Archive | Spring Cleaning Series

Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food

Ways to deal with food waste and save money {TheGreeningOfWestford.com}
Dragon Fly Farms produce at the Westford Winter Farmers Market

I took a slight detour this week – I purged my refrigerator, freezer, pantry and other stashes of food.  Sort of like this food challenge post. The amount of food that goes wasted in this country astounds me!  

In 2009, the EPA estimated that food scraps accounted for 14.1% of our national waste.  It is the second largest category (paper is #1 – don’t get me started on that!)  This does NOT include yard trimmings, which accounts for another 13.7%. Not only could some of this food be eaten, but it is costing towns and cities millions (maybe billions) to dispose of.  Money that should be spent elsewhere.  Trash disposal fees are big in municipalities.  Many of them are turning to Pay-As-You-Throw situations where homeowners pay for each bag of trash they dispose of – most tend to be charging around $2 per bag.

I volunteer with our town’s Recycling Commission.  We are focused this year on getting more people to compost to reduce the trash and thus the trash budget.  One member did a quick calculation on the annual savings: Almost $74, 000 saved if ALL 14.1% was composted (or eaten)  instead of thrown in the trash. If only 10% of our residents composted their food waste, the town could save over almost $7,400. Think of it this way, if 14.1% of trash is potentially compostable, then that is a potential savings of 14.1%  of the trash budget.

I recently saw a special on Food Network called “The Big Waste“.  It dealt with the waste that occurs commercially.  I was sick!  If you get a chance, watch it.  I can’t believe the amount of food that is tossed from grocery stores and suppliers.  There has to be a better way!  Can’t some of this get donated to food pantries?  Or sold to customers at reduced prices – like the quick sale items?

Back to what I did this week to reduce my food waste. I am usually pretty good about meal planning, but I also tend to track prices and stock up when I see a sale.  So, if I’m not careful, I can end up with a lot of stuff in house.  When I look through all the food we had, I realized I had plenty to make meals this week without going shopping.  I really like to do this once in a while.  I can use up things before they spoil and remember what I have so I don’t buy more.  It also gets me to be more creative and find uses for odds and ends.  I have developed or found many favorite recipes this way. I must confess – I did go to the store once.  But I only got a few things – fresh fruit, milk and deli meat for lunches.

We ate pretty well.

Turkey Burgers – I used ground turkey in the freezer, served with homemade fries and green beans (left over from another dinner)

Homemade Pizza – This is definitely a staple on our menu.  It is a great way to use up leftover meat and/or veggies, condiments, you name it!  I always keep Whole Foods organic wheat pizza dough and mozzarella in the freezer.  This week, I used one of the leftover turkey burgers and sun-dried tomatoes that were sitting in the frig.

Pasta Primavera  – Another staple.   This is one of those recipes that was created out of a need to use up leftovers.   It tastes great and is a great way to use up veggies, meat, and beans.    To make it, I saute veggies and garlic,  make a simple sauce (flour, butter, and chicken stock) add Parmesan cheese, any meat or beans you want, and whatever other herbs or spices your’d like,  then toss with pasta.  If the sauce is too thick, I add some of the pasta water.  I have also used milk, half and half, evaporated milk – whatever dairy I happened to have left over – to make it more of a cream sauce.

Shredded BBQ Chicken –   I came across some chicken thighs in the freezer – not a big fan and I had bought these by mistake.  I also had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce!  I put 2 boneless chicken breasts and the thighs into the crock pot with BBQ sauce and about 4 cloves of minced garlic and let it cook away.  I didn’t have any rolls, so I served them on tortillas.

Snack Dinner – This is my version of eating leftovers for dinner.  My kids love it.  They think they are getting away with eating “junk” for dinner.  I pull out whatever we have – leftovers, hummus, bread, wheat crackers, cheese, applesauce, veggies (I always have carrot sticks in the fridg), fruit, yogurt, whatever I can find.  Everyone fills their own plate with an assortment.

I still have quite a bit of food left, so I will continue this week using up what we have and really planning my menu so I buy very little.

How do you deal with food waste?

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Purging Stuff: Week 2

This week I attacked the playroom and found and dealt with more electronics.

TOYS

 

I ventured into the play room.  I purged many toys my kids have outgrown.  Only a handful of miscellaneous unidentifiable items were tossed.  Many of the toys were still in very usable condition.  It is difficult to donate toys.  Charities will only take small toys and some won’t take them at all.  Here is a quick run down of charities in the area that will take toys:

  • Big Brother Big Sister – will accept small toys, games, and stuffed animals.  To donate, you must arrange for a pickup at your house.
  • Savers – This is basically a large indoor year round yard sale.  They work with local charities, donating money for your donations.  They will accept toys, games, puzzles and stuffed animals.  The closest location to Westford is Nashua, on the Daniel Webster Highway, near Best Buy. 

The Wish Project (formerly Lowell Wish Project) and Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM) in Acton, MA, do not accept toys of any kind.  Their goal is to provide those in need with essentials – beds, kitchen items, etc.  I’m sure The Salvation Army takes toys too, but there isn’t a location terribly convenient to Westford.

Yard sale toys

With so many large toys, I decided to have a yard sale.  I like doing the town wide yard sales organized by our community center, Roudenbush.  So this spring I’ll haul everything to the Abbot School lawn.   Anything small left over will go to charity or possibly freecycle if too big.  Since I cleared out part of the basement last week, I now have space to store the toys until spring.

I was able to get my kids to help clear out thing they no longer played with.  To some small extent, they felt good giving them to a child who was less fortunate.  But I have to admit, that the prospect of them making some money selling their toys, helped more.  Need to work on the charity piece with them.

ELECTRONICS

It is amazing how many electronics I found.  I remember hearing a statistic a while back, something like each home has at least 3 – 4 pieces of electronic waste that could be recycled.  I actually thought that was high – until I started looking!

More old installation CDs, various cables, DVD writer, web cam, broken calculator, old portable CD player, a walkman!    I went through it all to determine what still worked and offered that on Freecycle.  The rest went to Best Buy for recycling.  Best Buy will also recycled used gift cards!

Webcam -> Freecycle (picked up 2 days later)
Sony Clie -> Freecycle  (picked up the next day)
Pioneer DVD/CD writer -> Freecycle ( picked up a few days later)
broken Discman -> recycled at Best Buy
broken walkman -> recycled at Best Buy
old installation CDs ->  recycled at Best Buy
broken head phones -> recycled at Best Buy

How did you do?

4

Time To Purge Some Crapola

 

I seem to always be purging stuff from our house. Sometimes more vigorously than others.  This month I am joining ecokaren’s De-Clutter 2012 Challenge.  For the entire month of January, I will be de-cluttering our house -clothing, toys, basement stuff, etc.  And in the spirit of being green, of course, I will be finding homes for as much of it as I possibly can.  Join me!

I found that when I blogged about my Spring Cleaning last year it really helped motivate me.  Don’t feel you need to show pictures or anything.  Just comments on what you are getting rid of is fine.  If you need help figuring out where it should go –  ask!

I’ll post something short each week to tell you what I am getting rid of and where it’s going.

Stay tuned!
____________________________________________________________

Update Post Challenge – What a great challenge!
Here are links to each week’s results:

Week 1: Purging Stuff: Week 1
Week 2: Purging Stuff: Week 2 – Toys and Electronics
Week 3: Purging Stuff: Week 3 – Food 
Week 4: Purging Stuff: Week 4 – Digital Cleanout

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Spring Cleaning: The Office/Paper Clutter

I am loving this Spring Cleaning Series!  It is motivating me to clean out.  The fact that I need to take an AFTER picture is working sort of like when your in-laws are visiting – you can’t just throw things into a corner!
 
This one was tough.  No matter how I have tried to reduce our junk mail and other paper, we still have so much in our office space.  Here are the before pictures:
 
Filing Cabinet Before
Desk Before
 
 
I found I needed 5 areas for the paper:
  1. Shred – For anything with sensitive data (name, address, account info,etc) on it that we no longer need
  2. Paper for Printer – Anything that was only printed on one side, and not a candidate for shredding, went into my printer so I can print on the other side.
  3. Scan – I have been scanning things like important receipts, the kids’ physicals, dog’s rabies certificate, etc so I have a backup.
  4. Stays – Gets re-filed.
  5. Recycle – Any paper that doesn’t fit any of the above categories.
 
 
As I went through all the paper, I sorted them into the piles.  I also tried to make a note of what I could eliminate in the future.  I found a few bills that I hadn’t made electronic and spent a little more time opting out of a few more mailings.
 
Next came the stuff in the desk:

  • CD’s – we had so many CDs for drivers, installation disks and random software for printers or computers that were long gone.  They all went into a pile to be recycled at Best Buy.
  • Old Cables – I got under the computer table and went through all the cords.  There were a few we didn’t need.  Anyone need a serial printer cable?  Think they stopped using those quite a while ago.  All of these random cables, no longer needed, will also be getting recycled at Best Buy.
  • Pens, Markers, Highlighter – all were tested.  Those that were out of ink, got put in the Upcycle It! bin.  Note to self – we are ALL set with any sort of pen, highlighter or marker we could ever want.
  • Envelopes – You know the envelopes you get for paying your bills (the ones you still get in paper form that is) or various junk mail you can’t get rid of, I keep these.  I then use them sending things to school – permission slips, lunch ticket money, Box Tops….  I must use a couple a week for various things.  I straightened out a draw so there was room for these.
 
 
Long ago, I “converted” my trash basket in the office to a recycle bin.  Converted, meaning I just said “OK you are now a recycle bin!”  99% of what I need to get rid of in there is paper.
 
I finished up by backing up all of my computer files.

Voila!

This is by no means the only paper clutter in the house.  But obviously it’s the one I have neglected the longest – old utility statements from 2006 and manuals from things I don’t remember owning?!

 

How do you deal with paper?

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Spring Cleaning: Closets

So, I’m preeeeeeetty sure we are done with the snow.  Time to switch out the winter clothes and put the snow gear away!  What to do with all the clothing and shoes?
 
I started with my daughter’s closet.  Here is the before shot.
 
 
Closet Before
 
Set Up 5 Zones 
 
  • Give – for things that do not fit her but are in good wearable condition to give away
  • Recycle – for items that are too stained or ripped to wear
  • Store– for items that are too warm now, but that she will fit into next winter
  • Keep – those items that I want to stay in her closet
  • Misplaced – for those items that made their way to her closet, but shouldn’t be here
 
 

The Method

 
  1. As always, I started by opening the windows to let the fresh air in.  
  2. Start 

    emptying the shelves and hanging items.  I took this one area at a time.  

  3. Look at each and every item and select the appropriate zone.  
  4. As you do this, make notes on what you may or may not need in the future.  My daughter has WAY too many black leggings and hardly any “good” pants. . I also make notes on what I will need next year – snow pants, thermals, sports gear, etc.  Sometimes you get a good deal at a yard sale.  Of course it’s only a good deal if you really need it. 
  5. Bag up the things you will GIVE and decide where to give the clothing.  These went to the Blanchard Middle School’s: The Big Give with Lowell Wish this past weekend.
  6. With some of the RECYCLE items, I made new cleaning cloths and a few napkins out of the tie dye T-shirts.  The rest were bagged up and will be dropped off at the Public Clothing Boxes next time I am out.
  7. Those that are in STORE, KEEP, and MISPLACED all went back too.
 
So her closet was put back together and this is the after.
 
Closet After
 
Now that there is room, the next step is to pull out the new season items and go through those.  Does everyone have sandals, shorts, bathing suits?  They try everything on and I make my shopping lists from this.  It’s nice to do it now, since the Westford Friends and newcomers Clothing Sale and Town Wide Yard sales are coming up on April 30.
 

I still need to repeat this with the other closets in my house, but it’s a great start!

Look for my next Spring Cleaning on Mondays.  Coming up:  The Office/Paper

Did you clean a closet?  What did you do with the clothing your family can’t use?

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Spring Cleaning: Bathrooms



I hate cleaning the bathroom!  Scrubbing toilets and showers are not my idea of fun.  This Spring Cleaning focuses a little more on clutter clean out ( potentially dangerous items too) and trying to change one thing greener.


So here goes – the Before Shots.

BEFORE: Under the sink
BEFORE: MEDICINE CABINET
 
 

THE METHOD

  1. Open the windows to get some fresh air in there.  Indoor air quality can be much worse than outdoor.
  2. Empty all cabinets and drawers and clean all surfaces.  I won’t go into details here, you know what to do.  Try using at least one, if not all green cleaners.
As you empty, collect the following into groups:

 

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications:   The options for disposal were not impressive, but here is what I found.  Smart Rx advises: DO NOT FLUSH, DO NOT POUR DOWN THE DRAIN.  These methods can cause the medications to enter the water supply or endanger aquatic life as it may make it’s way to rivers, streams or oceans. Do this:
    • Pour medication into a seal-able plastic bag.  If medication is a solid (pill or capsule) add water to dissolve it
    • Add  kitty litter, sawdust, coffee grounds (or anything that mixes with the medication and makes it less appealing for pets and children to eat)
    • Seal the plastic bag and put in the trash
  • Old Makeup:  containers can be recycled at any Origins.

 

  • Clean all hairbrushes and combs: Remove the hair, then soak brushes in mixture of warm water and baking soda, rinse, allow to dry
  • Clean Makeup Brushes: 
    • Fill sink with warm water and a few drops of tea tree oil (tea tree oil can be found at most grocery stores, Trader Joe’s and GNC.  It is naturally anti-bacterial and anti-fungal)
    • Put a few drops of castile soap on the brush (mild shampoo can also be used)
    • Gently rub the bristles between your fingers
    • Rinse in the sink
    • Rinse with clean water, pat dry, lay flat to dry
  • Toothbrushes:  If it’s been a while, replace them.  Remember to upcycle the old ones and any empty plastic toothpaste tubes with Upcycle It!  Please place toothbrushes in a separate bag.

 

The Results



AFTER: Under the sink
AFTER: Medicine Cabinet
 
 
 
 

I found way too many expired OTC medications.
 
Most of what I had under the sink, did not need to be here.


Note to self – clean makeup brushes more often!  


Personal Care Products

As you are doing all this, note how many different personal care products you use – this includes shampoo, conditioner, soap, makeup, deodorant, moisturizer, hair products, tooth paste, etc.  How many did you count?  I counted 17 for me.  I’m sure I’m missing some.
 
 
I just want to give you some food for thought.  Here are some disturbing facts about personal care products:
 
  1.  There are no real regulations for personal care products.  Companies are NOT required to test for safety before they hit the shelves. 
  2. All ingredients do NOT need to be disclosed.
  3.  Three common ingredients used in many personal care products have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and hormone disruption to name just a few.  These are parabens, phthalates, and sodium lauryl sulfate. Did you find these in your products?
  4. Our skin is the largest organ on our bodies and is really good at absorbing stuff.

So think about changing just one item.  I am continually working on this.  During this bathroom clean out, I got rid of the nail polish remover and most of the old polish.  

 
To find better alternatives, check out Skin Deep.   This website provides ratings for over 65,000 products.  



How did it go?  Did you make one thing greener?

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Spring Cleaning: Your Refrigerator and Pantry

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Here are my “before” shots. Besides using green cleaners for this job, my additional green twist was to really look at the labels of all the food I had. I wanted to decide whether this was something I wanted to buy again or did I need to look for an alternative.

 
To start, I gathered my arsenal of cleaning equipment:

  • Spray bottle of straight vinegar
  • All-Purpose Cleaner
  • Shaker of baking soda
  • Spray bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Compost bucket
  • Trash can (Yes, some things still needed to be tossed.)
 
THE REFRIGERATOR
 
  1. Empty each and every shelf. I did this one at a time.
  2. Clean the inside of the frig with the all-purpose cleaner. I started out using the straight vinegar, but switch to the diluted version in the all-purpose. The vinegar smelled lingered a lot longer in here – maybe because of the lack of air flow.
  3. For the bottom drawers and door holders, I sprayed them with straight vinegar followed by hydrogen peroxide and let them sit to really disinfect them.
  4. Obviously, the science projects were tossed and labels were inspected.
  5. Replace the baking soda
  6. Thanks to Reduce Footprints for reminding me to clean the coils in the back of the fridge to increase efficiency.
The Results
 


I gained a few empty jars and squeeze bottles to reuse. I LOVE reusing glass jars especially salsa jars. They are the perfect 1 cup size for leftovers, onions, or lemons, and have a nice wide opening.
 
I have WAY too many condiments. Some got tossed (found a few that were way past expired). I will be buying less in the future.
 
I need an alternative to Hershey’s Strawberry Syrup. Way too much sugar and RED 40 (for the dangers, click here). Yeah, the bright red was the dead giveaway!
 
Moved like things together and put taller items in the back.
 
I have more than enough food to last us a few more days. Woo Hoo! Don’t need to go grocery shopping tomorrow.
 
 
THE PANTRY
The method is similar to the frig.
 
The Results

 
Found several expired cans of food – tossed – peas from 2008 and soup from 2007!

 
I have LOTS of beans, but I couldn’t see them because they were all shoved into a basket on the top shelf. This is where my stash of glass jars and my label maker came in very handy. All the beans were put in clear glass jars and labeled.

Reorganized to put like things together and moved a few items to better places to give more space.
 
As much as I love pudding, I need to either make my own or find something else. Again, too much sugar and RED 40 in some.
 
Tag, you’re it! Does your frig or pantry need cleaning out? What did you find?




More from the Series:
Previous: Introducing: Spring Cleaning Series
Next: Spring Cleaning Series: Bathrooms

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Introducing: Spring Cleaning Series

Spring always signals spring cleaning for me. It’s a time to switch out the winter clothes for warmer weather ones. In the process, weeding things out. Giving them away, making rags, or on occasion preparing for a yard sale.

I’m starting a series of Spring Cleaning posts. Hopefully they will inspire and help you with your spring cleaning. Of course they will have a green slant. As I move through areas or rooms of the house I will:

  • Give ideas on how to get rid of items you don’t need/want anymore – without throwing them in the trash.
  • Suggest green cleaners to use
  • Give tips on how to prepare yourself or room for going greener

The first one may seem like an odd first choice, but it really needed to get done here! Spring Cleaning: Clean Out Your Refrigerator and Pantry. Ok, so I do this one more than once a year, but it’s been a while. Plus with the recent developments in the Westford School Lunch Program, I NEEDED to do this now.

Stay tuned later in the day for my tips on how to do this with an eye on the “Green”.
Do you have specific areas you’d like to see tackled or want to know how to get rid of particular items? Let me know!

[Photo taken by Karen Morse]

THE SERIES:
  1. Spring Cleaning: Your Refrigerator and Pantry
  2. Spring Cleaning: Bathrooms
  3. Spring Cleaning: Closets
  4. Spring Cleaning: The Office/Paper Clutter

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