Produce bags/spice bags tutorial

Hey guys, it’s been a very interesting week. Before we get to the tutorial I wanted to share a few updates…first off on the vegan challenge…

I failed, miserably..

I think it was more a product of #1 living with other people who eat meat and just happened to offer me some leftovers, and #2 lack of meal planning for the week. I am determined to try fresh this week and see how I do…more updates to come.

On a side note I wanted to share with you that as a family of four (three of whom are not zero-waste/minimalist) we have cumulatively decreased our amount of trash from 3-4 garbage bags per week down to 1 which isn’t even 100% full. I’m pretty excited about this 🙂 The rest of the family is finally starting to get on board remembering what is recyclable/compostable, etc. Yay for baby-steps!

Now, on to the tutorial. It all started when I noticed that most of the “reusable” bags they sell at the grocery stores and such are 1. Not very sturdy 2. Made of synthetic fabrics and 3. Kind of ugly…just sayin.

Then there is always the fact that the stores I frequent do not allow you to bring your own jars…but they don’t have any problem with you bringing bags!

So, being the thrifty person I am I did what any self-respecting eco-conscious person would do…I went shopping in my basement 🙂 As a family we always tend to have things in our home that aren’t being used that I conveniently find new uses for. For example…the extra garbage can that I DIY’d into a compost bin. And now I found a few yards or so of 100% cotton as well as a spool of 100% cotton thread and a bit of scrap crocheting string that happens to also be 100% cotton. So I whipped out my home-made sewing kit and voila, reusable cotton produce and spice bags! The best part is that they are super simple and easy to make.

What you’ll need:

  1. Fabric, natural and eco-friendly is a plus such as cotton, hemp, etc. You can also get really crafty and use old towels or sheets to make your bags…even an old t-shirt will work.
  2. Needle
  3. Thread, again I used 100% cotton, none of that synthetic stuff.
  4. A string of some sort for the drawstring, I used crocheting string.
  5. Pins
  6. Scissors
  7. Sewing machine * optional, Patience is definitely needed if you are sewing by hand 🙂

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First things first I cut strips of the cotton to the size I wanted and folded them over to look like little rectangles. Then I pinned the sides together to hold them while I sewed a semi-straight line down the sides. You can use a machine if you like really straight lines, but I found it easier to hand sew them (that and my sewing machine hates me, it never works when I need it to) WIN_20160224_161903WIN_20160224_164847

Once this part is done there should be three closed sides and one that is still open. There are now a few different ways you can make closures for the opening, firstly you could simply fold over the top edge on both sides and sew it to look like a small pillow case (if you don’t need a closure) I would use this type of finishing for a bread bag or for bags that are going to be larger and hold bigger produce like potatoes, etc. The second way is to do what you would do with the first, but to add a button on one side and a opening on the other for the button to go through. I use these types of bags for lettuce or green onions, etc. Things that won’t easily fall out. 🙂

The third way, which I will show you today, is to take the final edge and make a drawstring closure. It sounds complicated, but all it takes is a little string and a hole. Take a look…WIN_20160224_170136WIN_20160224_170235WIN_20160224_170740WIN_20160224_172436

Once you finish sewing underneath the thread, make sure that both ends of the string are threaded through the little hole and then flip it right side out. You now have a snazzy produce or spice bag depending on the size you made.

Notice that I did not use a ruler or even a straight edge for that matter, I simply eyeballed it, and it turned out semi-symmetrical. It doesn’t have to be perfect since it is just a tool to hold spices and such at the store. If you want you can always be super precise and make them fancier if you like. But for me I enjoy my plain white cotton bags with cotton thread and string. Simple and easy 🙂

The best part? When they finally rip and die I can compost them and return them back to the earth!

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My sugar journey (Requested post)

This post is a continuation of my sugar free post, I got a request to detail my journey to being mostly sugar free and to address if I used any sugar substitutes, etc.

In the last post I talked about my starting point ten years ago when I quit drinking soda cold turkey. It was miserable to say the least for the first week as I dealt with headaches and intense cravings for the sugary beverage. As a substitute for soda, I allowed myself a cup of koolaid every other day…koolaid was one step up in my opinion because I directly controlled the amount of sugar in it and I tended to put a bunch of ice-cubes in my glass to water it down and make it last longer.

Right after that…I did nothing. Seriously, at that point I was in High school and was not a very conscious eater about what I was putting into my body. I actually quit pop on a dare and to prove to my mother that it could be done. 🙂

About 5 years later I started thinking about what I was eating, and I became increasingly frustrated by the ingredients lists on the back of processed foods. I mean really, can you pronounce half of the ingredients in a box of ding dongs? I can’t.

So I thought about it, and started SLOWLY incorporating more vegetables and fruits into my diet. Skip forward another year and I decided to do an experiment because I was pretty sure that I was suffering from food intolerances. So I cut dairy completely from my diet and started feeling a bit better…then I cut gluten and eventually all grains from my diet.

Again at this point it wasn’t so much my goal to be “healthier” so much so as it was just to eliminate the symptoms I was having from the intolerances. A few months after eliminating those food items, I was feeling a thousand times better. All of the bloating, cramps, skin irritations, constipation, and general lethargies was evaporating as though it had never been there.

I no longer felt that heavy feeling after I ate, I could eat a huge meal and get right up and go without having to unbutton my pants (you know what I’m talking about lol). It was great. I started making more things from scratch since there weren’t as many options at the stores in packages.

I rode on that train for another few years and then a little over a year ago I started becoming interested in minimalism and Zero-waste, as well as watching documentaries on what is actually in our food and researching the effects of food dyes and preservatives on our bodies.

At that point I had easily cut out over 50% of the packaged foods I had been eating because I was no longer consuming grains or dairy. But I still was consuming more sugar than I should have. As I started incorporating Zero-waste principles into my daily living I realized that packaged foods are a modern invention that aren’t really healthy for us at all, and then there is that pesky problem of all the garbage they produce.

Anywho, over the coarse of the last year I have cut out 95% of packaged foods out of my diet and now am eating fresh foods like fruits and vegetables for most of my meals.

My taste buds have definitely changed over the past decade, and for me it was a very slow process. I did not do this overnight by any means, and I didn’t go cold turkey on sugar except for the soda, I slowly weaned myself off of the rest of it. There are some who can go completely cold turkey without any relapses, but I am not one of those people (except for the soda, but that was sheer stubbornness to win a dare). It takes time to incorporate any serious change into your lifestyle…baby steps in the right direction.

I hope this covered all of the questions I received, if you have any others please leave them in the comments.

Life without sugar, A.k.a. as little sugar as possible

The title might be a bit misleading…my lifestyle and dietary restrictions have really opened my eyes to the amount of sugar that is in everyday food items. Now do I live without consuming sugar at all? Hell no. I do enjoy my 85% dark chocolate bars, and there is sugar in BBQ sauce, as well as the occasional bit of dairy free ice cream….but for the most part I have been avoiding it.

This change hasn’t necessarily been intentional, more a by-product of my minimalist and zero-waste lifestyle and my dietary restrictions.

It has been one of the best things I could have done for myself though…let me explain why. 🙂

It started over a decade ago when I made the very brave decision to quit drinking soda. It was pure torture for almost two weeks, I had withdrawal headaches and cravings like you wouldn’t believe…I felt like a drug addict that was going through detox. Which was pretty much what I was, a sugar addict going through detox.

A month later though…I was feeling a million times better. I suddenly had more energy, and my cravings for the soda were slowly but surely disappearing. A year later I took one sip of a soda and found that it was so sickeningly sweet that I spit it out. I haven’t consumed any since then.

When I was drinking it all the time I didn’t realize how sweet it was, my taste buds were used to it. Now a decade later and my taste buds have been on the detox of a lifetime.

Where before, dark chocolate was repulsive and bitter, I now can’t eat any less than 85% dark chocolate because I find it TOO SWEET. I can taste everything in it’s pure form and it is delicious. I find that fruits can satisfy my sweet tooth amply, with the occasional chocolate bar as a treat.

I’ve gone from eating tons of processed foods with hidden sugar disguised as corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, etc…to now eating 95% whole foods (a.k.a. ones without an ingredients list) and only perhaps 5% of my food is packaged or has a bit of sugar in it.

I’ve never felt better! I haven’t been sick or ill in over two years and I find that I have tons of extra energy. I’m no longer lethargic or lagging in the middle of the day, and I don’t have sugar highs or lows.

Now does this mean that I am recommending a lifestyle sans sugar or for you to nix goodies and treats all together…absolutely not. I just think that we need to be more aware of the sheer amount of sugar we are consuming. Anything in excess can be harmful to your health, especially sugar and really less is more. Now that my taste buds have adjusted to my healthier diet, I can actually taste when anything is amiss with my food or if there is an ingredient in it that I am not used to.

Bonus points, when you cleanse your palette of the excess sugar it also means you don’t have to use as much salt and other spices in your food to actually taste it. 🙂

I mean really, everyone complains that it takes too much time to make things from scratch…but it doesn’t. Did you know it takes exactly the same amount to make Mac N’ Cheese from scratch with dry pasta and fresh cheese as it does to make the artificial one from the box? The EXACT same amount of time, but the results are sooo much better both in taste and in health.

Even if you think I’m taking things to the extreme, I dare you to take one thing out of your diet (whichever bit contains the most amount of sugar) and stop eating it for one month. Just one. At the end of that month, try eating or drinking it again…I’ll bet it doesn’t taste the same as it did before…and you might even  a bit of extra energy you didn’t have before, or your skin might get clearer, or you may even lose a few pounds, who knows? The positive possibilities are endless 😉

Have you gone on a sugar detox? Let me know in the comments!

To vegan or not to vegan?

I’m just going to cut to the chase…I’m thinking about going vegan.

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Even six months ago, had someone even told me that I would consider it I probably would have laughed until my stomach hurt. The fact of the matter is that I do ENJOY meat.

Chicken, burgers, steak, sausage…I used to devour it all. But here I am contemplating the benefits of veganism. I started cutting down my meat consumption a few months ago simply because it is expensive to buy grass fed meats in minimal packaging. Then for some reason about two months ago the smell of red meat started turning my stomach…it literally makes me nauseous. Sooo, I cut back and ate more fish instead, but fish gets incredibly boring, and again is more expensive than organic fruits and vegetables.

I WANT to try going vegan (I already do not eat dairy products because of lactose intolerance, and I’m not such a fan of eggs anyway), but I’m slightly worried that I won’t be able to consume enough calories during the day.

Let me explain, I am 5’10” and on the skinny side of the scale. I don’t consume grains either because of intolerance (my stomach cramps for days if I eat them)…so if I go vegan my diet will only consist of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and vinegars.

That’s incredibly limiting. And I really don’t want to lose any weight.

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But I think I’m going to try it, at least for a few weeks to see how my body responds to it.

My reasons for trying/perhaps adopting veganism are:

  1. Budget, let’s face it…meat and fish are expensive, especially when you will only buy grass fed/wild caught through sustainable means.
  2. I’m already halfway there anyway, so why not go all the way?
  3. The way animals are treated before they get slaughtered is not something that you can be entirely sure of, unless you raise them yourself.
  4. Meat production produces a ton of carbon/methane emissions, and in general isn’t the healthiest thing for the planet.
  5. And lastly I’m curious if I can actually adopt the lifestyle and be content with my meals.

My rules for the next few weeks are…No meat or fish. No eggs. No dairy. The only animal product I am allowing myself is honey, because I already don’t consume very much sugar and honey is amazing. 🙂

Have you tried a vegan diet? Do you still enjoy it and live by it? What were your reasons for trying it? Let me know in the comments.