This is formally the end of this blog, unless I take it up some time in the future. Thank you for reading.
This is formally the end of this blog, unless I take it up some time in the future. Thank you for reading.
In my college days, I discovered Sappo Hill soap. You buy it loose, no packaging, in a variety of natural colors and smells. The fragrances are subtle, and lacking that chemical/sneezy quality that so many commercial soaps have. They are dense soaps and last a long time. Sappo Hill soaps and other brands of unpackaged soaps can be found at your local co-op. You grab a handful and plop them in your cloth bag, and you're on your way.
(Whole Foods also carries loose soaps, one line made of creamy goat milk. It is decadent and long-lasting.)
Have you ever read the ingredients on a bar of commercially-produced soap made by a huge company like Unilever? It's amazing! I counted 15 ingredients in a bar of Unilever 2000. I won't let my kids eat food with BHT in it (BHT is a chemical preservative) but it's in the soap! Also in the soap are pthalates, a hormone-disturbing chemical that is used in plastic. The pthalates help the product melt into the skin (where the pthalates are absorbed and stored in your fat cells), and also keep fragrances preserved longer. Creamy, good-smelling products are appealing; burdening the body with unnecessary chemical compounds is not.
There are also very good natural liquid soaps on the market for those of you who prefer that. At co-ops, you can buy this in bulk. These have a natural base and are perfumed with essential oils rather than synthetics. As a point of aesthetics, these just smell better to me. Also, when you bring your own container, you can be sure that the packaging (yours) contains no BPA. You fill up your reusable soap pump at home.
Also Dr. Bronner's (another old stand-by from college) is available at any health-food store. This soap you dilute with some water and use on everything, even your hair. (As a bonus, the famously-wacky text on the bottle is amusing.) Method, available at Target, is also putting out some greener products. They don't use pthalates in their stuff and all of their soaps are biodegradable. I still don't love them because their stuff reeks of phony fragrance, but if you're in a pinch, it's one option.
I've been using natural soaps for 20 years, and when I come across a Unilever-type soap, the contrast is sharp for me. The scents are overpowering and stick in my nose and throat. Bleah. It's so unappealing, especially when a natural soap is so much more pleasant. Why not enjoy washing your hands?
I invite you to try one bar (or bottle) of natural soap this week and see what you think.
Next up: skin conditioning, softening, and perfuming.
My experiment with creating and maintaining a plastic-free (or, as I've confessed in an earlier post, a much-reduced-plastic) kitchen continues, with changes.
I have come to learn what is, and what is not, conducive to basic health and sanity in my household. Basic health and sanity are required, full stop.
For you, dear readers, here is some of my accumulated Plastic-Free Kitchen wisdom, thus far:
1. I Respect My Limits (and My Family's)
As it turns out, I cannot keep up with our demand for homemade crackers, tortillas, mayonnaise, etc. So I no longer make that an iron rule. If we need to keep a jar of store bought mayo on hand, then it is not a crime against humanity. (I choose the kind that comes in a glass jar, though.) I make the best choices at the time. I just can't deal anymore with the anxiety that going without certain foods brings upon my family. They want their damn tortillas and crackers. I want them to have them so that they will eat and meal times can be pleasant instead of frustrating for everyone.
Important limitation: my family in no way agreed to or are interested in the PFK. The kids are interested in a general way, on principle, as long as the impact on themselves is limited. My husband is opposed on principle, but now accepts some PFK practices because he loves me. I don't have an outpouring of moral or practical support coming from inside these walls. What I have had over the past year is a lot of complaining and even tantrums. (From all of us.) This brings me to item number two:
2. I Am Not Bea Johnson
Not even a little bit. My personality type and general nature continue, despite my best efforts. I will NEVER be someone with a hyper-organized, efficient schedule. I must do Susie's Plastic Free Kitchen/Lifestyle, not anyone else's. And my way has its own beauty. (Bea would probably be the first one to congratulate me on figuring this out, as she says repeatedly that each of us has to do it in our own way.) I use my creativity, flexibility and playfulness to my advantage.
3. I Take the Long View
Reduced consumption generally, local produce generally, minimal-or-no packaging generally, are the important points. Reducing my garbage output to a gallon bucket for the year is not. It just can't be, due to items 1 and 2 above. Dogma burns me out. Living in minutiae drives me crazy.
Now that I've crossed over to the PFK life, I really can't imagine going back. Some things have become habit, a matter of course. There is no reason for me not to grind my own peanut butter at the co-op. There is no reason why I can't bring home my granola in bulk, or ever use a plastic produce bag again. And I really prefer my homemade mayo, ketchup, hummus, pita bread, yogurt, and applesauce. I really prefer our meat coming from the butcher, and our cheese from the cheese lady. I can't do it every single time, but when I can, I do.
And that's the main point I'd like to leave you with.
Coming up: the plastic-free bathroom!
"Packing a waste-free lunch saves the average child $250 and 67 pounds of trash per school year." -EPA
In Jonah's former school, the children spent their lunchtime in a noisy, swarming cafeteria. Whatever food they didn't eat, and whatever packaging was in their lunch bag, they tossed into the plastic-lined maw of the trash bin.
During Jonah's tenure there, some enterprising fourth-graders conducted a study of the school's garbage dumpster. Their study revealed that most of the garbage in there was lunch-related; specifically, plastic baggies.
I contributed to this baggie abundance. Into Jonah's lunch box, I placed about 3 plastic-baggies-worth of food every day. I figured it was good enough that we employed a reusable lunch box (though it smelled like old food and PVC) and a cloth napkin. I balked at the plastic, cloth, and stainless steel food containers on the market because I felt sure that Jonah would lose them, or, at age five, wouldn't be able to operate them. A few older kids kids on campus carried little Japanese-style tiffin lunch containers to school, which I judged as ostentatiously "environmental" and dorky.
Also in the mix were kids like one of Jonah's classmates, whose lunch bag contents contained nothing that wasn't packaged. We're talking, bag of chips, Rice Crispy Treat bar, juice box and Lunchables. This kid was definitely spending $250 per year on his disposable lunches. That particular lunch cost around $3.50, maybe more. (I happen to know that child was one of seven siblings. The way those numbers add up makes me dizzy.)
Then we transferred to a Waldorf school. There, young children entered the building swinging straw baskets with cloth napkins tucked into their openings. (Actual straw baskets! Like in Little House on the Prairie!) I spied sandwiches wrapped in wax paper tied with string. I saw many-chambered bento boxes. Tiffins proliferated. This was all normal there.
The normalcy of waste-free lunch packing contributed hugely to my transition to waste-free lunch packing. Examples for how to do it were impossible not to note. I looked and learned.
I started by buying a machine-washable, infinitely reusable lunch bag for Jonah. Then I began wrapping sandwiches and other food in unbleached wax paper, using rubber bands to secure them. I bought a couple cloth bags lined with some slippery surface on the inside (probably some form of plastic), and put sandwiches and other food in them. I also started putting food into little tupperware-like containers I had on hand. If utensils were required, I put in plastics that we had squirreled away from take-out food. I experimented with plastic bento-like food receptacles that I found at an Asian grocery store. It was less waste in terms of daily packaging, but ultimately not great; it was still plastic, still shedding bisphenol A, and still destined to pollute groundwater or air after its disposal.
After some tweaking (the plastic bentos cracked, and the cloth bags smelled funny after awhile), we've arrived at a reasonable waste-free State of the Lunch.
Here are its components:
1. Washable, reusable lunch bags. The old kind we used was made of vinyl, couldn't be machine-washed, and ripped fairly easily. It barely lasted a whole school year. Jonah is on his second year with a neoprene, blob-shaped bag with a flat bottom. The bag is insulating (neoprene is wetsuit material) and leak-free, but is also, I know now, petroleum-based, a skin allergen, and VOC off-gasser. When (if) this one dies, it's replacement shall be nontoxic and biodegradable! Audrey uses a small backpack that we already had.
2. Reusable food receptacles. My favorite kind are flat tins made of stainless steel, called LunchBots. They are dishwasher-safe and some of them have divided compartments. The other containers we use are just plain, round tins. These are good for a half an apple, a handful of crackers, etc. We have them in two sizes. These are truly no work for us to use since they go into the dishwasher with the dinner dishes every night. Bonus: these items come with ZERO PLASTIC PACKAGING!
3. Cloth napkins. I use bandannas or a vintage set of "luncheon" napkins I picked up at a junk shop awhile back. They can last from a few days up to the whole week without needing to go in the wash. I have many, so if one is dirty we don't have a napkin crisis.
4. A small Thermos for each child. These are for hot food like soup or rice and beans, or cold food like yogurt. Naturally, I include real flatware, often our "orphan" pieces that don't match our regular set.
5. Stainless steel water bottles, size small.
Total cost for two kids: $100, give or take a few bucks. About half of this stuff that cost money has already been in use of nearly a full calendar year. I anticipate several years, at least out of these tins and Thermoses, and I hope for more.
Now, before you say, "Aha! I knew this waste-free stuff was only for rich people!" consider the above data from the Environmental Protection Agency: each kid costs $250 per nine-month school year in single-use lunch products. We use our tins and bottles all the time outside of school lunches, during vacations and all summer long. Even if our tins and bottles break or disappear after only one school year, we still come out ahead!
Will the waste-free lunch box save the world?
Of course not.
But the two waste-free lunch boxes I send out into the world five days a week are just two of a hundred small things that denormalize the 67 pounds of lunch trash most kids create each year. The Lunchables kid's lunch scandalized me (I judged again!) because I was unused to seeing that kind of waste in a kid's lunch. I'd be just as surprised if a parent lit up a cigarette in a playground. And that's because society and government have gone a long way to denormalize smoking.
How far can you go to denormalize disposable lunches?
Sometimes, things fall apart. To wit:
1. While slapping together a clean-out-the-refrigerator dinner, my grand idea for rosemary-roll sandwiches was foiled by the fact that we had run out of mayonnaise. Undaunted, I whipped together a batch in the blender. But the mayo didn't thicken, and anyway the canola oil turned out to be rancid. Ever intrepid, I rearranged the sandwiches to be open-faced and broiled, just so I didn't have to use mayo. (Out of frustration, and to prevent any future mayo-related crises, my husband went out and bought a glass jar of hippie mayo. I will probably hate it, because I have only ever liked Best Foods or my own mayo, and anyway the damn thing has a plastic lid that'll be sent to China for recycling. He suggested that my inability to keep up with our condiment demands may be indicitave of the unsustainability of this project. He might be right, but I might claw my fingernails to the bone trying to prove otherwise. (And that is such a healthy and balanced way to create a more simple life.)
2. The next night, I set fire to my yogurt. It was culturing in its jar, wrapped in a big towel to keep warm, in the resting oven. Well, I forgot the turbaned yogurt jar was in there, and I turned on the broiler to crisp up some mushrooms that were intended for my risotto, when smoke began billowing from the oven and I realized what I had done. I peeked in the oven to see the towel ablaze. I am happy to report that I kept my cool completely, smothered the flame with another towel, and re-wrapped the jar (with a new towel, of course) and set it in the microwave to continue culturing. No harm was done to the jar, the yogurt, or my hands. My husband has been very kind in not mentioning the episode since.
3. Children are on another hunger strike. I truly cannot remember what we ate before the PFK took effect, but it surely was not Mc Donald's and fish fingers every night. So I don't know what they're on about, but apparently everything served out of this kitchen is Bad.
4. The jig is up: this is not really a plastic-free kitchen. Some friends were here for a party and they took note of the plastic things that I still use/own. It's true that I have not solved all of the plastic problems. I have solved MANY of them, and DRAMATICALLY reduced our plastic garbage output, but there are remaining puzzles. To prevent confusion among my readership, I wanted to name the blog with a less absolute title. It's just that "I'm Doing My Best to Reduce Plastic Garbage in the Kitchen and Make More Stuff From Scratch" just didn't seem catchy enough.
As I write, a pot of ketchup is cooling on the stove. Life is full of so many moving parts that I can barely keep them in my head, and the ketchup, while delicious, may not be among the most important moving part. If something has to give, what will it be? Can I really tread more lightly on the earth without becoming a madwoman? Can there be balance without throw-aways and waste?
Dear Dental Hygienist,
I love the way you care for my children's teeth. You also have a lovely way of making the kids giggle and feel totally comfortable as they submit to having your hands in their mouths.
But we really don't want your @#$%ing goodie bag. I know, I know, some kids like to get that little brightly-colored plastic bag with the plastic token, their new plastic toothbrush, the dental floss, and the tiny tube of toothpaste inside. I realize that you want to send home the implements for good oral hygiene. It's a really, really nice gesture.
But we are fully stocked on toothpaste and floss, and my kids use a Sonicare, so the cute toothbrushes are superfluous.
Those @#$% stickers that you put on their shirts are a total waste of life force. Ditto the waxy plastic backing they had to be peeled off of. My kids don't care about @#$%ing stickers. And I am sure that no one in the world cares to be notified, via the stickers, that my children just got their teeth cleaned.
I am sorry to have annoyed you when I gave back the goodie bags. It's truly nothing personal. I just don't want to take home all this garbage. So feel free to ask before you give that little wad of @#$%ing plastic to your patients. That way, we can streamline the whole process of leaving the office and getting on with our day.
Oh, and the articficially colored/flavored/sweetened lollipops (wrapped in plastic) that you give at the front desk? You can keep those, too.
Thanks and we love you!
The Plastic-Free Kitchen Lady
One of the attractive elements of Bea Johnson's form of zero-waste living is that it looks so good on her actual person. Her wardrobe is like a perfect bento box where everything fits together in multiple arrangements.
Bea shops for clothes only twice a year. Reader, let this sink in for a moment: twice a year. When I read that I looked up from my computer screen and imagined such a life. It was a very different concept from what I had come to believe in, which is that one must constantly be on the lookout for cool things to build one's wardrobe. (She also buys almost every stitch of clothing used. It's part of her zero-waste pledge.)
When I considered adopting some zero-waste behaviors, I felt I had at least one thing going for me. I'd been a consignment store shopper for years. But, I had to admit, this hadn't gotten me to a clothing collection that worked like a bento box. Maybe the clothing was recycled, but my wardrobe, as a whole, was less bento and more potluck. The Swedish meatballs needed more sauce and the vegan dips were going untouched.
This caused me to keep shopping.
It turns out that I have tended to shop impulsively at consignment stores. Spending ten dollars on something that might only work with a few things every now and then felt like a low-risk way to experiment. It was sort of like a free pass.
Not really. I had too many clothes with conditions. Like, I could only wear this consignment store shirt with these pants and a certain cardigan to hide the way the fabric bunched under my arms. These rule-bound clothes took up precious space in my closet and drawers. They were the items that I always looked past in search of something to wear. So I had the right idea, sort of, but I hadn't learned the correct execution.
Bea advises that all clothing purchases must fit perfectly and be workhorses in the wardrobe. This includes thrift store and consignment purchases. Since I adopted this new eye, I have bought WAY less stuff than I ordinarily would.
Also, I wander less often through retail pastures. What a pleasure it is to use my time and mental energy in other ways! I really don't go clothes-shopping for fun or as a reward or to indulge myself. I don't bring home five things when I went out to get one. And the stuff that I do have, I really enjoy and get a lot of use from.
Which is not to say that online retail grazing doesn't happen. I still fantasize at times. The difference now is that I don't press that FINALIZE ORDER button. And someday, I'd like to be free of the online grazing, too. There are flowers to admire, bread to bake, friends to call. Books to read! I am so much more keen now how often I am being marketed to, and sucked in by some fantasy and/or insecurity, and how acting on these impulses to shop NEVER MAKE ME FEEL BETTER.
Next goal: to resist browsing other stuff when I go somewhere to get a pair of socks or whatever. "Looking," while technically waste-free, creates unhappy emotions of subtle anxiety, desire for stuff I don't actually want, small mental wranglings and calculations. It's a waste of my precious life force.
I need that force for my real life.
(For a fun read and instruction on streamlining the wardrobe, see http://www.theproject333.com/)
I got sick for a week and couldn't do anything related to cooking or shopping, so we ordered our groceries from Amazon Fresh. This order produced a bunch of garbage, the likes of which my kitchen hasn't seen since January. I did not worry about it, as I was too sick to make anything different happen.
I did use it as fodder for this blog, however: I asked everyone to save the packaging from that order. This included milk cartons, cheese wrappers, deli meat wrappers, bread wrappers, everything. After we had consumed all the food from that order, I laid the trash out flat on the counter to see how much space it took up. The result: all the packaging created a flat rectangle about four feet long by two feet deep. That's about the size of two sofa cushions. Then I took out the recyclable stuff, and condensed the leftovers into a rectangle of pure landfill. My raft of packaging shrunk by one foot in length. For the first time in ages, we filled up our recycling bin in a week. (Not a point of pride.)
Important point: I did not see this as a setback. Everything I am doing is part of the path to a more streamlined, less wasteful life. Even during the times that aren't fun and feel like total drudgery, I tell myself that I will only do what I can do at that time. If I can't face making crackers, then by God, we will go without crackers.
Since I've reached a general level of comfort with food in the PFK, I've turned my attention to cleaning products. Here are the changes I've made:
Most commercial cleaning products are too strong-smelling to me, contain chemicals of questionable necessity, and are packaged in plastic containers. Even the "green" products all come in plastic bottles! Now, I do not intend to spend my days creating elaborate home-made cleaners. It's bad enough that I made crackers. So, I'm trying out easy replacements.
I have replaced paper towels with super-absorbent microfiber cloths. I keep a stack of them in a kitchen drawer for anything I might normally use a paper towel to clean up or shine. Instead of using paper towels for draining fried food on, I use newspaper. (My mom thinks this is gross. It doesn't bother me. I haven't tried to discover if there's anything worrisome about it, but there's been no scuttlebutt in the press.) For general cleanup, I have always used dishcloths or rags. The paper towel roll now lives in a back corner under the sink, in case of some extreme circumstance. (Like the zombie apocalypse.)
I bought some Bon Ami for scrubbing jobs. It works fine. For a general spray cleaner, I use diluted grapefruit-oil castille soap. It smells good, works fine, and you can buy it concentrated in bulk. I bring it home in a reusable glass bottle, and mix up batches of cleaner in a re-appropriated spray bottle.
For laundry, I have started using bulk liquid detergent. I bring it home in a used laundry detergent bottle. I use either Borax or a boxed oxygen bleach as a booster. And I no longer use dryer sheets.
[SOAP BOX ALERT] I hate dryer sheets. I haven't used them on my own clothes in years. I don't like their smell or the residue they leave. They make towels less absorbent and cloth napkins taste like hand lotion. Of course they are made of woven plastic and end up polluting the world for 1,000 years. What's to like?
Anyway, we now use a felted wool ball. The ball bonks around the dryer to keep things fluffy. If I wanted to, I could put a few drops of essential oil into the wool to scent my clothes lightly. I do not have static cling because almost everything I put in the dryer is made of natural fibers. (Except for the microfiber cloths and fleece. Those stick to everything.)
Changing out those old laundry products has freed up one entire shelf in my laundry cabinet.
I've also found a product to replace plastic wrap. It's a cloth made of hemp and linen, coated with beeswax, from a company called Abeego. I got three different sizes for wrapping up food and spreading over bowls. The heat of your hand softens the wax enough to mold onto the rim of the bowl.
On the Abeego plus side: Abeegos are infinitely reusable! They are attractive and they smell good. They eliminate the need for most plastic-wrap jobs. They do not leach toxins into your food. Hooray for no toxins in the food!
On the minorly negative side: They must be washed in cool water, not hot. They may not actually be infinitely reusable (they've lasted so far four months in heavy rotation at my house). Also, they take longer than two nanoseconds to spread over a dish. (Six seconds, to be exact, but who's counting.) If six seconds is too long to stand at the counter and press a cloth onto the rim of a bowl, then one needs to step away from the counter and take a breath. Then ask ones life partner to pour one another glass of wine.
The upshot of this whole process is that I have had to become more forgiving of myself. I do what I can do, try to stay positive, keep having interesting conversations with the people in my life, and always, always strive to relax my judgments. This, like reducing waste, is a lifelong process.
What would you like to reduce today?
Renee, this post is for you! Your question about plastic garbage bags prompted my latest laboratory experiment. After years of discomfort with the white plastic garbage bags, I am happy to report: a garbage-bag-free existence is possible and good.
The first thing I did was reconfigure one of my two pull-out waste bin drawers into a proper cabinet. A carpenter added a shelf, took out the sliding pull-out apparatus, and put hinges on the cabinet panel to make a door. Where once stood two white plastic bins, now stand my ceramic mixing bowls, glass measuring cups, and stand-up mixer.
Then I started composting in the remaining pull-out garbage bin. I lined the bin with newspaper, which is compostable, and layered on another piece every couple of days. The recycling, which is now a mere trickle as compared to the raging river we used to produce, remains in its own bin behind the compost.
What of the liner-free garbage? We've re-purposed a small step-can for that. The step-can is about the size of a typical bathroom trash can and has a removable inner barrel. No bag or liner is needed, because with one exception, all of our garbage is dry and fragrance-free. (The exception is leftover cooking grease and oil. Still don't have a good solution for that.)
The result of all of this: higher efficiency in the kitchen, less visual clutter, more counter space, and no more plastic garbage bags. When I'm cooking, I just open the pull-out and sweep all of my vegetable parings and carrot tops and cheese rinds right into the bin. This is far preferable to scooping it all up and dumping it in the counter top compost pail, which itself had to be emptied and washed every day.
As for the smell, I can't complain. Layering the compost with newspaper helps a lot, I believe, with the smell and the visuals. The mixture of clean green kitchen scraps with leftover food items also helps with the smell and the cleanup. To clean the bin, I spray it down with hot water and a squirt of dish soap at the sink using my kitchen sprayer. (I will concede that without a kitchen sprayer this would be less pleasant.)
(ZEALOT ON A SOAP-BOX ALERT: As for those compostable compost-bin liners on the market, of course I think these are totally unnecessary.The energy and resources required to manufacture, package, ship and market them is an utter waste. At $12.99 a box, the money you spend on it is a waste, too.)
Moving the garbage into a little step-can that lives under the island overhang has had no negative effect at all. It doesn't smell, because everything in it is dry. In the past, our garbage was full of food packaging, which can get fragrant and messy, especially when its been in contact with animal products. Those things are, of course, 99% nonexistent in our kitchen now.
So Renee, this is totally doable, with one big caveat: You have to significantly reduce any smelly/leaky food packaging. Otherwise, you'll be washing out your garbage bin AND your compost bin every week. On the plus side, you'd be getting a very intimate portrait of what you are throwing away each week. And that can be a real education. (It has been for me!)
As for what to do with our lifetime supply of Kirkland garbage bags, I am not sure. They might come in handy during a zombie apocalypse.
How much does it cost to go plastic-free in the kitchen?
If you had asked me this question in January, I would've predicted, "Not much." I figured, in about ten seconds worth of figuring, that a lot of homemade food would have to be cheaper than food that had been processed, packaged, shipped and marketed.
My husband, in his own ten-second formulation, assumed our expenses would go up. "Organic, small-batch, local hippie food is for middle-class liberals who can afford it," he said. When he made this declaration, the two of us stood on either side of our kitchen island, drinking some pretty good wine. The layers of his comment, what happened next in our conversation, and the extensive political and social realities that lay behind this notion are WAY beyond this post's scope. So I shall assiduously keep today's writing within the confines of our household grocery bill.
It hasn't changed.
Both Matt and I asked, from opposite sides of the question, "But how can that be?!"
The truth is, some aspects of the PFK cost more, and some cost less. Let's compare, for example, yogurt and applesauce. My home made applesauce costs, per ounce, about the same as organo-hippie bottled apple sauce. It is twice the price, however, of the mass-produced applesauce that comes in plastic jars and jugs. Our apple sauce expense did not increase, because we used to buy the former kind of applesauce rather than the latter.
My yogurt is cheaper. Ounce per ounce, making yogurt at home saves money. It helps that I didn't go out and buy a yogurt-maker, and that all my yogurt-making accouterments are also used for other purposes. If I bought an appliance for every food I make from scratch, my counter would be littered with expensive, PLASTIC appliances and I would've subverted my own goals. (It is hard to declutter and simplify while continuing to shop. Just saying.)
The meat I buy is more expensive than the regular-old QFC meat-counter stuff. It's about the same price as the meat I used to get from Whole Foods. BUT...I buy less of it. I buy less of it because I have to go down to the butcher at Melrose Market to get it, and I only do that every week and a half or so. Another BUT...the locally-raised, sometimes-organic meat I get is delicious. If I wince at the cost of 3 pounds of pork shoulder, I am delighted by the pot of chile verde that it produces, and the tacos the day after. So we get less actual product for the same amount of money, but satisfaction is higher. Maybe only a middle class liberal would make this decision, but I'm okay with that.
So we are holding steady. I believe the grocery bills haven't gotten worse because, in addition to the things that really are cheaper to make, there are a whole lot of groceries we don't buy anymore. I haven't found a good alternatives, and I can't or won't make them. These are:
One cost not included in the grocery receipts is my time. In my more cynical moments, I think, well, I'm a stay-at-home parent with low-paying part-time work. Per hour, my time is worth zero dollars. My bank account doesn't shrink because I spend two hours one afternoon making crackers. (I also don't singlehandedly rescue the planet form overconsumption and pollution by commiting this act, a fact which many people are at pains to remind me.) Since my part-time job is a scheduled thing which I can only do at certain times of the day and week and when I have childcare, it's not as if my cracker-making is taking away from all that money I could be earning by working more. I have to be home anyway to look after my kids.
So. For now, as I refine this practice and my values, I feel it's worth it to keep going.