Minimalist Baby Gear (0-3 Months)

We’re well on our way to having baby number three and so child-rearing has become a practiced skill for my husband and I. We also originally thought that we would stop at two kids and so most of our gear has been gifted away to friends and family. In preparation for baby number three, we’ve had to start fresh, on a budget, and with our new minimalist mindset.

The following is my “must have” items for baby. I’m not including diapers or clothes in this piece because I will be covering those categories elsewhere (see link above). This is everything else and I hope that this is helpful to new mamas and papas out there as well as parents who have recently embraced minimalism.

Feeding

Everyone’s situation will be a little different. My two older kids certainly were: my younger would have nothing to do with any artificial nipple or pacifier. My eldest had major feeding and reflux issues and required just about every intervention and product you could think of. The truth is, your situation for each kid is very unpredictable. As a minimalist, I’m planning for my ideal and I will have no qualms buying additional gear if warranted.

These are my “must haves”:

  • burp cloths (about 6)

  • a nursing pillow (Really any pillow will do the job, but I’m spoiled.)

  • a nursing throne (Hey, I said I was spoiled. Stake out a place for mama, or papa, to sit for long stretches of time. I have a glider rocker and side table for this purpose.

  • a place to record feeding/changing information (You will be asked this information everywhere or, if nursing, you may want to keep track of which breast the baby drank from last. Some use their phone for this purpose, I have a little notebook.)

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Things I would wait to buy:

  • a breast pump (Manual is fine for occasional use, but an electric can be a real life-saver for kids exclusively on the bottle or for mothers working away from home.)

  • breast milk storage containers (I plan to use mason jars if I need these.)

  • bottles, nipples

  • bottle brush

  • more burp cloths (if the child has reflux or GERD)

  • pacifiers

 

Some Things for the Breastfeeding Mama:

  • Washable breastpads for catching “let down” milk
  • Nursing Bras or Nursing Tanks
  • Nursing Cover (if that is your preference)

The numbers you want will be determined by your laundry schedule, but keep in mind you may want more nursing bras/tanks than you usually have because milk and baby spit up can prevent re-use between washes.

A set up that I love is a nursing tank and a largish t-shirt (short or long-sleeved). My belly stays covered, my chest stays covered but I can still pop open my tank to nurse discreetly.

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Sleeping

Consider how you want to set up your sleeping arrangements. Are you and your partner both into co-sleeping? Would either of you prefer that the baby has a nursery? We got a convertible crib for my first-born. It seemed very eco-friendly. We could buy the crib, turn it into a toddler bed and then buy rails for a twin-sized frame down the road. He spent his first months in a nursery and I spent the nights jumping up to check on him at the slightest whimper.

For my second-born, I bought a sidecar co-sleeper for our bed (an Arm’s Reach Mini). This worked well for the first three months, but necessitated a new arrangement when he became more mobile. A major mistake that I made with his sleeping arrangements was relying too heavily on nursing him to sleep. This limited his ability to put himself to sleep.

My plan for baby three is to put the baby in our side-car co-sleeper for the first three months (we got this item back) and then outfit a pack and play with a comfortable mattress for the remainder of the crib years, eventually switching to a twin-sized set up and skipping the toddler bed altogether. If I didn’t have the co-sleeper, I might just begin with the pack and play in our bedroom.

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Arm’s Reach Mini Co-sleeper (not yet strapped to the bed)

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2 breathable blankets, 1 night light, 2 burp cloths, 1 organic cotton crib sheet (the other is on the mattress)

These are my “must haves”:

  • a safe sleeping surface + mattress (our co-sleeper for the first three months)

  • crib sheets (x2)

  • crocheted/ knitted/waffle woven blankets (x2, these are very “breathable”, unlike the heavy synthetic baby blankets which are great for day time snuggling but are potentially dangerous) NB: I am not suggesting that a newborn should be left unattended with a blanket, but that I am more comfortable with the breathable kind when I am beside the baby in a co-sleeping situation. Use your own judgment.

  • burp cloths (2 near the crib)

  • a night light (1)

Things I would wait to buy:

  • swaddles, some babies don’t enjoy these

Travel & Parking

I’m not sure whether this is true or not, but I’ve been told that hospitals won’t let you leave with your newborn without first seeing that you have a car seat. Regardless, as a car-dependent, rural mama, I didn’t feel the need to test this out. We originally had a car seat and stroller system. You could snap the car seat directly into a huge stroller and never have to wake your babe. As my eldest was born in a cold October and was shuffled from hospital, pediatric, and specialist care, this system had some appeal – until the snow melted and he was in healthier shape.

For my next born, we kept the car seat with the base, but let the stroller get dusty. We had gotten into baby wearing. He was a spring baby and carrying him around, especially on trails and around town just seemed so much easier. I never needed to put him in a sketchy shopping cart either as he snuggled me in his carrier.

This time around, we got a car seat with two bases (for both cars) and a newborn insert all second-hand. I ditched the bulky hood and added a car seat cover as we’re due for another cold-weather baby.

For the first three months, I intend to wear my baby in a stretchy moby wrap. This kind usually only works for around 3 months anyway, but it takes care of the issue that newborn’s have with their tiny frog legs. (After which, I have my choice between my trusty mei tai, a ring sling, and a woven wrap I’m borrowing from my sister-in-law.)

When I want to put my baby down away from home, I’ll put her in her car seat. At home, I have our old bouncer back (minus a few unnecessary attachments).

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I think as a minimalist parent, you should feel comfortable getting rid of the unnecessary elements on baby gear – especially when you don’t think you’ll be able to sell the item after you use it.

These are my “must haves”:

  • car seat (the kind with a base are really great for this stage)

  • baby carrier or a stroller

  • some place safe to lay your baby down during the day such as a bouncer or baby swing

This time around, I’m trying:

  • newborn insert for car seat

  • car seat cover (if you’re having a warm season baby this may be completely redundant)

Things I would wait to buy or reconsider getting altogether:

  • a stroller

  • a grocery cart cover

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Bathing & Pharmacy

Kids don’t need to be cleaned very often. And they don’t need a lot of specialized gear. I know, marketing seems to make this realization a little counter-intuitive, but think about it: why do babies need their own nail clipper?

These are my “must haves”:

  • a nail clipper (that the family shares)

  • a soft brush (mostly for cradle cap, both my boys had this so I expect to deal with it again)

  • a baby towel (x1)

  • baby wash cloths (I have a store of these for washing kids’ faces and for multiple kids bath times)

  • a mild soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap and Nature’s Gate’s Baby Shampoo and Body Wash)

  • a mild lotion or oil (my favorite is coconut oil but I also have Aveeno’s Baby Lotion)

  • a nasal aspirator (for getting boogies out)

  • saline solution (for the aspirator)

  • a thermometer (the kids share)

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There is a hooded baby towel, baby wash cloths, Nature’s Gate Baby Wash, a soft, vegan baby brush, a nasal aspirator that comes apart for easy cleaning, saline spray, nail clippers, and a thermometer. I’m not a fan of Johnson & Johnson but this is one of their safer products that I intend to use up before replacing with coconut oil.

Things I would wait on or completely reconsider:

  • eczema care

  • cold care

  • pain relievers

  • a baby bath tub

Toys, Books, Stimulation

Babies from birth to three months usually don’t have a lot of interest in toys and you will probably receive some as gifts so there is no need to stock up on these at this stage. At about 3 months exactly, kids seem to universally gravitate toward those plastic keys – so don’t throw those out if you get some.

I believe in reading to your child, but a library card is probably the best route to take. You can purchase any favorites, but get a much wider selection and save a lot of money and clutter by taking this route.

Stimulation comes from you and all those people who want to be in your baby’s life. Simple games and cuddles are priceless and come without any clutter!

These are my 0-3 “must haves”:

  • a library card

  • any book that is fun for the parent to read out loud

  • some books written in French (or whatever family language you have other than English as these may be hard to get at the library, depending on where you live)

Memorabilia

I’m a failed baby booker. OK, I’ve admitted it. Moving on. I am a big believer in having some stuff to remember this time. It seems like a never ending cycle of kid care until you blink and then try to recall the time later on. The trick is to make memorabilia super easy for you.

For my first born, I tried the baby book thing because that is what my mom did for us. Later, I learned about baby’s first year calendars and I was won over. Put the calendar somewhere very easy to access, like in the pocket of your nursing throne. Keep a pen handy. Don’t worry over perfection.

Cameras that can be set to put the date in the corner or organize data by date are worthwhile. I haven’t used it yet, but I plan to have milestone stickers to put on the baby’s clothes for pictures. My husband made the brilliant observation that blank label stickers would be great for those milestones marketers haven’t considered. Such as: “baby’s first game night”.

Also, a fabric or permanent marker can be a great way to turn a onesie into some occasion-specific outfit. I’ve written all kinds of events or messages on my kid’s clothes.

These are my “must haves”:

  • baby calendar and pen

  • camera

  • fabric marker / permanent marker

Thing I’m trying out this time around:

  • milestone stickers / blank labels

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A first-year calendar, some milestone stickers, some blank labels for our own milestones (such as “baby’s first game night”), a permanent marker. We might use the marker on the kids’ clothes directly or add dates to stickers.

 

So, that’s it! I think you’ll find that a newborn comes with very little of his or her own expectations. This is a great time to introduce your child to the luxuries of less.

Happy Parenting with Mother Earth in Mind!

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A Minimalist’s Approach to Hobbies

You can collect hobbies like you collect stuff. Trust me, I know. I’ve mindlessly collected quite a few over the years and have let very few of those go. I’ve collected the stuff for my hobbies and diligently housed that stuff in climate-controlled, rented space. I’ve schlepped that stuff to and fro with every move. I’ve even allowed those hobbies to guilt me about their neglect.

Now, each of us only has 24 hours to the day. Some of us, like me, require about 8 hours of sleep to function, and while sleep is so, so good (I write this before the crack of dawn while my kids are still asleep), it offers little in the way of task completion. That leaves about 16 hours, give or take for individual needs and preferences. That’s actually not a lot. We pack in all sorts of stuff in those 16 ish hours: work, school, commuting, housekeeping, parenting, basic self care, and so on.

Who has time for a ton of hobbies? I’ve found that the hobbies I’ve tended to collect are aspirational in nature. The kind of hobby that leads to some grand achievement. One that makes you look good for others.

My aspirational self has time for all kinds of neat hobbies, because this fake self doesn’t live in the real world. She can play the violin, knit a pair of socks, has earned a black belt, guides wilderness expeditions, teaches yoga, runs marathons, speaks about 35 languages, and so on. Yes, these are actual goals that I’ve aspired to with my hobbies over the years. And trust me, there are many, many more.

The problem isn’t hobbies. It isn’t even hobbies which come with impressive but hard to reach goals. The problem, in my opinion, is not taking the time to revisit one’s hobbies on a regular basis. Not allowing yourself the freedom of letting go those hobbies that no longer ignite you. The problem is when you start to beat yourself up for not practicing that instrument you no longer like just because you wanted to get good at it.

Downsizing Your Hobbies

There are three basic steps for culling your hobby collection.

The first is the Marie Kondo, or “Konmari”, approach. (She is the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.) That is, ask yourself if the hobby in question still “sparks joy”. Is it personally satisfying for you to take the time to do? You might be surprised with the answer. If the hobby no longer excites you, it’s time to let it go. Free up your time, remove the guilt. Keep in mind that if, in the unlikely scenario that you rekindle your interest, you can always take the hobby up again at any point in your life.

The second step is to set yourself some limits. What those limits look like is up to you. Perhaps you give yourself a daily or weekly time slot for your hobbies and refuse to feel guilty when you can’t achieve grandiose goals because the allotted time doesn’t allow for it.

Maybe you pick 6 hobbies per season, or work on 3 hobbies each month, or whatever number seems to call to you. By setting yourself a cap, you avoid the “jack of all trades, master of none” pitfall. By making your choices explicit, you may discover that you care more for a hobby you didn’t include than for one that you did. Being explicit leads to clarity in my experience.

The third is downsizing the stuff you’ve collected for your chosen hobby. A great example is camping gear. It may be time to weed out the tarp with all the holes, the old tent with the missing pieces, or the camp stove that you’ve long since replaced. It’s time to take into consideration the way you like to play your hobby and weed out the “what if” items.

The Hidden Danger of Too Many Hobbies

The reason I decided to write about this is because I’ve been neglecting both my hobbies and the act of dealing with them. They’ve sort of taken up a holding pattern in my life. Instead of pursuing the hobbies I’ve collected and am now overwhelmed by, I might surf Facebook or watch TV instead. This is a sad, cluttered state of affairs.

While I’m mindlessly killing the little down time that I have, I feel guilty that my archery gear is collecting dust (a hobby I might best let go of) or that my hiking boots are crying in the closet from neglect (to the deep pain of me and my boots). It isn’t just about the guilt associated with not doing something you set out to do, it isn’t just about all the stuff you’re tripping over instead of playing with, another hidden danger of having too many hobbies is that you lose focus on what can bring passion, creativity, or joy to your life. Because, at the end of the day, hobbies are supposed to be the things you do to refuel and recharge yourself.

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Do We Live in a Post-Environmentalist Society?

At the risk of dating myself, I grew up in the Captain Planet and Fern Gully generation. I participated in Earth Day clean up events before I understood much about the consequences of my ingrained consumerist behavior. When I was a kid, the big environmental problems could be addressed with a grocery bag full of litter and curbside recycling.
This past Earth Day, my normally celebration-happy town square was deserted. I was the only one shopping with cloth bags. I ironically wrote the words “Earth Day” on my “Nature’s Power” themed wall calendar, which had left the square unmarked.

There’s talk of the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, being disbanded. Our National Parks are defunded, and the internet meme is that Smokey Bear is eerily correct … only we can prevent forest fires.
With the CO2 levels in our atmosphere, climatologists are now predicting that there is no way to prevent global climate change.
Do we just give up? Is the environmental battle over? Do we turn in our chasing arrow badges and our planeteer rings?

I would hope that the answer is a resolute and resounding NO! Because, we still haven’t found a replacement Earth. We still live here and we’re still having children and we’re still hoping to eat, to breathe, to drink from the planet we live on. We can’t afford to be blaissez about this issue.
This isn’t a special interest. This is the root of all interests. We can’t eat money. We can’t make products from snapping our fingers together and willing them into existence.

What do we tell our children? That we’re sorry, but the continued existence of life on Earth, and their lives, were just too “fringe” for us to consider?

What Can We Do?

I suggest we do away with “the environment”, a cold, sterile word that seems so “special interest” and refocus on activity that is “Earth-friendly”. Refocus on “Our Planet”. Our connection.
We don’t give up in despair in face of the over-sized problem we’ve fallen into. We fight for as long as we wish to eat, to breathe, to drink, and so on.
You, me, our children and our grandchildren – we’re all in this together. Maybe we all find different solutions to work on. Our interests and specialties may vary, but our passion shouldn’t. This is situation critical. We can’t be lax now.
But if you have no idea what you are going to do. May I humbly make some suggestions to get you started:

  • Consume less stuff. Everything made has an environmental footprint. Check in with yourself before making a purchase. Do I really need this? Will this serve a function in my life?
  • Replace the plastic. If you have a choice between two materials, choose the item that isn’t made from plastic.
  • Avoid single use everything. Figure out how to use and reuse items for as long as you can.
  • Speak up. The reason there was no Earth Day celebration in my local town square, the reason the EPA is in danger of being disbanded, that National Parks are being defunded is because politicians believe we just don’t care. You and I both know this isn’t true.

Notes:

EPA
According to NBC News, in an article written by Avalon Zoppo, “On Feb. 3, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, introduced a bill in the House that would terminate the EPA by the end of 2018”.
How seriously should we take this? The Washington Post published an article reviewing in detail the proposed 2018 budget in an article called “What Trump cut in his budget”. Guess which three letter agency received the largest funding cut.
The Guardian notes, in an article entitled “Donald Trump ‘taking steps to abolish Environmental Protection Agency’”, that eliminating the EPA was a campaign pledge of Trump. The article points to specific and worrying regulations already taking place. “Fears of a purge of EPA climate data, research, and reports have been fuelled by the removal of climate science material on a White House website and a ‘temporary hold’ placed on new publications until they have been vetted by politcal appointees.” (political appointees, not scientists) Let’s be clear, American citizens have funded this research, but we’re not being allowed to have access to the results. For political reasons.

Climate Change

According to a New York Post article, “Carbon dioxide levels hit ‘point of no return’ by Lauren Tousignant, “in 2015, when CO2 levels officially passed 400 ppm, which climate scientists call the ‘point of no return.’ After this mark, they claim, climate change is irreversible.”
Some may think that this is the signal to stop fighting. But consider this, while carbon dioxide is slow to dissipate, methane, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas can trap up to 100 times more heat inside the atmosphere and can dissipate from the atmosphere, if the problem is addressed, much more quickly.
I reiterate: we can’t afford to stop fighting. We may have to change our battle strategy, but we can’t just quit.

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Earth Day: Vegan for the Environment

Happy Earth Day, guys! The best holiday ever, as far as I’m concerned, because it is the day where we make a concerted effort to realize how disconnected we’ve become and how utterly dangerous and stupid our disconnect is.

Earth-Day

I’ve talked about how my chief motivation to become vegan is for the environment, but today I’d like to show you some accessible resources that I find compelling.

Cowspiracy

In case you’ve never watched this film, it is available on Netflix Streaming and you can watch a free 15-minute version on YouTube, here:

My favorite vegan YouTuber speaks about this film. His analysis is also worth a view:

Bite Size Vegan

My second favorite vegan YouTuber, BiteSizeVegan, did her own research regarding the relation between the environment and diet. Here are two of her videos on this subject:

and…

Of course, combining our environmentalist and our vegan efforts is the most powerful approach. I disagree that veganism is the “only answer” and instead believe it is the “most powerful answer”.

Media 

Media is a double-edged sword. Everyone has an agenda. Vegans have an agenda. So do meat and dairy industries and the average American who wants maintain their sense of comfort with the status quo.

Here are three tips for sorting out the wheat from the chaff:

  1. Is the title of the article “click bait”? Does the title alone generate strong emotion or curiosity?
  2. What is the source of the article? Or, in the case of research, who funded it?
  3. Do the arguments presented in the article logically follow one after the other? It is amazing how little attention American schools pay to critical and logical thinking. A great, readable introduction to logical thinking is Being Logical by D.Q. McInerny.

Happy Earth Day!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

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Restricting Beyond Veganism (Day 20)

I used to sneer at those who restricted their diets beyond veganism. Especially those who are not gluten-intolerant but avoided gluten. I mean, no bread? Blasphemy!

I not only thought they did a disservice to veganism by muddying the waters (where does the vegan message leave off and coffee hatred begin?), thus making it hard for new vegans, I also thought that they were on shaky grounds in regards to their long-term health.

Most of the public vegans that I truly respected advocated nothing more than a whole food plant based diet. Maybe also specifying the avoidance of salt, refined sugar, and oil, but they would always back up this regimen with scientific, peer-reviewed studies.

Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, possible thyroid cancer (ruled out!), IBS, and some as yet undetermined condition (we’re still doing tests) which leads to blood in the stool. My conditions weren’t going away with a simple switch to a vegan diet. In fact, I didn’t benefit from the glowing health many new vegans expect, but instead felt worse.

I needed to refine my diet for my continued health and while I hope Veganism will always be the groundwork, some of these added precautions don’t seem so insane after all.

Why Mentioning the IBS Thing Isn’t Bad Vegan Advocacy

Apparently, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) is much more common than polite society would have us realize. There is some evidence that switching to a low-FODMAP diet (at least temporarily to identify triggers) is highly effective with eliminating symptoms and can be done while maintaining one’s veganism (though it is trickier).

The thing is, a new vegan who has IBS may find they feel worse on a lot of vegan staple foods. They might try to bring this up with the vegan community and may be treated as though they were just looking for an excuse to quit veganism. I know, I’ve been there.

If this were talked about more, I think would-be vegans who have this issue might discover the help they need to thrive on a vegan diet.

BTW, if you have this problem, I highly recommend this book:

lowfodmap and vegan

What I’m Currently Limiting

I’m currently limiting alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy (no duh), processed foods, garlic and onions. It is a lot and I hope this isn’t permanent. I really love garlic and bread. And garlic bread, yum. But I’m getting more insight in what really makes me feel queasy all day long (not a great way to spend all day every day, let me tell you).

The reason behind my change in perspective behind the whole gluten thing, is that Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease and I’ve discovered many expert opinions (I don’t believe there is consensus on this yet) that avoiding gluten is helpful. The blood in the stool also has me worried over intestinal damage which could indicate as yet un-diagnosed gluten intolerance. I will have to see what my doctor says.

For Others

I’m sorry I started out with such judgmental opinions. Your diet is your own and there are many reasons other than veganism for adopting a specific way of eating. I do recommend that while acting as a vegan advocate, we mention why we’re avoiding something that isn’t an animal product. Other than this, you’ll find that it won’t be me who is casting the sideways glance at you.

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Tackling My Kitchen (Day 19)

My kitchen is a disaster area! Sure, it can look neat, but this is all to lull the unsuspecting into a false sense of security.

The thing is, all the processes that have to go on in there to turn out healthful, vegan food are an unruly mess. Other goals I have for my lifestyle, such as going minimalist and zero waste are almost laughable here. And definitely overwhelming.

Six Categories of Kitchen Work

I think there are six categories of activity that are crucial for the kitchen.

  1. Tidying and Decluttering. If you have no space to cook or clean, messes fly out of all control. Food goes bad when you can’t find it. Most people won’t want to venture into the kitchen in the first place. Homework goes missing. Out goes the idea of home cooked meals in favor or ordering out or convenience foods. Give yourself space to work and know what’s in your kitchen.
  2. Cleaning. You can’t cook healthfully if the dishes are filthy, the counter tops sketchy, or the utensils are tripping over themselves in the limited space and falling to the dirty floor. Obviously, a certain level of cleanliness is next to … good … health.
  3. Meal Planning and the Grocery List. Once you know what you have, you can decide what it is you still need. Going through your cupboards and deciding what you’ll be making are crucial steps to building a shopping list that doesn’t leave you filled with regret. This takes a little time. I also include in this category recipe and nutrition research. It’s nice to have one new recipe to try a week. It isn’t as overwhelming to only have one, but a new recipe can fend off food boredom.
  4. Grocery Shopping. I used to boohoo this, but after having kids it’s like a mini-vacation. Of course, I then spend the time kid watching. I’m hopeless. What’s there to say? Try to bring a list and don’t stray from it!
  5. Food Staples and Meal Preparations. This is food you’re going to make to last you some time. As distinct from meals ready to eat. I like to keep these manageable. I process groceries, I make jam, prep overnight oats, sprout, bake bread, I might do some meal prepping, but I keep whatever I choose down to a few tasks a week so that I have time to do them properly.
  6. Cooking. This is for all those meals and snacks that seem to be in near constant demand. I try to cook big batches whenever possible and dispense left-overs into portion sizes for quick meals. I also try to clean while I’m cooking if there are any gaps in labor or wait times.

My New Kitchen Schedule

 

 

I’ll be breaking these tasks into daily, weekly, and monthly chores.

Daily:

  • Go through all cupboards and drawers and straighten the contents to keep everything visible. This is usually just maintenance and takes about a minute.
  • Make sure everything is off the counters (I keep my toaster, electric tea kettle, knife block, cooking utensil container, hand soap, and mini-herb garden on the counters.)
  • Clean out the dishwasher (preferably in the morning) so that people can work to fill it through the day.
  • Wash all the counters and sink and stove’s surface. This is easier if the counters remain mostly clear. My favorite surface spray recipe is here. (I like to add peppermint essential oil during the summer to keep the ants away.)
  • Sweep the floor.
  • Make sure dishes are going into the washer and food is being put away.
  • Do food and meal preps and cook as needed throughout the day.

Weekly

  • (Sun.) Meal Planning and Grocery List. Grocery Shopping.
  • (Mon.) Determine if there are items that could still be culled. Minimize.
  • (Tue.) Pick a cupboard or drawer and give it a scrub down (inside and out). Going sequentially can help you keep track of what has been done recently.
  • (Wed.) Floor gets swept and mopped.
  • (Thu.) One Big Task (see monthly)
  • (Fri.) Go through pantry and refrigerator and remove food that is past its prime.

Monthly 

  • Tackle 1 big task: full refrigerator clean, a thorough stove top clean, clean all small appliances, or an oven clean.

My Vegan Kitchen

I understand that everything above applies across the board and not just to Veganism, but this is nonetheless an important step for me to tackle as desperation has led me to order out (there are really no vegan restaurants in my area), munch on whatever my husband brings home from the store (which is sometimes not even vegan) and go for the convenient and unhealthy option. To make the transition complete, I need my kitchen to be under control.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

 

 

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Vegan Meal Planning (Day 18)

When I’m factoring in personal preferences, ethics and traditions, allergies and intolerances to food, and random pregnancy food aversions and cravings, for 4.5 people, things can get really complicated really fast.

While we were sick last week, I must have gone to the store 4 or 5 times for supplies and spent a pretty penny with every outing. I now face and overstocked and eclectic kitchen with a refrigerator more intimidating than reassuring. The guilt is intense.

Going to the store more frequently than once-per-week, or going to more than one store in a week, spells financial disaster for me. I think it’s due to my impulse buys.

Today, I intend to take inventory of my kitchen and to build a week-long meal plan to use up supplies before they go bad. Then, in the future, I intend to go grocery shopping on Sundays for the entire week, grocery list in hand. I will work to keep impulse purchases to a minimum.

Vegan Family Meal Planning Made (Somewhat More) Simple

(1) Repeating meals is fine. No one will die from boredom. Repeating meals will save money and time, especially if you batch cook / prep meals. I like to have about 3 staple meals (3 for breakfast, 3 for lunch, 3 for dinner) for a week so that repeats only happen twice per week. (Saturdays are my “day off” so we usually use it as a flex day which may include kitchen raids.)

(2) Whenever possible, make a bigger batch. Then, make sure the left-overs get dispensed in containers after cooling. And eat the left-overs. This might go without saying for most people, but I tend to forget about left-overs unless I make a concerted effort.

(3) I make a chart of meals. Down one side I have 6 days of the week and down the other side, I have 6 meals (includes 3 snacks). Along one side I have shopping list so people can write down anything they see is running low for next week’s shopping trip. I put the chart on the refrigerator and it helps immensely when answering the question: what’s for dinner?

(4) I feel it’s crucial to keep experimenting with new recipes (usually I only do one per week) to keep variety in our diets. Otherwise, I tend to fall upon old worn-out habits that we’re all bored with.

Also…

For my more technologically savvy readers. I would like to suggest a fabulous app called: MealPlan. It does require a purchase (this is not sponsored), but it offers just what I’m looking for:

  • allows you to map out the meals for the week (and add meals if you’re not a traditional 3-meals-a-day type)
  • allows you to organize a grocery list (even by location in the store)
  • suggests a grocery list based on your recorded recipes
  • allows you to quickly scratch off items not needed or already in cart
  • allows you to store recipes
  • allows you to arrange the week around your schedule. That is, you can start the week based upon your shopping day.

I hope this helps!

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

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“Fake” vs. “Natural” Products (Day 17)

I’m as susceptible to green washing as they come and I believe words have power. I mean, I’m a sustainability writer.

I remember once when one of the major soda companies came out with a Sierra Mist (or was it Mountain Dew?) in a can decorated with a woodland scene. I believe I was in school for my bachelor’s degree at the time and my husband and I were dating (so, at the risk of dating myself, this product came out around 2008). I’d never been much of a soda drinker, but suddenly there was a whole lot more appeal for me. I rationally understood why this was, even teased myself for it, but I still drank more soda at that time than I had in recent memory.

You might be able to guess that between the words “fake” and “natural”, I have a strong preference. And I’m not that unique in this. This strong emotional and ideological pull takes a toll on the vegan movement.

When vegan alternatives are labeled “fake meats” and “fake milk” and “fake leather” and “fake fur” and on and on ad nauseam we start to see veganism as not natural and also as inferior. Never mind that veganism does not require these alternative products and only describes what vegans don’t participate in: such as animal cruelty.

(Call me optimistic, but I choose to believe in a world that is approaching a natural inclination toward justice, mercy, and compassion.)

“Fake” is a label that keeps the carnist philosophy smoothly running in the comfort of its supposed legitimacy.

What’s A Vegan To Do?

Well, there’s three major alternatives:

(1) We embrace the forward-thinking model of Veganism. There’s a vegan YouTuber who calls herself the “Unnatural Vegan”. My husband calls meat alternatives “space meat”. He’s into science fiction, so I guess this is a compliment. And Vulcans, who are at least vegetarian and probably vegan, are pretty cool symbols of a logical and peaceful future (at least they’re cool to my geek brain).

(2) We rethink our language choices. Perhaps we use words like “alternative” instead of “fake”. I frequently call meat alternatives “plant meats” to help my kids understand what they’re eating (saying something is designed to look and taste like a chicken nugget but contains no chicken parts can get wordy and overly gruesome). Maybe instead of almond milk, we’re drinking almond juice. I don’t know. Maybe I’m being ridiculous, here, but I’m certain that the meat and dairy industries are capitalizing on our culture’s discomfort with certain words.

(3) We remember that eating legumes, nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables, and grains that come from the Earth is far more “natural” than eating the hormone and antibiotic remnants of animals trapped in warehouses and fed diets they wouldn’t eat in Nature. Enough said.

What Do You Think?

Do we have the power to change the language around food in a culture where vegans are in the minority? Should we really spend energy trying? Do you have a knee jerk reaction to these loaded words? Let me know in the comments below!

Mic. the Vegan’s Take

I saw that Mic. the Vegan, my favorite Vegan YouTuber, had covered this topic, I felt inspired to write my thoughts before watching his video (just to make sure I wasn’t ripping off his ideas). He has some interesting perspectives that I think are valuable to consider as well.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

 

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Going Vegan: One Step at a Time (Day 15)

I read some excellent nutrition wisdom recently. It was from Vegan Pregnancy: Survival Guide by Sayward Rebhal and the author was speaking about making healthful choices while pregnant, but I think this wisdom has value from a new vegan’s perspective too:

This isn’t about being perfect (emphasis hers). It’s not about never letting a grain of sugar pass your lips, or compulsively keeping a food diary to track nutrients. Please don’t drive yourself crazy. This is just about being mindful. About remembering that it’s not just about you anymore. So one day at a time, one meal at a time, just practice making the healthier choice.”

I think this simplifies the whole process of becoming vegan down to its core in a way that is very manageable. Take it a meal at a time, be mindful that your choices aren’t about just you anymore. The knowledge of the industry has replaced your ignorance. Keep practicing the best option that occurs to you in your circumstances. Gradually, you’ll see better options, you’ll understand more about what is going on around you, you’ll know which foods you prefer or tolerate well. You’ll grow as long as you stay mindful and do the best you can …one step at a time.

I feel this lifts a huge weight off from me. I don’t have to think about the food I’ll never enjoy again (even 10 years from now – when it may no longer appeal to me), I don’t have to think about hidden ingredients that I’ve never heard about, I just need to think about the decision I’m making here and now.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

vegan pregnancy survival guide

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Sick & Vegan (Day 13)

Firstly, I should say that it is not good advocacy to be a sick vegan. This is why I try to stay away from becoming a “junk food vegan” even if “the animals don’t care what I eat as long as I’m not eating them” – the junk food rationale I hear a lot.

Because carnists tend to worry over the ability to be healthy on a vegan diet, it’s best not to fuel that fire. How? By thriving! Get regular exercise, sleep, get outside, and eat well, of course. Plant-based diets have a slew of health benefits, including the avoidance of many debilitating diseases.

This all said, I have a pre-existing and probably genetic auto-immune disease and IBS. As our immune system largely resides in our gut, you might begin to see why I might be sick a lot. Plus, I’m the mother of two pre-schoolers and I’m pregnant.

Now, I take responsibility: I exercise daily, I take my vitamins, I sleep at least 8 hours a night, I meditate, I drink lots of water, take probiotics, I even do bizarre health practices such as oil pulling and skin brushing. My health is really important to me.

I don’t want to become dependent on medication. I’m currently shy of needing thyroid medication. I don’t think needing thyroid (or any) medication makes a person a bad Vegan, but I’d rather not get to that point. Any medication goes through animal testing and most are also made from animal products. If you need it, you need it (you have to be healthy enough to help others), but if you can avoid it – that’s best.

Beside chronic diseases, there are the frequent colds that whip through my home each year. My family is down with one today. Colds suck. They’re also so not vegan or zero waste friendly.

Just as with prescribed medications, over the counter medication goes through animal testing and may contain animal products. Every individual vegan has to determine for him or herself what their stance is going to be regarding medication and I don’t presume to prescribe or proscribe anything here.

For anything that does not require a doctor, I tend to go as “natural” as I can. Water, rest, vinegar water, herbal teas, orange juice, essential oils, kimchi and miso soup. Miso soup really is a great chicken noodle soup alternative. If I have heart burn, mixing some baking soda (1 tsp) into a glass (1 cup) of water can relieve my symptoms. I tend to fight off nausea with Vermints.

Anything that requires my doctors, will lead me listening to their advice. I might tailor their advice to my lifestyle if it’s appropriate to do so as when my GI suggested a low-FODMAP diet and I got a book to help me figure out how to do it while remaining vegan.

This hasn’t always been my approach. I used to use a lot more over the counter drugs. Especially Nyquil and Vicks for colds. My husband still relies on these and our kids have a mixture of “natural” and “conventional” remedies, depending on which seems to work the best. So, we might use doTERRA’s Breathe Blend in a diffuser, as an example. But we also have an EPI-Pen and Kids’ Benedryl for my eldest.

Going Forward

I’m going to work on home remedies for colds and flus. I’m going to keep up my health practices so as to avoid chronic conditions. I’m going to work on thriving as a vegan so I can be a good advocate.

Until next time, keep that talk walking!

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