5 Things I Do that Were Once Considered Normal

I cook, eat and live the way I do for several reasons:

  • I reject single-use plastic packaging
  • I like to eat food that tastes good
  • I prefer to eat food that contains nutritional value
  • I refuse to depend upon corporations to fulfill my every need and desire
  • Consuming less makes my life simpler and more enjoyable

Many decades ago—before World War II at least—who did not live this way? If my grandmothers were alive today, they would wonder why I feel the urge to write about how to shop for food or how to sew a cloth bag. “But that’s just normal,” they would say.

My daughters’ great-grandmother on their dad’s side—she’s 97 and still writes to them regularly—recently grumbled that in her day “We didn’t have a beer store. We MADE our own beer.” I don’t make beer (I have made delicious mead) but some of my practices do harken back to an earlier time—a time we need to learn from in order to help mitigate the disastrous effects of unbridled consumerism and unregulated capitalism on both people and the planet.

Plus these practices make me feel like a rebel. Sourdough is the new tattoo.

1. Bake bread.

I’ve been baking bread for about 20 years, more regularly during some periods than others. Once you taste homemade bread, you simply cannot stomach store-bought. Today I make sourdough bread only. Before the introduction of commercial yeast about 200 years ago, all bread was made using a starter, a combination of flour and water (and possibly other ingredients like cultured whey, but basically flour and water). A starter, or SCOBY—a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts—makes the dough rise, improves the digestibility of the grains, decreases gluten, increases nutrition and more. The hearty flavor, moist crumb and beautiful simplicity of a real sourdough bread cannot be matched.

The loaves the grocery stores sell take about an hour to manufacture, from start to plastic bag. Mine ferment for hours and take all day to complete, although during that time, I touch the dough very little—the microbes do all the work and I merely babysit them. Personally, I believe many gluten-intolerant people simply have bad-food intolerance. The grains in grocery store bread—if you can call that pasty white stuff bread—are not prepared properly and can make people feel sick. But pastier bread, made in factories on assembly lines using commercial yeast and super-refined white flour, can be made quickly, requires fewer workers and so increases profits. All hail the bottom line.

Food made with love tastes best
Food made with love tastes best
2. Ferment food.

People have fermented food for thousands of years. Fermentation preserves food, increases the food’s nutrition, uses little to no energy, saves money and best of all—tastes delicious. Our diets are all out of whack today—eating blueberries in winter and winter squash in summer, insisting on having what we want when we want it, when in fact food out of season lacks taste due to its far-flung origins half-way around the world, which result in an absence of freshness and nutrition. Preserving food through fermentation, on the other hand, puts you in touch with the natural cycles. I look forward to the return of tomatoes at the farmer’s market in July, when I plan to make fermented ketchup and fermented salsa. The flavor is worth the wait. You can read more about fermentation here.

latest ferments 10.09.14
Various ferments
3. Eat at home.

You should see me struggle to order in a restaurant. I can’t order anything with meat in it because most restaurants serve CAFO meat. If you have never heard the term, CAFO stands for “concentrated animal feeding operation”—and horrifying animal cruelty (gestation crates, standing in feces, tail docking and on and on). Same with eggs. I eat pastured eggs only and at $7 a dozen, I’m pretty sure the diner down the street doesn’t make its omelettes with them. Falafel will often do, unless the restaurant serves it inside a disposable container. Disposables in restaurants can send me over the edge.

At one sit down restaurant over Christmas, my waiter served my tea in a paper cup, inserted inside another paper cup, cinched around the middle with a cardboard sleeve to prevent me from burning myself and suing the owners, all topped with a plastic lid. The cup featured printed slogans about Earth Day all over it. I almost lost it and may have sworn in front of small children. I haven’t returned since (perhaps to the staff’s relief). I had always received my tea in glass mugs previously at this restaurant. Why all the paper and plastic?

I have found that Indian food works best for me when eating out—I can enjoy chana masala relatively guilt free. But the chana masala I make at home produces no waste. The restaurant? Show me a restaurant without a huge dumpster out back. Plus my food usually tastes better.

4. Use everything.

I have always thought of myself as thrifty, but compared to my grandmothers, in the past I have wasted lots of perfectly good food. As I continue down this path toward ever-increasing self-reliance and sustainability, I keep finding ways to go deeper. Today I make food from what most people would consider garbage at worst, compost at best:

That’s a pile of food!

wasted food collage
Food made out of “waste” from top right clockwise: bread crumbs; fried potato skins; lard; watermelon rind pickles; bone broth; scrap vinegar
5. Make rags out of, well, rags.

If you are male and follow my blog, I know you’re the type of man who can handle this one.

When I was pregnant with my younger daughter Charlotte, I bought flannel fabric to sew receiving blankets. After we no longer needed the receiving blankets, I cut them up and used the fabric to sew reusable menstrual pads. They work really well. I have made thick pads and thin panty shields as well. Every 28 days, about $5 stays in my pocket. Over the past seven or eight years, that has added up to hundreds of dollars.

Soak the pads in a bucket after use and you can nourish your plants with the mineral-rich water. Even here in hippie, lefty Northern California, some of my otherwise very progressive friends find all of this utterly revolting. Sigh. We have a long way to go. 

I wish I could include “grow my own food” on this list. We do however have a CSA here at the intentional community where I live, which now offers delicious eggs from very happy chickens.

What’s on your list that I should add to mine?

86 Replies to “5 Things I Do that Were Once Considered Normal”

  1. in my time I used the pads in the bucket trick and onto the garden… sadly those days are gone and so far the daughters are not keen to share but… I hold hopes …
    your list is great and I am with you all the way although presently we are not baking our bread but cab buy locally an excellent sourdough loaf and while the garden is lacking fresh organic veges are available from various people around our community.
    after years of doing it ourselves we rest a little these days though once the girls return home with their families I have no doubt it will change and production here will once again rise.
    my partner ferments ferments ferments , cucumbers are on the go at the moment.
    An addition though to your list could be ‘energy’ that is the manner in which we approach cooking and eating . bless the food bless it and love it and sing it up all the way back to the gardens sunshine rain and earth .
    I think you have the right of it about gluten intolerance and would add that if we held a greater respect and joy of food ( growing cooking eating) then our well being may well rise also.

    1. Well said, Sandra. I agree, we need to approach food and cooking with love, joy and gratitude. It’s actually quite absurd that cooking is held in such low regard (although I feel that has begun to change).

      No, my daughters don’t want to follow in my footsteps either in the rag department at least (and others…). I think I can buy sourdough like mine at the farmer’s market but it’s so expensive and I really do love baking it. I work from home mostly and so I merely have to get up from my desk every 45 minutes to an hour to turn the dough, which takes maybe two minutes. No kneading required, which used to leave me feeling faint, it was like a workout. I plan on fermenting cucumbers this summer too for dill pickles. They are also very expensive to buy. Not that they aren’t worth it. Real food costs money. I think if we didn’t expect to have food so cheaply (and so much of it!), we would have more respect for it.

      1. Well said! Very inspirational!
        What I would also add is making your own cosmetics and beauty products! It is much cheaper and a lot more beneficial for your health and environment to use oils for example for your skincare than buy chemical-rich lotions. The same goes for homemade toothpastes, deodorants, shampoos, body scrubs and so much more!

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hi Tatiana,

        Thank you 🙂 Great point! I make deodorant and toothpaste. My daughter has made us fantastic lip balm and body lotion. I don’t want to be a guinea pig and slather a bunch of chemicals onto myself. ~ Anne Marie

  2. Thank you for pointing out that all these things we consider normal were in fact the norm not so many generations ago. Consumerism has definitely paid a part in the decline of this normality but so, I fear, has a devaluation of ‘housekeeping’. I’m not suggesting we relegate woman back to the kitchen sink by any means or that men don’t have a role in housekeeping. I do however wish that we would revalue the art and value of proper housekeeping. In many ways it is the origin of ‘economics’!

    I take a real delight in keeping expenditure low but more than that, limiting my grocery/household shopping basket to a limited number of good quality ingredients that I can turn into anything. My minute garden allows me to grow some of my own vegetables which really helps too.

    PS – I know what you mean about eating out. By the time I’ve discounted anything that may contain nuts, farmed meat due to its unknown origin, unsustainable fish stocks, meals rich in dairy, slave labour prawns… there isn’t much left. Like so much today, the menu promises an apparent abundance of choice, anything except real quality.

    1. I suppose that since you can’t put a dollar (or pound) figure on housekeeping, it doesn’t contribute to the GDP (directly) and so is considered to have no value.

      I laughed out loud reading about your experience trying to order in a restaurant. It sounds very familiar. I was horrified last year when I heard about the slave shrimp boats! It amazes me the lengths people will go to in order to exploit those who harvest and grow our food. I crossed shrimp off my list.

      “Like so much today, the menu promises an apparent abundance of choice, anything except real quality.” <– I love this. It's so true. We have so much quantity and so little quality.

  3. Great list. Baking bread is definitely on my to-do list, once I can decide which type of bread I want to make. Thanks for sharing these other ithoughts as well 🙂

    1. Thank you! I love baking bread. It relaxes me somehow and my loaves have been turning out so well lately. I hope you find a recipe you like.

      1. They do look delicious! I have a book of bread recipes from around the world, but I haven’t actually tried any of them yet haha. My eventual plan is to get through at least a few breads from different parts of the world.

  4. lindsaychichester says: Reply

    Great list. I would however, argue that CAFOs are NOT the “horrifying animal cruelty” you indicate they are. In Nebraska we raise A LOT of beef, and most of it is done in CAFOs. I want to introduce you to one owner, Anne Burkholder, at Feed Yard Foodie (https://feedyardfoodie.wordpress.com). Anne regularly blogs about her CAFO, her family, and everything in between. Please check her blog out, I think you will agree with me that it is not by any means cruel. And if you are interested, Anne and I would love to host you in Nebraska and invite you to tour several CAFOs.

    1. Thank you. I looked at the blog you mention and it’s very extensive (so I read only a handful of posts). From what I gather, that particular feedlot grain finishes the cattle but the cows were actually pasture raised. Do I have that right? So that’s not the same as a cow raised entirely in a CAFO, eating corn its entire life. Still, when I do eat beef (which is not that often), I stick with local, organic, grass-fed. And no, Anne doesn’t sound cruel at all.

      I’m sure you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which Michael Pollan writes: “This biological absurdity, characteristic of all CAFOs, is compounded in the cattle feed yard by a second absurdity. Here animals exquisitely adapted by natural selection to live on grass must be adapted by us – at considerable cost to their health, to the health of the land, and ultimately to the health of their eaters – to live on corn, for no other reason than it offers the cheapest calories around and because the great pile must be consumed. This is why I decided to follow the trail of industrial corn through a single steer rather than, say, a chicken or a pig, which can get by just fine on a diet of grain: The short, unhappy life of a corn-fed feedlot steer represents the ultimate triumph of industrial thinking over the logic of evolution.”

      I think a lot of our societal ills can be alleviated if we stop this mad race to go bigger and bigger, relying on conglomerates to sustain our ever increasing consumerism. CAFOs represent this intense specialization and centralization of production which goes against my philosophy. But this is a longer conversation!

      1. lindsaychichester says:

        At Anne’s feedlot, she actually buys the cattle she feeds from local ranchers. Almost all cattle in the US are raised on grass entirely. If a cattle farmer/rancher retains the heifers (replacement females) within the herd they will probably never go into a feedlot, and their male counterparts will actually only be in a feedyard for 6-8 months; the rest of the time they graze pastures or other forage based sources (i.e. corn fields after harvest). As drought has plagued many cattle feeding states in the last five years (Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, California) cattle farmers/ranchers were challenged to either sell their cattle because they no longer were able to provide feed for them, or to put them into a confined cattle feeding system. A lot sold and some put their cows into a confined feeding system. I would say this was short-term, as many of those cattle are now back on pasture, or have been relocated to another part of the country where water more more available to provide pastures, or have now been sold. So very, very cattle actually spend their entire life in a confined feeding system.

        While corn is a component of their diet they can also eat things like soybeans, almond hulls, beet pulp, cotton seed hulls, potatoes, onions, carrots, etc. – basically any organic material. This of course varies by region and availability of product. Grocery retailers have also started great programs with livestock farmers/ranchers to sell their fruit/vegetable materials that would normally have been thrown away because they have overstocked or the product is close to spoilage, to be able to be used as a feed source – pretty cool if you ask me. And ruminant animals (animals that have one stomach with four compartments), like cattle, can handle these food things because of their unique digestive system. So saying that an animal eats corn its whole life is a bit of a misnomer (and technically corn is a grass).

        I don’t disagree that we have problems with trying to make the animals bigger and grow faster. However, I am a fan of utilizing the resources we have to the best of our ability (i.e. grasses, water, other forages, etc.), and some systems just take longer than others to produce a market ready animal; and let’s not forget the challenges Mother Nature presents (i.e. drought, hail, fire) that limits natural resources. Grain finished animals produce a product that is safe, tasty, healthy, and cruelty free – as do grass-fed systems, as do hybrid systems. I do not think one system is better than another, they are just different – like our philosophies 🙂

      2. Food today is so complex! I’ve heard of the Pig Idea in the UK, a program which sounds similar to the one you mention with the grocery stores giving food scraps to farms for their animals. That’s a great way to prevent waste. Thank you for all of this information, Lindsay.

  5. Y0u are an inspiration! And yay for “rags”– 🙂

    1. Thanks Annie. The feeling is mutual. Glad you like the rags. I knew my audience could handle it 🙂

  6. Make rags out of rags! : ) I worked (briefly) at a place where the Director would *buy* bundles of rags from the hardware store to clean his boat. HE PAID FOR THEM! How crazy is that?!

    1. Wow. That is crazy. It’s like buying, I don’t know, bottled water when you can get it free from the tap ;p

  7. Thank you for this post. I’m nowhere close to what you’re doing, but I strive everyday and make efforts.

    1. Thank you! It’s a constant process, making these conscious choices and weighing all the options, but so enjoyable also. It took me probably a couple of years to get my life this simplified (and I’m not perfect!).

  8. My experience with sourdough affirms yours… The rag stage of my life is past, but love the idea! I wonder if USDA would allow the produce to be sold off-farm 😉

    1. Oh I wish I had been making sourdough all this time. I could have a 20-year old starter by now. When my mother-in-law showed me how to make bread years ago, she had mentioned that a “real” baker used yeast in the air. I remember thinking that sounded like crazy talk. I wish I had investigated more. But better late than never.

      So the community where I live bought a farm and is selling CSA boxes. I am pretty sure these are available for the public to purchase and not just for people to buy who live at the community or belong to the church. I would like to write a post about our CSA and the farm but everyone who’s a part of all of this is incredibly busy and I need to interview them. Maybe I’ll go pester again. I’m not sure what the regulations are, if any. That’s a very good question for my post (if I ever write it). Thanks 🙂

      1. We are in the talk and plan stages of forming an intentional community in northeast Texas. Does your community have a website? … Thanks for the time you do take to post. I understand.

      2. That’s wonderful! I just love living here. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. My community is part of Ananda: http://www.ananda.org/about-ananda-sangha/spiritual-communities/

      3. Ah, I loved Autobiography of a Yogi. Lou is old enough and fortunate to have met Yogananda, and speaks very highly of him. Nice!

      4. Wow! Lou must have been very young when he met Yogananda! My daughters went to Ananda school, one of them even up to the mother ship at the village for two years of high school. She goes in the summer to cook for family camp (comes up with the menu, cooks for everyone) and when she comes home, she is completely euphoric from being up there. Since you read Autobiography of a Yogi, you know Yogananda urged people to live together in small intentional communities. I think this makes more sense than ever with our current environmental crisis.

      5. So glad we’ve met online.

      6. Me too, Aggie. I hope your plans for an intentional community go well 😀

  9. I just made handkerchiefs and produce bags with my fiancés warn out pajama pants! However, I use a menstruel cup in order to reduce waste in that department. It’s extremely easy and convenient, but I guess I don’t have a garden to feed either.

    1. I saw your handkerchiefs on Instagram and they turned out very well. I was going to add “sew” to my list because that’s just what people used to do. They sewed and had a scrap pile and a mend pile and they made and repaired things. I haven’t tried a menstrual cup but I hear they are very good and they keep so much trash out of landfill!

  10. I feel so excited reading this, we are so much on the same page!! I get a lot of criticism for being so particular and “paranoid” about food and environmental things. People say my kitchen is more like a laboratory…anyway, I love this post and the choices you make and really applaud you for teaching others these great life skills!

    1. I hear you. My kitchen IS a laboratory! My older daughter says I have orthorexia because I refuse to eat certain foods, but mostly that’s when I’m away from home. And a friend told me my diet is extreme but I told her the food system is extreme, not my diet! All I want is real food. How is that extreme? The stores don’t sell food, they sell food-esque products. Thanks for your kind words 🙂

  11. “Sourdough is the new tattoo.” That’s beautiful (and hilarious). As for your list, what about growing lettuce in containers? This works indoors even in winter as long as you have a window.

    1. Thank you 🙂 I don’t really have a window either. A houseplant sits struggling on my desk in my bedroom. The massive oak tree in my yard keeps everything shady. It’s great for cooling things off in the summer, but I can’t grow anything. I have a great farmer’s market in the meantime though.

  12. My live in MIL (mother in law) is almost 92. She is a wealth of knowledge of “what it was like”. She shares stories of giant barrels full of sauerkraut fermenting in order to feed her and her 13 siblings (that’s right, 13!). Another “weird” but was once normal thing we do is drink raw milk. It’s funny that a mere 50 years can transform an industry and establish a new taboo so firmly in the American conscious.

    1. Oh yes, drinking raw milk is not only weird but borderline illegal. It’s just bizarre. You’re right, it only took about 50 years to get us here. I hope it doesn’t take another 50 to get us out. But I don’t want to go back to the days of 13 kids! My dad’s family also had 13 plus they took in a orphan. He likes to go on about his job as a little kid to pick up pig’s blood and pigs’ heads at the abattoir for making blood pudding and head cheese. I have never tasted either but apparently they are very good. His mother never wasted a thing.

      1. My grandparents’ generation, Slovenian immigrants, used to make blood sausage. They mixed cooked rice, bits of meat, and some tasty herbs into the blood. I grew up loving it when I was too young to understand that it really did contain blood, and when I found out, I didn’t care. Fantastic food!

      2. People tell me that blood sausage tastes delicious. At this point, I wouldn’t care about the blood either. (When I was younger, my dad’s stories horrified me.) Better to eat every part of the animal if you eat meat.

  13. LOL at great grandma grumbling about making beer

    1. Didn’t you hear about that? Daddy told me. He says I’m doing all the “weird” stuff she used to do.

  14. My own menstrual “rags” were a long time ago part of my then babies cloth nappies. Thank goodness for washing machines though, I had to survive without one for a year and a half and returned for that time to disposable stuff as I just could not stomach more hand (potato masher) washing, made me really think about what our female predecessors (and less lucky contemporaries) had/ve to go through.
    Your normal is indeed my normal and I do love the fact that I feel my life echoes lives of previous generations and thus gives a solid grounding to the education I give my children, they know what food is, where it comes from, are aware of a lot of the politics at play, and they tend to think that things are made rather than bought…

    1. Oh good idea to make them out of old cloth diapers! I had a diaper service, so owned very few of the cloth diapers. I’ll search my fabric pile for some. Yes, thank goodness for washing machines but I can live without a dryer. I feel the same way about echoing our predecessors. When I’m at the farmer’s market, I often think about how little has changed over the centuries in an open air market. The food laid out is unpackaged, you pick it out, pay for it and plop it in your basket, lugging home your goodies which you must take care of immediately. Your normal is even more normal than mine. You have goats and chickens! 😀

      1. At the minute just goats unfortunately as my chickens have been eaten by marauding dogs. I am totally anti-dryer—it eats energy and therefore money—particularly because I like my clean clothes crisp, when cotton comes out of a dryer it feels like someone’s already slept in them !

      2. I’m sorry to hear about your chickens. An owl nabbed my sister’s remaining chicken the other night but her squawking (the chicken’s, not my sister’s) alerted my nephew to what was going on, and my brother-in-law was able to rescue her. I agree about the dryer. I very rarely use one.

      3. What a lovely scene I see an owl flying away with a chicken in her claws, and your brother in law having grabbed the chicken in mid air… glad to hear of the happy end !

      4. I like your vision. It was less dramatic, but everyone survived unharmed 🙂

  15. Reblogged this on Redneck Frugality and commented:
    This is a great post everyone should read!!!

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog!

  16. Learned a new sourdough acronym – SCOBY—a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts – ace, have to remember that one for the guide i’m currently writing all about SCOBY’s 🙂

    1. But do your SCOBYs have names? My sourdough is Eleanor and my kombucha is Etheldreda 🙂

      1. All Girls eh? No afraid ours are named only after the grain there fed on – white, rye and wholewheat….though traditionally the French would call starters the chef or the mother 🙂

      2. Well it only seemed right to give them girls’ names, with them being mothers and all. I gave some to my boyfriend and he named his starter “The Bastard” since it has no father ;p

  17. Love that story about the Earth Day cup–priceless! I can only aspire to your thriftiness, Anne-Marie, but I *did* recycle my creme fraiche this week–took some of the existing jar to begin a new one. It’s a start(er), right? 😉

    1. Thanks, Lori 🙂 Hmmm. I’ve never tried that. Did you add it to heavy cream? I bet that will work. It only takes 24 hours with buttermilk. Will you please let me know? I always have buttermilk on hand to culture heavy cream, but I don’t see why a bit of creme fraiche to make more creme fraiche wouldn’t work. Fermentation is endlessly fascinating!

  18. I enjoyed reading this. I grew up with my grandparents in England. We never, EVER, bought vegetables from the store. We grew our own. I grew up thinking people who bought veg were weird! We ate seasonally. Berries, peas, beans and rhubarb in the summer, sprouts, carrots and turnips in the colder months. I remember snapping frozen sprouts off the stalk in the middle of winter. Sadly I don’t currently have a garden or access to one (working on it!) I remember as a little girl there was a bread strike. Didn’t phase my grandma, she just made her own, by hand. I still practice the ‘normal’ things my grandma taught me: I darn my socks, save bacon fat to fry with, save bones for making broth. I’ve also added a few bits of my own: I make my own soap, lotion, lip balm and cleaning products. Saves money and recycles existing containers. Next on my list is making my own deodorant! Would like to add breadmaking to that list. I agree, many gluten problems are possibly either a reaction to the modified wheats in bread combined with mass producing of breads and inclusion of suspect ingredients….

    1. Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the post. I don’t have a garden currently either but I do shop at my wonderful farmer’s market and I just started an egg subscription from a farm that I’m affiliated with (very happy chickens there). The eggs are delivered to a common area where I live and I can return the cartons for reuse!

      We’ve really lost our way, but I feel things are turning around. I darned a couple of garments last week and it gave me such a feeling of accomplishment. Such a little thing. I also make my own deodorant. I just ran out yesterday, so I used baking soda this morning. It did the trick but I prefer my creamy homemade stuff (easier to apply). As for bread, most of the stuff in the supermarket is bread-like at best. Happy normal living 🙂

  19. Enjoyed this post mucho. Your pantry looks so much like mine – but neater. Since you were so forthright in revealing your ‘weird’ behaviour, I’ll share mine with you. I know coffee grounds make wonderful compost, but did you know that they are the best for scrubbing your skin? If you don’t believe me, rub a glob of used grounds into your hands. It gets rid of any odour from cooking, especially fish, and leaves them so silky smooth and soft. Also especially effective on dry elbows etc. It contains the same ingredient used in anti-cellulite creams, so it is good for all over your body, but at least give it a try on your hands. You will be amazed!

    1. Thanks Hilda. I don’t drink coffee but I can get my hands on some grounds from my neighbors. I would love to try this. Thanks for the tips. We really do throw away so much useful stuff. I was surprised to read in your comment that anti-cellulite creams contain the same ingredient as coffee grounds, but then again, consumer products reformulate and repackage all sorts of stuff we can get free or cheaply, and sell it back to us. Maybe I should just start to drink coffee. I think French presses look so elegant 🙂

      1. They are elegant, but at any rate coffee grounds are pretty easy to come by. Let me know what you think once you’ve tried.

      2. Thanks, Hilda. I will. I’ve put out an order to a friend, asking him to save his grounds for me. I’m really intrigued about this. And now I’m wondering about other things I could do with coffee grounds.

  20. Here is an addition to the list – Pee wee wipes. These dramatically reduce toilet paper use (about 27,000 trees a day globally). Lots of posts on this topic!

    1. Thank you! 27,000 trees wasted on our bums?! That’s nuts. I googled this but only baby diaper wipes pop up. Will you please send me a link if you have one? Toilet paper is the final frontier in waste reduction.

      1. I could not attach links to the reply but here are a couple you could just cut & paste to google:
        ‘Barb’s Backyard: wee wipes revolution’
        ‘Simple, Green, Frugal CO-Op: My Cloth revolution’
        Not quite the last frontier…. have you heard of the Humanure handbook’ by Joe Jenkins?

      2. Humanure :O I will look that up. Thank you. I will find these wipes too! Maybe I can make some. I have lots of scrap fabric.

      3. The wipes for sale on line are marketed to mums & used for babies. Most people I know who use them make their own from soft cotton rags. I like to knit them with cotton yarn – more absorbent and last forever.
        Regarding humanure, I must admit we are not practicing this…. yet. It may be a matter of time before it becomes the norm due to global depletion of phosphorus. Also, all that potable water just flushed down the toilet may not be an option in times of water scarcity.

      4. I recently knit some dishcloths from yarn that I had bought I don’t know how long ago (probably 10+ years), a cotton/silk blend. Very expensive for washcloths I suppose but it was just sitting there, paid for ages ago and collecting dust and taking up space. I should knit some for the bathroom. How big do you make yours?

        I have heard urinating on plants works well too. We’re in the midst of a severe drought here in California and I now keep a bucket in my shower. When it’s full, I use it to flush the toilet. It saves a little bit of water and is no trouble at all. We do need a better system but it’s a start. I really need to work on my water consumption in the kitchen. That project is a work in progress…

      5. Good on you Annemarie, every bit helps. I made mine the same size as dishcloths but a different colour so as not to mix them up. I also added a loop so they can hang on the door handle. They can be used for a few days before tossing in the wash.
        Urine is great for plants and also for vegetables as long as no medications are taken. It should be diluted in water by a factor of 1:10, but I have heard it’s fine to use it straight under citrus trees.

      6. Thanks for the info, Veronique. I will get my yarn out and try this. Also…I have a lemon tree in my yard 😉

  21. Pee wipes are also called ‘family cloth’ (as opposed to baby cloths, I believe). I’ve been using them for about six months, and it’s a much pleasanter experience than paper. I favor skinny rectangles instead of squares because you can fit more on the drying rack that way, after washing.

    1. This is one of the reasons I love WordPress 🙂 Where else would I find likeminded people interested in ditching bathroom tissue? Thank you for this info. I will search for these and hopefully make some.

    2. I had never heard of ‘family cloth’… just looked it up and am amazed by the amount of courageous women writing and commenting about this! Never thought of using them for number 2s either…

      1. It IS brave to write about. Have you seen the documentary “No Impact Man”? For a year, this family stops using electricity at home (except for maybe the refrigerator), cuts all waste, uses only human-powered transportation and more (maybe I should say less). The media really latched onto their “year without toilet paper” but that was just a small part of their experiment.

  22. Yes, I saw the documentary and it was an interesting experiment, testing possibilities and limits. It’s important that people experimenting with potential solutions to the problems currently facing humanity are not dismissed as ‘loonies’ and I guess that, on that front, we need to pick our battles.

    1. I agree. These are good, practical actions anyone can take. I think we also need to highlight the joys of living more simply. It’s not at all a life of deprivation and self-flagellation.

  23. Reblogged this on bornOrganicBella and commented:
    Will be normal again soon.

  24. phenomenal post! You inspire and encourage like nobody’s business, but with such a humble attitude.Great photos, I just want to crac open those loaves of gorgeous sourdough bread and huff on that aroma!

    One thing I’d like to get better at as far as reducing waste is mending clothes and socks, I have a friend who religiously darns her sock heels when they wear out and think that’s brilliant. I tend to wear the crap out of all my clothes, until they are falling apart, but you know when a zipper breaks- what to do? Need to add that to my list of skills! I really only wear thrift store or hand me downs, so I feel that does help reduce the consumptive cycle a bit.

    About the CAFO meat, I just made friends with Caroline who runs this website http://www.Humaneitarian.org, it’s all about encouraging folks to think about where meat comes from and to seek out more ethicaly raisedl meats. She’s looking for stories like yours, and it could be a good network for your blog too?

    Thanks for being out there in the world, it makes me feel relieved to find a kindred spirit!

    1. Thank you! I’m all out of sourdough at the moment and have to pull my starter out the fridge today and put it to work.

      I have to get better about mending too. I mended a couple of things recently and it gave me such a feeling of satisfaction. One was my daughter’s martial arts t-shirt and I was surprised she didn’t mind wearing it after I had finished. (My kids think some of my frugal ways are bizarre–my older daughter came home from college for her break this week, found “the bucket” in the shower soaking my, errr, rags, and yelled “this is such a weird house!”) My boyfriend mends all of his socks! The first time I saw him do this, I was so impressed. On one of our early dates, a button fell off my jacket and he sewed it back on as we headed out the door! He’s from Ukraine and just doesn’t waste things. He hasn’t completely assimilated here ;p Mrs. M’s at Mrs. M’s Curiosity Cabinet writes about many things, including mending, and I noticed today she just wrote a new post about her wardrobe: http://www.mrsmscuriositycabinet.com/wartime-wardrobe-challenge/clothes-swapping/

      Thanks for the link to the site. I took the pledge. I don’t eat a lot of meat, but when I do, that’s the kind of eat. We need to support these farmers (farmers like you!) if we’re going to put a stop to the widespread, inhumane practices.

      Thank you for what you’re doing on your farm! And for being a kindred spirit 🙂

  25. […] clear where I’m going with what we can do to shrink those numbers – change to reusable, you can even make your own if you’re crafty. Let’s also consider for a moment exactly what most of those products are made from, and how […]

  26. I guess one thing I do that my old farm gal grandma did is keep a dishrag and smallish container of soapy water at the ready. Keeps me cleaning as I go so workspace stays tidy and reduces water, paper towel consumption. Just wring it out and you’re good to go, I use Castile soap so just 5-10 drops is all a 1/2 gal of water needs. Replace as it gets dirtied. She also made sauerkraut, wine and grew summer garden including flowers as well as resewed clothes (think cutting down an adult coat for a child) and crocheted blankets. Some day I hope to try my hand at these…

  27. I agree with your way of living, being resourceful, thrifty, NOT being wasteful. I think it’s the best way. I like having nice things as well but living this way I make a statement against materialism/buying too much. Tx for the helpful posts!

    1. Thanks so much for that Mary and for reading my posts! ~ Anne Marie

  28. I really enjoy your blog Anne-Marie, you enlighten and inspire. I do pretty much the same things as you but I do have the room to grow my own food and I enjoy that so very much. It’s my exercise, my meditation and my nourishment and my passion too. You farmers’ market hauls and the CSA sound like the next best thing.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Tracy, thanks so much. I really appreciate that. Thanks for reading 🙂 Growing your own is ideal. Hats off to you. I love the meditation aspect of gardening that you point out (and of course the delicious food). One day… ~ Anne-Marie

  29. We do raw milk, buy our beef from a person, grow lots of veggies, reuse glass no plastic, use cloth napkins, etc. With difficulty I handled my bleeding since I’m overly sensitive and will vomit. Menopause has happened so thankfully I don’t have to consider it. But as I read your ‘rag’ paragraph to my husband he agreed wholeheartedly saying that people even buy bloodmeal for their gardens. News to me. Even I don’t mind your controversial subjects as your heart is really behind respecting this marvelous gift of life on this amazing planet.

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