January was a quick and focused month around here. I did not blog regularly; my mental energies went almost entirely to implementing our 9 less-waste goals for 2019 and, of course, entering into my third trimester of pregnancy.
As I promised myself, however, I pause now to review and reflect upon the month and our efforts. This is not a shaming protocol, but rather an opportunity to consider what went well, what rose or fell in priority, and how I might proceed this month in the pursuit of embodied and ecologically-conscious love.
9 Less-Waste Goals January Update:
1. Baby Care
Obviously our baby is not here yet, but her diapers are! Thanks to our friends our daughter is now outfitted with all the cloth diapers she could ever need. This is not a goal that we could have achieved on our own. Community carries us, dear ones.
We are also grateful for the friends and family who honored our registry requests for both new and used items. Some of the sweetest gifts are those that folks pulled out of storage for our baby girl.
So very grateful.
Sift through the baby clothes and make any exchanges to evenly distribute sizes and, painfully, discern if we have too much of a good thing in any category (baby clothes are so cute and so difficult to turn away!).
Figure out storage. Perhaps thrifted baskets will work? We might have what we need on hand. Or we could repurpose some cardboard boxes, covering them with brown paper/wrapping paper?
Make final purchases. Do we need an extra clothesline? Do we have enough jars for breastmilk?, etc.
One Sunday morning I did an emergency button repair on one of Aaron’s jackets, but besides that I did not actually sew last month. My brain was absorbed elsewhere—and I ALSO wonder if I need to wait until postpartum to do some of my larger projects. Who knows what sizes my body will need after birthgiving?
But I did organize and catalog every altering project to hand. It took about an hour one afternoon, but I now know the wealth of creative potential waiting for me.
Alter two dresses that will serve me immediately before and after giving birth. I want a “birthing gown”!
Thin out closet to make room for what’s coming. I have held onto some things “just in case” for a while. Aaron and I both will go through our closets this month and donate what could be of use to someone else.
3. “Secondhand First”
BIG WINS in this category! I’ll just tick them off for the record:
Thrifting for needs. Aaron and I took our little Notes-app list to our favorite secondhand shop the first week of January and racked up, plus some. I was amazed at how several of our needs were met in one hour of thrift store browsing. It will probably not always be that way, but sometimes it IS.
WOW! Swap Meet. The women of Wilshire Baptist ventured the gift-economy and it was beautiful. Tears come to my eyes when I remember the (very needed) bras that just happened to be in my size, the curtains that perfectly fit our windows, the baby things, and the just pretty things… all provided because we women accepted the opportunity—and the vulnerability required—to share with one another. Praise be!
Street-Side Finds. For St. Brigid’s day this year we hosted a fireside shingdig, thus needing firewood and a few extra chairs. Wouldn’t you know it? Both showed up on the side of the road in our neighborhood the week before the party. Chopping the firewood availed me to much laughter (“Is that a pregnant lady with a hatchet out there?!”) and the opportunity to make friends with previously unmet neighbors. The lightweight Adirondack chairs cleaned up beautifully and will service my neighbors and me around many a fire hitherto. Thankful for the goodness.
I notice that moving away from consumption has made me more aware of what we already have and what is already available to us, which is amazing. The abundance already in our midst is mind baffling. I wonder what gifts await us all if we have eyes to see, unimpeded by the lens of convenient consumerism? I wonder what we have in our abundant possession that could be of use to others. What opportunities are there to unstop the flow of grace in our society?
4. Water Usage
This goal is harder than I anticipated. Hot showers feel so good; they are difficult to cut short. However, I am proud of a few steps we made last month:
Awareness. At least I am aware now that I like showers and need a timer to help me gauge my water usage. This will be helpful going forward.
“If it’s yellow…” I have never been one to “let it mellow,” but as my third-trimester belly began its press into my bladder last month, I have had to go pee 3-5 times per hour (PER HOUR!). I found that flushing the toilet every. single. time. to be obnoxious and unnecessary—especially since I do not share a toilet with anyone for most of the day. Take it as you will, but it’s working for me right now, flushing once every three wees or so.
Get serious about timing my showers. Instead of three minute showers, I might allow myself a max of 6 and work down from there. I also do not shower daily. Sometimes that makes me feel allowed to indulge…which is probably erroneous. And I’ll work on it.
Keep following the flow of water in the kitchen. I continued using the pasta water trick that I mentioned in my original post and found that there are other ways water flows about the work of preparing food. For instance, when I boiled sausages one Friday I saved the water in the fridge to add to our chili the next day (which was a tasty addition!).
***By the way, I was so encouraged by a friend who started saving and redirecting water in the kitchen last month. Way to go, Sara!
5. Focusing energy.
The clothesline is back. And inside, actually. Dallas weather—and indeed all weather—is weirding due to climate change. We had some very warm days this month and I put my clothes out to dry. Other days I noticed were too moist and overcast for such work. Therefore, Aaron moved the clothesline inside. We run a ceiling fan to aid the drying process and find that the evaporation helps restore moisture back into the dry winter air in our home. So we are using less energy and enjoying unexpected benefits.
We also did fairly well living by natural light. Our parsonage is endowed with many windows. There have been many days that I felt it unnecessary to use lamplight but for the early mornings and after dark. In return, I find my body moving well with the season; I feel clued into the reality of winter, of sunrise and sunset. It’s beautiful.
(I’m sensing a pattern here, y’all. Move toward embodied love, experience deeper goodness and connection than before. Surely it’s not a rule, but I definitely see a pattern.)
Batch baking. We fire up the oven quite a bit these days (see goal #s 8 and 9 below), so I am wondering if there is a way to “batch bake” so as to use that energy more efficiently. I am reminded of old stories of baking on certain days of the week, think Little House on the Prairie, etc. Perhaps this is why. Going forward I am going to experiment with synchronizing our meal plans and baking needs into a more efficient rhythm.
Example: On bread baking day, could I go ahead and par bake my homemade pizza crust for the week? Or pop in a couple batches of scones, muffins, or roasted veggies as well?
6. Grow something.
February 1 officially began the planting season here in Dallas, Texas. I have been hard at work planning and scheming ever since.
I discovered and subscribed to the Growmigo service late January. It is a data compiler that helps gardeners know when exactly to plant what in their specific locale. Being a newbie Texan, the service has already proved worthy of its $12/year subscription fee. I feel more confident in my garden plans and can’t wait to get started this weekend!
We have even decided to build another bed on the property. This one will sit in the backyard under some shade. Methinks this will be no problem for Texas growing.
Build and prepare beds for spring planting.
Fear not. Just try.
Look into adding herbs and flowers to existing landscaping around the parsonage.
The only movement we have made forward on this goal is to clear off the worm bin; it has been serving as a potting bench since its completion last Easter.
We are still committed to beginning the worm den, but needed to hold off on their purchase for financial reasons in January. I think we will be able to make it happen this month, however.
Buy the worms and get the thing started. :)
8. Eliminate waste in the kitchen.
Y’all. We made significant improvement in this area last month. It feels weird to be TOO excited about it because we still lost some food, but it was WAY less than what had been our normal—and wayyyy less than the 40% average food loss for American households.
So I am happy, proud, sad, excited, and embarrassed (#allthefeelings) to report that in the month of January we only lost:
Half cup of cooked cabbage (I made a mistake in my usual prep and it turned out…not as great as usual; we did our best)
1 small potato (found it already rotten in the bag)
1 butternut squash (I did not use it quick enough; it started to mold within a week!)
I want to point out that we lost not one scrap of meat in January. Not one scrap!
What made the difference:
Meal planning. Y’all, it took about 8 hours of true work (I will never underestimate or undervalue a meal plan ever again), but I sketched our all of our meals for the month of January there in the first week. It literally took hours of my time; I kept feeling inept because it took so long, but that is the nature of the beast. Good things take time. The time was not wasted either, because now we have a perfectly good month-long winter meal plan to fall back on when needed!
Because I was able to plan ahead I was able to efficiently use all of our ingredients. For instance, one recipe might call for a half onion or half a can of tomato paste, but I knew I’d be able to use the other half in two days for another meal, and so on and so forth.
Meal planning is hard work that takes significant effort and time—and it is worth it.
It should never be undervalued. It should be respected.
Meal planning keeps food from landfill and cuts down on frustration in the kitchen.
Using the freezer. Give it up for the real MVP of January—our freezer! In regards to saving meat, the real trick was to faithfully freeze it as soon as it came in from the grocery. Unless I planned to cook it that day, the freezer held it safe.
Also, the freezer empowered me to make double recipes and freeze leftovers for later use—which totally worked because of the hard-earned meal plan.
Create a bank of month-long meal plans. With baby coming and shifting rhythms, too, I know we will appreciate having plans to fall back on in the coming months. In February I’d like to create at least two more months of meal plans.
Look for ways to intercept potentially wasted food in our community. Our church gathers for meals regularly. The chef is so good about planning and wasting very little, but there are times when, say, bread baskets cannot be received back into the kitchen for health code reasons. Perhaps we could be there to intercept and put that bread to good use? We’ll keep our eyes open for ways to let abundance flow to where it is needed instead of ending up in the waste pile.
9. Saving money.
Dear ones, it is a vulnerable thing to speak of money. Thanks for bearing that reality with me here.
We identified two main goals in this area for the month of January. Here’s how it went.
(1) Propose a realistic budget. We created a budget based on our fixed expenses and a lean understanding of our variable expenses. The plan made Aaron and I both nervous at first and when we explored this together we found it was because we were nervous about disappointing one another. We built what turned out to be a pretty spot-on budget for the month of January, which was a definite win. The real treasure, however, was that gentle conversation about our financial apprehensions and the resulting commitment to check in regularly together about the process of managing our resources; we learned more about ourselves, one another, and who we want to be together as result. Intentional sharing and exploration around the issue of money is crucial to our well-being as persons and as partners. Invaluable discoveries.
(2) Eat in. The greatest challenge of January was our commitment to create every meal ourselves except for those necessitated “out” by work.
We did it.
Aaron had three mandatory lunch meetings (all tax write-offs) and I had one (which was provided for me free of charge). We also have church commitments for lunch and supper on Wednesdays; Aaron’s required to be there and I find it a worthy priority to be there, too.
Besides these, however, we made every single meal in January. And it was awesome.
Y’all, really. Not only did we halve our average food expenses, but we felt truly nourished. Not once did we feel deprived. It helped that we have a loving community willing to join us around our dining table instead of going out to eat. It also helps that we really like each other and enjoy cooking.
Achieving this goal for the month of January makes me feel empowered and energized. I feel an openness that was not there before. This shift has unlocked space for creativity and hospitality that we could not access until now. Thanks be to God.
Edit the budget for February and make provisions for yearly expenses. The January budget worked great for the actual expenses in January, but we noticed that we need to start making provisions for those once-a-year expenses, too (like our dog Barkley’s checkup, Christmas presents, car taxes, etc.). Hoping to work on that a good bit this month.
Keep eating in. We liked it and we’re gonna keep at it. Also hoping to freeze some meals for our first month postpartum, too.
Keep reading, exploring, and talking. I’ve read several interesting books around money in January, which Aaron and I explored at length. It’s been helpful; I find that I am less afraid to the topic when I learn more about it.