Friday, July 30, 2010

What a Pill!: Pets and Medication

With our tragic hospital stay with Sadie and Cali's recent snake bite, we have had a recent rash of experience with all sorts of pet medical care from morphine drips (the medicine makes their tongues stick out of their mouths a little bit which is super cute in addition to being the sure "tell" that the drugs have kicked in) to catherers and IV's... we are well versed! But once you get home, or in less serious medical situations when your pets just need to take a little something to put them on the mend, there are always tons of pills to swallow and if your pet is anything like mine, they won't take them! We've tried pills wrapped in bacon, in cheese, handed off with a treat, shoved down a throat and stroked to make them swallow... we've done it all. And now, after years of gagging spaniels and later finding expensive pills spit out in the corner of the living room (they are magicians at hiding them in their jowels!) we have a fool-proof solution! It seems simple, but it took me this long to find a method that worked so I am sharing it here!

This trick will work with peanut butter or cheese whiz, but the fake cheese is just too processed for me to give it to anyone in good conscience, even the pups! It was hard enough for me to buy Skippy and not organic, natural peanut butter! We marked the jar "DOG" and just keep it with their other goodies in the closet, but having a brand that doesn't have to be refrigerated is key since spreadability is so important for this task.

I used EVO (a grain-free brand) treats but as they were bought out by Proctor & Gamble last month, I can't recommend their brand any longer until we can be sure that they haven't changed their formula since the buyout. This would probably work with any treat, but the little hole in the center makes it easier to shove large pills down into the gap. I slather the top of the treat in peanut butter, bury the pills, and put a new coat of PB on top. We generally only give treats for going in their crates, so this is perfect for twice a day dosing before bed and then before you head out the door in the morning. My only suggestion is that if you have more than one dog, you'll have to slather everyone's treat in peanut butter too to avoid jealousy issues! Other than that, it works like a charm! I am sure this would work for cats too... maybe some pate on a treat? Any cat moms out there have good suggestions on what might work for your little angels?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

SNAKES IN A YARD!!: Natural Snake Prevention & Deterrence

Our recoving patient...
“A funny thing to do is, if you're out hiking and your friend gets bitten by a poisonous snake, tell him you're going to go for help, then go about ten feet and pretend that *you* got bit by a snake. Then start an argument with him about who's going to go get help. A lot of guys will start crying. That's why it makes you feel good when you tell them it was just a joke.”
-Jack Handy
We had a bit of a scare this week here at High Cotton Home; our new dog Cali, still fresh from the shelter, was bitten by a poisonous snake in our own backyard on Tuesday night! I saw her at the back door, hobbling on three legs, her paw already hugely swollen and dripping a weird mixture of brown juice (venom?) mixed with blood. She was also extremely lethargic and going into shock. Only two veterinary hospitals within 100 miles carry anti-venom, so I packed Cali into the car and broke land-speed records driving over an hour to the nearest hospital. They did an awesome job getting her on a morphine drip, fluids and the anti-venom right away and (after two days in the hospital and quite a chunk of moola) she is recovering well. The venom caused blood problems including hemorrhaging all over her body so she still has a large pool of blood in her chest and her injured paw is swollen and has quite a bit of damage. Parts of her leg will likely undergo necrosis and come off in the coming weeks leaving her paw looking a bit odd for the rest of her life, but she is going to pull through!
One of the little frogs on a brick outside the door...
also known as a tasty, pygmy rattler meal!
Luckily, we were able to come up with the money for the anti-venom($846 a vial!) in time for treatment but many families aren't as lucky and they can only cross their fingers and hope for the best with IV fluids and prayers to save their animals when they are bitten. The bite characteristics for Cali belong to a family of venomous snakes here in the south that include rattlesnakes, pygmy rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouth snakes. Speculation from the local professional (i.e. my vet and the new yard man) is that it was a pygmy rattlesnake that got Cali because they are very aggressive when surprised (my little soft-footed hunter at work!) and like to eat frogs (like the little tree frogs in abundance on our windows every night).
   Though our home backs up to a wetlands so wildlife is inevitable, we had taken no steps to guard against poisonous snakes, mostly because the only snakes I'd ever seen on our property had been non-venomous. This close-call has made me vow to change my ways and, because of our organic lifestyle, I wanted to see about deterring snakes in the most natural ways possible. Here are a few tips:
#1. Clear out all Bushes, Weeds, Shrubs and Tall Grass: I have to admit that the picture above is my overgrown backyard at the beginning of the summer and it has only gotten worse since as the warm days and afternoon rain showers. Plus, with my husband out of town for a bit, the grass isn't getting cut as often either (I love my electric mower, but mine is not cordless so trying to mow has proved to be a little be tougher than the "just like vacuuming the yard!" that I had thought it would be).  Since the bite, I have hired someone to clear out all the brush, cut back the bushes, and generally clear out the entire front and back yard for under $200. I had put it off because of the heat and because I thought that it would take me weekend after weekend to clear it out just to start over the whole process again! I don't know if that is true or not, but for less than 1/4 of the cost of one vial of anti-venom, I could have prevented this problem months ago! Please, let my dumb mistake prevent heartache in yours!
#2. Clear out piles in your yard: Piles of rocks, hay, wood, old branches, fallen trees... all of these scream "COME REST IN MY COOL SHADE" to a snake. This will be a difficult task if you xeriscape your yard, but that would cut down on rodents/critters (see tip #3) so hopefully the two factors will balance one another out. Be sure when you clear the piles and move them to a safe location (if necessary as in the case of winter wood) away from the house or get rid of them (if they are just rock or junk piles) that you wear protective clothing. I didn't have any good, snake proof gaiters to wear for my snake-finding expedition but I did have some pretty cute, knee-high rain boots that I wore and I carried a huge shovel to poke and push the piles around significantly before reaching my hand to grab any of the items for relocation. Assume there are snakes in the pile and act cautiously about reaching your hand into any dark spaces and not only will you avoid snake bites, but spiders, scorpions or any other delightfully nasty creature that your region may harbor.

#3. Make Your Yard Critter Free: Mice, rats, frogs, toads, lizards... all of these little creatures can inhabit out backyards if we make the conditions right for them. Fruit trees, veggie gardens, under porches, garages and overgrown bushes all attract rodents, who are closely followed by their natural predators including snakes. We found a 3-ft rat snake in the tree out back last month and when we first moved in (before we'd built our fence) I saw an 8-ft indigo snake in our yard that I thought was going to eat Atticus before I caught my breath and realized how cool what I was seeing was! But I should have realized, that where non-venomous snakes find a meal, venomous snakes will too. Now, I have to admit our yard is frog paradise because we don't use pesticides (because frogs are natural, environmental indicators pesticides kill them easily as in most of our neighbors yards) and we have a hot tub that houses so many of the little critters that I can't in good conscience turn it on because I'm afraid of boiling the little suckers! I won't start using pesticides, but I will clean out and treat my hot tub (natural items only, no chemicals) to try to make the yard a little less friendly for them. They also enjoy my compost pile when I neglect to turn it (and it draws flies) so I will need to up my work out there, even though you know I hate to put work into the compost pile!

These are the simplest solutions that I am employing immediately, but I am going to continue looking into the efficacy of spreadable deterrents and installing small gauge chicken-wire along the bottom of the fence to prevent snakes of any sort from making it into our yard in the first place. I will keep you posted and review my successes!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Home Composting: Common Problems & Troubleshooting Tips

Now you have a compost pile and it is up and running... but is it successful? Here are a few common problems and some troubleshooting tips...

#7. My pile has a strong odor, what am I doing wrong?
There should always be an earthy smell to your compost (due to the decomposing matter) but the smell should be livable and shouldn't "hit you" until you open the lid. If you can smell it outside of the container, you have a problem... Turning your pile can do a world of good, but determine what type of "bad smell" is coming from your pile before turning it.
Rotting Meat: If the smell is a disgusting rotting smell, animal proteins or fats have probably accidentally gotten into your pile through meat scraps, cooking fats & oils, butter, dairy products, peanut butter, etc. If the item isn't on the top where you can see it and pick it out, it's best to just scrap the pile and start over, because rotting animal proteins will draw scavengers like flies, rats, raccoons, etc. Then of course there will be snakes to eat the rats... and eventually your yard is overrun by pterodactyls picking off the neighborhood pets... just kidding - sorta. Seriously though, depending on how big the item decomposing in there is (a pat of butter or a full raw T-bone) is going to effect how long the smell lasts... leave the pile for a few days before you decide to trash it and if the smell has lessened, use your own judgement on waiting longer or scrapping the pile completely.

 Ammonia Smell: If the smell is more like ammonia than rotting meat, it is most likely a nitrogen problem in the pile. Nitrogen is produced by the "green" matter decomposing in the pile (veggie & fruit scraps, grass, coffee grounds, pretty much any of the wet, moist material that you place in your pile). Even out your pile with more "brown" matter (such as dry leaves, paper, straw); experts recommend 30 parts carbon ("brown") to 1 parts nitrogen ("green") but I feel like that is a little excessive and a little over analytical. It's an art, not a science... and when in doubt, tinker around with the parts a bit to see if you can fix the problem easily without pulling out a calculator to figure out what to put in.

#8. I want to keep my compost 100% organic so that I can use it on my vegetable garden... how do I make sure that it stays pesticide/chemical/contaminate free?
Creating 100% organic compost is relatively easy if you eat organically, because most of your wastes will already be organic. If you have a mixed diet (i.e. some organic and some conventionally processed goods) you can create two compost piles to keep one 100% organic and still not trash your non-organic food wastes. Some other items to consider are the non-food items that you put into the pile... if you are putting in paper and fabric scraps, ensure they come from organic sources as well. If you (or your neighbors) use pesticides or fertilizers on their grass or trees, those chemicals will be in your compost if you decide to place those in the pile as well. I have read that most pesticides will decompose in an active compost pile in one year, but I have no proof that this is the case. Now, this blog and my lifestyle is all about moderation, so this risk may be negligible for you and if so, your compost will still turn out wonderfully! But if you are trying to ensure 100% organic compost, the key to success is thinking through every item that enters your compost pile before you toss it in.  

There you go, you've started your compost pile, you've kept it going and you've solved all of its little compost problems (which were all just petty decomposing drama anyway). You are a sucessful compost pile parent! Congratulations!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Home Composting: Maintaining Your Pile

So you've got a compost pile, eh? Once you've followed our tips to get your compost pile up and running, how do you keep it working for you (i.e. producing amazing compost for your garden and significantly cutting your household waste production)? Here are a few tips on proper care of a compost pile (and what we do as well! :P)

#4. Does it matter which compostable items I put in my pile or what order I throw them in?
If you follow Rule #3 in Home Composting: How to Get Started about what items are able to be composted you can pretty much dump any and/or all of the eligible items in the pile in any order that you would like. Just make sure you keep your balance of "green" items in the composter (grass clippings, veggies, fruit) high enough as compared to the "brown" items (leaves, paper, cotton scraps) that the decomposition in the compost heap generates enough heat to keep the pile at about 150F. Heat speeds decomposition and if your "brown" levels get too high, decomposition can stall to a snail's pace without additional "green" items and/or oxygen from turning the pile. If your compost hasn't begun to generate heat within 24 hours, add more green items until you can feel heat coming from the pile when you hold your hand close to the decomposing matter.

#5. When will I have usable compost for my garden?
By the book, the more you turn your compost pile, the quicker you will have compost. If you are out there daily with a pitchfork or a shovel and fully mixing up the pile (digging all the way day and pulling items up, mixing the new items on top into the middle and the bottom) avid gardeners tell me you can have usable compost in as little as 3-4 weeks! Keep in mind, outdoor weather plays a role as well so during the winter your compost pile will decompose more slowly than the summertime and (in areas of extreme cold) may go dormant completely until everything thaws out in the spring. Here in the deep South, however, a year-round compost pile is very doable. But, as you see in my discussion in #6, even if you are a lazy gardener like me and do not turn your pile you should have usable compost in 4-6 mths. My compost pile sat with zero help from December-May one year while I was out of the country and when I returned in June to plant, everything had been fully composted while I was gone (including all of my Christmas quilt fabric scraps!) with the exception of a few corn cobs (notoriously slow to decompose) and a few stumps that my husband had thrown in, somehow convinced that 6in chunks of wood would vanish in the pile overnight... what can I say, he's an optimist!
#6. How much work is a compost pile?
As discussed above, turning your pile really speeds decomposition and compost production. Here is where I admit to being a bad compost mom. Truly, I put zero effort into that little pile and I just harvest its yummy little contents every spring when I go to add fresh soil and till my garden before the spring planting. I never turn my pile... seriously, never. I tried the first year; it was June when I started so it was hot out and the mosquitoes were wicked out by the shed and I just thought, "Oh well... that's not going to happen" and it didn't. The good news is that, even if you can't afford one of these nifty compost barrels that you can just crank and flip to turn your pile, turning your compost is not necessary to it's survival. If you leave it long enough while it is producing heat, everything will compost and you can always help it along with a compost activator (we use CompostAlive!) after you add a big chunk of brown or green matter (i.e. after a whole yard full of fall leaves or a mid-summer's cut of you and your neighbor's lawn). You just dump a few scoops of activator on top of the pile and then soak with a garden house until water comes pouring out the bottom (a minute or two) and let it work its magic!

Having issues with your compost? Check in tomorrow for some troubleshooting tips to solve several common compost problems. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Home Composting: How to Get Started

Compost... the solid gold of gardeners and the true measure of a dedicated green household (okay, maybe not the true measure, but...) Composting is very easy, no matter the size or type of your household and you can put as much time and money into composting as you would like and your results will reflect your efforts (more effort = faster digesting compost). There are so many varieties of composters (from entirely self-sufficient, indoor units to simple piles in the backyard) I will give you a general overview and show you what we find works the best for our family. We have been composting for over two years so we are by no means experts, but composting is definitely an integrated part of our lifestyle now!

#1. Why Compost? In an attempt to clean out a bunch of old veggies in my fridge that were about to stage a coup (because they were already in the process of turning) I salvaged all that I could for homemade vegetable soup (the red bowl) and all of the parts I couldn't use and the veggies that were too far gone went into the yellow bowl. It's obvious which bowl is more full!
     I ran this experiment to illustrate that composting greatly reduces the amount of household waste that needs to be disposed of. In a commercial dump, many compostable items (including these new nifty, but loud, Sun Chips bags!) are unable to decay properly because the conditions for decomposition (air circulation/heat/etc.) aren't favorable. Those same items, in a simple home compost pile, can turn into usable compost in weeks! Plus, the items you compost become the best fertilizer for your garden that money can't buy... it's win-win!

Atticus, ravaging the empty compost bin after
I emptied it this year to spread the contents on the garden.
It is very light when empty and terribly tempting to a bored spaniel...
once it gets a few weeks of contents in there, the bin is pretty solid and heavy.

#2. What do I need to compost? As I said before, there are many types of compost bins from the high end to the common leaf pile, but here is what works for us. I didn't want to have to bother with worms (though I hear great things about worm compost piles!) so I went with a simple black standing compost bin. To collect scraps in the house (and to avoid leaving rotting food on the counter until I have a moment to take it out back) we purchased this counter top compost keeper for the kitchen that we empty into the outdoor bin once a day.

#3. What can I add to my compost bin? Pretty much any organic items that are not (and haven't touched) meats or fats. Meats and fats decompose differently than other organic products and adding these to your compost bin will immediately draw critters. Be mindful of organic items that have touched meats and fats as well, such as last night's salad already covered in olive oil vinegrette (plain lettuce leaves are fine, but once they are coated in oil, go ahead and put them in the normal trash can instead). But other than that, most anything goes: vegetables, fruits, moldy bread, clumps of hair from cleaning out your hairbrush, eggshells (rinsed), leaves, grass clippings (try to avoid weeds as their seeds will live on in your new soil for a LONG time and can take root in your garden when you use the soil if you aren't careful), cotton fabric scraps, old paper, dryer lint, shredded cardboard, fall leaves... the list goes on and on.

Once your compost bin/pile is started, tomorrow's post will tell you how to keep it up and running smoothly! Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Settling in...

Sunday brought us into our second week with our new rescue dog, 
Cali(fornia), and I wanted to share her progress with you all. She and the boys are really getting along well (which basically means, Scout has started harassing her endlessly and she finally feels comfortable enough to give him a barking rebuff when she's had enough). Cali is still on antibiotics for a post-shelter cough that she just can't seem to shake, but she is beginning to trust us more and she's started taking her meds with just peanut butter instead of the huge battle we faced last week!
Just before escape attempt #1.
She looks like she's excited to go to the beach... it's all a facade!

Okay, so she doesn't look too terribly excited to be
going swimming with Dad after she was caught...

Cali perked up a bit when she realized that nothing bad was going to happen in the water. She still hated swimming (every time I took her out to waist-deep water, she swam hard and fast for the shore... that girl could win the Canine Olympics for speed and strength in the water!) but she would put up with the shallows as long as the waves stayed small enough.
And she rode in the back of the truck with Mama
and her brothers without any fuss at all...

Cali even managed to cut loose a little on the ride home
and enjoy the wind in her hair ears.

I know we are all still adjusting to each other, but we are all happy to say,
We're so glad you've joined our family, Cali!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Politics of Food: "You Are What You Eat"

I saw this artist's work a few years ago and I was fascinated! Mark Menjivar spent three years traveling the nation exploring "food issues," as his mission statement says, and photographing the inside of people's fridges as is... a perfect snapshot of the food going into their bodies and a byline to show the reader a little background into their lives to ponder about why this person/family eats the way they do. In You Are What You Eat, his photographs explores both life and food as the means to that life, even the reflection of it.  
"These are portraits of the rich and the poor. Vegetarians, Republicans, members of the NRA, those left out, the under appreciated, former soldiers in Hitler’s SS, dreamers, and so much more. We never know the full story of one's life."
Wife Pursuing M.A. in English Literature, job lined up to teach at a college in Colorado following graduation, working to design a class on the politics of food for her future freshman- Gulf Coast, FL - 2 Person Household (plus three dogs) - Mid-Summer - 2010

In the spirit of exploration of ourselves, I present to you... MY FRIDGE! Yes, all of our veggies, our organic dairy products, and oh... a heck of a lot of bottles of wine and beer and some "carmel topping" that his mother bought for sundaes on his last visit... despite my best efforts, I haven't been able to get the entire family on board with our high-fructose-corn-syrup-free lifestyle. Baby steps, baby steps...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What a Good Sax will do to a Woman...

     Last night my husband and I went to our second Michael Buble concert, mostly because I sorta liked his music for our Saturday morning breakfast parties. We went to his first concert in our area in 2008, and he was such an all-around engaging performer that when I saw he was coming back down South I bought pre-sale tickets! 
     Anyway, we started off "date night" with some amazing fondue (can I tell you that the brownies dipped in white and dark chocolate was so amazing that we had to ask for more?! Nice restaurant, fancy outfits, four courses before dessert and yet the hubby and I are flagging down the waiter for another round of brownies! DE-LISH!) Then we skidded into the concert after the opening act was done (sorry, guys, I'm sure you were amazing but if you would have tasted those brownies you would have stayed too!) There was a huge group that had taken over our seats so we moved to the next pair of available seats in the next section. The ticket lady insisted on moving the squatters out of our seats, but I had Michael Buble's voice and a glass of white wine and I wasn't in the mood for anyone's night to be mussed with at that point, so we kept our new seats.
Our seats, comically far from the stage...
We sing along and laugh at Michael's jokes (honestly, the man is an entertainer and a half... funny, witty, adorable accent and, oh by the way, he can SING!) And then as he finishes a song he heads off-stage for his goodbye by walking down our aisle... there were security men galore and I angled for a good, fairly close up shot of Michael as he passed. Here is the result...
Not my hand, for the record... Not big on petting celebrities, I'm afraid...
Imagine my surprise when he mounts a set of steps to a big platform behind our row (that I had previously assumed was some mixing booth because we were so far back) and continues the show... RIGHT BEHIND MY CHAIR!! I am now hustling back to my chair, my shoddy "photo-over-screaming-girls'-heads" behind me, and enjoy Michael's "thank you to the Gulf Coast for all of our strength and courage" (yea, we're pretty great! Turns out he gave 400 free tickets to the concert to people affected by the oil spill... I knew I liked this guy...) and his own, four-feet-away rendition of "Home" which always makes me cry thinking about my husband and I being apart for our jobs so often...
Anyway, all in all, an amazing show and one that took place (at least in part) less than four feet away from me! I love Michael Buble and I love that we lucked into such great seats too!! Now if only he would stop dating such waifish model types, maybe I'd have a chance... But wait... is that a ring on his finger?!? Drats... missed my chance! Wink! Enjoy!
Please, I love getting dressed up and going out on dates with the husband!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our New Addition...

It has been almost six weeks since Sadie passed and, though we are not fully past her death yet, we had room in our home and in our hearts for another dog and so, just a few weeks after her death, we went looking. We wanted a dog who, like Sadie, had been passed over and wasn't adoptable because she was ugly, old, or just generally a sweet dog who inexplicably wasn't going home with anyone.
We tried met-ups with several pups and nobody got along well with our boys (including one dachshund mix who literally chased Scout around the room snapping and barking until he dropped his treat and hid. Scout - 45lbs, dachshund mix - 11 lbs.... hilarious...)
I had seen a Vizsla-Pointer mix at a local pet welfare and I'd waited a couple of weeks to visit her and finally went on my own on July 1st. I just loved her, but it takes a few visits to really get to know a dog. The next week brought another visit, this time with my husband, and on the 13th we took the dogs to meet her... and she came home with us! Formerly known as "Kali," we changed it to "Cali" so that she could be a California girl like her mama, me! Also, I am convinced that changing the letters up in common names only leads girls to grow up to be strippers and I want more than that for my little pup!
She's supposedly six years old, but she's got a bit of gray around her muzzle already. We are at least her third home after three shelter stays from Sacramento to the deep South (and she's been at pet welfare for six months already with no interest in her at all!) based on the history that we were given, but her history doesn't start until she was 3 1/2 and being a Vizsla-Pointer mix she was bound to have a ton of energy as a pup and I'm sure she was probably turned into a shelter at least once after her puppy cuteness wore off. She's still got a lot of spunk in her (especially after a few minutes inside in the air conditioning) and she's kept me busy asking to go outside every half hour so that she can run wind sprints up and down the yard until I get too worried about leaving a geriatric patient out in the 108F heat index! Watching her play with Scout is a hoot (she bounces like an South Central lowrider... perhaps she's more of a California girl than I thought!) and other than the fact that you can tell that she thinks we are going to send her back to a shelter at any minute (yesterday's vet visit was... interesting...) things are going great. YEA for our expanding pack!

Update: Want to see how Cali is settling in at our home? Here is an update from a few weeks later...

Watermelon and Cucumbers and Squash... Oh My!

Though I was trying to wait for these cucumbers to darken into a deeper green, the little critters were starting to munch on them already so today became harvest day! YEA!! As you can see we had quite a bountiful little harvest for this round of cucumbers! With the hot weather here in the South, we should have another round in a month or two (judging by the weather and the dozens of tiny, spiky little baby 'cumbers that are already starting to grow in the garden!) so I've decided to make this entire batch into pickles and relish. The canning posting for those suckers should be coming very soon!

Next on the harvest list are the butternut squash who look amazing (if a little early... I think of those more of a fall treat, but Mother Nature bows to no man... or clock...) Cardinals are also out in force right now too and I think of them as winter birds... am I crazy or are there just no seasons in the South?
Finally, my "little watermelons that could" are finally coming in slowly but surely. Last year my UPS man mocked my efforts in the front yard because our lemons were bigger than our melons! I don't know that we are outpacing last year's melons for size, but putting in bird netting this year led to some ambitious vines and some interesting fruit placement, like this watermelon perched on top of the fence rail! I'll keep you posted on the harvests as they come!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Green Groceries on the Cheap?

We were out of town all weekend driving to Virginia and back visiting family, so with so few hours of sleep this week, I am reposting a comment on the Green Baby Guide that has plenty of content for a beginning-of-the-week blog post. Thank you so much to Joy of the Green Baby Guide for giving me the idea for this post! Enjoy!

How to Lower the Grocery Bill while still staying Green?
Good for you all for looking at your spending this closely and knowing where you put your "food dollars!" So many Americans don’t pay attention and we all know where that leads our nation… Anyway, I agree with Joy, that to go organic, a food box through a co-op weekly or bi-weekly (for a two person family, bi-weekly is enough for us) and then planning meals around it is the way to go. We get whole chickens from a local farmer and those have gone up (to nearly $12 a chicken!! Sweet heavens! This economy, I tell you what!) but between that and organic meats from our local grocer (Publix here in Florida) we keep the grocery bill at about $200/mth for two people. Now, that’s not awesome, but I share your problem that I make recipes set to serve four and they serve me… and three servings for my husband!! But here are a few super basic, but easy to overlook tips:

#1. Are you including toiletries or other houshold items in your “grocery” bill? A regular $40 grocery checkout can soar to $140 easily with a month-plus worth of shampoo, toothpaste, dish soap, paper towels, etc. in the checkout aisle. Look at buying these items in bulk through “Subscribe and Save” on (especially if you buy Seventh Generation, Alba or other “green” brands that can be super pricey in the super market!) where not only do you get bulk prices but you receive an additional 15% when you subscribe for a regular shipment (which you can cancel anytime without penalty! Bonus!) has more items in bulk but no subscription discount that I know of.

#2. ALWAYS make a list, NEVER buy anything not on the list. Ever… ever… seriously, I know we are all grownups and we think we can walk around Target without a case of the “gimme-gimmes” (a great Bernstein Bears book, by the way!) but we can’t. Make a list with literally EVERYTHING you need and buy off the list and not a single item more. Seriously, it works. This is after considering what will be in your CSA box and knowing what is in season, but don't just wander around mindlessly picking up high fructose corn syrup products wrapped in ten layers of plastic packaging. Gross...

 #3. Become a substitutioner… I used to be a Martha Stewart recipe fanatic but dinner parties through her regularly cost $200+ because of her exotic ingredients. Even everyday recipes that call for mushroom soup when I don’t have it necessitate a trip to the store. So I am “The Great Substitioner”… I google first the item I need and substitutions for it (if something useful comes up, I go with that) but generally I just think about the item “Mushroom soup is thick, creamy, and salty” and then add accordingly with what makes sense (milk, cornstarch/cream of tartar to thicken and salt). And voila! A meal! Now, my husband is not at all picky (and he’s never had a bad meal) but in our three years I cook nightly and several times a weekend (we never eat out) and I’ve only made two meals that weren’t edible to me (none that weren’t edible to him!) One was bean soup that I reheated from the freezer and burned (it tasted like cigarettes… BLEH!) and a crockpot recipe that I followed by the book and it had no consistency and smelled like dog food… the dogs wouldn’t eat it, but my husband loved it!

#4. Use up EVERYTHING in your pantry. Challenge yourself for a month to use EVERYTHING in your pantry. It puts your cooking skills to the test and uses the Economics ideal of “sunk cost” at its best. Old canned pumpkin is not only delicious in June, but everyone loves a quick pumpkin pie cobbler because they haven’t had one in ages!

#5. Create your own standby meals and always have the ingredients on hand for them and then add in what you’ve got. Mine are quiche, vegetable soup and crumble. For quiche I either need to make a pie crust (flour, salt, butter) or have one in the freezer; eggs; milk; and whatever is leftover and soon to "go off"… meat, veggies, spinach/greens, bacon, cheese, etc. Quiche takes whatever you’ve got a little of and makes it into a meal for a family. Crumble takes whatever fruit you have that’s about to go off tomorrow, sprinkle it with lemon juice and a 1/2 cup sugar, and then put together equal parts flour and brown sugar with enough butter (a few tablespoons) of cold butter cut in to make a crumbly texture. Put that on top of the fruit and bake at 350F for about 45 minutes or until the inside begins to bubble... VOILA! Instant dessert and no one even requested it! Congratulations, you’ve just won four more wife gold stars!

Hope those help! Here is to Going Green in a bad Economy! Thank you to Green Baby Guide for the idea for this post!

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