Reusable shopping bags are now biohazards. Plant based cleaners don’t necessarily kill viruses. Recycling has stopped in some communities. I’ve had to quickly unlearn habits that took years to master.
It would be so easy to use Covid-19 as an excuse to give myself a pass on taking steps toward sustainability, and to do nothing to recognize the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. And yet the steps I’m taking to protect myself, my family, and my community have brought food and my personal food waste into much sharper focus. That wrinkled red pepper that I once would have composted because no-one would eat it is a precious building block of a stir-fry. That soft apple gets cooked into a quick applesauce. The strawberries my kids thought were over-ripe were perfect for strawberry-lemon cupcakes. The fresh spinach that accidentally froze was fine in soup.
I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how to keep food fresher longer. I used to buy asparagus to use within 48 hours. But that is too many trips to the grocery store. I kept two pounds fresh for a week by storing the stems in water and ice.
The silicone Stasher bag that the kids no longer use for lunch have proven themselves handy. They are the best way I have found to keep an avocado fresh. When the kids start school again, they won’t get their Stasher bags back. Plus they are dishwasher safe.
I’m not sure who to credit for the tip of storing lemons in the fridge in a sealed plastic bag, but it’s worked like a charm. My sister sent me a box of lemons five weeks ago. The one we used last night was as fresh and juicy as the one we used the day they arrived.
Covid-19 and the accompanying stay at home orders and devastating loss of lives and livelihoods is overwhelming. Someone in my local paper mocked those of us who had to give up our reusable bags as “proof” that those bags were foolish “feel good environmentalism.” Personally, I need those “feel good” moments more than ever during this Covid-19 crisis.
With so much feeling out of my control, trying to reduce my food waste and limiting trips to the grocery ARE actions I can take and, yup, feel good about.
What are your favorite ways to keep food fresher longer and to reduce food waste?
P.S. – Wash your hands.
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With the spread of COVID-19, and social distancing efforts, a lot more people are working from home – including students. Freelancers are full of great tips for working from home, but I haven’t seen a lot of advice for dealing with multiple people working from home. My husband and I have both worked from the same home for over 5 years. During that time, we’ve also had kiddos with virtual school days. Here’s a few tips I have.
Identify what each person needs to do their job (which includes schoolwork). Do you need access to an electrical outlet? Wi-fi? A ringing phone? Silence? Background noise? A distraction free background for virtual meetings?
When I’m doing creative writing, I need quiet. My husband works HR for a Fortune 500 company and spends about 70% of his workday on the phone. Our needs are in conflict. Once we identified this as a problem, we were able to solve it.
Define workspaces for each person. When we bought our house, we anticipated having one office that doubled as a guest room. Oops. Rather than moving, we reconfigured spaces. My office (and guest room) is upstairs. When my husband worked on the main floor, his phone calls were a problem in one room, but not the other. But the second spot he tried was near the kitchen and he’d have to quiet the kids when they came home. We carved out a space for him in the basement with a closed door. He can be loud and the rest of us can be loud or quiet depending on the moment.
On virtual days, my daughter works at the dining room table and my son works at either the kitchen table or in the basement. If the kids can see each other, they distract each other. We move the tables a few inches to keep the sightlines clear, but blanket forts are also effective.
Define “don’t bother me” signals. I close my office door, but that doesn’t mean much to my son, so if he’s home as well, I put on headband with pink flamingos. My husband also closes his door, but it has a glass window. If we knock on the door, he either waves us in or puts up a hand as a stop sign. My kids both put on headphones, even if they aren’t listening to anything. If they are in their work spot with the headphones on, they are working. If an adult makes eye contact, they will take off the headphones and we can give them the five minute warning for dinner. Even young kids can learn to understand these signals, even if they don’t always respect them.
Establish a schedule. Remember that noise problem? My husband is not permitted to make or take phone calls on the first or second floor between 9am and 10am because it’s too disruptive during my peak creativity time. Likewise, I don’t go near his office between 8am and 11am because that is when he’s most likely to be on conference calls. When the kids are on virtual days, they are expected to adhere to the same schedule. They also are expected to follow their school schedule until their work is finished. Be sure to schedule lunch and above all schedule an END to your workday.
Create transitions. I didn’t appreciate the value of a commute until I didn’t have one. In addition to the “don’t bother me” symbols that tell others you are working, you also need to give yourself transitions that it is time to work and time to not work. Tell yourself (and anyone else in earshot) “I am going to work” and stride toward your workspace with intent, even if it is only two steps.
Get sunlight. Seriously. If you can position yourself near a window, do so, and remember to look out every now and then. If you normally walk the kids to school or the bus (or if they do so on their own), go outside during that time and take a brief stroll. Bonus – you have perpetuated a transition. Designate that time you would have spent on your commute to go outside. If it’s warm enough where you are, sit outside for part of the workday.
For most people, having everyone work from home will a brief interlude. There will inevitably be challenges, but by setting expectations and respecting the needs of others, you will make it work.