Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The February Project

I am an experimenter. I love to try new things, just to see what happens. The ramifications of this is that I'm an ICU nurse, a blogger, a novice home chef and a dabbler in things that I probably shouldn't dabble in.
Anyway, my current experiment is a home-based one. My husband (Hugo, Oogie, Hugs, he goes by many names) and I recently watched a documentary about "No Impact Man", a guy who, along with his extremely cooperative wife and cute little 2 year old daughter, attempted to live in NYC for a whole year without having any impact whatsoever on the environment. They gave up,in phases, toilet paper, meat, electricity, taking any kind of motorized transportation and all buying, except for locally grown food purchased at farmers markets. I had a few nit picky beefs with their thinking ( it wasn't EXACTLY local as most of the produce was brought in from "upstate New York", which fellow New Yorkers know can mean anything from 20 minutes across the bridge to 8 flipping hours to where I grew up in Saranac freaking Lake).
However, the documentary DID get us talking about some things like, why do we spend so much money on stuff when we just end up bringing carloads of "stuff" to the dump? Also, why do we buy food from California at the grocery store when other farmers are growing the same damn stuff a few miles from our house? And finally, why do we watch documentaries anyway when we
could be enjoying a brand new episode of Glee? These are the questions that plague a modern couple in these uncertain times...

So, we decided to undertake a family challenge. For the month of February (not a whole year, ok, what do we look like, maniacs?) we would turn off the television, stop making purchases (specifically, consumption type purchases for THINGS) and buy only that which is locally available to eat at our local farmers market. No eating out. No Sesame Street. No This Old House or Antiques Roadshow (ok, I admit, our normal television patterns are incredibly geeky as it is). We can supplement whatever we get at the farmers market with whatever is in the cupboards and that is it. No thrice weekly trips to Publix for milk and frozen pizzas. No Friday night pizza delivery for dinner.

We just finished day two of the challenge and we have already failed, but haven't given up. A good friend of mine babysat for me today (along with her own three) and I wanted to thank her so I went to Starbucks and got her a Grande white mocha, her favorite. I didn't want her to feel left out so I just got myself a leeetle drip coffee as well. It was great, as we are just about out of coffee and they don't sell that at the farmers market. I checked. Also, I had requested a hold on a potty time DVD at the library for Sofia before all this started and it came in today, so we allowed them to watch it after tubby time tonight as a special treat. Never mind that this particular departure from the rules left me and the Oogster wanting to stab our eardrums with little shards of glass, just so we wouldn't have to listen to the cheesy circa 1984 potty-themed songs. It was still cheating! Other than that though, there has been no television for children or parents in the Ochoa household for two full days. My rationalization on the coffee thing is that if I had paid a babysitter, it would have cost me about 20 bucks, so I was getting off easy by simply sharing 6 bucks worth of delicious coffee
beverages with a good friend in the middle of the day.

So, up till this evening when we made our first weekly trip to the farmers market for produce, I had simply been making due with whatever we still had from my last trip to the grocery store about a week ago. Milk ran out early on and I am determined that, short of my kids showing signs of acute Rickets or Kwashiorker syndrome, I will not break down for the sake of milk alone. I have been reading my time-worn copy of the classic tome on nutrition entitled "Skinny Bitch" (seriously, you should check it out) and was trying to phase out milk anyway. I have decided that there is no good reason why children past the age of weaning require milk from another species, designed to fatten calfs to a stunning 2,000 pounds over the course of
several years, in order to grow and thrive. Are we now vegans? No. Does our day to day diet look a lot like a vegan diet? Yes. The facts are very simple. Anyone who makes a statement about a commitment to being "green" and continues to ingest a significant amount of animal products on a daily basis is really just kidding themselves. And really, green is what got us to this whole idea anyway, right? Also, have you ever gone to a farmers market and taken a look at the crazy vegans milling around? They are skinny, they smell strongly of body odor and they reproduce like f'ing RABBITS! I'm telling you those women are some kind of fertile! If they were severely nutritionally deficient, my common sense indicator light tells me they wouldn't be spawning like the dickens. We did get some locally produced, free range eggs. So everyone just calm down now. Don't send social services over to the house just yet.

One of the things I hadn't stocked up on recently was bread, as I usually buy it when it's buy one get one free and it hasn't been recently. So you know what I did? I got on my trusty iPad, searched and made some of my own. Over the past few days I've baked 4 loaves of bread with my own two hands. They came out pretty good too. I froze 2, just like I would normally do with the extras when I buy one and get one free. I'm pretty short on yeast now though, so we'll have to be thrifty and make this bread last for awhile. I don't know what the pioneers did without iPads and the Internet though. Did you know,if you're making a recipe and you don't have an ingredient, instead of jumping in the car, driving to the store, spending 50 bucks on things (since you're there) and then racing back home to finish your recipe you can just google substitutes? I found a recipe for eggless pancakes and it was great! I found a list of about 15 different things you can use in a recipe instead of eggs. I also made hot breakfast cereal this morning without oats, cream of wheat or milk. I used quinoi (I had it in the cupboard for the past 6 months or so), evaporated milk from a can and
water. My cupboard staples will eventually run out, which will make all of this much more difficult, but it will happen gradually over the course of the month so it shouldn't be a complete shock to the system. And I hope to have bare cupboards by the end of all this.
I will attempt to document our experience here in this blog, for fun and to increase accountability. A few exceptions we've already hammered out involve gas (got to get to work, after all), a weekly "movie night" where Hugs and I will watch a movie from our already-paid for Netflix subscription, and a weekly meal of prepared local foods at the farmers market on Wednesday nights, which is when it is. We went tonight and I got then aforementioned eggs, mushrooms, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, fresh squeezed citrus juice from a farm about an hour south of here, and locally made pickles. We also got some delicious ready to eat samosas and other vegetarian Indian foods from a vendor there for our weekly meal "out". All together, we spent 50 dollars, which is about a quarter of what I generally spend on food per week, just ask Hoogarino, he has charts and pie graphs to prove it. If this works out, we will save a significant amount of money this month on food. Not to mention my regular indiscretions at White House Black Market in the mall...

We will not give up our toilet paper, but we have committed to buying no paper products for the month, so I have had to carefully examine my normal 5-7 sheet bundle...enough about that... The kids are in cloth diapers again and I found a recipe for ridiculously cheap laundry soap that I'm going to try and make to keep them clean. Another purchasing exception, but you can't use regular detergent on them since it has additives that accumulate on the cloth fibers... Everything else will be stretched like the dickens and when we do run out of something important, I will attempt to find a locally made (or make at home with things we already have) replacement or substitute for the real deal. I don't know of any chocolate factories in the greater Gainesville region, so that's going to be tough...

Wish us luck!

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