On 90 Days of Walking

On January 1st I decided to start walking (outside) at least 1 km a day. And that’s exactly what I’ve done for 90 days and counting.

I’ve walked in rain. I’ve walked in freezing rain. I’ve walked in hail.

High winds? Check. Icy sidewalks? Check, check, check.

I’ve trudged through snowdrifts and walked in multiple blizzards. I’ve logged miles on a frozen lake, on maintained sidewalks, and through backwood trails. And I have, occasionally, seen the sun.

I’ve worn hats and gloves and snow pants and heavy jackets. And that’s mostly all I’ve worn because, well, it has been winter in Canada and that is the dress code. I’ve worn boots and I’ve worn plastic bags inside those boots after they sprung a leak. And now, finally, I’m logging most of my miles (kilometers) in sneakers. Except for Monday, when we had an April snowstorm that closed schools and left the sidewalks covered in slippery slush.


I’ve had an Apple Watch for years now and, at first, the daily activity rings were a great motivator. But last year, when I had some health flareups and burned out completely on exercise (Exhibit A: 25 km last July), those rings started making me feel…terrible. Maintaining streaks and closing rings sometimes (often?) took precedence over proper recovery periods and mental health. I literally ran in the dark at the foot of my bed on multiple occasions to close rings. Arbitrary billion-dollar-tech-constructed rings.

I’m not against rings or related equivalents. They worked for me for years. But then they didn’t and it took me longer than I would have liked to come to terms with that reality. Because I had learned to crave those gold stars from Apple.

But I did stop closing rings. And literally nothing bad happened.

Last fall I tried to exercise regularly but with the chief aim of prioritizing mental and physical health. In September I ran every day – no set distance and no rings, but I was still so relieved when the month was over. Every day felt like work. And as much as I appreciate our treadmill, it’s a depressing piece of equipment.

So on January 1st, I decided I would walk – outside for 1 km every day. There was no set goal or streak. Just walking. Outside. Through the Canadian winter. Until it didn’t work for me.

It’s still working.

See burnout creeping in by July 2021; ironically enough, and without trying or monitoring, my second highest mileage over the last two years occurred in March 2022, with 180.0 km of walking. Also I realize, to some, 57 workouts/month might sound excessive, but some of these would be 0.3 km walks to the mailbox. Or 0.1 km runs at the foot of my bed. When I was trying to close my rings I recorded…everything.

1 km doesn’t feel like much. But it’s enough to get outside, reset my mood, and put my heart muscles to work.

…the benefits of exercise begin with any amount of exercise that is more than zero.

Ellen Vora

Working it out across the first 90 days of 2022, I averaged 4.0 km/day. A lot of this is related to our walks to/from school, but it also represents walks with John, close friends, and even a few solo walks.

I no longer record everything (for example, the walk to/from the school bus is rarely recorded unless I haven’t already logged my 1 km for the day).

It has been a wonderful, wholly positive experience. I don’t have to think about getting outside each day – I just go. Some days I walked solo until I reached the 1 km mark and then raced into the warmth of the house. Other days I’ve set out two or three times with different companions.

But, without a doubt, the benefits of this daily walking routine have been more mental than physical. The cold air has woken me up on days when I felt exhausted. The birds and the trees and the snow have given a source of lightness to the world, and my thoughts, on this dark, long winter.


A friend recently asked me how long I’ll keep up with daily walks outside.

I’m not sure. I didn’t make a goal for the duration. For now it works and I like it. It doesn’t feel like a burden – it feels like a privilege. I am healthy and mobile and live in a place with safe sidewalks and clear air and I have the use of my legs. This too shall pass, so I’m enjoying it now.

But I hope when the time comes that I miss a day – and that time will come – that I shrug and move on with my life and then, hopefully, wake up the following morning and walk if I’m able.

I’m currently on Day 97. And, for the record Apple, I haven’t looked at my rings a single time in 2022. And literally nothing bad has happened.


Your turn? Does anyone else have to be careful with their exercise patterns? Anyone else overstretch their limits and burnout like I did? Anyone else prioritizing low-impact walking over other forms of more intensive exercise?

Header photo by trail on Unsplash

The Animals At The Zoo Must Be Fed (Or, Kid Lunchboxes)

I really, really, really like my kids. I also really, really, really like when my kids are in school.

But know the one thing that makes me most excited about in-service days or extended school breaks?

NOT HAVING TO MAKE LUNCHBOXES. Can I get an Amen?

I think I have a pretty minimal approach to packing lunchboxes (shocking), but it still takes time and effort every day.

After over 6 years of packing school lunches (the kids had hot meals provided for them at preschool), here is my current system.

I Stick to specific categories

Lunches include:

VEGGIES | (almost always raw, but if I send something like hot vegetable soup in a Thermos, I won’t include raw veggies on the side).

  • carrot sticks, broccoli, cucumber, green beans, baby tomatoes. I almost always have baby carrots on hand. One child prefers broccoli; the other tomatoes. I try to balance out preferences based on what’s on sale/seasonality (our neighbours, for example, give us loads of delicious tiny tomatoes each fall, so tomatoes feature heavily in September lunchboxes). Neither child likes snap peas, so those don’t end up in lunchboxes.

FRUIT | (75% of the time this is fresh; the rest of the time it is an unsweetened applesauce cup).

  • kiwi (the kids prefer kiwi with the peel left on, so this is so easy), apple slices, grapes (one child’s favourite), fresh berries (another child’s favourite, but they don’t always travel well), orange slices.

MAIN” COURSE | 9 days out of 10 this is a sandwich. Either ham/cheese/spinach, tuna/spinach, egg salad, or butter and jam. Sometimes I’ll send hummus and pita wedges. A few times a month I’ll send hot food in a Thermos. Originally I was aiming to do this once a week but the Thermos’ can be tricky to open, the food is never fully hot by the time they get to it, and leftovers can make a mess of their lunchbox if the lids don’t get secured properly. So I’ve mostly stopped trying, especially with soup. If we have leftover pasta or something that really holds together I sometimes send it along, but the kids prefer a small sandwich and hodge-podge of other items and it’s easier for me.

I used to send hard-boiled eggs regularly, but these tend to get quite messy if the kids take a bite at snack and then don’t finish it until lunch and egg yolk gets mixed up with carrots sticks and rice crackers. Yuck.

DESSERT | this is usually a small cookie. I used to make seed-and-date energy balls…but they’re just not as good as the nut-butter variety (we have a peanut-free school, which I think is mostly standard these days). Sometimes I send our go-to muffins. I never send anything overtly messy (i.e. no slices of cake with frosting)!

When Abby started school, I used to only send dessert on Fridays but I’ve mellowed with age and it’s a nice little boost in their lunchbox.

MISC | popcorn or crackers; sunflower or pumpkin seeds; individual packets of Nori, dried fruit (figs, dates, raisins), a granola bar.

WATER | Each child takes a full water bottle (insulated stainless steel so the water stays cold). No juice (ever) or milk (ever). Just water. They’re able to refill their water bottles at school as needed.

how do you package the lunches?

We have reusable (BPA-free) bags that are both adorable and functional and of a unique firmness. They can stand upright and are quite tricky to seal, but really protect the food within; I’ll use these for apple slices, popcorn, or other things that are hard to fit in a small container.

Carrot sticks, applesauce, sunflower seeds, a ham, cheese and spinach Brioche sandwich, popcorn and a chocolate cookie.
Tuna and spinach sandwich, grapes, clementine, carrot sticks, green beans, and tomatoes. There would have been some sort of cookie or muffin as well, and maybe a dish of rice crackers.

I use the bento-boxes from IKEA. I have two sets of these and they are one of my favourite things ever. They’re a bit of a nuisance to wash (and I wash them by hand), but they’re worth it. It is just so handy to have the separation for different items.

buying lunches

Abby did this a few times in earlier grades (typically on pizza day). It was a hassle; I had to send in money (the exact change) and it was never enough food. So I still had to pack a water bottle and snacks.

Then a few years ago our school switched to an online payment system so I have to log on and…I don’t know…sign over my soul to the school board? For someone that works on computers all day and has helped develop custom software…I tried to figure out the system once, failed miserably, and decided we just won’t buy lunches. I’m sure it’s not rocket science, but it felt akin to that level of complexity.

So Levi has never had a school lunch and I suspect he will continue to learn and survive. It would be convenient sometimes, but even school lunches require thought and effort (and snacks)…

*I’m sure there are lots of schools where the process is more streamlined. If I could just send my kids in with $5.50 to pick a sandwich off the menu, I’d be tempted. This is exactly how my high school cafeteria was set up; no pre-ordering. You just walked through the lunchline and picked out what you wanted. But even pre-COVID this wasn’t the way our school operated (I suspect this is GREAT for reducing food waste, so I’m not complaining).


And that’s it. When the kids come home from school they’re responsible for unpacking their bookbags, including taking all their lunch dishes out of lunchboxes. For a while we had things organized so the kids made their lunches one day a week but, honestly, I found it more work. I still had to make sure we had the right things in the right places and after a few times of siblings coming home complaining they hadn’t had enough food to eat…I was happy to reassume full responsibility. While I am all for independence, this just hasn’t been an area where I really want them taking the lead (yet). Laundry and emptying garbage cans on the other hand…


Your turn! Are you still packing lunchboxes for school-age kiddos? If so, any suggestions on how to kick things up a notch?

Header photo by S’well on Unsplash

On Naps: No One Is Going to Hand Me A Blanket and Send Me To Bed

My first memory of naps is hating them.

I don’t know how long the torture continued but, when I was young, Sunday afternoon naps were non-negotiable. We had church on Sunday evenings and I suppose my parents assumed I would become cranky or roll off the pew in deep slumber (this happened to my brother; he proceeded to sleep soundly for the rest of the service splayed out at my mother’s feet)? Or, perhaps, they were just trying to be mean. At age four, it felt like the latter.

The injustice of this arrangement was exacerbated by the fact my siblings didn’t have to nap (I am the baby by 8 years). I can still picture the small water-stain mark that looked just like a stretch limo on the bedroom ceiling. I started at that stain. A lot.

I did end up napping most weeks, I will concede. And I don’t think my parents actually made me continue napping for very many years but, to me, naps were the epitome of why I wanted to grow up and make my own decisions. And I was determined there would be no naps for grownup Elisabeth.

Fast forward to becoming a parent myself where, of course, I followed suit, forcing my own offspring into their rooms for naps and then naps masquerading as “quiet time” where I prayed they would nap. And then came the stressful days where they needed quiet time and periodic naps, but the balance was so delicate that one nap at the wrong time or for the wrong duration spelled horrific doom for bedtime.

Side note: I can’t tell you how many times in the last few years I have felt so thankful my children no longer nap (don’t get me wrong – I do miss that pause in the day, but there were also an overwhelming number of things to consider when structuring children’s nap cycles).

So I recognize the irony of the fact that one of my goals for 2022 is to nap more.


From the time my parents stopped forcing naps upon me until my first pregnancy, I can count on one hand the number of times I took time for a siesta.

Napping was discussed almost reverently in university and students would sit around in afternoon labs describing their luxurious 2-hour weekend naps.

The popularity of naps may have been linked to their active night-life, of which I had none, but still – I couldn’t fathom anyone over the age of 5 or under the age of 50 wanting to nap.

You can guess where this is going, of course. Now I love to nap.

But here’s the thing. There is no mother to tell me it’s nap time. No one to warm up my Magic Bags, close the curtains, turn on the white noise and rub my back. No one is going to hand me a blanket and tell me to head to bed.

Now I’m the mother, and I sometimes I need to treat myself like a 3-year-old and get myself a blanket and comfy sleeping surface and take a good old-fashioned nap (I typically fall asleep quickly and naturally wake up after 15-20 minutes; sometimes I need a 1-2 hour nap and let myself do that occasionally, but long naps are relatively rare for me).

But too often I fight the urge. So my goal this year is to nap as much as I can. This isn’t every day or even most days. But it means on Saturday afternoon when I don’t have anything specific that needs doing and I feel tired and wonder how I should fill my time productively, I should take a nap.

It means on Tuesday at 11 am when I’m feeling bogged down by fatigue or life overwhelm and have an hour before my next commitment – I should crawl into bed, turn on some white noise, and get 20 minutes of rest.

I don’t feel like I can “schedule” naps at this stage of life, but I can give myself permission to seize every opportunity that comes along for napping. And I almost always feel better for it.

What about you? Do you regularly incorporate naps into your self-care regime? My natural tendency is to fight through fatigue, but I’m trying hard to remind myself how much better I feel after a chance to rest and recuperate.

Header photo by Tuqa Nabi on Unsplash

Following Recipes, Thoughts on Quiche + How Many Cookbooks Do You Own?

These tell-all posts about reading and food are…fun. So I’m back with another round of questions for home cooks and eaters everywhere.

1. least favourite foods?

Let’s address this elephant in the room first. What I’m about to share will likely shock and horrify some of you as I suspect many of my least favourite foods are reader favourites. Prepare yourself. Maybe grab some chips and dip in which to drown your sorrows…

  • I don’t like spicy food. In fact, John jokes that I find ketchup spicy (I don’t and have already confessed my undying love for ketchup)…but he’s not that far off base. Being married to someone who loves very spicy things complicates matters slightly but, for the most part, we’ve learned to compromise and he adds hot sauce after the rest of us dish out our food.
  • I’m not a huge fan of cheese. I don’t “dislike” cheese, but I have no problem passing on it, which I think is relatively unusual. If I’m preparing my own quesadillas or sandwiches, I leave off the cheese; shocking to everyone in my family, I prefer to take the melted cheese off the top of lasagne. Melted and/or crispy cheese is not my thing.
  • I don’t like salsa. Or, more generally, any dip for chips. Weird, I know. I love flavourful sauces and I love chips, but not the two together.
  • Quiche. Ugh. This seems odd from the outset because I LOVE eggs. Next to salt, eggs are my favourite ingredient in the kitchen. But I hate quiche. I hate the crust. I hate the texture of the eggs. I’ve had crustless quiches and hated them too. I just don’t liked baked egg dishes.

2. favourite meals to serve company?

Donair Pizzas, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Mango Curry, Chili + rice.

For dessert: Cinnamon Coffee Cake or homemade peanut butter chocolate sauce over ice cream (trick: use a healthy dollop of coconut oil and melt that down with a bit of chocolate and peanut butter…when you pour it over cold ice cream, it hardens in the most delightful way).

3. least favourite kitchen Activity?

Grating. I absolutely hate grating.

If something calls for grated carrots, I will either skip the recipe or use my food processor.

I would rather dice 100 cups of celery than grate 2 cups of carrots.

I also am not a big fan of peeling. I don’t like the feeling of little bits of cold, slimy peelings on my skin.

4. Do you follow recipes?

As I’ve become more and more confident with cooking over the years, I feel less pressure to stick to recipes. For the most part, the first time I make a new dish I adhere to the directions and ingredient list closely, but don’t mind winging things once I’m familiar with a recipe.

For baking, it’s more important to get ratios right, but I will often lower the sugar content and add an extra egg or two for more protein. And I almost always add extra seasoning (e.g. smoked paprika for a soup; cinnamon in a batch of muffins – recipes never seem to call for enough seasoning, in my opinion).

5. do you like reading/owning cookbooks?

I am not a cookbook gal. I’ve tried to get into flipping through cookbooks – and have friends that really enjoy this process – but I find it overwhelming and not a fun or relaxing experience (I do like the Oh She Glows cookbooks but, honestly, would still rather just browse her website).

I own only a single cookbook – one I received as a teenager full of cookie recipes. I only keep it because Abby loves to look at the pictures and occasionally we pick a new cookie recipe to try.

In terms of go-to recipes, I have a giant binder full of them (inside plastic page protectors) and this setup has worked well for me. Some recipes I have typed up by hand, others are on recipe cards from friends, and many of them have been printed off recipe sites.

I go through my binder a few times a year and reorganize where things have gotten out of place (I have categories like Bread & Pancakes, Soups, Main Meals, Cookies and Cakes, Other Desserts…) and also get rid of any recipes I know I’m unlikely to use. Chances are if I printed off a recipe for Cauliflower Soup – which I haven’t made in 5 years – I can always find another recipe for Cauliflower Soup online. (Or, knowing the internet, more like 5,000 recipes for Cauliflower Soup.)

6. do you eat like your childhood self?

Hmmm. I still make – and enjoy! – many of the meals from my childhood. Brown Stew, Sweet and Sour Meatballs, Cinnamon Coffee Cake, Cherry Cheesecake.

  • I eat less meat and fewer carbs than I did as a child. We ate a lot of bread and potatoes growing up and I don’t consume many of those products.
  • We also ate dessert at lunch and supper every day (sometimes just fruit, but always something with a sweet component at the end of every meal).
  • I eat a lot more eggs and butter. My family has hereditary high cholesterol and so my Mom avoided eggs and butter…but from the science I’ve read, my other life habits go a lot further in helping manage cholesterol levels and eggs can actually help improve cholesterol levels (which, for me, are currently at the best levels ever).
  • I drink more water. My Mom drank water exclusively, but I grew up drinking mostly milk and a bit of juice. Now I drink water. And tea (more water). And sparkling water (you guessed it, more water).
  • My vegetables have a lot more bite. Vegetables were always, always overcooked when I was growing up. I love my veggies done al dente as an adult.

So while no huge shifts (e.g. I haven’t become vegan and I don’t have any extreme food allergies), there have been lots of tweaks that make my culinary landscape unique from my childhood experience.

7. Salty or sweet?

Salty. But also sweet.

Urgh. I really wish I only had one vice, but I love both.

Things like chips and other crunchy, savoury foods are delicious and I think I would pick chips over a chocolate bar if push came to shove…but I definitely also like sweet things. Important side note – have you tried chocolate-covered chips? They are delicious, friends. The best of both worlds.

8. Dietary allergies or sensitivies?

I have spent a lot of time working through this area of my eating habits over the years. Because of various health challenges, I’ve worked hard to see what role food might play.

I’ve gone to naturopaths, osteopaths, family doctors, allergists and had a Meridian Stress Assessment completed.

I’ve cut out: gluten, dairy, soy, peanuts, mushrooms, grapes, caffeine, grains, MSG, peanut butter…lots of things. I really, really hoped there would be a smoking gun. (Especially with gluten because I know so many people that have had dramatic health improvements by going gluten-free.) I have done months and months off all the products listed above with, unfortunately, very little impact.

Eating a lot of dairy does seem to give me hayfever allergy symptoms. Too much garlic upsets my stomach (I miss you, garlic). Consuming a lot of gluten messes with my digestion.

But nothing has had any big, life-changing impacts. For the most part, I eat what I want, but tend to avoid large quantities of any item listed above. I feel very fortunate that, when consumed in moderation, I get to enjoy most foods without any negative impacts.

9. Do you ever eat in front of screens?

I suspect this could be a divisive topic.

Growing up we were very rarely allowed to eat in front of the TV (we eventually did get a family TV and stopped trekking up the hill to Ralph and Margeurite’s house). But, occasionally, either for a breaking news story or a big sporting event, we’d watch TV while we ate dessert. (My Mom would usually stay in the kitchen out of solidarity – she wasn’t a fan of mixing screens and food…at our house at least, but at my grandmother’s it was a different story.)

My grandmother was an amazing woman – widowed just before Christmas with three young children at the age of 35, she had superhuman strength and tenacity. I absolutely adored her and loved to travel – via ferry – to visit her several times a year.

From all the treasured memories I have of visiting my grandmother, the one that tops them all is of her setting up TV tables in the living room so we could watch The Price Is Right over lunchtime. The fact that she had cable was already mind-blowing but when you added in the fact that I got to watch Bob Barker for an hour – this just thrilled me to no end.

Fast forward to today; most at-home date nights we eat while watching a movie. And I love it. Because we both work from home, John and I spend a lot of time around each other, so sitting down to another meal to talk doesn’t feel necessary. Adding a fun movie or documentary to the mix, for us, makes it feel extra special.

The kids eat in front of a screen a handful of times a month and, not surprisingly, love it. They don’t really ask to watch TV while we eat (the TV is downstairs, about as far from the dining room table as you can get). But because we eat around the table so often (3 times/day when they’re home) it feels like a special treat.

10. Favourite convenience foods

Shredded cheese. See above. This is a new luxury in my life. I could never justify the extra cost of buying cheese pre-shredded, but it really is worth every penny and I refuse to look back.

(I don’t mind slicing cheese, so we still buy block cheese and I’ll gladly slice that. Just no grating. And if I had it my way, there would be no cheese in the house, so all this slicing and grating is truly a labour of love.)

Mayonnaise. I love mayo; whenever we’ve completed a Whole30 I’ve made homemade mayo. It was fine but, honestly, a nuisance, so buying mayo feels like a luxury.

Rotisserie chicken. This is also another new addition to our meal repertoire. Our town newspaper (yes, of course Wolfville has a free newspaper!) prints a coupon for rotisserie chickens (#random) every edition so they end up being about $10. We make wraps for several lunches and then boil the bones in a slow-cooker overnight to make a delicious homemade broth.


There you have it, folks. Any other grater-haters out there? Are you Team Sweet or Salty (or both, like me)?

Header photo by Kelly Neil on Unsplash

Parenting Hack: Try Serving Your Kids a ‘Pirate’ Meal

As a busy Mom, getting food on the table is a big part of daily life. Even though we eat simple meals (with lots of leftovers), a substantial chunk of time is devoted to making sure food gets into bellies (and then cleaning up the crumbs that didn’t make it into bellies – when does the messy eating stage end?!).

Our routine follows a predictable rhythm. We gather – virtually every evening – around the supper table. We eat together and talk and then work as a team to clean up dishes and set the kitchen back to rights. It’s nice to have a routine; it’s comforting and a big part of our family “culture”.

That said, it’s also fun to shake things up. We’ve spread out a picnic blanket on the living room floor and had our food in front of the fire. We’ve gathered in the family room and munched on tacos in front of the TV. But want to know the kids’ favourite experience (which I’ve only done twice, but they still reference regularly) – a Pirate Supper.


The basic idea is this: I cover up the table with brown paper (newspaper or flyers work would work too) and serve a meal without any plates/bowls or cutlery.

Obviously, calling it a Pirate Supper (or Pirate Breakfast/Lunch) is critical to its success.

I think we had pizza with veggies and dip one night and the other might have involved grilled-cheese sandwiches and fruit? Whatever I served, the food was decidedly low-key and forgettable. It is the delivery method that takes center stage in this show, and the kids absolutely loved the experience!

Bonus: clean-up was a cinch as I simply gathered any food mess up in the paper and tossed it directly into the compost bin.


It’s been over a year since I’ve channeled my inner Jack Sparrow and I think I’m officially overdue for pulling this trick out of my parenting repertoire!

Your turn: any great ideas for bringing some creativity – and whimsy – into mealtimes with kids?

Header photo by Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

If You Had to Eat The Same Meal Everyday, What Would It Be? + Other Questions for Home Cooks

Last week as I was puttering around the kitchen – roasting potatoes, making a batch of muffins, chopping up carrots for a soup (I always have multiple things on the go) – I started thinking about how much time I spend in the run of a week/month/year cooking.

It’s a lot.

Even though I streamline prep and make a lot of the same meals on repeat, by simple virtue of cooking most things from scratch, a lot of time is involved – not to mention the grocery-list preparation, shopping, unloading, and cleanup.

After all the fun comments from readers on previous “question” posts related to reading habits I thought – well, most of us read, but ALL of us eat!

1. ingredient you couldn’t live without

Salt.

Thankfully I have healthy blood pressure (and since we don’t eat very much processed food, I run with the fact that our sodium levels are probably okay). But I do love salt. Just about every dish is made better with an extra pinch of salt.

I remember being at a birthday party years ago and everyone was raving about a batch of homemade guacamole. The woman just shrugged and said: “My secret is to add a lot of salt.” I’ve never forgotten her comment. (Plus, the first word in Samin Nosrat’s New York Times bestselling book SALT FAT ACID HEAT…is salt, after all.)

If I had to pick a runner-up, it would be eggs. If I see we’re down below three dozen, I start hyperventilating. We go through a LOT of eggs. We all enjoy them and they are so versatile.

2. DO you like variety or routine?

I am quite happy eating the same thing over and over and over again. I tend to do this with lunches – I’ll eat the same thing on repeat for weeks, quasi-tire of the item, find something else, and repeat the cycle over and over again.

More generally, I make a lot of soups (at least one each week). They’re easy to prepare ahead, delicious, and a great way to consume lots of veggies.

I also make these waffles every week for Friday-night supper and always have a batch of these muffins on the counter.

While I like routine, I do enjoy trying other things. But, at this stage in life, cycling through the same go-to meals is where I’m at.

3. Favourite “big” & “Little” Tools

Aside from my oven, stovetop, and microwave – the latter two being used every single day – the answer is easy: my food processor and waffle iron.

As for “little” tools, I’ll go with long sundae spoons – we use these constantly. And spatulas. I love a good spatula and dirty an alarming number in the run of a day.

4. favourite Meals Then + Now

As a child, my favourite meal was my mom’s Sweet and Sour Meatballs with rice and peas.

I still really, really love those meatballs, but I’d say it would be a three-way tie between sushi, Chicken Mango Curry, and oatmeal waffles, depending on my mood.

5. Do you like leftovers?

Like leftovers? I live for leftovers. Most meals are even more delicious the next day and I find it so satisfying to sit down to a warm meal that took a fraction of the time to get on the table.

6. Favourite comfort foods

If I’m feeling sick and queasy, boxed Mac n’ Cheese is still very appealing. But my favourite is probably banana and peanut butter on toast.

When I was very little my mom would cut the toast into pieces so each square had one coin of banana. I always saved the middle piece – which had no crust – for the last bite. It is utterly bizarre to me that she did this; my parents were not the cut-our-children’s-toast sort of parents…but she did this for long enough for me to remember it.

I also enjoy granola, which I gussy up with pumpkin and chia seeds and some chocolate chips with oat milk. And, though I really should avoid dairy, adding a lot of yogurt and skipping the milk is my favourite way to consume granola (right, San!).

Oh, and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter straight out of the jar is also comforting.

And I also really like chips…but try to avoid them as I never feel good after eating them, so they’re not really comforting, I guess. Chips are escapism food where banana on peanut butter toast is like a warm hug for my taste buds and heart.

7. Yay or nay to condiments

Oh, I love condiments. Ketchup goes on eggs and roasted potatoes and stew. Mustard goes on baked beans. Relish is a must for burgers and hotdogs (as is ketchup). Mayo goes on…everything.

Fun fact: Dot (the lady I boarded with in university that ended up being all bark and no bite) hated the fact I liked putting ketchup on all sorts of things. She also took great offense when I once remarked that I “loved” water; she said it was impossible to love anything that had no flavour. Boy, I miss her.

8. Favourite meal to cook

I think it depends on my mood. Sometimes I find it very comforting to work on a move involved recipe like Chicken Mango Curry which requires lots of chopping and sauteeing; it smells delicious and takes time and patience and is one of my favourite meals to eat (especially if I make cornbread in the cast iron skillet so the top gets all crispy). Yum.

Other times I want to make up a can of tuna filling so I have something ready to eat in minutes (tuna filling on top of my favourite beet crackers is also comfort food to me).

9. best hacks

To mix natural almond butter and peanut butter with electric beaters. After struggling for years to mix these in the bottle, I gave up and now empty the contents into a bowl and beat the separated oil and nut butter back together.

Voila.

One extra dirty dish, but so, so worth it (I just put the mixed product back into the jar).

Another hack: use scissors for a variety of kitchen tasks. The first time John witnessed this firsthand he watched my mother cut pizza with scissors. It works like a charm (we don’t own a pizza cutter). Herbs can be easier to cut with scissors instead of a knife (especially chives) and I used scissors to cut big grape clusters into smaller bunches for the kid’s lunches.

And, while we’re not big meat-eaters, scissors are the best way to process meat (I am clearly not a professional chef and I’m sure Julia Child is rolling over in her grave at this comment). Scissors mean I don’t need to use a cutting board when handling meat (ugh); I cut up sausages, chicken, steak…any meat, really, with scissors.

10. if you had to eat the same meals everyday what would They be?

I think I’d handle this relatively well…

BREAKFAST | a perfectly toasted English muffin with perfectly smooth peanut butter and a perfectly ripe banana.

LUNCH | roasted sweet potato and turnip with bacon and eggs (and a dollop of mayo and ketchup).

SUPPER | sushi.

But I would desperately miss my waffles, so maybe a savoury waffle topped with pickled ginger, avocado, some smoked salmon and a soy/wasabi aioli? Best of both worlds?


Your turn? Favourite meals, craziest hacks, and any other details to share from your time spent in the kitchen?

Header photo by Corleto Peanut butter on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Sometimes the Goal Is Just To Show Up

  • Monday I woke up…not ready. John had left overnight for the airport and I didn’t feel prepared to face the day. I pushed through responsibilities – walked the kids to school, answered work calls, ate breakfast. By mid-morning I ended up taking a scalding shower and then crawled into bed for an hour. It was that sort of day. But then a friend stopped by with soup at lunchtime and I cried and she hugged me and I felt ready to move on. I systematically tackled work tasks, our teenage babysitter came over after school and baked with the kids. We ate my friend’s delicious soup for supper. Once the kids were in pajamas, we warmed up magic bags and snuggled on the couch with the mantle twinkle lights and talked until bedtime. A good end to a tough day.
  • I really missed John this week. I can’t believe I used to solo-parent almost 50% of the time for the better part of a decade! Every time he went away it felt hard (in an additive way, really), but it did start to have an air of abnormal “normalcy”. But having him home virtually nonstop for 2 years (this was only his 3rd trip since March 2020) has made me realize how hard it is to be apart. Working together at home, we’re literally around each other almost 24/7 x 365; I don’t think everyone’s relationship could thrive in that environment. Yet I missed him more than ever this time when he was away. He’s my best friend, and brings me great joy (and yes, frustration, too – it is a marriage between two flawed people, especially me; thankfully we agree on the correct way to hang a toilet paper roll and other similarly critical matters). I have friends that have been widowed and others that are separated and I recognize how blessed I am to be in love with my spouse.
  • As of last week I’m back on iron and hormone supplements to help offset my period issues, but they both come with side effects and I can’t decide which state is worse – life with or without them? Someone asked recently if my head is always fuzzy. It’s tricky to answer because I’ve grown so used to this resting state and I wonder if what I’m experiencing is actually normal? But then I remember the fact I can specifically pinpoint the last time I didn’t feel this way. It was an afternoon in late May 2021 when I was taking the kids to the zoo. We’d been cooped up for a month of lockdown and were a few days away from schools reopening. We booked a slot at the zoo and on the car ride there I suddenly realized I wasn’t tired. At all. Sadly, I woke up in my normal tired/fuzzy state the following day, but it does show me that there is a very real juxtaposition between my “normal” level of fatigue and how, I assume, many other energetic people feel moving through their days. And catching a glimpse of it definitely left me wanting more!
  • I’ve talked before about our beloved water cooler. The only downside to this apparatus is the biweekly need to replenish our water supply. We typically do this at a nearby spring (price = free). But since it has been approximately 1 million degrees below zero, the last two weeks we have used a local filling station (price = $2/bottle = 100% worth it). Ever since we started carting around giant jugs of water I’ve been worried about them spilling. It has never happened and I was finally getting lulled into a false sense of security. Then BAM. Sunday we arrived home to a trunk FULL of water. The entire contents of the water jug had spilled out – much of it into the spare tire bay. The trunk mats were soaked and I spent 20 minutes in my church dress (new-to-me Ann Taylor, see below) and snow pants (very classy combo) bailing water out of the trunk with a blue plastic child’s IKEA cup. My hands were like solid blocks of ice by the end, but the trunk has never looked cleaner.

News from the week…

BUYING | I haven’t been to my favourite thrift store in several months and I convinced Abby to join me last Friday for a quick trip. It is a small store nestled in a little strip-mall; for the majority of the time we were the only people there (aside from the cashier).

For $23.58 (including tax) I got: 2 bathing suits (including one new with tags), an Ann Taylor dress, a belt, a pair of comfy capri pants, and a Star Wars t-shirt for Levi. Hard to beat. I really needed a new bathing suit; the black one is Roots and is in great shape but pretty boring. But…my parents lake has quite a bit of sediment and my last bathing suit – with lots of white – has not fared well. A practical black bathing suit felt like a very adult decision.

The dress needed a belt and Abby picked out this polka-dotted, slightly metallic one. I’m saying it works and love that she is proud of her choice! I think a bright red or fushia one would be fun, too…
This is likely the only time you will see a bathing suit picture on my site, but this was NEW with tags and a liner. I paid $3.75 and it is adorable; look at those ruffles!! Now all I need is a sunny destination…

WATCHING | I almost never watch American football, or any sports for that matter. Growing up I was an obsessive Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) fan and for several years early in our marriage, I watched A LOT of Toronto Blue Jays (MLB). For the most part, though, I have moved on from sports. We don’t have cable and John does his own thing with checking stats, so watching sports is not on the regular roster. But on Sunday we were able to watch the end of the Rams vs. Buccaneers game.

I had heart palpitations, I kid you not.

I must have had extra anxiety to spare when I was younger, but I definitely don’t have the stomach for sports now. Important facts to keep in mind: outside of the last Superbowl, I have not watched a football game in several years. I didn’t know a single player on either team except for Tom Brady, and it’s not like we’re exactly on a first-name basis. In short, I had zero skin in the game and I STILL couldn’t stop involuntary sweaty-palm syndrome and high anxiety. It was an especially exciting and tense final quarter, but still…it’s a game. For a sport I don’t even follow. At all.

We started watching the Chiefs and Bills game but I had the foresight to go to bed long before it was over, thereby avoiding more damage to my heart. The experience gave me flashbacks to the nail-biter Stanley Cup final from 1999 when Brett Hull scored an (admittedly contentious) goal at 14:51 of the third overtime. Everyone else in the house had long since abandoned the game and went to bed but I was a big Dallas fan and sat rocking back and forth from nerves until the wee hours of the morning to see how it would all pan out. Clearly I had the same issue back then…I just had the option of sleeping in after a particularly stressful sporting event. I’ll have to pace myself with the upcoming Winter Olympics

We also watched Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski on Netflix over the weekend. A bit grittier than the previous art documentaries I’ve mentioned, but an incredible, crazy story…as they all seem to be. Tortured geniuses there are many – see below with my thoughts on Lucy Maud Montgomery.

WORK | Meh. Most of my work was not that exciting and had a lot of tedium to navigate (troubleshooting new upgrades to a custom software program I drive development on, creating meeting agendas and poking people on action items, and very boring but important budget discussions). Coming off feeling so productive the previous week, I dragged my feet more than I’d like. I got everything done that needed doing but it felt decidedly like “work” – which is fine, but not necessarily fun/motivating.

CHEQUE WRITING | An odd category for a Casual Friday, I know. I’ve mentioned several times how much I like writing cheques. I have two different sets of cheques to manage; business and personal. I was giddy because Monday was cheque day…until I went to write a cheque to a contractor mid-afternoon and realized I had written a series of cheques earlier in the day from the wrong pile (meaning, I wrote several business expenses on personal cheques). Facepalm. Thankfully there was no harm done because I discovered my mistake quickly, but maybe it’s time to hang up my cheque-writing hat?

EATING | This week was all about easy meals. With John away for work, I quickly reverted to even simpler meals than usual. Homemade mini pizzas one night, my lovely friend’s soup, pasta and more of those beloved green beans (equally delicious this week) to get us over the Wednesday hump; Thursday was supper out (I had thirds), and tonight is soufflé (Dutch/German) pancakes.

READING | It was a bit of a rough week for reading. First, I moved on to Anne’s House of Dreams. It’s still a great book, but is much darker than the preceding books; it contains lots of “hard” coupled with regular joyfinding, but I missed Anne’s group of friends and carefree life on the island.

This was made every harder by my ill-timed Google rabbit-hole searches about Lucy Maud Montgomery. I knew a tiny sliver of her biography but, wow, she led a tragic life – culminating in her death of suspected suicide via overdose. She was raised by grandparents (her mother died, her father essentially abandoned her), the man she loved died, then her best friend died, she lived through WWII, and she and her eventual husband were bitterly unhappy and plagued by depression for most of their lives together.

I made the same mistake after reading the Little House series; I read a biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and let’s just say the books were very whitewashed; there was a lot of tragedy, mental illness, abject poverty, and deep family tensions behind-the-scenes. I can appreciate that their books served as a form of escape from their harsh realities, but it leaves me feeling so dreadfully sorry for these authors.

On another sour note, I read The Midnight Library. I know many, many, many people love this book. I could not stand it. The only character I felt I could tolerate was Volts, the cat, and even he had a sad part to play in this book. I did not find the premise engaging (reminded me a bit of the movies Inception, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Groundhog Day all rolled into one – an odd combination of films, I admit and all films I enjoyed). I found the ending predictable and unoriginal. The library itself seemed like a cross between The Matrix and the Hall of Prophecy from Harry Potter. And, I know this is nitpicking, but even the title character’s name irked me. Nora is lovely enough, but the last name of Seed? Somehow that just never fit for me. And I wanted to like Mrs. Elm, I really, really did. But I didn’t.

I wanted to go to the end and skip the middle, but I thought surely it must get better? Sadly, not for me. I found the book depressing and forgettable and decidely not fun. Bad timing for me, maybe? Or perhaps I am right in my assessment that most modern fiction is not for me. That said, I assume this book will be made into a movie at some point and people will rave about it.

Oh hello there purple Crocs – the footwear was more joyful than the book.

I’m now slightly terrified to get The Lincoln Highway; after loving A Gentleman in Moscow so much and then really not liking Rules of Civility, I’m wondering if I should just call it a draw with Amor Towles?

On a lighter note, my mother does NOT read this blog and has no idea I have been recently discussing this very topic…but remember the gnashing of teeth over my father’s habit of skipping to the end of books. Perhaps some of you thought I was making this up. Check out this text from my mother earlier in the week (she group texts the whole family every day; it is adorable and I love these daily texts about everything and nothing):

joyfinding

  • A solo walk last Sunday, complete with sun and flurries. To me the snow looked like little fluffy hellos from God. I’m not a big fan of winter, but it does blanket the world in white which gives it a feeling of hope and the longing for springtime renewal, which feels so relevant to me right now.
  • I really enjoy talking with seniors (more than with peers much of the time) and as I was navigating a tricky patch of ice on the way home I stopped to say hello to someone I didn’t recognize (be kind to strangers!). The person happens to be someone from our neighbourhood who is 82 and has lived in the same house for 41 years. We talked about parenting in the modern world and winter weather and COVID. Seniors have so many insights about what we should prioritize in life and I always leave these conversations feeling inspired.
  • I do loathe winter but have to admit our commute to school can be downright magical some mornings. We were running late and took a shortcut through the woods (header photo above), and I stopped to get a picture of Abby because it was Monday and if I was going to find joy I knew I needed to actively hunt for it and we all found it in knee-deep powdery snow.
  • When Levi suggested reading to me. I had to sneak a picture while we snuggled. Soon he’ll be reading to himself and I don’t want to forget that watching your child learn to read is a joy and privilege. The fact that he still fits on my lap; those little fingers that keep getting bigger but still fit inside my hands – this is joy.
  • When a friend knew it was a rough week and offered to bring over a meal and then hugged me when I started crying over both the kind gesture and my health frustrations. Mostly I can hold it together, but how joyful to have friends and family to hold you up when you can’t. It’s okay to cry, folks!
  • When this same friend was up for a last-minute walk and then, the next day, invited us over for supper (this being the meal where I had thirds; homemade Mac n’ Cheese at it’s finest). She is a true gem, and a huge source of Joy (*wink).
  • Cuddling a toddler and hearing him say “Wow.”
  • Living in a town where I ended up walking partway home from school dropoff with my family doctor and we talked about kids and COVID and even my health.
  • Coming home from our ski adventure and spotting this hot air balloon. The picture doesn’t do it justice. It was colourful and so fun to have it end up flying right over our neighbourhood. This isn’t wholly unusual – we see a handful each year – but in the dead of winter it was definitely an unexpected burst of joy.
  • Tickling Levi at bedtime and listening to him laugh and laugh. Also, playing hallway soccer with him.
  • Sitting on the couch and talking with the kids. They’re getting so big and they have a lot to say, much of it shockingly insightful and profound. I love when our conversations get deep and I take the time to really be there to hear their words and opinions.
  • A last-minute meet-up with a friend at my favourite cafe (decaf Americano for her; Earl Gray for me, of course) where we had one of those conversations you never want to end. Also, embracing the joy of having friends at a different life stage; this woman has recently retired from a demanding entreprenurial career which happened alongside raising a young family. She has so much wisdom to share, but our discussions are also a lot of fun (and this time we actually discussed the specific topic of having fun).

SOMETIMES THE GOAL is to just show up

We got ski passes for the 2021/2022 season.

We are not skiers. I have been a total of 4 times in my life, ditto for Abby; Levi and John have skied 3 times.

To say I feel out of place – as we pull into a parking lot swarming with people confidently strutting around in ski outfits and gear I can only imagine cost roughly the amount of a house downpayment – is a dramatic understatement. We show up with our $300 (Total. For 4 people!) hand-me-down/thrifted gear that works just fine, thank you very much…well, it didn’t, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

First let’s rewind. The weather when we left home was a balmy -21 degrees Celcius. That’s -5.8 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Google, for any American readers. Plus windchill, of course.

I told John: I just want to get to the hill.

That was my goal. My goal was not to do 5 runs. My goal was not even to keep everyone happy. I just wanted to show up. Good thing.

Levi ended up having issues with his bindings that took a long time to sort out. While John tended to that, Abby and I did a few runs on the bunny hill to warm up.

Abby begged to take the chairlift to the top, so we navigated over and got on. Once we were in the air, she started shivering. A lot. It was -21, remember. Unfortunately, there is only one way to get back down.

At one point we went through a spot where they were making snow and it was like a whiteout (interestingly when we skied down this exact run below the chairlift a few minutes later it was clear and sunny on the ground)!

By the time we got to the top her eyelashes were partially glued together with ice (this is why she owns goggles but, of course, as the mother I know nothing about these things and the suggestion to use the goggles that are on top of one’s head is a ludicrous idea as they are clearly just meant for use as a helmet decoration – duh).

I was elated to get to the bottom in one piece, but Abby was crying by the time I caught up to her. Her feet were frozen, she said. Levi had just emerged from the lodge very toasty, and anxious to do some runs on the bunny hill. So the girls went to the car and defrosted toes and fingers, while the boys managed to fit in a few quick trips down the bunny hill.

It was a lot of work for a few runs down the bunny hill and one exhilarating, though freezing, trek from the top. There were tears and equipment hiccups.

But we showed up. And that was the goal. We worked out kinks. We got our POV stickers to go with our passes. We dug out the balaclava’s and we adjusted the bindings.

When I got home I searched my quotes document; I knew I’d written down a “just show up” message somewhere along the way. The example I had came from a Brené Brown book when she described her child (I might be getting the details wrong, but I think she had a neck injury of some sort?) who had been a competitive swimmer and was now impaired by injury. Brown said to her daughter: “‘What if your goal is to show up and get wet.Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”


It wasn’t overly brave to go to the ski hill last week, admittedly, but when the goal was just to show up, it relieved a lot of pressure and I think this has broad applications to so many situations in life. I’m preaching to myself here…lest you think I’ve come anywhere close to mastering this wisdom.

How about you? Was it a good, bad, or medium week? Did joy find you, or did you have to do some hunting around to find it? Either way, I’d love to hear what’s making you joyful right now.

P.S. In case you were wondering, the only correct answer to how to place a toilet paper roll is with the trailing end over the top. For any Bible scholars out there, I believe this directive shows up in Leviticus somewhere…

I try not to assign labels of “good” and “bad” to subjective things. But this topic is not subjective. Over is the only civilized way to roll.

5 Ways We Reduce Food Waste (And Occasionally Convince Our Kids To Eat Mushrooms)

I really dislike throwing out food; something deep inside me feels immense guilt and frustration. Not only is it wasteful environmentally and financially, but I also feel like I’m slowly understanding the true value/cost of food – the time and money and human effort and fossil fuels that go into putting that product into my fridge is mind-blowing (for more on this, check out A.J. Jacobs book Thanks A Thousand, where he thanks 1,000 people responsible for his morning cup of coffee).

In our household, we do everything we can to reduce food waste.

At the same time, we try to provide healthy, palate-broadening meals for our kids. Do they love white carbs? Absolutely. But they also like olives and aged cheeses and spinach salad and sushi and scrambled eggs and fresh fruit and veggies.

For the most part, they eat exactly what we eat. Kids eating habits can be a touchy subject and modern parents think about this a lot more than my parent’s generation. We try to balance realistic expectations and healthy eating patterns (nothing too restrictive, not calling things “good” or “bad” – they eat chocolate cake and cereal and boxed Mac N’ Cheese), with wanting to expose our children to lots and lots of whole foods.

Now back to those waste solutions…

1. HAVE GO-TO “KITCHEN SINK” MEALS

These are meals that will be flexible enough to include just about anything. I know produce choices vary widely, so I’ll make a few specific suggestions from things we eat:

Leftover spinach and zucchini can go in…everything. Also, if your spinach needs to be consumed and you won’t use it in time, I just pop mine in the freezer for soups or smoothies. (Side note: this week my blog friend Suzanne categorized zucchini as the khaki trouser of the produce section and it’s so true – it goes with everything; tangent alert: if you’re really ready to howl, read her take on waiting for the doctor and wrangling into hospital gowns – we’ve all been there, and she just articulates the experience perfectly and hilariously).

  • I have a Chicken Pot Pie soup recipe that can play host to just about any vegetable. It calls for potato, carrot, celery, corn, peas, and grean beans but I have added spinach, zucchini, sweet potato, and turnip. Aside from the veggies, it’s just chicken stock (or I often cheat and just use water and some extra salt), shredded chicken, cream or coconut milk, thyme, salt and pepper; this is one of the easiest recipes I make – the corn and green beans are canned, the peas are frozen – and is one of the kids favourite meals; one time I counted and we had 13 veggies in the soup!
  • Chili is another great meal for using up extra veggies. To reduce time and mess (and to make vegetable textures less of an issue – neither of the kids enjoys mushrooms and one is quite resistent to bell peppers), I will blitz things up in the food processor. In a chili I made recently I chopped up: spinach, mushrooms (that I had bought reduced by 50%, see below), zucchinni, carrots, bell peppers and onion. We all devoured it.

Interestingly, I do find the kid’s preferences vary by meal. As mentioned, one child loathes raw bell peppers and will even pick them out of a stir-fry (or eat them with gritted teeth and lots of glaring); yet this same child has no problem with finely diced, cooked red peppers in one of my favourite meals ever – Chicken Mango Curry (I got my recipe from a book and can’t find it online, but this one is close). So if you have an anti-veggie child, it might be worth trying various meals with the disliked veggie?

  • I don’t eat much bread, but the kids typically have toast a few times a week for breakfast. We occassionally have an extra bagel, waffle, or a few slices of bread left over. Instead of throwing them out, I cube them up and pop them into the deep freeze. Once the bag is full, I pull it out and the cubes get turned into Baked French Toast (since I cube it before it’s frozen, I can actually prep it while frozen and then just leave it to soak/defrost in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before baking). I use a modified version of the Pioneer Woman’s recipe and the kids LOVE it. I also buy a lot of our bread reduced by 50%; it’s usually still days away from it’s best-before date, but I’ll freeze the bread and just defrost it straight from the freezer in the toaster.

2. Shop more often + buy less

About 3 days after grocery shopping. The one constant is a lot of eggs. We eat a shocking number of eggs each week.
Immediately after grocery shopping; it doesn’t show the fresh bananas on the counter or the head of broccoli in the crisper…but still, it’s pretty bare.

I think some of this is the minimalist in me talking, but I enjoy seeing an almost-empty fridge because I start to feel panicky when I catch glimpses of a lot of food that needs to be used up. For context – our 1970’s kitchen cabinets were designed to hold an apartment-sized fridge. If you think that’s crazy, friends of ours designed their renovated kitchen to only contain a bar fridge and toaster oven + portable induction burners. No full-sized (or apartment-sized) fridge; no oven/stovetop. Now that’s crazy. Unless you only have a bar fridge and toaster oven in which case it’s not crazy but very, very normal.

I do set up vague meal plans for the week, jotting down 4-5 ideas based on what’s on sale or what we have in the fridge, but don’t plan a concrete menu. I typically go to the grocery store at least twice a week. When we run out of fresh fruit or need more baby spinach, I know it’s time to go back.

This isn’t necessarily feasible for many people; I live 5 minutes from a small grocery store and it’s easy to pop in and out whenever necessary. But, if it is an option for where you live/your lifestyle, I think it is probably the primary way we avoid food waste.

3. Make Hodge-Podge Meals

We do this a lot and literally call them Hodge Podge meals.

The kids will often ask: “Can we have hodgepodge for lunch?” For this we use a random assortment of leftovers – that little dish of soup that’s not enough for a meal but, when augmented with cheese cubes, raw veggies, and some apple slices, is more than enough to go around.

Some things like cheese and olives are stable for a longer time in the fridge, so I use more or less of these depending on what I’m trying to use up. If I have hardboiled eggs, shaved turkey, and fresh raspberries that all need to be consumed, I might not even offer crackers or other non-perishables on the side.

4. identify your key offenders (and justify your purchases)

The worst for us is definitely avocados.

We love avocados but they never seem to be ready when I need them and then I end up forgetting about them until they’ve gone soft and brown. I get so frustrated anytime I have to throw out an avocado.

Grapes can also fall under this category, cucumbers have an annoying tendency of sneaking up from behind and going slimy, and I find it hard to get through an entire bunch of cilantro in time (but, see below, I have a plan for that too and it involves the freezer).

I now make sure I have a specific plan for avocados before I buy them. Being on sale isn’t good enough. Better to buy them full price and USE them, rather than buying a bag on sale and throwing most of them away. Avocados also can’t be frozen and don’t go into soups, so they’re harder to use up – for me – because they have a more narrow range of use than something like spinach (and I never seem to think of making guacamole).

This reminds me a bit of my habit of looking over my cart before I check out. For food products that I know won’t keep long (i.e. perishable fruits/veggies + meat), I try to make sure I have a clear plan for the item. It can be tempting to get things on a good sale or because it looks interesting or temptingly delicious, but I have left produce with the cashier when I realize there is a good chance some of it will be destined for the compost bin if I follow through with the purchase.

A prime example of this temptation – a basket of (seemingly) ripe peaches at the store in the summer. But, unless I can say: I have no other fruit at home and we will eat these in the next two days, I try to leave them on the shelf. Peaches do put out an alluring siren song for me, yet are so darn unpredictable; there is little more frustrating than salivating over the idea of a delicious peach and then biting into a sour/firm/unappetizing one!

5. find meals that freeze well

  • Chili, baked oatmeal, waffles; most soups I make can be frozen if there are leftovers.
  • If I have some veggies that need to be used but I don’t have a dish that requires them, I will dice them up and freeze them. While they’re not great in things like stirfrys where you want veggies with a bit of “bite”, they work fine for soups. I will do this with bell peppers (sometimes even dicing up things like cilantro and fresh ginger and freezing that along with the peppers so I have the main base of ingredients for that beloved Chicken Mango Curry dish). I’ve done this with raw carrots, onion and celery (before eventually turning it in to homemade Chicken Noodle Soup).
  • Sometimes I freeze veggies in their raw state, and other times I will pan fry until soft. Both strategies work. I have a Baked Rice dish we all love and I make up the cream sauce + fry the veggies so all I have to do is defrost the mix, mix in rice + water and bake.

bonus suggestion – reduce waste at the STORE LEVEL

I’ve alluded to this already, but our grocery store has several dedicated “clearance” sections. Sometimes this includes produce that is past prime – overripe bananas (which I prefer for my beloved muffins) or tomatoes with bruises that will work fine for homemade salsa. I seek out these ingredients, not only for the cost savings but also because I know there is tremendous food waste at the grocery-chain level.

It can take a bit of extra creativity – and I look carefully at expiration dates/for signs of mold – but, generally, the reduced items are still highly edible. Sometimes things will go on clearance after a special event. Candy cane ice cream, for example, is now at rock-bottom prices at our grocery store. This is a bad example because I try to avoid dairy and no one else in my house really likes candy-cane ice cream (what is wrong with them?) but…if they did…now would be a great time to buy it if you’re willing to eat peppermint-flavoured treats after the calendar turns over into a new year.

Now it’s your turn – any suggestions for reducing food waste? Any candy-cane ice cream fans out there?

Header photo by Alexandr Dzyuba on Unsplash