Saturday, October 31, 2009

CSA Week #3

Week 3 of our fall Community Supported Agriculture share and our fridge is getting FULL! So full that the veggies are starting to freeze. We lost most last week's spinach and kale because of this (what good there was went into a soup).

I'm still dealing with the nausea and lack of appetite from my cold/flu (no I'm not pregnant - I checked) and I'm not back into my cooking/baking stride. With last week's bounty, I made a turkey stock

and a tomato veggie soup.

We also had a salad with the romaine lettuce. Most of the fruit was eaten. Still left: beets (which are piling up - I love them, but they're a lot of work), turnips, pears, apples, parsley, avocado, mushrooms, celery, romaine lettuce.

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #3
Carrots (bag) 907 g
Mushrooms 104 g
Leeks (2) 225 g
Pie Pumpkins (2) 1.2 kg
Butternut Squash (1) 1.45 kg
Onions (2) 528 g
Red Kale 455 g
Potatoes (4) 455 g
Pears (5) 920 g
Apples (7) 815 g
Boston Lettuce 201 g
Bananas (4) 925 g
Total - 8.2 kg

Plans for this week's goodies include: soup (yes, more soup!), carrot-zucchini muffins (with frozen shredded zucchini from my own garden), and lots of preserving (see below). We're just 3 weeks in and already I'm a little wiser than when we started.

What I've learned so far:

- Local fall fruit gets boring fast. Every time I come in the door with bananas, which are the first of the CSA fruits to be eaten, my 3.5-year-old (a serious fruit lover) gets very excited. "BANANAS! THANK YOU MAMA!!" he yells. It's really sweet, but a little sad since I feel like I'm depriving him of the other colours of the fruit rainbow. My mom recently brought us non-local strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. It was all I could do not to snatch them from her and devour them greedily all by myself (I'm an even bigger fruit lover than my son).

- One family can only eat so much soup. I've made LOTS of soup already and I foresee more to come. I love homemade soup and so does my husband, but both of us are getting a little sick of soup. I've been freezing over half of what I make and even still we're feeling overwhelmed.

- We're going to have to preserve a lot of what we get because we just don't eat this much food, let alone vegetables. I've borrowed a food dehydrator and I'll be giving it a test run, as I consider purchasing one. I've read that drying kale is a great way to use it, so I'll be starting with that first and then will try the parsley and mushrooms. I've already frozen a bunch of chopped butternut squash and yam, and will probably be doing the same with this week's butternut squash. The apples and pears will get made into sauce and then frozen.

- We most likely will not be doing a winter share (Jan 6 - Apr 2). There will be more than enough leftovers from this share to fulfill most of our needs in the early new year!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

CSA Week 2

I can't believe it's already Saturday and I'm just posting about the CSA I picked up this past Tuesday! (The two kids and I have been sick and that's thrown a wrench in our plans, but more on that later.)

First, what happened with the rest of last week's veggies? I'm ashamed to admit that the spinach bit the dust. I hadn't expected it to go so soon, but alas it wilted and withered and in the green bin it went without so much as a taste taken. Half of the salad greens went too. The beets and mushrooms are still awaiting consumption. The remaining apples went into soup or were eaten by my son. 2 of the pears are still hanging on. Most of the enormous butternut squash went into a Curried Butternut Squash Peanut Butter Soup but only this Thursday. The rest of it has been frozen for either another soup or a squash lasagna.

Here's what I found in my goodie box this week:

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #2
Onions (2) 353 g
Italian Parsley 157 g
Spinach 252 g
Avocado (1) 166 g
Butternut Squash (1 small) 811 g
Yams or Sweet Potato** (2) 897 g
White Carrots (7) 424 g
Mystery Root Vegetable* (5) 310 g
Beets (7) 345 g
Mushrooms 116 g
Apples (7) 787 g
Bananas (5) 918 g
Celery 787 g
Red Kale 284 g
Hydroponic Romaine Lettuce 283 g
Total Weight - 6.89 kg

* Thanks to the help of my father, these have been identified as small turnips. I'd considered posting a pic on Facebook and asking my friends to 'name that root vegetable'!
** I honestly can't tell the difference despite many efforts to educate myself.

I'm planning to make a veggie soup tomorrow with some of the veggies (not sure which yet) with a turkey stock I made on Thursday (also used up some veggies), the fate of the rest is as yet undecided, We're making good progress on the romaine lettuce, but in all this has been tougher week. I've fallen behind in my eating and cooking because I've been sick since last Sunday and have been enjoying a general lack of appetite and bouts of nausea - yippee! So I haven't zipped through the veggies as I'd hoped. Fingers crossed that this week is better.

Friday, October 16, 2009

3 Days Into Our CSA Box

So here we are on day 3 (which would have been day 4 had I picked the box up on time) of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box of organic food. Here's how much we've eaten our way through so far and where it's gone:

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #1
3 red cubanelle peppers - 431 g bread and soup
2 onions - 521 g bread and soup
4 small potatoes - 435 g soup
6 beets - 558 g
5 carrots - 408 g bread and soup
2 heads of broccoli - 740 g soup
1 bunch of spinach - 421 g
1 small bag of salad greens - 159 g
1 extra large butternut squash - 3.5 kg
1 small bag of mushrooms - 136 g
7 apples - 869 g 2 eaten by the boys
5 pears - 435 g 2 eaten by the boys
5 bananas - 728 g eaten by the boys
Total Weight - 9.771 kg 6kg to go

That doesn't look so good, but if you consider that 3.5 kg is one butternut squash (which is destined for a delicious curried butternut squash peanut butter soup), and that I already currently have an enormous load of various types of local apples scattered about my kitchen from other sources, that's not too bad. I've made a cream of broccoli soup, two 2-lb loaves of "garden patch bread", and tonight made a roasted vegetable soup (which, to be fair, also included 5 peppers, an onion, and a large sweet potato all from a local grower and lovingly donated by my mother).

What will I do with the rest? The squash and about 4 apples will go into the above-mentioned soup. I'll make a salad from the spinach and greens. The beets will be roasted and eaten as a side dish. The remaining fruit will be eaten probably by the boys. The mushrooms: I don't know. I forgot to put them in tonight's soup, so I'm not sure.

I'll be posting recipes for any dishes I mention, but they may not go up right away. (I do have 2 very young children after all!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What our family is doing to combat climate change

Thanks to a Facebook update from the David Suzuki Foundation, I was inspired to join I pledged to post a blog today in the category "Mommy and Family". Kind of vague, but nonetheless, it got me thinking: What is my family doing on a very local level to combat climate change

That led me to the next question: What human actions contribute to climate change? Wikipedia says:
Of most concern in these anthropogenic factors is the increase in CO2 levels due to emissions from fossil fuel combustion, followed by aerosols (particulate matter in the atmosphere) and cement manufacture. Other factors, including land use, ozone depletion, animal agriculture and deforestation, are also of concern in the roles they play - both separately and in conjunction with other factors - in affecting climate.

While somewhat informative, the Wikipedia article gives me little guidance as to how I can be of influence, so I kept searching. Back I went to the source of this blog, The David Suzuki Foundation, which has a handy list of things we can do to help slow climate change. I read through them to see how we measure up. Here's my list of what we're doing and where we can improve:

1. Reduce your home heating and electricity use
- We recently completed a Home Energy Audit and spent 18 months upgrading our 50+-year-old home. We replaced our 40-year-old (!) furnace, insulated our roof, attic, and basement, caulked, weather-stripped, changed plumbing fixtures, fixed leaks. In all, we managed to bring our home above the best estimate of improvement of our auditor and got a nice chunk of cash back from the federal and provincial governments (not to mention all our savings in gas, electricity, and water). What else we can do: we didn't fully insulate the basement (couldn't afford it at the time and we were expecting a baby) and we could replace our other toilets and some very old windows and doors.

2. Choose energy-efficient appliances - When buying appliances for our home when we moved in, we did our best to choose energy-efficient ones. In hindsight, we should have opted for a gas stove and clothes dryer as they are more energy efficient.

3. Check the Canadian government’s Auto Smart ratings for the next car you intend to buy to make sure it’s fuel efficient and low polluting - Our cars - a compact and a station wagon - are used, one is made domestically, and both are as fuel-efficient as was possible in their class.

4. Walk, bike, carpool or take transit to get to one of your regular destinations each week
- We combine errands whenever possible to reduce driving. Where we can improve: In good weather DH can cycle to work, I can cycle with kiddies in tow, when going to events without kids I can carpool with others. Public transit within the city is not practical with two young children and DH finds the 20-minute bus ride down the road to work overly long and cumbersome to do on a regular basis. (He's on the bus for 20 minutes then walks for 10 minutes - compared to 10 minutes in the car.)

5. Consider vacationing close to home - That's an easy one since we don't have the funds to do otherwise

6. Choose a home within a 30-minute bike, walk or transit ride from your daily destinations - We chose our current house based on its proximity to DH's work as it shaves 20 minutes (and all the highway driving) off his commute each way. I've got no commute, as I am a stay-at-home-mom

7. Take care of your trash - We recycle, green bin, vermicompost, soon will backyard compost. We attempt to reduce the amount of packaging brought into our home, but it is a challenge. Our 3.5-year-old is toilet trained, our 11-month-old is in cloth diapers except at night. Heck, even our cats 'go' outside most of the time.

8. Eat wisely - If you've read any of my other blog posts, you'll know we're trying very hard in this regard.

9. Learn about how to plan a green, low-carbon wedding - We'll be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary this Sunday, so this doesn't apply to us. However, our wedding was admittedly rather high-carbon, since we were married in Hawaii. It was a small wedding party (only 11 others attended), so that's something. Our reception (in Cornwall, ON) was within easy driving distance for the majority of attendees, but some had to travel from the Toronto area.

10. Take the David Suzuki Foundation’s Nature Challenge to learn more about other ways you can help protect the environment - On my to do list.

11. Go Carbon neutral - Not sure exactly what this entails, but will be reading more about it.

Hmmm, we've got a lot of bases covered here, but this is only part one of the Suzuki Foundation's "What you can do". In future blogs I'll be exploring the following areas: at work, food and climate change, go carbon neutral, take action, David Suzuki's Nature Challenge.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CSA - Yay!

I picked up my first ever CSA box today - what an thrilling experience! It's like Christmas, opening up that box and not knowing what you're going to find inside. (I kept saying "this is so exciting!") I was pleasantly surprised with the bounty I found. (More on that later.) I've been eagerly anticipating our first box for several weeks, so it's a wonder how I managed to forget to pick it up yesterday. Thankfully, we had 24 hours to pick it up before it's given away. So on the way home from preschool, with my 3.5-year-old and 11.5-month-old in tow, we picked up our lonely box. (Technically it had 2 other boxes to keep it company - clearly I wasn't the only one who'd forgotten - but there was a tall stack of empties sitting next to them.)

How did I get here? Well, I've been kicking around the idea of joining a CSA for some time now and after reading "The Dinner Diaries", I was inspired to finally take the plunge. A few weeks ago. I signed up with Plan B Organic Farm in Flamborough. According to their website: "Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) is a system of growing and distributing organic produce that restores the link between the farmers and city dwellers." Basically, you pay ahead of time and then every week you pick up a box full of produce from a local depot. Plan B is a multi-farm CSA, so the summer produce comes from 12 organic farms in southern Ontario. In fall and winter, it comes from "local and imported origin" although you can choose just local (that would mean slim pickin's in the dead of winter). Go to their website to see all the yummy goodies you can get in a box.

I only signed up in September, so I did a single share for Fall 2009, which spans Oct.13-Dec.31. It amounts to $25/week for 12 weeks. It's a real bargain for organic produce and saves so much effort trying to locate a good variety of local food every week. A single share is: "One week's worth of fruit and vegetables - approximately 8-10 items/week, enough for a household with 1-2 adults." To be clear, 8-10 items does not mean 1 apple, 1 pear, 2 potatoes, 1 head of lettuce, etc. Take a look at what came in my first box!

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #1
3 red cubanelle peppers - 431 g
2 onions - 521 g
4 small potatoes - 435 g
6 beets - 558 g
5 carrots - 408 g
2 heads of broccoli - 740 g
1 bunch of spinach - 421 g
1 small bag of salad greens - 159 g
1 extra large butternut squash - 3.5 kg
1 small bag of mushrooms - 136 g
7 apples - 869 g
5 pears - 435 g
5 bananas - 728 g
Total Weight - 9.771 kg

It looks like I'm going to be kept on my toes planning meals around all this fresh produce! I know what to do with these fruits and vegetables, and luckily my family eats everything we received. (My 3.5-year-old son is very excited about all the fruit and was begging to dig in as soon as we arrived home.) I am looking forward to some delicious salads and soups over the next week. I must admit I'm a little nervous, though, about one day finding a lot of strange looking root vegetables in my box. At least this is the easy part of the season!

I intend to track how we fare with our fare. Should it work out well, I'll be signing up for a winter share.

More from the Plan B website:

Why buy produce from Plan B in the fall instead of the supermarket?
- The best selection & value of local and imported certified organic produce
- Plan B "puts local first" in the shares, with stored root crops, local greenhouse greens, and local apples all season long.
- The imported foods in your share are as fresh as you can get. They don't sit out on a store shelf losing valuable nutrients, they go straight from the cooler to you.
-Support Plan B in their ongoing work of developing a local organic farm business by buying from us year round!

Friday, October 9, 2009

My whole family is in Detox

As one of the characters in my son's latest DVD obsession ("Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails") says, "slowly, slowly, gently, gently." That's my motto right now as I attempt to remove as many toxic products as I can from our personal care regime. I've been reading "Slow Death by Rubber Duck" and "Ecoholic" and am learning all kinds of nasty things about what's in our medicine cabinets. My motives are twofold: to remove unwanted chemicals from our lives (and bodies) and to save money in the process.

So I embarked on a journey, filled with perhaps 'too much information', to find better choices for everyday products like shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, hand soap, hand cream, moisturizer, baby body wash, etc. I began by visiting to look up the ratings of the items we're currently using. The result was pretty scary: just about everything turned up high on the hazard scale. From what I can tell, the more heavily marketed brands and the ones always offering free samples and coupons are pretty toxic. Even the stuff for babies is bad! An easy rule of thumb is if it's heavily scented or brightly coloured, it's bad news. After that, you're dealing with specifics and the issue becomes more challenging.

Here's a sampling of our bathroom cabinet contents and their ratings on the Cosmetics Database.

Product Name - Hazard Level (out of 10, 0-2 low, 3-6 moderate, 7-10 high)

Neutrogena T/Gel Shampoo Original Formula - 8
GilletteSatin Care Shave Gel Dry Skin - 8 (in 2007 was 10)
istyle "i'm flexible" molding wax - 8
Pampers Kandoo Foaming Handsoap Pump, Magic Melon - 7
Pampers Kandoo Flushable Wipes, Magic Melon - 7
Glysomed Hand Cream - 7
Gillette Series Shave Gel for Sensitive Skin (men's) - 6
Garnier Fructis Style Curl Shaping Gel Spray - Curls & Shine - 6
Sesame Street Finger Paint Bubble Bath - 6
Huggies Naturally Refreshing Wash for Hair & Body, Cucumber & Green Tea - 6*
Gillette Satin Care Shave Gel Alluring Avocado - 5 to 8*
Banana Boat Kids Dri Blok SPF 30 - 5
Banana Boat Kids Dri Sport SPF 30 - 5
Garnier Fructis Fortifying Shampoo Color Resist - 5
Garnier Fructis Fortifying Conditioner Color Resist - 5
Avon Bubble Bath, French Lilac - 4 to 6*
Gillette Antiperspirant and Deodorant ClearGel, Wild Rain - 4
John Frieda Collection Frizz-Ease Hair Serum - 4
Avon Feelin' Fresh Original Roll-on Antiperspirant - 3 to 6*
Avon Tranquil Moments Roll-on Antiperspirant - 3 to 6*
Dove Beauty Bar Unscented - 3
Thentix Skin Conditioner- not found
* Approximation since specific brand not listed

  • The kid stuff is all between moderate and high on the hazard scale! I mean, come on, children are the most sensitive and there aren't regulations to protect them from scary chemicals being slathered all over their growing little bodies?
  • We've got nothing in the low range.
  • The colour green does not mean "green"!

So having discovered we've got a cupboard full of baddies, I've got two options: turf any unused product right away, or use up what is left and find a nicer replacement. I'm opting for the first one since none of us is showing any adverse effects and I don't want to be wasteful.

Next choice: do we really need to replace it? For the most part, we've trimmed a lot of unnecessary products already, but it's always worth reexamining something. For example, do I really need a hairspray for curly hair? Or an anti-aging serum? Or does my 3.5 year-old need a special body wash and shampoo? The answer to all these questions is no, but those are the easy ones. What about: coal tar dandruff shampoo (for a particular scalp condition), or antiperspirant, or shaving gel?

What do we replace it with? That is a toughie. I've searched through the cosmetics database for products on the low end of the scale in different categories. That part is easy enough. The hard part is finding a place in Canada (the database primarily lists American products) that sells what I want.Comparison shopping for price adds another level of difficulty. Good times! To help me in my quest, I used and printed out my shopping cart to bring with me to my local stores. has free shipping, but their prices tend to be a little higher. If I can't find something near me, I'll order from them. I have yet to buy a single item, but I'm going shopping today. Wish me luck!

I could go on and on about how it seems utterly insane to me that finding products for my family that aren't possible carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, bioaccumulative, etc. should be this hard. Some would argue that there isn't hard proof in the form of human trials for some of these claims. Perhaps, but do we need it? I don't want my family to be lab rats. If there's a better way, I'm looking for it. I'm trying to find a balance (on of my favourite words) between simplicity and convenience, ecological and economical. I'll post my findings as I continue my quest.