Thursday, March 5, 2015

Waste Not...

I read an article a while back that says Americans waste approximately 40% of their total food each year. This happens at various points in the food supply chain, sometimes at the fault of the growers and suppliers, and sometimes in restaurants and cafeterias, but the main cause is American consumers wasting food in their own homes.

I am notorious for having a clean fridge. The thought of having an overstuffed fridge with food rotting in the back makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, I do throw food away if it's starting to get old {and I am very picky about the freshness of my food} but I barely ever have to do this, because I keep careful inventory of our household food and try not to overbuy.

This is our fridge on a Sunday afternoon, before I go grocery shopping on Monday morning.

So in light of the depressing article about wasting food, I thought I'd share a few of my tips on how I run our household without wasting food...

Buy produce carefully. Let's be honest, fresh produce doesn't last that long. If I'm buying berries, I know they will need to be eaten in the next 2-3 days. The greenest banana will probably be ripe within 4 days. Apples, carrots, and broccoli are awesome, because they can last a week or more in the fridge. But, overall, the shelf life of most fresh produce is very short. I try to ONLY buy what can be eaten by our family in one week. This usually looks like 4-5 bananas, 4-5 apples, 1-2 packages of berries, and 2-3 different vegetables for dinner side dishes. By Sunday, our fridge is nearly empty of any fresh produce and I restock again on Monday {I use canned or frozen fruits and veggies for Zianne or good ol' "pouches" when we are out of fresh produce.}

Freeze ripe fruit. Ideally, you will eat all your produce while it's fresh, but if you notice it's starting to get overripe, freeze it before it goes bad. I keep a bag of extra ripe fruit in the freezer. It's perfect for smoothies. I also try to buy the correct amount of bananas for each week, but if one or two happen to go uneaten, they get transferred to the freezer until I can turn them into banana muffins

*A note to banana eaters: Unless you have six boys at home, do NOT buy a giant bunch of bananas. The problem with buying a bunch is that they will all be ripe on the same day. Buy a couple from a bunch that is almost all yellow with a tiny bit of green, and then buy a few from a bunch that's very green, so you can eat them at different times throughout the week.

Leftover lunches. If you can tolerate leftovers, plan your lunches strategically. When we finish dinner, I immediately divide any leftovers into lunch size portions and put them into small tupperware containers in the fridge. Usually I have at least one container for Micah's lunch and often one for me as well. As I'm cleaning up dinner, lunch is already prepared for the next day. Any leftovers not consumed within 48 hours get tossed, but because they are packed and ready to go that rarely happens.

Clip coupons with caution. I think coupons are a great way to save money, but make sure you only cut coupons for items you know you will actually buy or use. It can be tempting to clip coupons for some new rice side dish or for a soup you tried once three years ago and liked, but unless you know these items will fit into your current meal rotation, you are wasting your money. If that soup or rice sits in your pantry for two years until it's expired and can't even go to the food bank, then it's not doing anyone any good.

Meal plan. There are million blog posts out there sharing the wisdom of meal planning. There is really no better way to save your money and your sanity than to plan your meals ahead of time and to shop from a list. But don't stress yourself out. When I get the weekly ad for my grocery store in the mail each week, I sit down for five minutes, jot down every item on sale that I might use {pork tenderloin, blueberries, organic butter, coffee} and then I recycle the ad immediately. A few days later, I plan my meals and add any other needed items to the list I already started. When pork tenderloin is on sale, I make our favorite tenderloin recipe. If chicken is on sale, I plan one to two meals based on that. I also only plan to cook about three dinners a week. Don't buy stuff to make dinner seven nights in a row if that's not actually going to happen. Between meals with friends, our community group, and crazy nights where we need something quick, I know I will actually only cook dinner 3-4 nights a week, so that's what I plan for.

Empty your fridge and pantry before you leave town. Before you go on vacation, make it a point to clear all your shelves. Anytime we take a trip, I back off on grocery shopping for a couple of weeks before we leave. I will buy essentials such as milk, fresh fruits and veggies, and a few snacks for lunch, but other than that, I try to use things we already have. I'll keep a running list of dinner inventory and try to use the chicken I forgot about in the freezer, make soup one last time before it's 100 degrees in Arizona, and use up side items like rice and potatoes that are lingering in the pantry. If you travel even once or twice a year, use these events to clear out your food inventory and start fresh when you return.

Keep a couple of quick dinners on hand. Since I only plan to cook dinner 3-4 times a week, I always keep 1-2 "easy meals" in the freezer for nights we find ourselves at home with nothing to eat. Some of our favorite quick dinners are CPK frozen pizzas or Trader Joe's Orange Chicken. But don't go overboard. You don't need your freezer packed full with ten quick fix dinners that you aren't going to use for months. Keep a couple on hand and restock as they get used. 

Send care packages abroad. One of my best friends lives in Africa, where she has no access to many of the convenience foods we have in America. Once or twice a year, I go through our pantry to see if I have any fun treats to send her. One of her favorite things to receive is packets of dry ranch seasoning, because that's something they don't have in her city and it has multiple uses. One winter, I had a bunch of leftover powder chai tea latte mix that I didn't get around to using since our winters here are like sixty degrees and last for two weeks. She loves chai tea lattes, so I included the packets in a package for her. If you have friends that live outside of the States, ask them if there are any ingredients or non-perishable food items they miss. There is a good chance some of them are sitting in your American pantry. Send them to a friend who will appreciate them more than you do.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Life List

I made this list a few years ago and it's been sitting as a blog draft ever since. At first, I thought it should be much longer, which is why I never posted it, but then I decided the number of items can match my age, and I will add something to the list every time I celebrate a birthday.

Most of the items on this list are just for fun. It's seriously not the end of the world if they don't happen, but they represent lighthearted goals and dreams I've had for a long time. When I first made the list, I was sure to include past items I had already accomplished, such as being the editor-in-chief of my high school paper. I don't want to ignore the goals I had in my youth that helped shape me into the person I am today.

So here is my "life list," but I post this while meditating on this passage from James 4: "Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” I hope the things on the list below happen, but I trust that my days are already ordained for God's glory.

1::Make a photo book with Scripture from each of the Psalms
2::Watch the TCU Horned Frogs in a bowl game at a stadium {not on TV}
3::Publish a book
4::Birth a baby {or two}
5::Get my PhD
6::Read the whole Bible
7::Memorize a whole book of the Bible {even if it's tiny like Titus}
8::Decorate a home to the point where I can say I like every room
9:: Meet Candace Cameron OR Lauren Graham in real life {since the odds of meeting both are slim}
10::Own an old typewriter
11::Own a record player
12::Be editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper
13::Run a half marathon
14::Do a sprint triathlon
15:: Hear my grown children all together laughing in my kitchen
16::Play tennis when I'm old {60+}
17::RE-read all the Harry Potter books out loud to my children
18::Own a DSLR camera
19:: Go to a TCU Homecoming 
20::Donate money to my alma mater 
21::Relearn how to use photoshop
22::Go to the Summer Olympics
23::Play in a doubles tennis tournament with Micah
24::See Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Alica Keys, Mariah Carey and Amy Grant in concert
25::Visit the following places: LondonParis, Norway, Australia, Brazil, Thailand, Washington D.C.New York CityBoston, Chicago, Atlanta, Savannah, Nashville, Hawaii, San Diego, San Francisco, New Orleans
26::Revisit Boston, NYC, Miami, and Hawaii
27::Go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park in Orlando
28::Read all the Harry Potter books
29::Present at an academic conference
30::Publish an academic paper
31::Win a blog giveaway {I never win}
32::Have a colored front door

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

March Goals

Sharing a few achievable goals on my blog each month has proven to be incredibly beneficial for me. I feel extra accountable to get things done when I know I will report back to my readers in this space. I don't always get everything accomplished on my monthly list, but I'm usually able to knock out the majority of my goals, and I consider that a very good thing.

I'm breaking my BIG YEARLY GOALS {honor, prayer, family, rest, write, home} into small steps each month. Here is an overview of how February went down:

Email to Micah {honor} - Done!
Monthly encouragement note {honor} - Done!
Pray about honor and rest {honor/rest} - Done!
Write in prayer journal {prayer} - Done!
Record prayer answers {prayer} - Done!
Prayer for Zianne and Baby #2 {prayer} - Done!
Sentence prayers in car {prayer} - Done!
Memorize Romans 8:9-11 {honor/prayer} - Done! But I'm a little shaky on verse 11 still...
Date night with Micah {family} - Done! We went to the Planetarium.
Date with Zianne {honor/family} - Done! We went out to dinner at Red Robin.
Read one book for fun {rest} - Done! I read The Rosie Project.
Weekly social event with a girlfriend {rest} - Done!
One hour/300 words per weekday of dissertation writing {write} - Done... mostly. I struggled a little.
Four hours/1000 word writing day each week {write} - Done!
Blog at least once a week {rest/write} - Done!
Clean out bathroom cabinets {home} - Done!
Organize medicine {home} - Done!
Post books on Amazon {home} - Done!
Clean out file cabinet {home} - Done! Ugh. Worst task ever. But I'm glad it's over!
Fix side table {home} - Done! Thank you handyman.
Email church about changing service roles {family} - Done, but I need to follow up with this.
Clean out linen closets {home} - Done!
Order Stitch Fix {home} - Done! And it was a bust... again.

Here are my baby goals for this upcoming month:

Note to Micah {honor}
Monthly encouragement note {honor}
Pray about honor and rest {honor/rest}
Pray for Micah {prayer}
Pray for Zianne and Baby #2 {prayer}
Write in prayer journal {prayer}
Record prayer answers {prayer}
Sentence prayers in car {prayer}
Memorize Romans 8:11-12 {honor/prayer}
Date night with Micah {family}
Date with Zianne {honor/family}
Read one book for fun {rest}
Weekly social event with a girlfriend {rest}
One hour/300 words per weekday of dissertation writing {write}
Four hours/1000 word writing day each week {write}
Set up writing calendar/tracker {write}
Blog at least once a week {rest/write}
Clean out bookmarks on computer {home}
Clean out dropbox folders {home}
IR16 Doctoral Colloquium Application {write}
Email church about serving {family}

Monday, March 2, 2015

Cinnamon Roll Cake

Are you hosting a baby shower or brunch this spring? Here is a phenomenal and fairly easy cinnamon roll cake that's sure to please a crowd.

What you need for the cake:
3 c. flour
1/4 tsp.salt
1 c. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. milk
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. butter, melted

What you do:
Mix everything together except for the butter. 
Slowly stir in the melted butter and pour into a greased 9 x 13 pan.

What you need for the topping:
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

What you do:
Mix all the topping ingredients together until well combined. 
Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife. 
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.

What you need for the glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar
5 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

What you do:
Once the cake is done baking, drizzle the glaze over the top while still warm.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Saturday Snippets

And a good post on how to prepare for the Sabbath...

The happiest video of all time...

Love this photo book...

A great article about casting vision for your small group...

I desperately want Jimmy Fallon to become a Christian and carry on his antics in heaven...

The phrase "pump and dump" has always bothered me and now I know why...

After watching my husband interact with ALL his cousins, aunts, and uncles over the years {and getting to befriend them myself}, I couldn't agree more with this article on big families.

And finally... I am helping my sister-in-law raise funds for The World Race this summer. She is selling almost her entire wardrobe in my Instagram shop @thecuratedcloset TODAY! We are having a one day auction that will end at 3pm MST and we would love for you to join in the fun!
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