organic" are likely to include at least a handful of the dirty dozen. Now imagine how many products you use each day and how many chemicals each is composed of and you can imagine that our exposure to these dirty chemicals is not insignificant.

If your morning and evening toilette is anything like mine, you might use at least 13 products:

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Face wash 2 x day
  • Body soap
  • Exfoliator
  • Toothpaste 2 x day
  • Toner 2 x day
  • Anti-aging serum 2 x day
  • Moisturizer 2 x day
  • Under eye cream 2 x day
  • Sunblock
  • Deodorant
  • Body lotion

If you wear makeup, add up to 10 more products:

  • Foundation
  • Concealer
  • Blush
  • Eye shadow
  • Eye liner
  • Mascara
  • Lip liner
  • Lipstick
  • Lipgloss
  • Powder

That's 25 different products! I envy my husband who uses 3 products: he showers with a bar of soap and a bottle of shampoo. He swipes on some deodorant and he's done. No 3 step skin care system. No expensive body lotion. No perfume.

Recent research on the health hazards of cosmetics is nothing new. In the middle ages, for example, everyone knew that lipsticks, face powders, and creams could damage the skin. White pancake makeup became fashionable in the first place to cover the pock marks and burns women suffered from creams containing mercury or silver. Some scholars have speculated that Shakespeare's Dark Lady herself was made ugly as he describes her in "My Mistresses' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun" by caustic cosmetics. In the 1920s, authorities warned men not to kiss women wearing red lipstick because the lipstick contained arsenic. No one warned the women, by the way, who might have ingested up to 7 pounds of lipstick over their lifetimes from licking their lips. Yikes!

Like an alcoholic waking from a binge or an adulterer slinking home after a fling, I've shunned my chemical laden, but luxurious Clarins and returned this week to my clean and green cosmetics. There are lots of safe cosmetics available these days in health food stores and even at Target. Shopping online opens a word of organic and chemical free to conscientious shoppers.

My favorite brands are Weleda, Keys Soap, Pangea Organics, and Suki. I'm also dying to try Giselle Bundchen's new line called Seeja. All these receive top ratings from the EWG. Weleda's fragrance free almond line is perfect for sensitive skin and its rose under eye cream is rich, but not greasy. The scents in most Weleda products, which come from essential oils, are mild.

Keys Soap is vegan and 85% organic. Its products include very few ingredients and all are food grade. The scents are heavy and vegetal, however. Try Solar Rx sunblock, a chemical free mineral sunblock. It doesn't leave skin ghostly white like some mineral sunblocks and doubles as a daytime moisturizer.

For the best bar of soap you can buy, try any variety from Pangea Organics. My favorite is the Pyrenees Lavender with Cardamon. Their French Rosemary with Sweet Orange Toner smells light and leaves skin silky smooth. It works great as a midday skin refresher and moisturizer too.

Suki is a top of the line skin care system also made with organic and food grade ingredients. Its products are light and ideal for oily skin or those who don't like the feel of heavy creams in hot weather. My favorite Suki product is its sugar based Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser and its carrot serum called Pure Facial Moisture Nourishing. In the winter, I massage this oil onto my face, hands, elbows, and knees.

You can find all these lines at Whole Foods, but try Saffron Rouge, the organic answer to Sephora. Saffron Rouge sells skin care, body care, and color cosmetics.

To reduce the stress on your skin and reduce your exposure to chemicals, even natural ones, look for products that do double duty. Pangea soaps are mild enough for even sensitive skin like mine. Moisturizers usually reserved for your face can do double duty as body lotions or make up removers. Skip the eye make up and opt instead for a few minutes in the sun, good food, and cheek pinches for color.

My goal is to breeze out of the bathroom wearing only a few products and to still look young and beautiful, but natural. I'm on the cosmetic wagon again until at least the fall when Clinique advertises its free gift with purchase.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

For Love or Tomatoes

There are only two things money can’t buy: true love and homegrown tomatoes. I don’t know much about the former--I’ve been married and divorced, coupled and singled, in and out of lust, and even once dumped for a bleach blonde named Faith--but I do know quite a lot about tomatoes. I’ve grown them, peeled them, cored them, boiled them, seeded them, blanched them, eaten them warm from the garden, smushed them into sauces and salsas, and studied them carefully.


Tomato eating and growing are blends of science and art in Florida where I first got my hands dirty in a tomato garden of my own. Growing tomatoes requires of the gardener patience, knowledge, and financial security. A large dose of stoicism won’t hurt either. Tomatoes are hardy weeds when they want to be and fickle little hothouse flowers when they feel like it. They are susceptible to freezes and frosts, tasty snacks for snails and cutworms, a happy little haven for aphids and hornworm larvae, and damn picky about soil ph. One season the lackadaisical, nearly negligent gardener will have so many tomatoes he can’t give them away fast enough. The next season the assiduous, attentive gardner will get worms, worms, worms, blossom drop, and end rot. There’s just no telling.

Sort of like love. Cultivate it, lavish time and money on it and you end up poor and pouting. Ignore it, treat your lovers like dirt in a deserted garden, and love follows you around like a dog. Like love, the love apple is finicky and fussy. When the most perfect homegrown tomatoes do grow in your garden though, you are joyful, blissful, orgasmic. You think you might not need love after all, but if you do, you could try tantalizing lax lovers with a few of your homegrown tomatoes.

You might have lured lovers with the looks of the love apple a few centuries ago, but if you actually fed tomatoes to your amore, you might have been arrested for attempted poisoning. Until 1800, most folks in the US ranked tomatoes with oleanders: pretty, but not for dinner. Indeed, the tomato is the only part of the tomato plant that isn’t poisonous. The tomato plant is a nightshade and looks an awful lot like its deadly nightshade sister, belladonna. Poisonous leaves and seeds were no deterrent to the industrious conquering Spaniards in the fifteenth century. They gathered tomato seeds along with gold amulets and silver goblets into their treasure throve for the trip across the pond. The Europeans were smitten with the tomato’s shiny skin, but mostly cultivated them as ornamentals, not hors d’oeuvres. The family resemblance to poisonous posies scared off many potential tomato epicures in Northern Europe and Britain. The carpophagous Mediterraneans ate them, though, with olive oil as early as the sixteenth century and even our homegrown Thomas Jefferson was growing tomatoes in 1742. No one knows for sure whether he ate them. If he did, he might have enjoyed them like I do, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (a gardener’s treat even older than tomatoes), and sprinkled with sea salt, pepper, and a little julienned fresh basil.

Because folks usually eat tomatoes with green leafy stuff and on top of grainy stuff rather than with syrupy sweet stuff, the US Supreme Court deemed the tomato a vegetable in 1893. The fact that Uncle Sam imposed heavy tariffs on veggies and not on fruits might have had something to do with the name change: veggies meant money in the coffer; fruits did not. Despite such lawyerly maneuvers, the tomato is a fruit. The distinction between fruits and vegetables? Fruits have their seeds on the inside: think peaches, grapes, mangos, apples, and oranges. Vegetables grow from flowers, like carrots, broccoli, cabbages, and other cruciferous crunchies. This fruit-veggie category business is a slippery slope. If seeds inside equal fruit, are cucumbers, crookneck squash, and pumpkins fruits fit only for after dinner dessert? Pumpkin pie is a dessert staple. Is Cucumbers Foster next? Tomato ice cream is not out of the question. Chop one cup plum tomatoes or any homegrown variety. Toss the tomatoes in a blender along with 1/4 cup half and half or heavy cream, 1/3 cup sugar, and one to two cups ice or one bag frozen strawberries. Blend on high for 30 seconds. Scoop out this pink sorbet and eat it with biscotti.

Frozen tomatoes in ice cream are one thing, but don’t go freezing or refrigerating your homegrown tomatoes. They won’t last any longer than if you leave them to sunbathe on the kitchen windowsill and they will get all mealy inside and tough outside. If you’ve just got to get those tomatoes in the cooler, chop them up into salsa first. Chop one small red onion, one medium green bell pepper (or jalapenos for the hotties), 8 to 10 sprigs fresh parsley leaves from your garden, a big pinch of cilantro, and two large homegrown tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half first and give each half a good squeeze to extract the juice and seeds. If you are really persnickety about texture, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds in boiling water before cutting them and slip off their skins. Combine the onion, green pepper, and parsley in a food processor. Pulse until the veggies are finely chopped. Add the chopped tomatoes and pulse some more only until you have a chunky sauce, not a soup. Bits of onion and tomato should be bobbing around in there. Transfer the salsa to a bowl and stir in three tablespoons red wine vinegar and one tablespoon lemon juice. Toast up one tablespoon whole cumin seeds in a small pan and stir into the salsa or whip in one tablespoon ground cumin. Salt and pepper the salsa and eat this all by yourself with a big bag of salty tortilla chips. Refrigerate any leftovers if there are any.

Chips and salsa are good refueling foods after a day of tomato gardening in the hot Florida sun. Tomatoes enjoy the Florida sunshine until long about August. They wither and wilt and just punk out by the end of summer, but you need only wait four more weeks until the first day of autumn to plant your fall crop of baby tomatoes. If you have scads of time on your hands, you can coax along three tomato plantings in Central Florida: one in the spring if you plant in February, one in early summer if you plant in May when the spring plantings are just beginning to set so much fruit you are filling every pot, pan, and canvas bag you own, and one in the fall if you plant the third week in September.

If you’ve got this many tomato plants growing in your garden and are eating even a fraction of their fruit, you will have volunteers. Volunteers are garden gold. These are plants that sprout with no encouragement or effort on your part. Volunteers are evidence of Darwinism at work in your garden ecology. Wind, birds, and insects spread around the seeds of everything you grow and everything that winds up in the compost pile. The fittest of your plants’ offspring survive and poke their little seed-heads out of the soil. These plants, especially volunteer tomato plants, tend to be very hardy and to produce prolifically even if they don’t live very long. If you don’t want twenty-five tomato teenagers hanging out in your garden, you’d better pluck the sprouts as soon as you see them. They look like weeds anyway so you are likely to pull them along with odd bits of grass struggling to take root.

My favorite summertime tomato dinner is fresh tomato sauce with penne pasta and fresh herbs. Pinch off several handfuls of basil, flat leaf parsley, and oregano. Quarter three large tomatoes or use two cups of cherry tomatoes. Toss the tomatoes and herbs in a food processor along with one 28 once can Italian-style plum tomatoes for body and flavor. Add two cloves chopped garlic, one teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese, one teaspoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 3/4 cup pitted black or kalamata olives. Pulse only until blended and the tomatoes are roughly chopped. Serve at room temperature on penne for a refreshing summer supper. Invite friends for dinner on the patio surrounded by your bushy green tomato plants, sun yellow marigolds, fire engine red chili peppers, and the buzzing of the bees making this garden grow. You many not have true love, but you’ve got homegrown tomatoes and that is as close to love and heaven as anyone can get.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Easy Earth Day Ideas

A baker's dozen of easy changes to reduce your carbon footprint and save time chasing all that trash.

  1. Carry cloth bags to the supermarket AND to the mall, to Target, to the farmer's market, everywhere. Keep them in your car.
  2. Buy a Klean Kanteen for water and To-Go Ware for your take out lunches.
  3. Ask servers to package your leftovers in aluminum foil, which you can recycle at home rather than in plastic or styrofoam boxes. Skip the plastic bag to carry it in.
  4. Refuse the plastic or paper bags at shops. Stuff your purchases in your pockets, carry them out in your hands, or see #1 above.
  5. Buy bar soap instead of body wash.
  6. Buy condiments in reusable glass jars rather than plastic squeeze bottles.
  7. Buy at least a dozen cloth napkins and kitchen towels from the thrift store. Use these instead of paper towels or paper napkins.
  8. Buy unwrapped fresh produce. Try the farmer's market or a buying club.
  9. Choose products packaged simply in recylable paper or with as little plastic as possible.
  10. Skip the receipt at the ATM, the gas station, and at Starbucks. You're just going to crumble it up and throw it away.
  11. Unplug small appliances when not in use like the coffee maker, microwave oven, and the toaster and electronics like TVs and your computer.
  12. Install low flow showers and low flush toilets (do this on the cheap with a small brick, a rock, or a small plastic bottle filled with gravel or stones--these take up space in the toilet tank and fool it into filling less)
  13. Reuse a plastic spray bottle and make your own all purpose and glass cleaner. Mix 50% water and 50% white distilled vinegar. Add a drop of essential oil or tea tree oil if you want. Use this everywhere except on natural stone surfaces.
  14. I know, 14 is not 13--wrap fresh produce in cloth kitchen towels instead of plastic wrap or plastic Ziploc style bags.
  15. And 15 is still not 13--wrap messy foods in unbleached wax paper or aluminum foil (you find both made out of recycled materials and both are recyclable). Better yet, use glass or stainless containers with lids. I found a great set of glass bowls at Target for $29 that includes 4 sizes. We loved it so much, we bought two.
Calculate your carbon footprint with these interactive quizzes . . .

Earth Day Footprint Quiz
Is Your Lifestyle Sustainable?

And for inspiration, check out Beth Terry's blog
Fake Plastic Fish