I can’t afford to buy _______!

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How many times do we hear and say that we can’t afford to buy organic, healthy, sustainable, or whatever food? You can buy large, cheap quantities of food usually for less money than their healthier counterparts.

I’d like to challenge that idea by looking at it in this way- you can buy the better, smaller, more delicious version of food that you want if you eat less of it, and don’t waste it.

It is ridiculous how much food is wasted in our homes, not to mention the almost 30% before it even gets to our grocery stores because it is not cosmetically perfect. We sometimes forget we even have it, or don’t use it in time and it gets tossed out. That money for the cheap stuff you throw out, could have been put towards that more expensive food you wanted. I am not even talking about the environmental and poverty aspects in this particular post, which are huge factors.

Most people in wealthier countries eat too much anyway. I’ll focus on USA for now, where more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of adults are considered to be overweight or obese.

I’m getting to a grassroots level of what we as consumers can do to change the world. We can vote with our money for the healthiest foods for ourselves, the animals and the environment.

Although I don’t eat meat, suppose you do. I think with the meat and dairy industries, all price savings come with a huge cost elsewhere. I know we all can agree this is not what we want to support.

There are costs to everything we consume, I’m just saying we can do A LOT better.

For our family, I have made it a personal challenge to see what creative way I can use what I have on hand in order to extend the time between grocery store visits. By having a lot of rice, beans, lentils, pasta, canned veg and non-perishables in the pantry, my vegetables can be used in all sorts of ways. Stir fry, roasted, soups, curries, and more.

Sometimes it looks like our refrigerator is very bare- and with two big kids with huge appetites, that is hard to avoid! However, if your refrigerator is so full that you cannot locate your leftovers, or even see what is in the back, you will end up wasting food.

I’m lucky enough to be able to go to the grocery store and replenish my supply easily, so I don’t feel like I need to stockpile perishable items.

The best way to use everything, is to follow a meal plan, so you know what you need exactly and you know how you will use it. I used MealMentor. Or, get really ambitious and plan for the whole month and freeze things.

If you aren’t into planning or like to be creative, try making it a game- play Top Chef: make it a culinary challenge to produce a meal from random ingredients. Hint: the key is having condiments and spices. If I have lemon and garlic, I can usually come up with something!

Just for fun, I took a photo of my refrigerator contents (shown above). It looked really bare with milk and some of the condiments on the side, so I added the bowl of fruit that usually sits on the table, and took the vegetables out of the drawers, a bit staged. I usually don’t have two loaves of fresh bread, but have one in the freezer.

It may not look like much for a family of four, but I can see what I have, and am going to make sure I use it all.

 

Please share your ideas, meal planning, or fridge photos! #wasteless


Animal Rights- what does that mean to you?

After hearing the Animal Rights Conference would be on the West Coast in July, I thought about going. Then, I thought about how I am vegan not only for the animals, but also for the environment and people. What would the sessions be like? I wasn’t sure if I fit the mold of activist that attends these types of things. I am way more concerned about big issues being addressed first, than every single smaller issue if that makes sense. I see the connection between how we think of animals in general as needing to shift, but worry that we lose people if we talk more about horseback riding than factory farming and ocean depletion. I asked a fellow pragmatic vegan advocate, and he told me it was not too radical. And, then met Seth Tibbott, Tofurky founder who encouraged me to go.

So, after missing the early bird deadline I bought my airline ticket and will be headed back to LA in July… even though I swore I’d never return to the vicinity after last year’s heat wave in October.

I don’t know what to expect yet, but I am excited to be meeting with people I’ve met online coming from Europe to attend, as well as all the other people committed to making sure animals have a voice.

Animal Rights is an interesting topic, definitely from a philosophical standpoint. I know most people agree we should not torture and abuse animals, even though we have designated some animals as being exempt from this. Is it based on cuteness, intelligence, endangered status or just cultural taste preferences? If you are interested in this topic, Melanie Joy has written an exceptional book, “Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows”  or you can watch her TED talk here.

It is a huge shift to actually rethink how we were taught by our society and culture to consider animals as our property and to use however we wish. But, we have had changes in history on how we’ve thought of slaves, women, Jewish people, and other groups. You may not consider this an equal comparison, but similar rationalizations have been used.

I am constantly listening to other perspectives from small dairy farmers to relatives, take a moment and think about if there is some truth to the idea of speciesism. If you love and care about an animal- a dog or cat perhaps… why are other animals not deserving of protection? I used to tell my child (and myself), that it was okay to eat animals because we bred them for that purpose. Why is that okay to breed them only to live a very short, miserable life? See lifespan.

And like the golden rule found in most religions, “do unto others as you would have done unto you”. What if the roles were reversed? Weird, right?

If these ideas are not something you want to consider, the environmental aspect still covers us all. The animals are linked to us, and keeping the Earth habitable for as long as possible is in all of our best interests.


Being a Veg Guest

I had been thinking about a trip to Arizona for over a year, as my grandmother is getting close to 90 and refuses to travel, and I have other relatives in the area who I really wanted to visit.

After finally booking a flight, I realized that I haven’t been in that particular situation with people outside my parents and sister, where I would be staying in someone’s home, but having special diet requirements. Do you say, “please don’t worry about accommodating my vegan lifestyle”– therefore implying that they possibly should be worried? Believe me, it is not enjoyable to feel like you are creating any type of difficulty for anyone.

My aunt said it would be no problem, and she was going to try out new recipes. I later found out she even tried being vegetarian for one week.

We arrived and found she had purchased Costco-sized vegan treats like hummus, pita chips, sweet potato fries, chocolate covered dried mango, dried nuts and fruit, and rice ramen. She also made me my own kale/white bean soup to take to my grandma’s the next day. So much for not being any extra work! She went out of her way to make sure I had delicious vegetable pastas and grilled vegetables to eat at every meal, and it was much appreciated.

I tried finding a vegan restaurant in the area for one meal we ate out, but there really weren’t many options in the retirement suburbs outside of Phoenix. There were veg-friendly options like Chipotle or ethnic restaurants, just not the plethora we have in Portland.

My grandmother lives in a retirement home and is quite content to eat just two meals a day at the restaurant in her building. Her refrigerator is stocked with some light beer, and her freezer with ice cream, and that is about it. She says she hates all vegetables, and doesn’t understand or want to know what veganism is about.

Besides grandma, I felt like there were some good open discussions with others. I left with a better understanding of what challenges people face who are considering making a change. Listening more than talking is really important. Finding common ground, and figuring out practical concerns are key. Most people who did have an interest in talking about it, actually are open to the idea.

They understand that there are environmental concerns and animals treated inhumanely. It just seems very difficult to switch up everything they know about cooking and planning meals. For example, that cooked vegetables are harder to freeze or keep as leftovers than meat. People struggle with trying to make food that their families will eat that is not too difficult, expensive and tastes good. It has to be a lot easier.

I’m pretty convinced we could reach a better place in the world if the vegans would really listen to what the omnivores are saying, and vice versa. Although it can be hard to go against the flow, we can’t make changes and have conversations unless we do stand for a big change.

Beyond the great learning experience for me, and hopefully planting positive seeds, I still don’t know what advice to offer in this type of situation. Have an awesome aunt who will cater to you? I’m just lucky in that area. What are your ideas on how to make that work? How to make sure people aren’t stressed in advance? Comment with ideas for your best meals to make in this situation.

 


Green Acres Sanctuary trip

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A couple of weekends ago, my daughter and I went on a group field trip with other Portland-area vegan families to volunteer at Green Acres Farm Sanctuary out in Silverton.

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We had been to Out to Pasture a couple of times, and really enjoyed seeing the animals living their lives without interference or expectation. I can’t describe it really, it just feels different. I think this video gives you a good sense of the environment, and photos say it better than words.

It is what I imagine heaven would be like. That may sound crazy, but you can feel the peace of the animals, and the beauty of the surroundings.

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The people who run these farm sanctuary organizations are so compassionate and rely on volunteers and donations to keep them going. I hope you’ll consider spending time and/or money to support rescued animals.

Our job was to clean out one of the sheep sheds. Not too bad, and very satisfying to spend an hour or so shoveling out old straw and manure, adding clean straw and giving them fresh water. Kids pitching in and using wheelbarrows and rakes is good for them!

It was a fun experience to go with other families, and we ended up staying quite awhile afterwards meeting each other, sharing food, recipe ideas, and similar experiences. I hadn’t realized before that was missing from my life. I am just used to being the odd one out. Very nice to balance that with people who understand a different perspective too.

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Did I mention in addition to all the more common farm animals, they have a hinny?

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And baby animals?

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Not to mention, they happened to have about 9 wiggly puppies at that time!

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Check out their website for the next work party and to read about the animals! We look forward to our next visit.

 

 


Make it Earth Day, every day!

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I celebrate Earth Day every day in some way, and it feels great. The more people join forces together, will make it even easier. From saving water to battling climate change, making your diet “greener” is something everyone can do! Click on the graphic below to learn 7 ways your food choices can help the planet for people and animals.

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How can I make a difference?

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I want to be a friendly resource for those who may not have considered a plant-based lifestyle.

There are so many logical and strong arguments to change; from huge environmental impact, to animal cruelty, to health reasons, that we simply cannot continue our current path as our population grows and lifestyles of Western consumption spread. It is not illogical, just unpopular. I believe we just need to make it as easy as possible for people to adopt.

The frustrating part is that although I believe in my message and passion, I haven’t grown my readership past my own personal friends- or just slightly beyond that. I am extremely grateful to these people, but those who know me, probably won’t tell me the hard truth. I want to talk to non-vegans, from “carnivore” to vegetarians, so that is pretty much 99% of the people out there- I need to know what will make them interested in this subject. I’m not here to preach to the choir of those who already agree!

At first I hoped to simply raise awareness in a fun way by using art: illustrating veg food on instagram and the blog, making info graphics that would make the data easier to visualize.

Then I tried posting about articles that I felt consumers would want to know– like how some chicken is shipped to China. Or, environmental issues.

I added resources on HOW to make changes, to make small steps, or have a trial period.

Still not gaining more interest, I just posted my own personal lifestyle posts about our family, hoping to just be somewhat interesting enough to engage.

And now, I am feeling that the bigger obstacle is just the newness of people learning how to eat and cook without animal products.  To that end, I think recipes and meal planning are the most important hurdles.

I want to use my time wisely… how can I best help you?


I’m proud of trying to change the status quo

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Four years ago I started down a path that has changed my life. It has given me a way to align my heart and my actions. It opened my eyes to another way of viewing the world and our relationship to other species that I had previously ignored. It made a huge impact to our family.

I stopped eating meat, fish, dairy and eggs or buying any products made from animals. In February 2012, I took a one month vegan challenge.

More than just the physical act of eating a different diet, it was very difficult for me to go against the flow of how I grew up, traditions, social gatherings. In fact for many years I tread a line where I was mostly vegan, but would not necessarily call myself one.

Because many people get a very negative association from the word “vegan”. There are some stereotypes of radical, judgmental and angry vegans that have turned many people away from the word, including myself.

Then, I realized that I have to stand for what I believe in. I am proud of being compassionate, peaceful, and not wanting to cause harm. I’m okay with extending the acceptable love of animals to include ALL animals.

I vote proudly with how I spend my money.

I’m proud that I have never written anything on the internet that I am ashamed of, that I regret. I do not criticize, mock or am rude to others who do not share my beliefs. I hope to be a positive example, and a friendly and pragmatic vegan.

If I don’t stand up as a positive, non-radical, business owner, designer, mother, it won’t help the word vegan to become more mainstream and accepted.

The more you open your heart and your mind to the health, environmental, and animal issues… it really just makes a lot of sense.

I want to change the world to be kinder, less violent, and sustainable for all. I am very proud to no longer contribute to the horrific factory farms, and on that point I definitely feel there is common ground we can all find. The cruelty, pollution, disease, and destruction does not make sense. Let’s start there and move forward together. We have strength in numbers. Even if you would not call yourself a vegan… vote with your money and your choices. You can make a difference in the world, and for the future.

 

This post is part of the Live Your Legend blogging challenge.

 


What do people thank me for?

Or, what would I be happy and excited to do even if I weren’t paid?

Funny enough, I have had almost a year to experience this. Although I have retained my design firm, I am also doing a lot of work that only pays in feeling good.

I’m not sure I can answer this question completely at this point. I have always thought design, art and illustration are what I love and where my skills lie. Sometimes I wonder if this is just the default thought pattern, and where I have spent my 10,000+ hours. It is definitely what people thank me for, but I don’t know if it what makes me happy and excited. The creative process has always been stressful, but I think that is a common issue with artists, writers, and others.

If I truly could name one thing that makes me happy and excited- it is travel, new experiences, exploring foreign countries. I love it.

What I have learned is that integrating my life with what I care about is great.

I’ve learned that I don’t have a community.

I’ve learned that now that I have space and time, I have to let go of excuses that running on the work treadmill gave me. If I don’t cook, clean, exercise or parent well, I no longer can think it is because I am just too busy and working too hard.

I’m most happy and excited when I am productive creating things. I’m excited when I am not just making promises, but actually delivering them. When people appreciate and thank me for helping with a worthwhile project, that feels really good.

This post is part of the Live Your Legend blogging challenge.


What really makes you angry about the world?

This post is part of the Live Your Legend blog challenge. I want to be more involved in the LYL community (and hopefully win a ticket to WDS).

What really makes me angry in the world is that wealth and “wants” are the priority. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last four years researching climate change, factory farm cruelty, droughts, health issues, environmental devastation and more. I’m surrounded by good people with families who I’m sure care about the future… yet, they are not fully informed or motivated to make any changes.

Are we just hearing “blah, blah, blah” when climate scientists talk about rising ocean levels destroying large coastal cities? Or, do we think these events all over the world are not connected? Although 97% of climate scientists agree that we are headed for calamity… we ignore these signs for the most part, maybe thinking there is nothing we can do.

We know population growth is on the rise, and that now China and India are now using more fossil fuels and resources than ever before, but we continue to do things the same way we have done in the past, and expect that everything will just work out. We are going into uncharted territory here with the amount of resources available for more people than ever, within my kids’ lifetimes.

For those just meeting me, I write and draw about eating for the future. Eating is something we do at least 3 times a day, and we vote for our future with every choice and purchase. It is estimated that our dependence on livestock, and their grain and water requirements constitutes more than all transportation combined. It is connected and affects all the major issues I mentioned.

Pretty big deal. So why are Americans eating an average of 200 lbs of meat/year over twice the 75 lb/year world average?  Look to who is profiting from the sale of meat, dairy and eggs. 99% of our meat comes from Factory Farms. Factory Farms were designed to squeeze every bit of productivity from animals by making them grow faster, have less space, and die sooner for as much profit as possible. Over 80% of the meat production in the US are owned by just a few giant agribusinesses who buy up smaller brands to look more organic…. Tyson, Foster Farms and Perdue. They will do everything in their power to protect their own interests.

Until we start caring about what these billion-dollar companies are doing, they will continue to hide the truth from us with politics, ag-gag laws, pollute our water without penalties, send chicken to China for processing and back to sell without even labeling it, subsidize their products with our money, and waste water, rain forests and land. We will have to eat less meat to change the world.

I’m not touching on the antibiotics being overused to keep these animals alive in close, unhealthy conditions or the known health and safety issues to people. I’m also not talking about the over-fishing, destroying the oceans. So many reasons to avoid an inefficient and cruel system.

I’m angry because we can make a difference, yet we choose our desire to eat bacon, or convenience of using cow’s milk, over the most important issues which will affect ALL people and animals. The worst consequences you can imagine.

In order to be effective in making change, I have to keep this anger in control. I choose not to rant about these issues or put people in such a defensive position they won’t listen. The anger does keep me motivated, but I direct that towards the factory farms, not those who have not yet understood. We can find a common ground there. I will use the skills and talents I have been developing over the last 20+ years, and use design, art and illustration to catch the attention of people numbed to the graphic photos and bored or immune to statistics, articles and numbers. I will help people and organizations who are making a difference in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Finding a community and balance

This is a personal post about my perspective. I’ll be back to my normally-scheduled news, recipes and illustrations shortly…

The more I have been involved in vegan advocacy and activism, the less connected I have felt with my “community” of friends. It could be several things… I tend to be introverted so I really need to make more of an effort just to invite people over. I am sometimes concerned that I am putting myself in a place where friends or family might feel my veganism is an issue. I really worry about making things difficult in social situations by asking for food without animal products, while at the same time realizing that making a big social change is pretty much impossible to do easily.

Recently there was a situation where a very nice invitation came into my inbox about a special dinner for my son’s school extended beyond an initial paid group to include auction volunteers and sponsors. I played a very small role in even my volunteer efforts, just helping for one day. It was not a dinner that I would have signed up for as I knew it would probably not be vegetarian, definitely not vegan. There were at least a couple of options- don’t say anything and don’t go, or ask if there will be a vegan option available and go. Since I knew that there was at least one other vegan volunteer, I thought I would just ask. Just not showing up to things does not help make veganism more mainstream.

The person in charge of food kindly offered to look into it, but since egg is a major ingredient, wasn’t sure what to do. Being a pain in the ass is just not something I enjoy. I used to be the person that when asked by hosts if there were any food requirements, would say, “I eat anything” and felt good about being so easy.

There is a line between concern for others’ comfort, or the greater concern of the planet, the animals, and the future population. I can’t/won’t apologize for wanting a more peaceful, compassionate and healthy world especially as the stakes are raised. I think most people would want that, it is just hidden from easy view behind those who profit, traditions, habits and status quo.

I have tended to stay involved but on the outskirts of our wonderful vegan community in town,  just because I felt that it was more important for me to socialize and be part of my non-vegan circle. While it is comforting to go to parties and groups where the food is all vegan and everyone is more or less on the same page about the same animal issues, I don’t need to preach to the choir. I’m also a little concerned about being even more immersed in vegan culture than I already am. I am at a point, 4 years into this journey, that I remember clearly what it was like not to notice or care about the things I am aware and care about now. I understand and have compassion about how it is not an easy transition to make. I don’t want to forget these things by surrounding myself only with like-minded people. I honestly want to have open conversations with people, meet where we can, not to make judgments.

Lately, I have felt like I really need the Vegan communities support. That I don’t want to feel alone all the time. I’ll make an effort to balance the two groups moving forward. And also, to try to not be overly sensitive (something which I have struggled with all my life). I want to have deep friendships with a variety of people, but I can’t ignore what has been uncovered, which is at the core of my being.

I’m excited to seeing changes happening in the world which will draw everyone closer together. Research and studies proving that eating less meat is beneficial for everyone. In the next 5-10 years I hope that having a vegan option for the many people who would pick that, will be something that is just accepted and part of life. It will no longer be the difficult guest situation, or even radical. Our future is moving towards that in any case. You know we’re mainstream when even Fox news is saying it!