Committing to a Greener Lifestyle + 15 Tips for Living Low Impact

Committing to a Greener Lifestyle + 15 Tips for Living Low Impact

So You Want to Stop Wasting Resources and Money…

We’ve all heard it many times before: reduce, reuse, recycle. However, when it comes to the average modern-day person, I am not sure how much these guidelines are put into consistent action. I have always been fascinated with environmental studies and living in alignment with nature, so the topic of reducing waste and living a greener lifestyle really appeals to me. I get excited when I read about upcycling projects, composting, and reducing or eliminating plastics.

Over the years, in addition to reading books and articles on these topics, I found some documentary films that really ignited my passion for living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. Some of these included:
Dirt the Movie
Last Call at the Oasis
No Impact Man
More Than Honey
Tapped
And the trailer to the upcoming film Island Earth
For a full list of documentaries I recommend, please visit my Wellness Resources page.

I recently learned about a young woman named Lauren Singer who lives a zero waste lifestyle in NYC. The contents of her 3-years worth of trash fit into a mason jar. After watching some of Lauren’s videos and reading her blog Trash is for Tossers, I was both inspired and impressed. Some might argue that this is possible for Lauren simply because she is a single person who lives in a city with easy access to bulk bins and outdoor markets. Perhaps. However, she still offers feasible ideas for many. And through Lauren’s writings, I discovered her inspiration was Bea Johnson, a wife and mother of two, who lives a zero waste lifestyle in California, and is the creator of Zero Waste Home.

Although I find these people very inspiring, and I light up with excitement whenever I read a low impact or zero waste article, I do not think it has to be an all-or-nothing venture, at least not for me (at least, not right now). There are many obstacles to living 100% of anything for me. I don’t like the extremism of living any which way; I tend to stick with things when I do my absolute best, and my best is never perfect. I have to be realistic with myself. One obstacle I have personally discovered is that I do not live near any stores that offer bulk bin shopping, but luckily I have a couple of options near where I work. Another obstacle is that I can see how avoiding all packaging would be quite the challenge for most consumers, me included. However, there are many other small steps I am doing to transition to a greener lifestyle, and perhaps some of these suggestions will help you too.

What I’m Doing to Live A More Earth-Conscious Lifestyle + Ideas for You:

1. Make Your Own Products
I currently make some of my own bath and body products as well as household cleaners. For the cleaners, I use ingredients such as fresh lemons, white vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. Other items you can make yourself include toothpaste, mouthwash, body butters, facial toner, natural deodorant, and the list goes on.

2. Stop Buying Excess and Bringing Waste into the Home
This goes hand-in-hand with living a simple life and minimalism. It starts with reducing the future waste we bring into our homes in the first place. I try to avoid impulse buys as much as possible. Before I buy something new that I think I need, I will ask myself if I can make it, find it second-hand, or borrow it. Sometimes new is the best option, and sometimes it’s not.

3. Eliminate paper products and disposables.
This is a tough one, but there are some great options to try.

The Kitchen: I do buy an eco-friendly brand of recycled paper towels, but I try to use them sparingly. I keep them under my sink for cleanup emergencies. Since they are not on the countertop, we go through one roll of paper towels every 2-4 weeks. It would be great to reduce that even more. I now keep a basket of tea towels on top of my kitchen table for quick grab and go cleaning and use at meal time. I use glass storage containers and mason jars for the majority of my food storage. I avoid plastics, styrofoam, and disposable items with packaging when possible. Paper dishes and plastic utensils are totally out. Use ceramic and rewash your items. This saves money too. You can use a bamboo dish brush instead of sponges to clean your dishes, and opt for eco-friendly dish soap.

The Bathroom: I currently use organic cotton disposable feminine hygiene products, but I plan on trying a non-disposable option soon. Some options worth looking into are menstrual cups and organic cotton panty liners and pads like GladRags or Moon Pads. Instead of throwaway cotton rounds for facial toner, you can buy reusable organic cotton rounds. I also recommend fabric shower curtain liners, because the plastic varieties are horrible for human health and the environment. Another better option in the bathroom is natural, toilet paper made from recycled paper. Regarding razors, you can try a safety razor or the Preserve brand. Bamboo toothbrushes are compostable and also pretty fantastic. You can also buy a wooden and bamboo toilet brush, instead of a plastic variety. I like to make or buy natural, handcrafted bar soaps in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging and help the waterways.

4. Cancel mail subscriptions, and register for a do not mail registry.
I have done this, and it helps minimize paper mail waste quite a bit. However, I sill find this to be a challenge, as we receive mail I never wanted. I wonder if I can return to sender with a note to not mail in the future.

5. Skip the disposable plastic bottles and filter your own water.
We use a Berkey countertop stainless steel water filtration system with added fluoride filters. I suggest reading up on the company as I highly recommend it, as well as other filter options to find something that is best for you. I then pack water in an Eco-Canteen or glass bottle with a lid. I save so much money this way. Even when I travel, I bring my Berkey to-go travel bottle and an eco canteen.

6. Bring your drinks, lunch and utensils to work and outings.
Use a reusable lunch bag and stainless steel, glass, cotton, or hemp storage options to pack your lunchtime goodies. Are you a coffee or tea drinker? Make your own at home and bring it in a reusable to-go mug or thermos. Not only does bringing your own lunch (and snacks) everyday save lots of money, but it’s better for your health because then you know the exact ingredients you are consuming, and reduces waste by way of plastic throwaway containers. Bamboo utensils, a stainless steel, or glass straw, and reusable water bottle are all good to keep on hand in your lunch kit and car.

7. Compost plant-based food scraps and other items.
I keep a large bowl in the refrigerator to prevent flies and any smell. I fill the bowl throughout the day with food scraps and dump it into my garden compost pile at the end of the day or early in the morning. This is a great way to bring nutrients back to the soil, helping the earth, the garden, and our environment by reducing waste that ends up in landfills. Some things you can compost include: fruit and veg scraps, dryer lint and dust bunnies, cooked grains, coffee grounds, paper or wood matches, flowers, tea bags and tea grounds, and much more.

8. Reuse cooled cooking water to water plants.
There’s no use wasting perfectly good plant water by dumping it down the sink.

9. Eat Seasonally, and Support Organic and Local Farmers.
The locovore (eating local food, usually within a 150 mile radius from where you live) movement is quite interesting and can be earth-friendly. It is a good idea to start paying attention to where your food is being shipped or imported from and when produce is in season. Organic local options are best. Get to know your small, local farmers and ask them about their growing practices. You can also consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture).

10. Conserve Water
Only 1% of the world’s water is drinkable, and if you watch any of the water films I mentioned above, you will be quite alarmed by the future of our access to clean drinking water. When it comes to going green, this is one of the most important areas to learn about. We use rain barrels to recycle water and water our plants. We use a low flow shower head and I try to take short showers most of the time. For more ideas, here are 110 Ways to Save Water.

11. Be Mindful of Energy Consumption
During the daytime, all lights stay off in my house. We use the natural sunlight and mostly energy efficient appliances. I only turn on the air conditioner when I absolutely need it. I only wash clothes in cold water. At nighttime, we leave a light on only in the room we are currently using, and we also like natural candles which create a warm and inviting ambiance to the home.

12. Plant a garden and plant bee and butterfly friendly flowers.
You don’t have to have a big back yard to enjoy the beauty of gardening. You can create a window garden, a patio garden, or a potted garden on a deck. There are thousands of gardening resources online and at your local library. Growing culinary herbs is a great place to start.

13. Use reusable fabric produce bags and grocery totes.
You can make your reusable produce bags, or purchase these from Amazon or Etsy. You can even buy reusable sandwich and snack baggies, which are great to have. I like to buy smaller bags for bulk food items like dried beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. I transfer them to mason jars or recycled glass jars with lids when I get home from the grocery store.

14. Raise children the eco-friendly way.
This could be an entire blog post on its own, but I will keep it short since this article is already quite long. Some things I am planning on doing to be a more conscious parent include: cloth diapering, using cold water to wash laundry and hanging items outside in the sun to dry, using cloth wipes, breastfeeding, using glass bottles, using a bamboo spoon and bowl for baby food, making my own baby food and storing it in glass, avoiding plastics, buying clothing secondhand, and supporting eco-friendly. nontoxic wooden toy companies.

15. Eat a plant-based or vegan diet.
Realistically, this is one of the most important steps we can take to help the planet, people, and animals. Plant-based eating helps fight against many major issues that plague our planet, including: water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and global hunger. “We collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 65 billion animals each year for food …10 times as many people as we have on the entire earth… We have developed a complex system of producing more and more animals that use more and more of our resources, while leaving a massive amount of waste, pollution, and adverse climate change in their wake. … This system…is… heavily intertwined with our culture, politics, economics, and the suppression of the reality of its effect on our planet.” -Dr. Richard Oppenlander

Things I Would Eventually Like to Do:
1. Eliminate plastic garbage pale liners.
2. Set up a solar system.
3. Bring my own container for leftovers when dining out.
4. Ask more stores to offer bulk bin natural food options and put prepared foods in my own containers.

This post is not coming from a place of elitism or impracticality, in fact, quite the contrary. I can vouch that living a simple life and investing in reusable options does save heaps of money over time. The Earth is our only home, and in a very humble way I want to do my part to help, even if just a little bit. I’m not perfect, and I am not always able to follow all of these guidelines myself, but I do my best when I can, and I am fully aware.

Mary Signature

Kitchen food scraps to compost
Kitchen food scraps to compost

Homemade Raw Tahini

Homemade Raw Tahini

Homemade raw tahini is a winner! Making your own is such a money saver compared to buying a jar at the store (and in my opinion, it tastes better). You can use this as a spread in wraps, as a base for dressings and dips, or simply treat yourself to a spoonful for healthy, whole fats. It’s so good! 🌻

Sesame seeds are magical – they are an excellent source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc, molybdenum, selenium, and fiber. 🌻

They help with bone health, colon health, support vascular and respiratory health, and are cholesterol lowering. 🌻

Recipe:
🌾2 cups raw sesame seeds
🌾water
🌾juice of 1/2 a lemon
🌾touch of seal salt (opt.)

Directions:
Blend up in a Vitamix or food processor, adding water gradually 1/4 cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Enjoy!

20150512-113944.jpg

Love is the Answer. Stop Buying Stuff.

Love is the Answer. Stop Buying Stuff.

Good day, everyone. Happy Thanksgiving to all my fellow American readers and a joyous holiday season to everyone from around the globe. I just arrived to Texas to visit family. It has been a long day of travel. After we reached our final destination, we needed to travel a bit more to find a store to get some fresh groceries.

It being a major holiday and all, our only option was a Walmart located approximately a half an hour away. It was my idea of a nightmare (Walmart + Black Friday sales = violence over flat screen TVs), but we needed sustenance. And since the store is located in a very rural area, we figured it might be moderately busy with pre-Black Friday sales, but nothing too intense. WRONG!

20141127-204053.jpg

When we arrived, we had no trouble entering the store at 5:15 pm. However, at second glance we realized that there were blockades set up, extra staff and security at every corner, and swarms of people standing with empty carts waiting. Lines and lines of people wrapped around the interior of the store. People with their hands on boxes of items that were still wrapped in cellophane on pallets. One lady had her arms and legs outstretched like a starfish, claiming four boxes on two different pallets. Some people said they had been there for hours waiting. Learning that made me sad. When did they spend time with their families? Did they even enjoy a Thanksgiving meal? It was only 5:30 pm for crying out loud.

20141127-203653.jpg

The tension in the store could be cut with a knife. People were on their phones complaining and people waiting on the seemingly never-ending lines were beyond grumpy. One woman looked in our shopping cart and said, “You picked a hell of a time to buy food.” I wish I had the energy to reply, “Thank you, Captain Obvious. We hope you enjoy saving $10 on Isotoners in exchange for three hours of your life.”

We had to practically beg to be allowed to check out. They weren’t allowing anyone to put the sales items in their carts until 6:00 pm and therefore the registers were not open yet, so we were racing against the clock to get out of there. As we checked out, I heard several Walmart employees huddled in a team formation going over scenarios and security concerns. One employee feared being threatened or physically harmed by customers. I felt badly for the employees; the evening that would soon be unfolding would surely not be pleasant.

20141127-205607.jpg

As we exited the store, we realized that there were people now waiting outside and there was not a single open parking spot in that entire gigantic parking lot. Thank God we made it out of there at 5:50 with 10 minutes left to spare. I lived to tell the tale.

This is the text message I sent to a friend: “The people at the local Walmart here are about to murder each other over a Homedics footbath courtesy of the factory workers in China. I never saw anything like it (other than on the news). I got out with my carrots and hummus just in the nick of time.”

The entire experience got me thinking about a hilarious yet surprisingly poignant video I had seen recently of a man in NYC, named Matthew Silver, who makes a statement (in his underwear) to people shopping: “Stop buying stuff. Love is the answer!”

Watch video

According to Matthew (aka the great performer):“My role as a clown, trickster and village idiot is to parody excessive seriousness by playing with taboos, rules, and social norms. My inspiration comes from my heart. I perform for smiles and laughter, loosening people’s armor, and opening up a portal for imagination, creativity and love.”

I’m not anti-consumerism; we all need things sometimes. However, there is a difference between a need and a want. And some wants are okay, but then most of the time we just transition into excess and waste and even stupidity. How many people can actually afford all of these holiday purchases? Afford as in, not racking up consumer credit card debt.

Since I have been on a path of simplicity and genuine happiness (and even prior to now), I have noticed that I do not enjoy shopping for stuff. Even in my teens and twenties, I never enjoyed shopping. In fact, buying things stressed me out. I didn’t need any of it, especially the hole in my wallet afterwards.

This season is a time for gratitude, love, and joy – not unnecessary stress, materialism, and obscene expenses. I will not be shopping on Black Friday. To me, I would rather snuggle up with a warm blanket and a good book, watch movies, and spend time with loved ones.

There is nothing I need that I don’t already have. I will also enjoy getting crafty this year and baking yummy treats for thoughtful gifts. I have told my family that I really don’t want anything this year. If they insist, an Amazon gift card for an ebook is perfect or an experience like a family day at the movies – even better! I’ve just realized that the further I move away from stuff, the more liberated and whole I feel.

We don’t need to spend loads of money on things in an effort to show people we love them. Our time is much more valuable. In my next blog post, I will share wholesome and thoughtful ideas of crafts and homemade gifts for loved ones. For now, embrace this joyous season – the weather change, hot cocoa, holiday music, time with friends and family. If you can, consider volunteering at a local food pantry, soup kitchen, or homeless shelter. And perhaps instead of buying more stuff this year, you can shop your house for items you can donate to those who are less fortunate. There is no need to subject yourself to unnecessary stress or go into debt this season. This is a time to share in the spirit of love, gratitude, and kindness.

So what’s the takeaway message? “Love is the answer. Stop buying stuff.”

20141127-203522.jpg

Why It’s Important for Us to Be in Nature

Why It’s Important for Us to Be in Nature

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
-John Lubbock

Recently, I have added 15 minutes outside in the early morning hours as part of my morning routine. In just a short time, this has already helped my state of mind and well-being immensely. I cannot recommend this act of intentional living enough.

I first walk outside barefoot and stand outside in the grass underneath one of my favorite trees. I enjoy the sensations and sounds of the crickets, the birds, the gentle wind, the cool morning air, the grass between my toes, the dirt beneath my feet – everything.

After a couple of minutes, I do a couple of sun salutations and yoga stretches, then I do 100 crunches, and 10 push-ups. I then lay down in the grass and just relax and enjoy the peacefulness. I never bring my cell phone with me during this relaxing practice. So for the sake of this blog post, I took this picture later in the afternoon to share the view from the grass. I will lay in the grass for a couple of minutes or to my heart’s content.

tree

For the final part of my time outside in the morning, I stand up and ground my feet to the Earth again, and I express gratitude for the day and for the natural world. I cannot express enough how much this has shifted my perspective, and I highly recommend this to anyone. Just go outside for even two-five minutes every morning and be thankful and express gratitude. Enjoy all that nature has to offer. You will feel more alive and more connected.

Why It Is Important for Us to Be in Nature

1. We are meant to be outside. That’s right. We have really botched things up with our 9-5 desk jobs, artificial fluorescent lighting, stressful commutes, and addictive technology. Humans are meant to walk and be active and be outdoors. That is our natural state. We are not robots and we are not zombies. It is up to us to make the shift.

2. Going outside can help our health. Sunlight provides Vitamin D and can elevate our moods. Going outside has also been shown to help concentration and encourages people to be more active and boosts energy levels. People who go outside daily tend to be happier. Being in nature has also shown to help with depression and mood disorders. (Sources: Harvard and Everyday Health)

3. Trees are wise and have the power to heal. Hug a tree and give thanks to all that trees do for us. “Trees provide breathable air, timber, fuel, food, shelter, medicine and beauty. Without trees, we could not live. They can help us think better — Plato and Aristotle did their best thinking in the olive groves around Athens, Buddha found enlightenment beneath a bo tree, and Isaac Newton realised his theory of gravity when an apple fell from the tree under which he was sitting — and they can help us feel better.”
(Source: Psychologies)

hugatree

4. Exercising outside is optimal. “A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that people who walked on an outdoor track moved at a faster pace, perceived less exertion, and experienced more positive emotions than those who walked on an indoor treadmill. In another recent study done in Scotland, subjects who walked through a rural area viewed their to-do list as more manageable than those who walked on city streets.” (Source)

5. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air is 2-5 times more toxic than air outside. Shocking? It’s true. One of the best ways to help the air in our living and working environments is to add plants. But another important thing to do for your own health is to go outside. (Source: Dr. Axe)

6. There is an actual disorder called nature deficit disorder. Don’t believe me? Read here. Let’s get away from the boob tube and the iPizzle, and the cell phone madness and go outside. Another benefit: being in nature can help increase our attention spans.

7. Now let’s apply this to children and teens. Young people need to go outside. If a person grows up with no connection to nature, they will most likely have no appreciation for it. Even more, with obesity, diabetes, and other illnesses on the rise that affect young people, I think it is time we get back to the basics. Go outside with your family.

8. Gardening and putting our hands in the dirt can be one of the most healing and enriching acts we participate in. To connect with new life and to watch a seed grow into a plant is a miracle that so many people take for granted. To connect with our food on the most basic level, helps us to eat healthier and to feel at one with the Earth.

If you don’t have land to cultivate, consider a window garden, a container garden on a deck or patio, or rent space at a community garden. There are options. This is a photo of what we harvested yesterday plus saving arugula seeds.

GardenHarvest8.18.14

What are you doing right now? Can you spare two minutes of your day to go outside and get some fresh air? I hope so. Nature is a beautiful gift. Let’s get back to it. Let’s be thankful for it.

Mary Signature

Simplifying Your Wardrobe + My Journey Toward Minimalism

Simplifying Your Wardrobe + My Journey Toward Minimalism

Since October, I have minimized my wardrobe from over 400 items down to 112 items. This includes socks, shoes, scarves, winter gear, and all regular clothing items.

The way you choose to simplify your wardrobe will depend on your career, lifestyle, and the climate where you live. Everyone is different. In this video, I share what has worked well for me. Eventually, I am sure I will naturally have less than 90 items, but I am not fixated on any specific number. Minimizing for me has been a gradual process. It’s just about having what you need and loving what you have.

What I Have in My Wardrobe for the Entire Year (Total: 112 items):

13 pairs of shoes
2 bags
1 wallet/clutch
9 scarves
5 workout outfits
3 pajama sets
4 pairs of jeans
2 pairs of leggings
1 pair of black capris
1 pair of neutral shorts
8 tank tops
5 t-shirts
1 flannel shirt
15 sweaters
1 poncho
1 hooded sweatshirt
3 jackets/coats
2 bathing suits
1 beach cover-up
12 pairs of socks
4 pairs of dress slacks
4 dress shirts
1 knitted vest
1 short-sleeved dress top
2 blazers
1 pencil skirt
1 pair of boot cuffs
2 holiday shirts
1 dress
1 hat
1 ear warmer
1 pair of gloves
2 tights
(undergarments not shown)

photo-31

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Cut Your Grocery Costs and Feel Amazing

Eating Healthy on a Budget: Cut Your Grocery Costs and Feel Amazing

Many people have the misconception that enjoying healthy food is not affordable. Years ago, I used to have this opinion myself, until I started learning more about healthy, whole food prices and how to prepare my own meals at home.  I hope that this article helps give you ideas regarding how to save money as well as how to save your health. Plus using this method, you will know exactly what is in your food, because you will preparing the food yourself using whole ingredients.

This post is for a variety of people. I tried to approach this in a way that would be feasible for many individuals and families. With that said, I understand that everyone’s budget and lifestyle is different, but I also want to point out an interesting fact:

“America spends less on food than any other country.” –Source

gates

Sometimes we need to take a step back and look at how we are really spending our money. Some people who claim they cannot afford to eat healthfully find ways to spend money on cable TV and internet, daily coffees, alcohol, recreational drugs, lottery tickets, take out food, and the list goes on.

I have found that we spend money on what is most important to us. By monitoring your/your family’s spending habits for a couple of months, it might be eye-opening to see exactly where the money is going, and there might be room for change.

Also, eating healthy now will save you money in the long run. Type II diabetes, heart disease, and a host of other Western illnesses, in most cases, are preventable. These diseases cost tax payers billions of dollars every year, and moreover, it costs you time with your loved ones and more money out of your pocket for medications and medical care. In my opinion, eating REAL FOOD is a better option.

All of This Food for Less Than $95
This would feed 2-3 people for a week or more. So if you are an individual, you could easily eat this way for around $50 a week with proper planning. Compare that to the price of two-three people eating out for just two dinners a week, and that does not cover all of the family’s other food needs. Yikes! You can take that money savings and go on a nice vacation.

photo-30

Pictured here is all of the food I purchased for less than $95. This would easily feed a family of two-three people for a week or more (depending on how much you eat). I personally eat a lot and love having an abundance of options available at home. I purchased this food in NJ (an expensive state to live in) with no coupons.

I shopped at Aldi’s, Shop Rite, Dean’s and Natural Foods General Store (for the raw cacao and corn tortillas), Nuts.com (for the sesame seeds) and my own garden. However, most of this stuff is from Aldi’s. Surprised? It’s true. I wanted to show how virtually anyone can make this work and you definitely do not have to go to more than one or two places to make it happen, if that is not an option for you.. It just takes a shift in food choices.

Here is the breakdown of the food items with prices:
Note: Many of this would carry over into another week or more, so that is even greater savings. In other words, this might be enough food for two weeks (again, it depends on how many people and how much you eat). I offer a suggestion for meal planning below. The prices shared are for the entire bag/container/item, unless otherwise noted.

1. Organic sprouted corn tortillas: $2.99
12 tortillas total – enough for one-two weeks easily

2. Frozen peas: $0.95

3. Organic Frozen Blueberries (4 bags x $2.99 ea.): $11.96

4. Organic Frozen Strawberries: $2.99

5. Natural Whole Oats: $0.99
There is easily enough here for two weeks, if both people eat oatmeal or every single day, so I calculated for one week’s worth. You can also use this to make my 3-ingredient banana chocolate chip cookies.

6. Unsweetened Almond Milk (2 cartons at $2.49 ea.): $4.98
This variety is carrageenan-free and does not have other junk in it. However, I recommend trying to make my homemade raw, vegan organic almond milk. It’s so easy, delicious, and healthy!

7. Guacamole: $2.99
Again, I recommend making your own, but this blog post is for a variety of people. This brand of guacamole I found out Aldi’s uses only real ingredients and contains no preservatives.

8. Organic Baby Spinach: $2.49

9. Organic Mixed Salad Greens: $2.49

10. Carrots: $1.39

11. Walnuts: $3.25
The total was $6.49 for the whole bag, so I calculated half of this item for the week. These will last 1-3 weeks depending on how many nuts and seeds your family eat.

12. Organic Bananas (18 bananas total): $4.14

13. Sweet Potatoes (1 bag): $2.49

14. Navel Oranges (1 bag): $3.99

15. Multi-colored Peppers: $3.29

16. Green Onions: $0.99

17. Celery: $1.59

18. Organic Grape Tomatoes (1 x $1.99 ea.): $3.98

19. Avocados (2 x $0.99 ea.): $1.98

20. Dry beans (black, garbanzo, and split pea, 3 bags total): $2.97
Dry beans are healthy and are not packed in BPA-coated cans.

21. Cabbage: $1.79

22. Pure Vanilla Extract: $0.50
I calculated this item for a weeks worth, a person used vanilla every day (it’s $1.99 for the entire bottle.)

23. Pure Maple Syrup: $3.99

24. Organic Pasta Sauce: $1.99

25. Pineapple: $1.89

26. Organic Red Grapes: $2.99

27. Organic Apples (1 bag): $4.99

28. Organic Sesame Seeds: $1.00
I calculated this item for a week’s worth, if a person used sesame seeds everyday. The total was $3.9 for 1 pound.

29. Organic Cinnamon: $0.99
I calculated this item for a week’s worth, if a person used cinnamon everyday.

30. Organic Dates: $3.25
The total was $6.49 for the whole bag, so I calculated half of this item for the week. These will last 1-3 weeks depending on how many dates you use.

31. Lemons and lime: $1.75

32. Organic Brown Rice: $1.99

33. Organic Quinoa: $4.00
The total was $7.99 for the whole bag, so I calculated half of this item for the week. These will last 1-3 weeks depending on how many dates you use.

34. Fair Trade Organic Raw Cacao: $6.30
I purchased a month’s worth. So this calculation is based on a serving of cacao used in a recipe every single day.

35. Red onions: $0.99

36. Organic Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Free, from the garden

TOTAL = $94.43
What to Make with All of this:

I will be making a variety of dishes including wraps, soups, salads, smoothies, roasted vegetables, quinoa dishes, rice and bean recipes, fresh fruit salad, desserts like chocolate walnut truffles and oat cookies, and the list goes on. I can also make hummus and enjoy it with fresh vegetables for a snack, or just snack on fruit. I can also freeze the bananas to make banana ice cream and blend with frozen berries. I can use seeds, avocado, nuts, lemon, lime, tomatoes, or even fruit to make combinations of homemade, blended, oil-free dressings that taste really delicious. So many possibilities!

Money Saving Tips:

1. Grow your own food. Not pictured here are fresh greens, herbs, jalapeño peppers, cucumbers, and heirloom tomatoes in my garden right now. These treasures would add even more food to this already abundant landscape! My garden has been producing for the past couple of months. It’s a labor of love. I am not perfect at it, but I approach it all as an adventure. I don’t have a large property, and I still grow my own food. I know people who live in apartments who grow their own food. It’s possible!

2. Buy dry items like nuts, beans, seeds, spices, etc. when they are on sale, or from bulk bins, or support websites like Nuts.com. This website has an assortment of items that are organic and affordable. You will be pleasantly surprised when you do the math. I will be doing a product review blog post on this company soon.

3. Eat plant-based, whole foods entirely or as much as possible. Eating whole foods, plant-based vegan is one of the most economical diets there is. In fact, I cannot think of another diet that is healthier for people and our planet and is as affordable as a whole foods plant-based diet. Many people think eating this way is expensive, but look at the array of foods listed above and see how inexpensive it can be. And to be honest, I did not spend hours mapping out prices as much as I could have. I just purchased the majority of items from one grocery store and that was that. If you plan ahead, your grocery bills will be even less than mine.

Meat, eggs, dairy, and processed foods all come with a cost. The cost is more than what hits our wallets. It can have an impact on our health and it certainly has an impact on the environment, our drinking water, and the animals who suffer.

4. Eat seasonally. Eating fruits and vegetables that are in season will certainly help your wallet. Check out this informative seasonal food guide, so you can see what is in season where you live.

5. Use a shopping list and plan your meals. This has helped me with my money saving immensely. I recommend using a cash budgeting system (no more credit and debit card swipes), so you can visually see what you have to work with each week. I always go into a grocery store with a list that corresponds to the meals I plan to make that week. This saves time and money, and prevents impulse buying.
For great, healthy meal plans for individuals or families, I recommend The Happy Herbivore. My next blog post will be a product review on their meal plans.

6. Have fun and be creative. Food is nourishment and energy. It should be wholesome. The problem is that most Americans no longer cook or bake or make meals at home. It takes just a few minutes to make a smoothie in a blender or prepare a delicious salad. Baked sweet potatoes, grains, and roasted vegetables can be made in advance for the week, as can soups in the crockpot. The options are endless. Use this opportunity as a bonding time with your family. Preparing meals together can be fun and rewarding!

7. Support Local Organic Farmers through Farmer’s Markets, CSAs, and Co-Ops. You can also try having fresh, organic produce delivered to your home by trying Door-to-Door Organics. Here is my blog post where I explain how this works and how I rate the service.

8. Buy food that is in bulk or on sale and be mindful of prices. This comes down to planning again, and it can be especially helpful to look for sales on the dry items and produce. I recommend looking out for when items go on sale, or buy from a discount store like Aldi’s which now carries a variety of organic items such as salad greens, kale, spinach, apples, tomatoes, bananas, and frozen berries.  Buying at a bulk grocery can be helpful and cost effective too, but just do not fall into the trap of buying pre-made items or anything you do not actually need.

9. Avoid convenience foods. When it comes to eating healthy, this is where a lot of people go wrong. Buying pre-made, store-made, or pre-packaged health foods is always more expensive than making the recipes at home in advance. The same goes for things like salad dressings and treats; it’s always more cost effective to make your own.

I hope some of these tips give you ideas of how to save some green and live green in the process.

Mary Signature

Why I Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle + FAQ

Why I Choose A Plant-Based Lifestyle + FAQ

I receive many great emails and questions regarding food, health, and my lifestyle choices.  I thought it would be fun to share a little bit more about my journey and answer some frequently asked questions too. I wrote the title of this using “choose” as opposed to “chose” because I make this decision consciously each day.

Before I begin, I want to note that this lifestyle has brought me so much joy and liberation. I wish I could share this gift with everyone, but I am not here to influence or pressure anyone into changing their lifestyle or the way they eat. I am simply sharing my story, what has worked for me, and what has brought me personal health and happiness.

My Past Eating Behaviors, Dieting Patterns, and Food Choices
I have always been passionate about learning about the human body, but up until five years ago, I was more concerned with weight loss and physical appearance, rather than overall health and wellness. That mindset of always wanting to lose weight and reading fitness/women’s health magazines and websites served me no good. I would constantly yo-yo with my plan. I was also a fitness writer, so I exposed myself to a lot of fitness competitors and bodybuilding athletes, who I interviewed for my articles.

For some periods of time, I would try to eat the typical six small meals a day with rationed out protein, carbohydrate, and fat consuming only whole foods and high animal protein. Other times, I would count calories or points, or do some other type of regimented program where there were guidelines to follow or bars and shakes and then a low calorie meal in the evening, or I would eliminate entire groups like carbohydrates. Let’s just say, I tried a lot of things.

However, from a health and sustainability perspective, all the restriction, guilt-shame patterns, and crap I put my body through during those yo-yo periods were terrible for my overall health. And whenever I did lose weight,  shortly after when I could not keep up with that way of eating any longer, I would gain all of the weight back, of course. And round and round we go. This is a typical cycle for many women, especially American women. How many of us have said, “I’m starting my diet/program on Monday!” It is just a shame that many people are still in this cycle, and I understand where they are coming from, because I was once in that mindset too, for many years.

I was never really satisfied. In between those periods of dieting, I would end up eating a mix of “health” foods, whole foods, and standard American diet (SAD) or processed foods; OR, I would binge eat junk foods that I was restricting previously then go back to eating more natural foods and be on a diet again where I would pack all of the meat and vegetables and starch in little tupperware containers in advance. Even now as I write this, thinking back to that time, it was absolutely awful for me. I definitely had a very unbalanced approach to how I treated my mind, body, and spirit.

How I Went From Eating Meat to Becoming a Happy Herbivore
About five years ago, I experienced a whole host of health problems – one of them being chronic digestive issues (I mean, it was bad). Due to my own as well as my family’s medical history, I also wanted to learn about how to prevent cancer and other common diseases. I also had chronic fatigue, skin issues, high cholesterol, and disordered eating tendencies.

Because of my health scares and concerns, I began reading books and peer-reviewed scholarly research articles about health. I began to crave knowledge about how to feel fully alive and fully healthy. I don’t think most people know what that feels like, because I certainly didn’t.

Every book, research study, documentary, and credible resource I had read had a unanimous theme: eat more plants. Could feeling better and curing my health problems really be that simple? I had to learn more, so I did.

eat-more-plants

I then read books like Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Healing the Gerson Way by Charlotte Gerson inspired by her father Dr. Max Gerson, and many other books. I also explored books like Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and one of my favorite books of all time, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. And after that, I just kept reading.

Then one day I decided, I wanted to try to eat plant foods and really be patient and give it a fighting chance.

I adopted a predominantly plant-based diet (95% plant foods), while still consuming some amounts of fish and dairy 1-3 times a month. I was going through many different adjustments with my food choices during the process too, and I learned a lot about my body and myself in the process. After a while, I gave up eating fish and other sea life, because I saw no benefit to it.

During my journey, I tried not to beat myself up over mistakes or slip-ups. In the past, having an all-or-nothing approach did not serve me well at all, and it caused a variety of problems. Learning to be patient and compassionate with myself, has helped me stick with this lifestyle long-term. And as of October 2014, it will be five years since I adopted a plant-based lifestyle, and five years since I ate a land animal (it’s been about four years since I stopped eating fish completely).

maryharris1

And something else interesting happened, even though I started this for selfish reasons ( to get healthy), what has kept me on this path is something I never expected when I initially began. The health benefits are numerous, and I will explain those in a bit; but I also learned about many food injustices, including what happens to animals who are used for meat, dairy, and other products, as well as the mental and physical health issues that plague people who work on factory farms and in slaughterhouses due to the repetitive violence.

It is extremely overwhelming to learn about, and once I was aware of  these issues, there was no unlearning it. I also learned about the alarming environmental impacts of the meat and dairy industry. As someone who loves the idea of taking care of the only home we have – our Earth – this was a very impactful component for me. And finally, from a spiritual standpoint, when I really reflected on my values and beliefs, the way I was living my life previously did not match up with where my moral compass was pointing.

The Health Improvements I Experienced
All of the ailments, health concerns, and issues that I described earlier were resolved. It was incredible. I also had an increase in energy, better self-esteem, and I was kinder to myself and to others. In fact, my demeanor changed for the better. I became a much happier, kinder, and more patient person, overall. Other benefits: I learned what it truly meant to be and feel healthy, I dropped some weight, and I started getting more physical activity into my daily routine. This was the first time in my life that I was treating my body with respect and filling it with optimal nutrition.

I was also so passionate about health, that I went back to school to become certified as a holistic health coach, so that I could help others. And of course, I started blogging and sharing my delicious, plant-based recipes.

plants

For the Animals
I have always considered myself an animal lover. Yet, I would sit at the table and pet my dog with one hand, while consuming a cow or a pig or a chicken with the other. The fact of the matter is I was mentally detached from what was on my plate. After learning that we don’t need to eat animals to survive or be healthy, giving up meat was easy for me. I could never slaughter an animal myself, so I do not think it makes sense for me to eat them. I educated myself about how animals are treated as property instead of as individuals, as sentient beings.

Most people who still eat meat joke (or not) about bacon and how they could never give up bacon. Bacon is just fat from an animal’s belly. It’s gross. I used to love the taste of bacon too. But I love pigs more, and I found a replacement for the taste, by using coconut bacon. I will definitely post a recipe for how to make homemade coconut bacon very soon. Beyond bacon, every food I have ever loved, I have found a way to make it taste 100% incredible in a vegan version. My food tastes better now than it ever did, and in my opinion, the dishes look a lot more beautiful too.

piggies

In terms of dairy, like all mammals, cows only produce milk to feed their young. Dairy is not healthy and should not even be considered a human food option. We are the only species that drinks the milk of another species, and even worse, we do this into adulthood and for many of us this is life-long consumption. How is that sustainable, by the way? Just like humans, cows don’t produce milk because fairies sprinkled dust on them. They are placed into a tragic system where they are forcefully impregnated by a machine while shoved into a holding rack. After the cows have their babies, the babies are taken away and either used for veal or dairy.

“The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf…On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn—only ten yards away, in plain view of his mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth—minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days—were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain.” -Michael Klaper, M.D.

For more information on these topics:
Cows for Dairy
NutritionFacts.org
Brenda Davis, R.D.
Calcium in Plant-Based Diets

baby-jersey-cow

For the Environment
Plant-based eating helps fight against many major issues that plague our planet, including: water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and global hunger.

““We collectively raise, feed, water, kill, and eat over 65 billion animals each year for food …10 times as many people as we have on the entire earth… We have developed a complex system of producing more and more animals that use more and more of our resources, while leaving a massive amount of waste, pollution, and adverse climate change in their wake. … This system…is… heavily intertwined with our culture, politics, economics, and the suppression of the reality of its effect on our planet.”
-Dr. Richard Oppenlander

For More Information on the Environmental Impact:
Dr. Richard Oppenlander
Vegan Outreach
Cowspiracy Documentary

oceans
We must save our oceans and the magnificent creatures within them. Photo credit: Oceanic Preservation Society

Spirituality
The final component for me that changed my life was that this lifestyle has helped me grow spiritually. I believe that spiritual nourishment (whatever that may be for you) is essential for overall health. It could be spending time outside in nature, yoga, meditation, prayer, etc. For me, living a plant-based lifestyle has encouraged me to learn more about growing my own food and connecting more with the earth. I am also more conscious, as a whole. Changing what I ate and shifting my thoughts has been a catalyst for so many wonderful opportunities in my life.

This lifestyle has helped me realize that our bodies are temples to our souls. We must take care of this precious gift of life that we have.

Eating plant-based and becoming more aware has also introduced me to concepts such as living simply and minimalism. I basically don’t live in excess, and I don’t have a lot of unneeded stuff (like I used to).

For More Information on this:
Ralph Smart, Infinite Waters
Angel Detox by Doreen Virtue and Robert Reeves

yoga

ziplining

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is plant-based?
Great question! Different people have varying responses to this question. For me, a plant-based diet is a diet primarily or completely comprised of fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, and whole grains.

2. What do you typically eat in a day?
I am answering this for me personally, but just so you know, there are many, many ways you can eat a plant-based diet. In fact, most people who eat plant-based have more of a variety in their meals.

For me, what I eat depends on the time of year and what I feel like eating at the time. I enjoy seasonal foods, and I love living in a place where there are four distinct seasons. I love gardening with my husband too. I also prepare the majority of my meals at home because it is healthier, I know exactly what is going into my body, and I save a lot of money. Sometimes I eat mostly raw, sometimes I eat more cooked foods. Right now this is what a typical days looks like:

Breakfast: A green smoothie. The one I just enjoyed was a blend of frozen banana, blueberries, spirulina, my homemade almond milk, and a touch of maple syrup. I usually eat fruit for breakfast. One of my favorite smoothies is my orange cilantro smoothie; it’s so simple and so good!

Lunch: I usually have a huge raw, green salad (I mean huge) or a raw zucchini noodle dish. The salads vary depending on what I have at home. One example is: kale, mixed salad greens, carrots, red onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, beets, avocado, topped with flax meal and nutritional yeast, sometimes walnuts, sometimes almonds, or sometimes organic sprouted tofu, etc. I also use lots of fresh and dried herbs, fresh ground pepper, and pink or red sea salt. I make my own salad dressings made from whole foods using my blender.

Dinner: I will make a vegetable stir fry dish, or roasted vegetables with greens, or a crockpot soup like lentil vegetable, or a raw soup like a cucumber dill or carrot ginger with greens or a salad, or vegan pizza, etc. Sometimes I will have a homemade veggie bean burger like sweet potato and black bean with a side of greens and all the fixings. Other nights I will make collard wraps with mashed sweet potato, chickpeas, and avocado, or quinoa veggie bowls. There are so many options, and I enjoy everything!

Snacks and Treats: Fresh fruit like a bowl of grapes, homemade black pepper and sea salt popcorn, homemade smoothies, homemade trail mix, raw cacao treats (real chocolate), or my 3-ingredient cookies.

Drinks: I drink filtered water. I use a Berkey to filter my water. It removes trace elements, chemicals, bacteria, chlorine, and fluoride (if you opt for the fluoride filter attachment). Apart from water, sometimes I will also enjoy organic, caffeine-free tea. I also like to make fresh juices at home, when I feel like cleaning my juicer.

And can I just say, the food is really delicious and so simple to make!

recipes

photo-24

3. Are you vegan?
I am just Mary. I currently self-identitify as someone who enjoys a vegan and whole foods, plant-based lifestyle. I love the vegan lifestyle, but I am not perfect. At the same time, I realize that no one is. Here is a great video on the subject by one of my personal inspirations, Colleen Patrick Goudreau. Sometimes I use raw honey my friend Farmer Leo’s honeybee friends make, because I know the bees are not hurt or robbed of their honey and then fed high fructose corn syrup (it’s a sad fact that most people don’t know about). I won’t just buy honey from the store, and I don’t use honey often at all. My husband and I have honeybees on our property too and I am very passionate about helping honeybees and planting bee and butterfly friendly gardens and not supporting pesticide use. We have even rescued swarms of bees. Vegans will not use any animal products, so honey falls into that category.

For me, I just try to live my life as compassionately and consciously as possible. My first year started by changing the way I ate, and then I started learning about products that are made from animals in general. Ever since, I always make sure that I purchase non-leather belts, cruelty-free shoes, and basically nothing made out of an animal. In a future post, I will talk about eco-friendly fashion, which is not a cut-and-dry topic.

I volunteer to direct a non-for-profit program called The Monmouth Area Vegetarian Society (MAVS). I have been running the nonprofit for three years, and all of our programs are completely free and open to the public and include an educational talk or film screening, and a vegan potluck. I also attended Vegetarian Summerfest for the past two years. Through both of these opportunities, I have met many incredibly inspiring individuals who I have learned so much from. Here is a sampling of pictures of just some of the awesome people who I have met over the years.

Joe Cross, star and director of the documentary film "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead"
Joe Cross, star and director of the documentary film “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”
Jenny Brown, founder of The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary and author of “The Lucky Ones”
Rich Roll, plant-powered wellness advocate, bestselling author, and ultra-endurance athlete
Rich Roll, plant-powered wellness advocate, bestselling author, and ultra-endurance athlete
T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, author of "The China Study" and "Whole", also featured in the documentary film "Forks Over Knives"
T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, author of “The China Study” and “Whole”, also featured in the documentary film “Forks Over Knives”
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy, a 4th generation cattle rancher who after 45 years and a series of events, became vegan. He is an animal rights and environmental activist now.
Howard Lyman, the Mad Cowboy, a 4th generation cattle rancher who after 45 years and a series of events, became vegan. He is an animal rights and environmental activist now.


4. Where do you get your protein?
This is probably the most common question that people who eat plant-based are asked. First, I will share this picture and ask you, where does he get his protein from? That’s right, plants.

gorilla

I recommend these two quick reads for further information:
Slaying the Protein Myth by Rich Roll  and The Protein Myth by The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.

In a nut shell (no pun intended), plant foods provide us all the protein we need, plus countless other health benefits. For any athletes who are concerned with losing muscle, performance levels, or not being bulk enough, this is simply not an issue. Here are some athletes I recommend looking into. They are all plant powered!

frankandantonieyye
Frank Medrano and Antoniette Pacheco, vegan powerhouse couple and calisthenics athletes

Steph Davis, an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer
Steph Davis, an American rock climber, BASE jumper and wingsuit flyer
78-year-old vegan bodybuilder, Jim Morris
78-year-old vegan bodybuilder, Jim Morris

 5. What resources do you recommend for people who are curious about learning more?
In addition to all of the books and films I have already mentioned, check out my wellness resources page for some ideas. Apart from that, there are many books, studies, films, and podcasts to be discovered. There is so much to explore.

226352_1950432047732_8253131_n

Thank you for allowing me to share my story.
Mary Signature