2nd Quarter Progress to Goals

At the beginning of the year, we set two goals, which are featured in the post: Better Me, Better World. As the 2nd quarter draws to a close, we have had some successes in working toward these goals and some areas that are in definite need of improvement. Unplanned spending has been a hurdle in the Better Me area and food waste has been more of a problem than we imagined when we set our Better World goal. Here’s how things went:

Better Me

Goal: Live simply. Prove that we can live a happy, healthy, and prosperous life with less. 

Set a budget and stick to it. Strive for no unplanned spending.

So…this did not happen. The budget part, yes. We came up with a great budget at the beginning of the year and aside from a few minor tweaks, it’s been working well for us. The problem has been that the budget only accounts for my regular income, not our side hustles or proceeds from decluttering. We had $270 in sales on OfferUp and $1,833 in side hustle income this quarter. A large chunk of our extra income went to our travel fund. The rest to “unplanned spending”. We purchased a few items of clothing (mostly undergarments), a cork bulletin board, and two life vests for kayaking that were not on our list, along with a whole lot of food. We went kind of crazy at Sprouts. We also had to take our cat to the vet twice. Though we have a pet fund, the little guy has exhausted that this year, and then some.

Buy used when possible.

When the thrift store wants to charge $5 more for a used life vest than what a new one costs at Walmart, I’m sorry to say, Walmart wins. I know it’s not the best choice environmentally, but it was the best choice for our budget. We did opt to buy a couple of golf clubs at Goodwill (99 cents each) rather then renting them at the driving range.

Eat a mostly plant-based diet, with no more than 10% of meals containing meat.

Woo-hoo! YES! Finally, we did something right! We had 76 completely meatless days (out of 91) or 258 meatless meals. We prepared ZERO meals at home that contained meat. I’m really surprised that we made it through 2 weeks of separate visits with our parents (and Angie in Texas, no less) without eating more meats. My mom cooked several all veggie meals for me while Angie was gone and though her parents weren’t thrilled with the “no meat” plan, they only insisted on Angie eating the same dinner as them just once. In total, only 9% of our meals contained meat.

Do something active 3 times a week.

See, I told you we’d do better this quarter! We walked/hiked 74.7 miles. We hit golf balls at the driving range. Our summer chores – mowing, weeding, gardening – have ramped up and we’re spending at least 5-6 hours a week in the yard/garden. Angie did some woodworking with her mom and helped with the farm chores (feeding the chickens and horse) while she was away. My visit with my mom was a little less active though. We did some sewing projects and puttered around in the yard in the evenings.

Better World

Goal: Zero-food-waste. Prove that one couple can have an impact in reducing global food waste.

Plan meals.

As always, this is a work in progress. We’ve done fairly well with planning meals since CSA season started though.

Continue food rescue.

The grocery store next door is back open and we’re up to 279 pounds of rescued food so far this year. We’re also volunteering with Society of St. Andrew to glean the Nashville Farmer’s Market once a month and have gathered 90.25 pounds of produce for the Nashville Rescue Mission.

Shop reduced-to-clear/quick-sale items first when grocery shopping.

Angie almost got tackled by an old man when she reached for a bag of cherries in the reduced-to-clear bin last week. Aside from that, we’ve had much success in finding most of our potatoes, onions, fruits, and breads there.

Buy local foods.

Along with our CSA basket, we’ve been visiting our Saturday Farmer’s Market and a few farm stands throughout the week to source our fresh produce. Today, we’re off to the U-pick to get a few gallons of blackberries for the freezer.

Grow a garden.

Yep, we got that covered. We have tomatoes, peppers, black-eyed peas, green beans, squash, zucchini, sunflowers, blackberries, and a mystery plant (from compost) that may or may not be a cantaloupe.

Compost year-round.

So far so good! Angie even started a worm bin a few months ago with some pitiful looking fishing worms from Walmart. I had zero expectation of their survival but somehow, she has managed to turn them into thriving (and fat) worms.

When we set our goal to have zero food waste, we anticipated that it would be easy, since we are in control of our food choices, right? Turns out, that’s not always the case. In 6 months, we’ve wasted 7.15 pounds of food, a good bit of which was prepared for us by someone else. Since starting to eat more of a plant-based diet a few years ago, we’ve cut out a lot of sweets and God love them, both sets of our parents are sweet junkies! My mom bakes a mean cake and her cobblers are out of this world but after one piece, she usually gives the rest to us. There’s just no way we can eat all of them. I’ve tried freezing pieces for later but later never comes before the next cake appears. I’ve given some to the wildlife, but chocolate is not good for them so where do those cakes go? Sadly, to waste! It horrifies me every time I have to write down yet another ounce of wasted food but we’re at a loss on what else to do with them.

What were your goals for this quarter? Did you achieve them? We’re there any surprises or setbacks?

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Can’t Share a Sandwich

I learned something truly ridiculous this week. In cities across America, it is illegal to share food with the homeless.

More than 550,000 men, women, and children in America are homeless right now – 193,000 of whom will have no access to a safe shelter of any kind tonight. Not a tent, not a car, not a bed at the Rescue Mission. And for most, that also means no access to food.

Yet, 130+ billion pounds of food goes to waste every year.

Let that sink in for a minute.

On Sunday, when the grocery store next door was closed and the construction workers were home celebrating Easter, we snuck across the fence to visit “our dumpster”.  I wish I’d taken a camera. The waste was unbelievable. One clear 50-gallon garbage bag lay outside the dumpster, it’s contents spilling onto the ground – 6 packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 2 salmon filets, and enough beef to feed a family of four for several months. Inside the dumpster was even worse – oranges, strawberries, grapes, cucumbers, coffee, and more – all spilled out and already starting to rot.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why an international grocery chain that has committed to reduce food waste by 50% in EUROPE by 2030, can’t do the same in it’s US stores. I love you ALDI, but when it comes to food waste, you suck!

Which brings me to the sandwich.

Hard to believe we can’t share this delicious ham!

About a month ago, we rescued 3 spiral-sliced hams from the dumpster. I gave two of them away and kept the third to bake for Easter. At the time, I was picturing a potluck lunch with several family members and friends. As it turned out, my family had their own plans, my mom got sick, and the friends I invited bailed, leaving us with an 11-pound ham to split between two people who barely eat meat. Not wanting to waste the ham (which was delicious, by the way), my first thought was to share with the homeless. Our plan was to make ham sandwiches and pack them in paper sacks with a bag of chips and an apple and hand them out in the park on Monday.

Since I couldn’t remember the name of the park where we saw the homeless gathered one day, I started Googling and lo and behold, what did I come upon?? Article upon article about how it’s illegal to feed the homeless. I still thought, not my city…after all, we’re the nicest place in America and we pride ourselves on taking care of our fellow man. So I made a few inquiries. Seems we can’t hand out food without a permit. The most affordable permit costs $100 BUT it can only be purchased by an actual non-profit.

It’s okay (and even encouraged and celebrated) to hand out blankets, sleeping bags, coats, and clothing to the homeless yet it’s not okay to share your lunch. I understand there’s a concern about food poisoning, but seriously, only 0.0009% of people die each year from a foodborne illness. And according to the National Coalition for the Homeless (January 2018), there has been no documented cases of food poisoning coming from food that is shared with hungry people in public places.

I suppose we could have broken the law and handed out lunches anyway. Technically, we broke the law all last summer when we routinely made lunches for a homeless family with 3 children who were living in the motel near our apartment. But I have no desire to go to court or pay a fine this week for trying to do something that shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.

This incident has left us with much to ponder. If we can’t legally share the food we rescue from the dumpster, should we even bother to take it? We’ve pretty much decided that when it comes to meats, the answer to that is no. We won’t eat the meat ourselves. We can’t donate it to a food bank (we tried that last year, only to be turned away). And we now know that we can’t share it with others either.

What we can share though is information. And perhaps the more we know, the more we can do to fight both food waste and hunger in our communities. This weekend, we’re volunteering with Compost Nashville to help educate folks at Nashville VegFest about food waste. This summer, we’ll be working with SOSA to collect unsold produce from the Farmer’s Market and get it to those in need. These small steps are just a few of the many ways that we can work towards changing the food waste vs. food-sharing narrative.

What are your thoughts on food-sharing? Should feeding the homeless be illegal? Are there organizations in your community that bridge the gap between food waste and food insecurity?

Food Waste Update

  • Wasted Food this week: 0 ounces
  • Total Wasted Food in 2018: 50 ounces
  • Rescued Food this week:   1.3 US pounds
  • Total Food Rescued this year:  185.69 US pounds

Keep up with our food finds in real time by viewing our Food Find Gallery.