At the little church on Sunday there was a potluck. Not one of those bag-of-chips-and store-bought-cookie affairs, but a real, true potluck with homemade casseroles and a giant ham and Mrs. Kepler's jello salad. I was giddy with the small-town wonderfulness of it. Even the fact that I don't (or can't) eat most of the foods that were offered didn't diminish the pleasure of it. I filled my plate with more than enough and had a delicious lunch. Of course, I had to explain a couple of times that no, I don't eat meat...or dairy...or gluten...and I'll have to pass, thank you. The lady serving the cupcakes looked sad and told me she was so sorry, but I looked at my plate and the beautiful food on it and I didn't feel sorry for me at all. The truth is, limits are freedom. I'm free from agonizing over a cupcake I don't need, free from the guilt of eating too much junk food, free from having to choose between one more slice of ham or the extra serving of salad I should have. All those decisions are made for me and it is absolutely liberating.
The last two weeks I've been exploring those limits at the grocery store, trying to shop without using plastic bags of any kind and without buying goods packaged in plastic. Guess what? Limits are freedom.
Here's what I brought home today. (I'm so sorry about the picture quality. We have terrible lighting in the kitchen.)
As you can see, it's almost all produce. There are a few glass jars (salsa, peanut butter, maple syrup and juice) and one bag of chips, but that's it. Avoiding plastic makes healthy eating pretty simple. Honestly, I just love this.
I got coffee and polenta in bulk today but most of my bulk comes from Azure Standard and I have a fairly extensive pantry* of beans, flours, nuts, seeds, etc. We don't have a farmer's market or a health food store in town, so I do all my shopping at the local chain grocery store and make a large order to Azure Standard once a month. Occasionally I'll go to Portland to stock up at a Whole Foods, but that's rare.
The fun part of this has been to figure out how to store all that produce without plastic. There's a really nice list here, but I think you just have to experiment. All those cut up t-shirts have come in handy. I wet them and wrap vegetables in them. This is celery, green onions and leeks from last week. It worked perfectly!
To store lettuce and greens, I washed and spun them dry first. I lay a cotton towel in a storage container (mine is plastic. I'll replace it with something glass when it wears out.) and put the greens on that.
I covered the lettuce or greens with the towel, put the lid on, and they kept in the fridge for the full week, crisp and beautiful!
For the herbs, I washed and spun them dry, then put them in wide mouth jars and kept the lid on them. This cilantro is over a week old and is still gorgeous.
I trimmed and washed the beets, stored their greens like the lettuce above, and left them in a bowl which I covered with a damp cloth.
These will get roasted and cubed, dressed with salt and vinegar and left in jars for snacks and salads. We eat them like candy.
Here's my almost plastic-free fridge! I still have some old bags I'm reusing, but I am not planning to replace them when they wear out. It's too much fun trying to figure out how to live plastic-free.
Limits are freedom. A long time ago I put in practice the habit of saying, "yes!" whenever I could. It's too easy to become a "no" in this world - and it's easy to see limits as "no" and become bitter and frustrated. "Yes" turns things around.
A plastic-free limit allowed me to buy beautiful, colorful, healthy food this week. I got to touch it and think about it and be mindful about its use and preservation instead of just throwing it in the fridge in its little plastic cocoon. I get to eat all these wonderful foods without forcing myself to choose something "healthy" - there's nothing in the house to tempt me otherwise. I am free! I get to say "yes!" to sustainability and the health of the planet. I get to say "yes!" to a lower grocery bill. I get to say "yes!" to my own health and vitality. How could anyone be frustrated or feel deprived about that?
*A peek at the pantry: