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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