You don’t have to live out in the country to live a more sustainable life.
You also don’t have to be a stay at home mom/housewife/house husband or stay at home dad in order to cook more home made meals or start making your own detergents, cleaners or anything else around your home.
Batch cooking and slow cookers are two of the best ways to make homemade meals when you and your spouse/partner work part/full time.
Batch cooking is best done on a day off when you can spend several hours prepping at once and a slow cooker just requires tossing the meal in the cooker in the morning, setting it to low and leaving it as you are heading to work. When you get home, you have your dinner ready.
Batch cooking can help with giving you a week worth of frozen, easy to fix meals. Just cook everything at once then portion out into tupperware- when you need something fast, toss in the microwave like a microwave meal and you have a healthy, home made meal fast.
There is a whole organization devoted to helping with urban homesteading, if that’s what you’re interested in trying. Urban homesteading is the city version of modern day traditional living- gardening, home baking and cooking, even growing your own grain can be included, collecting rainwater, making your own detergents/cleaners and hygiene products and can go as far as sewing your own clothing and other cloth items.
Some tips to get started-
If it’s legal, collecting rain water can be done in a small area. Check and make sure it’s legal and make sure the barrel or item you’re using is safe.
Rainwater is as natural as it gets and it’s free. If you collect enough, it will save you on your water bill and it helps when you live in areas prone to various problems (it can help if you live in a drought prone area or if run off and pesticide use is a concern, here is further reading about rain water harvesting)
There are special lights sold to help tomatoes grow indoors. All it takes is a small enough area to put a pot and they have special pots to help grow tomatoes in small areas and inside your home.
Regardless if you have very little yard or no actual yard, if you can put something like a table or stand next to a sunny window, you can grow some plants indoors. You can also start a container herb garden on your kitchen counter.
Cleaning and Personal Hygiene
Making chemical free cleaning products as well as detergents, shampoo, soaps and deodorants are another easy way to make your life a bit greener.
Pinterest is a huge resource for recipes for any kind of cleaner or personal hygene product you can find. If you have vinegar, it’s a great start. If you clean a countertop with straight white vinegar, you can disinfect. It also works for a lot of other cleaning that I’m putting into a different blog post.
Baking soda helps as well. With it’s gentle but rough texture, it helps polish and can help get harder to remove stuff off dishes and other harder to clean items.
Borax is also a great tool to have in your inventory. Others that work alone or in combo are
1. lemon juice/lemons
2. Castile soap
There will be other ingredients added but it will depend on what you’re using. Baking soda helps whiten teeth and peroxide can help as well. Baking soda also helps with exfoliating your face (gentle exfoliation) and salt can be added to coffee and coconut oil as an anti-aging exfoliant. Put lavender oil in instead of coffee and it can soothe skin and help with relaxation.
Salt is abrasive, it can be gentle as a facial or body exfoliant but can also be rough enough to help get grease off a pan.
Alcohol cleans cuts and scrapes. It hurts but it disinfects. Using pure rubbing alcohol also helps kill various pests and helps sterilize.
You can either buy reusable shopping bags from most grocery stores, Etsy or you can sit down with a sewing machine and make them yourself.
Not only do they take up less room than that huge plastic bag filled with plastic bags, they hold more (less trips to the car) and they can be used more than plastic bags.
They don’t get thrown out and end up in a landfill either so it’s actually helping if you’re trying to be more eco-friendly.
It’s simple to make a couple bags if you know how to sew (I’m going to do a walk through tutorial when I have access to my fabric and sewing machine)
There are also mesh produce bags you can buy online or in some stores. They keep your produce cleaner while using less plastic.
Not all foods you buy need to be labeled “organic.” Anything with a thicker peal doesn’t. (like avocados, bananas, etc)
The main concern a lot of people have with conventional vs organic are the pesticides used (growing your own is the only way to really ensure no pesticides are used and I have had some beautiful gardens in the past without any chemicals being used. If you have a thick peal that you’re not eating, there will be less residual pesticide left on the food you eat. The ones you eat like apples, pears etc are the ones you want to look for organic. The difference will end up saving you money in the long run as well.
Composting is also easy to do whether you live in a small apartment or house. Save your scraps (except meat and bones, etc). Here is a guide to show what items to compost and what benefits it gives your garden. It also reduces trash waste, which reduces plastic- even by a tiny bit.
Misc. Ways to Reduce Waste
Plastic is being banned in different forms in some cities, and for a good reason. It takes plastic over 100-200 years to break down once it’s in a landfill, it’s also being found in oceans and other bodies of water and actually harming some of the fish that live in those bodies.
Most of us use large amounts of plastic on a day to day basis (especially after our water was poisoned a few years ago, I only drink bottled water, since I starteed drinking bottled spring water the purified water or tap water has too strong of a chemical taste for me personally to stomach). Here are a few ways you can reduce plastic- in ways you won’t miss.
A. Buy a reusable stainless steel straw- you wash them out between uses and can take them with you to restaurants instead of using their plastic one time use straws.
B. Use reusable razors instead of disposable. The razor blades may seem like they cost more, but in the long run they will save money and it will be less plastic being thrown out.
C. Make deodorant or toothpaste instead of buying the ones in plastic. There are tons of easy recipes both on Google or Pinterest for home made products of both varieties. If you buy in a plastic tub, make sure you use all the product left instead of just tossing it out when it gets low. There is a roller made to get
D. Buy reusable shopping bags and produce bags
E. When you look hard enough, there are reusable zip lock bags as well- designed for food in your lunch but also reusable and washable so you don’t end up just tossing it out. Also- buy a lunch box instead of using a plastic bag. You get years of use and very little waste.
F. Use cardboard where you can instead of plastic. Any time you can choose between a cardboard container over plastic, go with cardboard.
G. There are many other ways to reduce plastic waste- look around your home and see what alternatives you can use.
2. Up-cycling old jeans instead of throwing them out or making a tote bag out of old shirts you were going to toss helps reduce waste.
3. Buying second hand. You do need to be careful about catching infestations, but as long as the clothing or items don’t have bugs or eggs, buying from thrift shops helps reduce waste as well. You’re buying other peoples’ old clothing and items they could have thrown out. It’s the same with consignments and sales. Also donating your stuff or selling your old stuff keeps more stuff from being thrown out
4. Switch to getting your bills online instead of snail mail, go to the magazine’s website to read the articles you’re interested in or donate old magazines to waiting rooms.
5. Read the newspaper online, recycle physical papers or use newspaper for packaging.
6. Stop buying paper towels and napkins- start using cloth instead. It saves money, trash and you can reuse for many years. Cloth is also more gentle, so it’s safer to use on types of glass.
These are a few tips to save some time, money and show that anyone can eat a little healthier and live a little greener regardless of how much time you have and regardless if you live in a small apartment or a large house with lots of land.
If you want to add any tips, feel free to comment any other tips and if you would like further guides with any of the items I mentioned, I will add it to my list of blogs for this site.