Waste Not

attempting to waste less and live more deliberately


Variations on a Pesto

When we discovered the wonder of pesto variations, our lives changed. Ok, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but we definitely ate more pesto!

After reading this wonderful post from The Kitchn: How To Make Perfect Pesto Every Time, we couldn’t wait to give it a try.


“Besides how heavenly it tastes, the other thing I love about pesto is that it can be whatever you want it to be. Traditional Italian pesto is, of course, made strictly with basil, pine nuts, parmesan, garlic, and really good olive oil. It’s a classic sauce, no contest.

But you can switch out the basil for another handy herb or leafy green, replace the (crazy expensive, if delicious) pine nuts with a different favorite nut, or swap the parm for pecorino or asiago. Use more or less of anything to suit your tastes. Heck, you can even make a lower-fat pesto by replacing some of the olive oil with ricotta cheese!

Bottom line: green + nuts + cheese + olive oil = awesome sauce, literally. Whiz it up in a blender and you can’t go wrong.” –The Kitchn

Many Reasons

In addition to being incredibly tasty, a pesto variation allows you to consider cost, seasonality, availability, and gives you a chance to use up what you’ve got!  Can’t afford pine nuts? Try walnuts! Basil not in season? Try parsley, kale, or arugula.

Here is a great site to help get you thinkin’ pesto variations: Love and Lemons 

Use it up

IMG_0319Our inspiration? Some leftover greens. When I realized we also had some parmesan, walnuts, and garlic, dinner had practically made itself.


What would you substitute to turn traditional pesto into frugal pesto?



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How To Turn a Fancy Recipe into an Affordable Meal

PictureI read food blogs, my favorite is called The Kitchn (no typo, that’s how it’s spelled).  Food blogs are great inspiration for the home cook, but every so often you find a recipe that calls for goji berries at $28 a lb. and a little part of you dies inside.

So what to do? Rather than being turned off and deciding fancy food blogs are for the rich and famous, I suggest a different route; hack the recipe!

By cutting corners and a employing a little creativity even the fanciest recipe can be made accessible, because who are we kidding, eating a $30 meal on a week night while watching Netflix just isn’t going to happen.

Note: Modifying recipes is not advisable for all types of cooking. I would say a good rule of thumb is if you can spot each individual ingredient in the finished meal, feel free to modify and play around with the recipe (ie salads, stir fry, entrée and side dish type meals).

How To:

To demonstrate, I will show you how I turned “The Ultimate Bliss Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing”  into a salad I can actually afford. Here is a link to the original mindbodygreen recipe: Ultimate Bliss Salad  (The original is amazing, but so is the low-cost hack! So weigh your options 😉 )

BlissSalad-850x1133The Original MindBodyGreen Bliss Salad

The idea here is to keep the basic feel of the recipe but cut out all non-essentials or swap the expensive ingredients for something more affordable.

Step One: Analyze the Recipe

Ultimate Bliss Original Recipe Calls for…


  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Lacinato Kale
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Red Onion
  • Cooked Quinoa
  • Cooked Lentils
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Goji Berries
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Walnuts


  • Olive Oil
  • White Miso Paste
  • Honey
  • Chopped Scallions
  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • Sesame Oil

As you can see, the original salad has a long list of ingredients! However, from this list I can see that the salad is basically made up of the greens, grains and legumes, some interest items (ie nuts, seeds, etc), and a dressing.  From there, I will categorize and define the essentials…

Step Two: Categorize and Define the Essentials

Now that I know the basic formula for the recipe, I can categorize the ingredients.

Greens: Arugula, Spinach, Kale

Grains and Legumes: Quinoa and Lentils

Interest: Beets, Carrots, Red Onion, Cranberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Seeds, Walnuts

Dressing: Olive Oil, White Miso Paste, Honey, Chopped Scallions, Ginger, Lemon, Sesame Oil

From here, I can see that I will need some greens (not all three!), perhaps I can choose one grain over the other, drop some of the “interest” ingredients that I feel are too costly or unnecessary, and determine what ingredients from the dressing I can drop while still maintaining the essential miso-gingery-ness.

Step Three: Analyzing Ingredients and Choosing What to Buy

Right off the bat, I know that I will use what I already have at home, this includes: Kale, Carrots, Quinoa, Olive Oil, Honey, Lemon.

Now it’s time to shop!

Green: I have kale at home, so I only need one more green and I choose spinach. I love arugula, but three greens in one salad is a little excessive and today I choose the cheaper option to pair with the kale, spinach!

Grains and Legumes: I already have quinoa at home and because I have decided to choose one heartiness item over the other, lentils are out. Sorry lentils.

Interest: Already have carrots at home. Keeping a dried fruit because I feel the sweetness is essential to the salad. I choose currants over cranberries (because I like them more). Dropping the red onions from the recipe because I find them over powering and not essential to the recipe. Keeping hemp seeds and walnuts, but only getting what I need and no more! Definitely dropping goji berries, they are just WAY too expensive. I did choose to keep beets, while I feel they are a bit too expensive, I also feel they are essential.

Dressing: I have most of the ingredients at home, but I do need ginger and white miso which are essential to the salad. I am dropping scallions and sesame oil.

GingerWhen buying fresh ginger, don’t feel bad about breaking off only what you need.

Tip: Buy bulk! For a recipe like this, you only need a very small amount of certain ingredients.  A quarter cup of hemp seeds from the bulk bin will cost significantly less than a large prepackaged bag of them!

So, in the end here is what I cut out: Arugula, Red Onions, Lentils, Goji Berries, Scallions, Sesame Oil.

PictureMy frugal take on the Bliss Salad. YUM!

Total savings of about $10! It’s the little successes that count!


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Your home away from home, the office…

The breakdown: 8 hours at work, 6 hours awake at home, 1 hour in the car, 9 hours in bed.


If you are like me, you spend a whole lotta time at work. For this reason, when attempting to make a lifestyle change (no matter what the change may be) it would be a mistake to only focus on home sweet home.  So today, we are focusing on creating a Waste Not Office!


  • Recycling – This one is pretty obvious. If your office doesn’t already recycle, encourage them to! If they refuse, bring a bag to work, collect your recyclables everyday and then take them home to finish the job. You may feel silly doing this, if you do, google image “landfills” this should give you enough motivation; and who knows, maybe your boss will admire your dedication and give this whole recycling thing a second look! OR they will think you are a weirdo, either way its a win win!
  • Learn your companies recycling policy on the odd items like batteries, printer cartridges, and the like.
  • Purchase post-consumer recycled office materials like envelopes, paper, and the like.stack of paper

a shameful pile of print happy

  • Don’t get print happy! Only print when necessary and when you do, print double sided, reduce the font, and single space when able.
  • Check and double check all documents before printing! How sad to have to reprint a whole document just because of one little error!enotes
  • Hand written notes vs. electronic notes. Weigh the options and choose what works best for you. (hint, the electronic method involves less paper waste)
  • Use it up! If you must take physical notes as I sometimes do, make sure you get the most out of that paper! Singles space, both sides, cover that paper with chicken scratch before you must recycle it!
  • Consider using a dry erase board.
  • Put a cap on it! By storing your pens and markers correctly, you can extend their life.
  • Details, details, details. Consider using paperclips that you can use over and over rather than staples.holder
  • Get creative rather than buying new plastic desk organizers. A tin can makes a perfect holder and a stack of paper is perfect for elevating a monitor. moniter stack
  • Cut back on the trips. I understanding wanting to get away during a break,but trust me that coffee down the road is not worth sitting in noon time traffic, wasted gas money, and filling the air with smog. Not relaxing!
  • Carpool, take public transit, walk or ride your bike.
  • Pack your lunch and snacks! Saves money on gas, save money on food, and likely what you bring will be healthier and involve less packaging.Picture 003
  • Create a happy place! Investing in a stash of high quality teas has helped me cut back on unnecessary trips into town to spend way too much money on mediocre coffee. If your happy place involves coffee, make it at work using a personal french press or coffee cone.
  • Love k cups but hate the waste? Check out their reusable options. favorite mugs
  • Find mugs and glasses you love! Not only will this encourage you to hydrate more and refuse disposable cups, you will also feel fancy.
  • Bring your own dishware and utensils to work. Disposables are simply not an option.

Just be aware of how much you use. The office is full of waste; probably because we feel no real ownership of the place, after all, it’s not our home.  This is understandable, but I would venture to say that the waste we create is our own and we should take responsibility for it no matter where we are.

How do you create a waste not office?


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Happy Fair Trade Valentines Day!


Chocolate! Mmmmmmmm, the sweet taste of….Child Slave Labor?

Sorry to chocolate rain on your chocolate parade (anybody get the reference?), but the bitter truth is hard to swallow. The good news is, there is a better way that is quite satisfying.

If you are anything like me, the first thing you think about when you are given a bar of chocolate is How fast can I get this in my mouth?

Turns out, you may want to give pause for another though, like How did this bar of chocolate come to be?

In an effort to keep things short and sweet, below are a few well written and highly informative articles regarding the topic and below that, there are some tips on how to enjoy chocolate sans cruelty.

The Art Of Simple 

The far majority of chocolate is in our stores because of forced child labor. And unless we tell the guilty companies that this isn’t okay, this will keep happening.

Read more HERE.

Grist, A Beacon In The Smog

Just in case these weren’t reasons enough to steer clear of the big brands, you can also expect your drugstore chocolate to be filled with everyone’s favorite ingredient: GMOs. (Hershey and Mars are reported to have spent a combined $1 million-plus to defeat California’s Prop 37.) So all of the dicey politics and questionable science you taste in your cornflakes are in your Russell Stover’s chocolates, too.

Read more HERE.

Rage Against The Minivan

But honestly, what concerns me even more is that we, as consumers, are not demanding that this be stopped.  People continue to buy chocolate even after learning about the harm to children in Africa.  I’ve heard excuses from people in my own life that sound pretty similar to the ones I made in the coffee post.  We rationalize that we can’t afford fair-trade.  We joke about how addicted we are.  We justify that we can’t change everything.  And I think secretly, we don’t relate because these are kids in a far-off country, and not our own.  It’s okay as long as we don’t have to see it happening right in front of us.

Read more HERE.

Action Item

Eat chocolate, fair trade chocolate that is!


What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.

Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers lack economic opportunity and often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.

Fair trade is much more than just trade. At the core of the fair trade model is a direct, cooperative, and in-depth relationship between buyers and sellers that keeps all of the principles of fair trade at the forefront.

What Does that Really Mean?

Fair Trade is about making a tremendous impact on artisan and farmer communities while offering great products to the public.

Fairly traded clothing, coffee, food, furniture, home decor, housewares, jewelry, tea, toys, personal accessories, and many other products are available from Fair Trade Organizations. Communities are improved; nutritional needs met; health care costs are covered; the poor, especially women, are empowered; the environmental impact of production, sourcing, and transport is mitigated to the fullest extent possible. Such an impact is created because Fair Trade approaches development as a holistic process.

visit fairtradefederation.org for more info.

My Chocolate of Choice….


Not only does Madecasse employ fair trade practices, they also cut the supply chain thus decreasing excess costs thereby increasing the flow of income directly to the farmers. Another benefit of a shorter supply chain is the increased transparency which protects both the producer and the consumer.

infographic-1Also, it tastes amazing! Learn more HERE.

What’s your favorite fair trade sweet?



Let’s Talk Money

Before you do anything, watch this video. No joke, watch it….now. If it is taking more than 2 seconds to load, don’t get frustrated and skip it. Pause it, let it load, go do the dishes while it loads, come back and watch it.

While this web-log has primarily illustrated low-waste living, I am moved to add financial health and frugality to the mix. I hope you will find it useful, thought provoking and even entertaining at times. I encourage you to share your insight, tips, and musings on the topic.

I am not going to pretend to be a financial expert; I merely hope to start a dialogue on a topic which seems to make so many people uncomfortable, including myself.

No matter if you agree with my thoughts or not; what matters is that you participate in the conversation. The best solutions come from a diverse group of thinkers.

Money Matters

“After a certain point, money is meaningless. It ceases to be the goal. The game is what counts.”

–Aristotle Onassis

Nicely put and I can understand the sentiment, but it should be noted that Aristotle Onassis was extremely rich and likely did not have to consider how he was going to pay his rent or feed his family.

On the other hand, ask someone struggling financially, and money likely means a great deal. It can mean being able to feed your family, spending time with loved ones rather than working multiple jobs, sending your children to college, running water, and retirement.

In the current economic structure, money means a great deal.

I often daydream about a Utopian future where we won’t need to work multiple jobs to get by, where people can follow passions rather than pay, when the health of the country isn’t measured by the GDP, or a time when those who choose to stay home and raise children won’t have to worry about facing eviction or judgment.

While these are possibilities important to study and work towards, it is equally important to discuss ways in which we can help others and ourselves survive and thrive today. I hope to be a part of that conversation.


Flowing Hair and Draped Bust dollars were the first silver dollars struck by the U.S. Mint during the nation’s early years.  Personally, I wish they would have chosen the Wild Turkey over the Bald Eagle. Alas.

As a child I hated money; until recently I thought money was evil and having copious amounts was a sure sign of a bad person.  Now, I know it’s not money I hate, it’s the worship of money that I find so destructive.

Does money talk make you uncomfortable?


P.S. – Curious about the Wild Turkey comment?:

“Others object to the Bald Eagle, as looking too much like a Dindon, or Turkey. For my own part I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk (Osprey); and when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him.

With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

I am on this account not displeased that the Figure is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a Turkey. For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.” — Benjamin Franklin

Franklin knows what’s up.

North American Wild Turkey

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A Low Waste Take on an Ingenious Pin

With so many fantastic ideas bouncing around the web, one can’t help but feel inspired.  Recently, while spending way too long on Pinterest (no regrets, it totally paid off), I found this little gem of an idea…

ImageLinking to this site: HERE

Most of my pinning inspirations are filed away for a rainy day. However, this pin was different and extremely relevant; I hate cleaning the bathtub and am obsessed with any recipe that involves vinegar.

No joke, the moment I found this pin I called Sam and stated that we must walk to Sur La Table after work so I can buy a scrubbie wand and turn this pin into a reality.

Fortunately, it was too cold to walk to Sur La Table (50 degrees in SoCal, try not to laugh east coast friends), affording me some time to sleep on it.

After a good rest, I resolved that while the scrubbie wand seems very convenient, there is probably a better (low waste, low cost) way. Here is what I came up with:


Low waste, costs zero dollars, saved me a trip to the store and it works!

While this low waste take may not be as glamorous, I can’t help but be happy knowing we are sticking to our waste not/frugal constitution.

Here’s How:

  • A container of some sort begging to be reused rather than pitched
  • 1 part dish soap (check out the story of our dish soap here: Refill to You)
  • 1 part white distilled vinegar
  • An old scrubbie sponge (no longer suitable for the kitchen, but perfect for the bathroom)
  • A cup (avoid anything breakable as you will be using it in the shower)

Step 1: You just finished your shower. Before getting out take 1 minute to clean a section of your bath/shower. (If you want to tackle the entire shower/bath, go for it. However, I think this routine may be easier to stick to long term if you only clean a section at a time. I promise, If you clean a small section after every shower, that will be enough.)

Step 2: Wet the sponge and apply a quarter size amount of your soap/vinegar solution.

Step 3: Start scrubbing in circular motions. In extra grimy spots, use a little elbow grease.

Step 4: Fill the cup with clean water and rinse off the soap. Repeat this until rinsed clean.(This step is for areas of the shower/bath that the water from the shower head can’t reach.)

Step 5: Rinse and wring out your sponge.

Step 6: Get out of the shower, pat yourself on the back, start your day!


shower cleaning supplies lives on the ledge

How does it work, you ask?

Wonderfully! I have tried so many shower cleaning products with God knows how many chemicals and this is by far the best! If you would like you can add an old tooth brush to the mix for extra scrubbing power.  Just make sure you let your partner knows what’s up so they don’t mistakenly use it in their morning fogginess.

Happy low waste cleaning!


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Create a Wildlife Friendly Garden

Curious about attracting wildlife to your garden? Then visit Descanso Gardens!

Who: Lecturer Dr. Alan Pollack of the San Fernando Audubon Society

What: A one hour lecture where you will learn the basic elements for attracting wildlife — mostly birds and butterflies — to your green space. This event is a part of the “Get Dirty: A Garden Series by Descanso”.  Public admission to the Gardens and the lecture is free of charge. 
When: February 18th, 2014 at 2pm

Where: Descanso Gardens, located in La Canada, California 


His yard wasn’t always such an attraction. When Pollack, a retired psychiatrist, and his wife, Patti, moved into the home in 1968, the property had a front lawn, a concrete driveway and Algerian ivy in the back. “It was a mess,” he says. But all that changed when he retired in 1995. He began ripping out the grass, putting in new plants, creating the dry creek bed and having someone install a running creek in the back. In addition, there are solar panels on the roof, a compost pile in the back corner and a rain barrel catching water near a downspout. Pollack is convinced anyone can do the same. And once you do, it pays off. The only maintenance is a heavy pruning once a year, pulling the few weeds that crop up in the garden (but mulch has made that a minimal problem) and watering occasionally. In return you attract the beauty of nature – birds and butterflies to your yard. — Sharyn Betz (read the rest HERE)