As the biggest challenge the world has faced in my lifetime played out, my role was to stay home. With no medical expertise and no link to the food supply chain beyond end consumer, I was officially “non-essential”. While hard- working and clever people around the world heroically used all their energy to combat coronavirus, I sat home and did nothing. Immensely grateful, and not unused to free-riding, I felt useless.
Now the medical emergency is subsiding (at least here in New Zealand), attention is turning to the economic crisis left in its wake. Coronavirus exposed not only the fragility of human health, but the fragility of global consumer capitalism. While combating the virus was the domain of the essential few, resuscitating the economy is something we will all be called upon to do.
I expect the call to be loud and relentless, casting wanton consumerism as an act of pure heroism. Remember what it was like during the Global Financial Crisis? It’ll have nothing on this. And primed by boredom and survivors’ guilt, we’ll be more ready to respond to the call than ever before.
But before you start dutifully clicking “add to cart” at every opportunity, take a breath. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of advertisers and their plans for your money. Make a plan of your own.
In an attempt to avoid trips to the supermarket, I’ve signed up for a fruit and veggie box delivery. Delivery day (Tuesday) is quickly becoming the highlight of the week. I used to get a fruit and veggie box years ago, but found it challenging to make the best use of it and ended up wasting a fair bit. This time, I want to do better.
For the last few years, I’ve focused on reducing my food waste. This includes keeping a food waste diary, which I post as part of #foodwastefriday on Instagram. Over the years, I’ve shared lots of ideas on how to make food last longer and reduce waste. I’ve gone through my archives and put together some of my most popular tips.
Somehow, we ended up in the toy aisle, probably something to do with it being located right next to the kids pyjamas. My son was examining a display of dinosaurs from a well-known movie franchise.
“I’d really like one of these,” began his spiel.
“My friend Johnnie has one of these. He has lots of cool toys; way more than me”.
This was the first time Mr 6 had volcalised a difference I was wondering if he’d notice – most of his friends have more toys than he does, some have a lot more.
A forlorn expression sets on his face. Is he just putting it on or is my minimalism harming his self-worth? I stop freaking out and give him the facts, he likes facts.
“Johnnie does have more toys than you,” I tell him. “But, did you know those are the only toys he gets to play with? He doesn’t get to go to the toy library and choose new toys like you do.”
“He doesn’t get to go to the toy library?”, my son replies in concerned disbelief.
“No,” I explain, “You’re lucky you get to go to the toy library. What would you rather have: all of Johnnie’s toys or go to the toy library?”
“Toy library, definitely” is the firm reply.
We’ve been using the toy library regularly since the wee guy was six months old (not that he had any interest in toys then – just as well we didn’t buy any!). He loves the toy library – every couple of weeks he gets to pick out new toys to bring home. I love it too. If there’s a toy library near you, I highly recommend using it – even if you have too many toys already.
It is Friday, so it’s time to check in about my food waste over the last fortnight.
I am pleased to report that last week was another zero food-waste week, however unfortunately this week we wasted half a scoop of chips. It was a classic case of our eyes being bigger than our stomachs when ordering at the local fish and chip shop. My husband diligently cleaned up and threw them out before I managed to make a move to save them. I was going to try to reheat them the next day – they’d probably be quite soggy I’d imagine!
It is Food Waste Friday and I’m pleased to say that being accountable for my waste is making a real difference.
I got asked a great question this week (thanks Pip): “Have you found that doing it in public has helped more than just giving yourself a stern talking to?”.
The answer is a big YES. Obviously, going public is highly motivating, but there is more to it than that. Before starting this project, I felt guilty about my waste, but harsh self-criticism and bad feelings weren’t making much of a difference. Now when I waste food, I don’t feel as bad about it. I know I’ve made a good effort to reduce my waste and I use it as a learning opportunity to improve my systems.
And it is working! This week I’m happy to report zero food waste – until this happened.
Welcome to Food Waste Friday. This week, I fell victim to the supermarket’s super-marketers.
First, the good news. The system I implemented last week – designating a shelf in the fridge for items that need to be used up ASAP – is working well. All leftovers, half used jars of tomato paste, etc., were used up.
The bad news –1 ¼ heads of broccoli in the bin. I went to steam and puree it on Monday (in an attempt to save it) but it was too far gone. This was a clear case of “bargain blinkers”. Broccoli wasn’t on my shopping list, but I couldn’t resist it at a bargain two for $3. Wow, I could save $1 by buying two! So I did, but I barely used any of it – really, I wasted $2 and a lot of broccoli.
This month I’ve been on a decluttering mission. I am playing The Minimalist Game, attempting to rid my home of 564 items in a month. One unexpected outcome of this mission – gratitude for the sharing economy.
Thanks to the sharing economy
The sharing economy has come in for a bit of a backlash recently as community turns corporate, but I have a lot to thank it for this month.
Sorting through my home, I’ve experienced a range of feelings guilt, overwhelm, joy, excitement. Undertaking this exercise has prompted me to search for ways of living with less. It has made me realise how grateful I am for the various ways that I can use and enjoy stuff without having to own it.
I hate to waste food but, inevitably, it happens. Despite meal planning like a pro, things don’t always work out as planned.
I know I am not alone in this. In New Zealand, where I live, the average family wastes around $563 worth of food every year. In the United States, for a family of four, its around $1600 worth of food each year. It’s pretty shocking.
I attended a community fundraiser this morning supporting the Red Cross’s work to help the people of Nepal recover from a series of devastating earthquakes. It was fun event, full of community spirit.
The fundraising featured the usual raffles and auctions. Being in the throes of the Minimalist Game, I viewed the tables of prizes through a different lens. Now, don’t get me wrong, the prizes were lovely, tasteful and good quality. But it was also stuff I don’t need and don’t really want, stuff that would just sit around my house for a few years before I moved it on.
My usual approach is to buy raffle tickets no matter the prize, but now I really don’t want to win! I don’t want to bring the stuff into my house. What to do? On the spot I formulated some quick strategies , which I thought I’d share.