adventures with my cooler & rejecting the status quo

weekendtrip

Last weekend I left home to visit family and friends in Pennsylvania. I wasn’t going to be gone for long, but I had some odds and ends in the fridge that I knew would go bad if I left them. I could have just said ‘oh well’ and let them go to waste, but, instead, I asked myself ‘why not bring them along?’

So I show up to my mom’s house with a cooler full of two portobello mushrooms, two ears of corn, one bell pepper, one sweet potato, one stalk of celery, and half a massive leftover calzone from the night before along with some marinara sauce.

We were going to go out to eat, but instead I insisted on making her some lunch. So we fired up the grill and sprinkled some balsamic, salt and pepper on the mushrooms. I cooked the corn. Sliced up the pepper. Reheated the calzone. We also used the marinara sauce with a bit of parmesan cheese to put on top of the mushrooms after they were cooked.

We talked and laughed while preparing the food, saved money, and wasted far less than if we would have gone out. Plus, it was delicious. I followed a similar path at my friend Shannon’s house, who immediately burst into a fit of laughter when I sauntered into her humble abode lugging a massive cooler over my shoulder. “Only you, Amanda.”

My point is this: When you attempt to live differently than the status quo, you’re going to come across as odd or perhaps a bit eccentric. My mom and friend were both hesitant when I explained my idea to them, but by the time I left, they were both convinced that I was onto something (at least, I like to think they think that).

If we could each simply take a step back, think before acting, and not care what others may think, we could spark a conscious cultural change. And maybe even have fun making memories in the process. This goes for anything, not just food. Clothing, how often you drive your car, vacation options, paper waste, etc. Before tossing an item or choosing an approach that negatively impacts the earth, animals or even other humans, just think. Consider a different, less-impactful path.

Here are a few ideas on how to give expiring items second life:

*Use browning bananas for baking or ice cream.

*Throw all mis-matched veggies in a pot with some broth and seasoning for a delicious soup that’ll last you for days (recipe by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits).

*Kale going bad that you have no use for? Bake some kale chips (recipe by White on Rice Couple).

*Use leftover plain rice for plant-strong burgers (recipe by Engine 2 Diet).

*Throw orange peels in a pot with some water and cinnamon for an all-natural air freshener.

*Collect paper trash from your home and use it to make your own paper!

*Learn how to sew. Shameless self promotion: My family and I started an Etsy shop called Wootenlegger, and I am now selling upcycled denim zipper pouches ($20), which I made from old Levi’s and a flannel shirt. Check it out here.

*Plan your day geographically. If you’re driving and going to be in town in the morning, don’t go back in the afternoon. Get done all you need to in one trip, if possible.

*And, of course, bring your expiring items with you! It may throw friends and family off a bit, but you’ll be feeding them free food and wasting less.

These are just a few ideas. Live outside the box. Be okay with others thinking you’re weird. Refuse to conform. Stick to your values and ethics, not just in one area of your life, but all. It’s cliche, but be the change you wish to see. Hold yourself to the highest standards, but let go of all guilt. Find the balance, find the inspiration, and go.

(Photo caption: Upper left: beautiful countryside in Central New Jersey; right: my hand-sewn zipper pouch. Lower left: grilled portobello mushrooms; right: catching up with my stunning and long-time friend Shannon over a cold one at sunset.)

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7 comments

  1. Sandra

    I love the core lesson here: to think for yourself and act from your own conscience. You never know who you may bring on board! Thanks for this rich offering of food ideas.

  2. Carrie Hensley

    What a wonderful way to connect with both your mom and good friend and make a difference. Thank you for sharing these recipes and giving me “food for thought”~ what are the ways I can recycle and minimize my impact.

  3. Holly

    “We talked and laughed while preparing the food…”

    I love that moment when we realize the importance of these decisions is not only the saving of money, waste, etc., but the saving of our souls–in the sense of creating more harmony with our surroundings–more personal time, more time well spent with others.

  4. Aubrey

    Oh my gosh yes! I’ve always been a fan of bucking trends, skipping what’s normal, and just doing me. Often, like you mentioned, I get the “you’re eccentric” or “you’re weird” look or type of comment. Honestly, I’m cool with it. I’m a non-conformist through and through and I’ve been happier because of it. I am so excited to have found your site after reading your blurb on your Twitter page, “Blogging about low-impact living on a budget.” I have been studying low-impact living for some time (though I know this is off topic from the post) and my husband and I have plans to go off-the-grid and build an Earthbag/Cob house. But we’re first going to start by getting an old RV, renovating it, making it off-the-grid with some solar panels and water backup, and then taking it around the country to get hands on experience with natural low-impact mortgage-free building.

    And yay for plant-strong! We are plant-strong too and are huge fans of Dr. Campbell, Dr. Esselystyn, Rip and so many others. I’m really stoked to find some like minded folk out there. Cheers to you Amanda!

    I also love that you shared how to give things a second life. I’m constantly rescuing items and giving them a new life, and same with the food in our fridge.

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