As you’ve probably heard me say before ad nauseum, I like to think that I have a DIY gene, especially when it comes to domestic tasks. I’m always trying to figure out how I can do things on my own, bringing things down to a basic level as a challenge to myself, but more importantly as a way to tread lighter on the earth and as well as on my wallet. There is no doubt that making your own things, whether it be your own body butter with coconut oil and olive oil, furniture polish with oil and vinegar or your own bread reduces the need for packaging and is certainly cheaper when bought as individual ingredients.
Now it goes without saying that this is certainly not a convenient option and requires more time which is a commodity in many households, but is incredibly rewarding. Nothing like knowing that your soft skin is from all-natural ingredients, sans preservatives, that you made yourself (and a heck of a lot cheaper than the prepackaged natural/organic ones and a heck of lot healthier/chemical-free unlike those in conventionals and drugstores). If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve seen that I’ve discussed making your own laundry detergent, mittens, even bagels. I’m really trying to reduce my spending and choose what ingredients go into what I use/consume; therefore, making the convenient options that I used to buy in the store is one way to do it.
Last week, I had the opportunity to watch Food, Inc. – a movie that I’ve been wanting to see for some time, but knew that it would nothing new to me. I’ve worked in the natural/organic food and products industry for 8 years and know a lot about where conventional food comes from and the chemicals and preservatives that are in everything we buy. I was especially pleased that this movie was discussed in yesterday’s Oprah – who we all know has unmatched influence around the world. Michael Pollan, a contributor to the movie and best-selling author on books exploring the food industry, talked about the importance of cooking at home using real foods (not food-like substances), learning where your food comes from and sourcing it from responsible growers and making the convenience foods you love. He mentioned that he loves french fries, but that they are time-intensive to make, so he may only make them once or twice a month but with potatoes and oil – not from a bag sitting in a freezer for months. It made me realize that I’ve been doing this along the way, trying to utilize raw ingredients to make things from scratch – as aforementioned, it requires less packaging, extends your dollars much more and gosh, have you tasted what fresh bread tastes like?
Now let me say this again, because I don’t want to sound preachy: I realize that this is not the convenient route, that I am home full-time, don’t have kids and can dedicate a good portion of my day to cooking from scratch and most people are in the complete opposite situation as me. However, I’m hoping that if you see something you like, you’ll maybe take a Saturday off from shopping (aka retail therapy) or hours on the couch (aka TV therapy) and spend an hour in your kitchen, creating something that you never knew came any other way than in the bottle or bag you’ve always bought it in. Everything we use/consume has to be made, so think about the items you buy often and see if you can make them yourself using the raw ingredients you can usually find in bulk.
At the risk of being labeled a hypocrite, I’ll be honest and tell you that I’m no angel and don’t make everything from scratch. There are still some conveniences that I simply don’t feel like making or haven’t tried (i.e. I buy juice in cartons, pasta in boxes and yogurt in plastic tubs), but I’m taking baby steps and challenging myself to learn how to make something new each week that I used to buy as a convenience. Usually it works and I’m a convert (mmm, homemade bagels), once in a while it doesn’t (homemade dishwasher detergent failed miserably!) but overall, I’m whittling down my reliance on the Heinz’ and the Krafts’ of the world. I don’t have a cow, so I still need to buy dairy products, but have found a local woman who keeps chickens and will be purchasing my eggs from her, have sourced a local bison farm and plan to purchase a quarter buffalo in the coming weeks for all our beef needs and have identified the CSA I want to join this year for local fruits/veggies and chicken. Because making these choices requires money up-front and takes a chunk of our food budget each month when spread out, it’s forcing me – now more than ever – to sacrifice some of those conveniences we used to purchase, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.
So long, Doritos and Pepsi…was nice having you in our lives, but I’m thinking we’re better off without ya!