Monday, December 17, 2007

Save Money, Save Your Health, Save the Earth

First, while only saving your health in the global sense of, a healthier earth = healthier inhabitants of the earth, I'd like to challenge you to consider reusable options for wrapping gifts this year. I think I already mentioned, my super economical way of doing that has been to re-use gift bags I already had from previous years. If you sew at ALL (as in, a straight seam), you can make simple fabric gift bags just cut 2 piece of fabric the same size, hem the "top" edge of each (or cut w/ pinking shears or something to make it look like you meant to leave it un-hemmed) lay the 2 pieces against each other inside out, sew around the 3 sides, and turn it right side out. Place gift inside the bag & then tie the top closed w/ a piece of ribbon (or fold it over & pin it, or sew a piece of velcro onto it . . . or use your imagination & come up with another solution). Even if you don't sew, you can cut a piece of fabric w/ pinking shears & "wrap the package" in the piece of fabric, then tie ribbon (use real ribbons, tie them so they can be untied w/o cutting them, and leave them long enough that they can be used other years for other shaped packages). I did that using playsilks last year for the girls' birthday gifts & it turned out great :) (Ha! And looking at those pictures, now I know why, when I was making votives recently, I found a bunch of cut lengths of white ribbon in my ribbon drawer). If you'd rather just buy some cloth bags, I have a few wrap sacks and they have the neat feature of each bag having a number in it so that you can track, where the bag has been & where it will go (if you keep the number of your bag) as people use & reuse it. And they're nicely made drawstring bags. If you're creative you an make the wrapping part of the gift too, use a baby blanket for a baby's gift (or an expectant mom's gift), dish towels for a gift that's a kitchen theme, etc.

I also thought a week before Christmas would be a good time to do a "wish list" for a healthier kitchen . . . So, if you have parents or husband asking "what do you want for Christmas" and you're drawing a blank, here are some things to consider asking for (if you don't have them).

Cast iron cookware: teflon/non-stick at the very least uses carcinogens in the manufacturing process, and it flakes off w/ use, which is scary to me. Additionally, once I learned to keep the heat at medium or less for most things, especially eggs, I LOVE how cast iron skillets cook! Even if you could prove with 100% certainty that non-stick was safe I wouldn't be going back! My pots & pans were already stainless steel, so I stuck with those, if they had been non-stick or aluminum (linked to alzheimer's)I'd probably have replaced them with cast iron as well, though most sources say stainless steel is safe as well.

Stoneware muffin pan &/or "pizza stones": Many muffin tins & baking sheets are aluminum (&/or non-stick), again, same issues as above. A "pizza stone" can be used for anything a baking sheet can be used for (that said, at Christmas time when we might make large batches of cookies, I use parchment paper on my old baking sheets because I don't have that many pizza stones). And they're so wonderful! I want a stoneware muffin pan(s) in the worst way, but haven't gotten one yet. For now I do have a coated stoneware muffin pan (that makes heart shaped muffins) & a cast iron muffin pan (that makes mickey mouse head muffins) so I use those instead of the aluminum non-stick muffin pans I had (though again, another alternative is to use paper liners).

Pyrex (or equivalent) baking dishes: again to replace aluminum/non-stick ones for cakes, casseroles, etc.

Glass storage containers: I'd love to get some of these, in a variety of sizes, but for now I'm making do with ones more like this (be aware though that both pyrex & anchor hocking brand containers like this use one of the "known to leach" plastics for their lids, I use the lids for storage but try to never fill the containers so that food is touching the lids, and don't ever use the lids in the microwave (drastic temperature changes are the most likely time for plastic leaching (so microwaving, freezing, etc). Plastic (leaching) and food is one of those issues that everyone has a different answer about, awhile ago I got an e-mail forward (I know, not always the most reliable source of information) that seemed to lay it out in an easy to understand (& check) format, I'll paste that list into a separate post when I finish this one. IMO it's impossible to 100% eliminate plastic, but I've found it relatively easy to reduce it in areas such as storage containers (cheapest glass storage containers, save your glass jars from spaghetti sauce & such, wash them, and re-use!)

If you have young children, dishes is another area where the plastic dilemma can be a big one. Afterall, plastic can leach, but glass can break . . . what to do? I got lucky in this one, in that I already had Corelle (not that pattern) for my everyday dishes, it's quite break resistant, though if you have a tile or slate floor you might want to put a towel down under your child's seat if they might drop their dishes, to cushion it abit. But I can tell you with certainty (and I think more from ME dropping them than the girls) that they rarely break when dropped on vinyl floors LOL) and I've occasionally seen my children STAND on the plates or bowls on the family room (carpeted) floor & they've never broken that way either (not something I'd recommend by the way LOL). Perhaps the bigger issue is a non-break cup. I'd always used the glasses that I got to match my Corelle dishes and they are most definitely NOT unbreakable (again, I know this from personal experience that has nothing to do w/ my children . . . why yes, I *am* abit of a klutz) but then it occurred to me that I had a whole set of the Corelle mugs that came with my dishes that I pretty much never used because they're smaller than I like for my mugs. These are made out of the same stuff as the dishes & again, can take MUCH abuse! I also use jelly jars as glasses for the girls & haven't had any break yet. If you need extra bowls, or only bowls, we also have some of these and again, they will take much abuse (and I can say for a fact that at least a couple of ours are capable of being turned upside down on carpet & will hold 40lbs w/o breaking (again, children standing on them, sigh . . . and again, I don't recommend it, but do think it's a good indicator of the abuse they can take). If you truly want to stay away from both plastic and glass, check camping stores for enamel dishes.

Or just think about other things you'd like to make from scratch, look up online how to do it, and determine if there is any special equipment you might need (food processor, blender, food dehydrator, bread maker, candy thermometer (this is useful for things like making yogurt too) etc).

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