Meal Planning Done For You: E-Mealz

August 8, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Guest Posts, Health

The easiest meal-planning helper has arrived! We have all heard that meal planning can save you money, help make organic food more affordable, and even help you develop healthier eating habits (and kick the food waste habit…which is a growing problem). The reality is that too often we are moving so quickly in our culture of “busy-ness” that meal planning feels like an idea only suitable for a 1950s housewife. Since Home Economics has left the school curriculum, we are not as food savvy as we once were as a culture, and therefore meal planning and learning how to use leftovers feels a bit ominous to most of us.

Meet your meal planning lifeline: E-mealz.

What is E-Mealz?

Have you ever had the feeling that your grocery shopping and meal-planning could use a little hand holding? I mean nothing serious, just a little extra support like a shoulder to lean on? Well add meal planning with E-Mealz to your list if this sounds a little too familiar. Simply enter in your grocery store and any dietary restrictions, diets regimes, or desires. They provide you with a weekly shopping list and menu with recipes. Viola! Meal planning done and on to the good stuff, shopping. The grocery list is organized by sections of the store in a one-page chart. There is even a little section for you to add other groceries you may need and it includes the total cost with the goal being a $75 average. Each item has a corresponding meal number, so if you don’t like spinach (sorry Popeye!) then you can eliminate that meal or side dish easily.

What’s it to me?

No need to wander around the grocery store helplessly trying to find Tartar Sauce! It can also help you with new dietary restrictions, understanding how to eat healthy, and keep you on track for any diets you may be trying out. It can also help you save money by decreasing your impulse buys of “I will use this for something…” and the planning list is available 24/7, unlike Grandma. Of course there are a few cons. First, it costs a whopping $5 per month, which makes it a great holiday or Birthday gift! If you stick to the plan, you may actually find that you are saving money upfront through meal planning and indirectly through eating balanced meals helping you focus at work, and worry less about meal planning. The other con is if you do not shop at Big Box stores for your groceries, there may not be a grocery chart for you and prices may differ at the store.

So, what’s for dinner tonight? A balanced meal on a budget? If you want a meal planning companion, E-mealz is an easy option for the busy Moms and Dads out there, as well as for those new to cooking and meal planning.

Cheers to sustainable living, keeping our food waste down, and getting in touch with the efficient 1950s housewife within all of us!

And for those of us shopping at co-ops and the like, we can still get meal plans, but the budgeting may be different – just a heads up.

Photo Credit: E-Mealz

You Down With OCA?

July 26, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Green, Guest Posts, Health

Ever feel lost with the information-mania about organics, ethical consumption, and social issues? With so many ‘think tanks’, NGOs, NPOs, and businesses cashing in on the environmental revolution of the 21st Century, it can be hard to differentiate solid information from one-sided propaganda. One organization that can help you sift through the info-polluted soil is the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). It is a non-profit organization that campaigns for health, justice, and sustainability.

Number 1 reason to visit? Solid information.

The OCA was formed in 1998 amidst the organic standards debate that seemed to favor industrial organic-types and cut corners in the eyes of veteran organic farmers. From that day forward, the OCA has organized many campaigns, collected and conducted research in the field of sustainability that includes ecological and social issues, and successfully fought legislation and companies aiming to diminish or downgrade organic standards and in many cases the standard of living in the U.S., where it is based, as well as abroad.

So I welcome you to dig-in to their site on food issues especially to learn what the organic take is on growth hormones, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), raw milk, and to demystify the meaning of ‘biodynamic’.

Happy Reading!

Pick Your Own (food) Guide

July 17, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Guest Posts, Health, Local, Nutrition

With the sweet abundance of fruit and veggies this summer, who wouldn’t want to pick some fruit? Now here to assist you in your fruit-picking ventures is an online guide to help you find some fun places to pick and play. Now picking your own food isn’t just for farmers, it can also make for a fun family outing, a great date, and just some nice outdoors time. So get out there, enjoy the summer, and put a little muscle into getting your fresh produce for the week!

The listings are first by State and then by County, so you can plan for trips or find somewhere right in your own City. They provide a brief write-up, contact information, and hours if applicable to help you plan your “U-Pick” adventure. If you know of any great You Pick farms that aren’t listed, you can submit new listings right on their website. And make sure you check out those descriptions, you might find some added bonuses like hay rides, corn mazes, and other fun farm surprises.

Find a Pick Your Own farm near you!

(Photo Credit)

Creative Thinking about Reducing Livestock Carbon Emissions

July 15, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Green, Guest Posts, Health

The easiest way to reduce carbon emissions from cattle and other livestock is to eat less meat. Perhaps by adhering to a Meatless Monday! But in lieu of a widespread reduction in the consumption of meat, it is always nice to hear that scientists are thinking creatively about ways to cut down on livestock emissions.

According to Norimitsu Onishi of the The New York Times in an article entitled “Trying to Stop Cow Burps from Heating Up Planet,” scientists are studying the stomachs and eating habits of kangaroos in an effort to come up with ways to tinker with the diet of farmed cows to reduce the methane in their burps. Onishi explains, “At any given point, after munching and regurgitating grass, tens of millions of Australian cattle, as well as sheep, are belching methane gases nonstop into the air.” Because methane is considered to be significantly more effective than carbon dioxide in accelerating global warming, the Australian meat industry is pumping $24 million into research efforts to reduce the environmental impact of large-scale animal production. And, “while cattle belch enormous amounts of methane to digest the food, kangaroos release virtually none.”

But, like the conservationists that Onishi refers to in the article, I can’t help but wonder whether it is a good idea to manipulate cattle feed – and perhaps even the cows themselves – to make them more like kangaroos. Or whether eating more kangaroo meat (?!) as suggested in the article by kangaroo harvester Sharyn Garrett is an acceptable solution. I’ll stick to reducing my meat intake altogether, thank you very much!

When Big Time Marketers Get Into Greenwashing We All Lose

July 1, 2010 · Filed Under Environment, Food, Green, Guest Posts, Health, News

One of the more incredulous greenwashing claims I have heard just came coka-doodle-dooing out of a CAFO (Confined Animal Factory Operation). When you see the label “Safe-Hen Cage Farming” what comes to mind? Perhaps  a cage with only 1-2 birds inside in place of 10, or a well ventilated area where the hens can see light and actually have their feet (claws) on the ground, or perhaps you thought that no cage is a good cage. For those of us hoping it means some form of enlightenment on behalf of the animal handlers and multi-million dollar companies that own them, we have been duped.

This particular company has developed the label “Safe-Hen Cage Farming” to mean that the birds are safe from predators (inside of a building locked in tiny cages…yes, I guess you could say that outside of the human predator and one another they are safe). It also is supposed to indicate that the eggs are cleaner, fresher, and indicate anything but improved animal welfare. This example comes from Rose Acre Farms who host pictures of their impressive span of buildings and birds that will never know what the sun or ground actually feel like. The complete mechanization of the birds, their routines, and the belief that their normal lifestyle produces ‘contaminated’ eggs that are dangerous seems to arise out of the past. Yet, for the vast majority of the American public, using “safe” and “farm” in their main tag makes the CAFO sound quaint and familial, if not trustworthy.

This raises the larger question of what happens to us, the consumer, when big time marketers have studied the psychology of the consumers and base their marketing claims on that as opposed to their products. Now marketing to specific audiences is not necessarily new nor unethical, yet when claims fail to match their product’s supply chain, Houston We Have A Problem.

How Bad is It?

Depends on how much you know, what you read, and who you believe. Since sustainability hit it big time, companies have been falling over themselves to “cash in”. With disproportionate marketing budgets to most true “eco” companies, they can spread the word about their products faster and often more effectively than smaller businesses. This boom has led to a great deal of innovation, albeit a significant portion misguided, into sustainability both internally and externally. So they are going to new extremes to appeal and prove the “eco-style”. Unfortunately, much of this is also supported by questionable marketing strategies. A common example is the group that studied how many “nags” it takes a child to get what they want. Instead of focusing on the adult population, which was over-saturated with direct marketing, they moved on to their little ones. This tactic has been outlawed in most Countries (not in the U.S. though to a great extent). So with those minds that have a questionable interpretation of ethics guiding the marketing forrays, it is no wonder it can be confusing for us!

How Can I Protect Myself?

Arm yourself with knowledge. With the Age of Information surrounding us, it can be overwhelming. The good news is that there are quite a few credible organizations that have developed guides to help us become more active in dictating what we do and do not want as consumers. Simple food guides like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Regional Fish Guides fit in your wallet or on your phone for big seafood eaters. The Eat Well Guide helps you locate restaurants, bakeries, and farmers in your region or places you may want to hit up when traveling. The Good Guide helps with basic consumer products, and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Cruelty Free eco-labels among others are there to help us help ourselves. So decide how involved you want to be, or think of the activities and products that are most common in your life and find out how to improve upon them!

Can the Consumer Know Everything?

Absolutely not. We are not each manufacturing experts, ecologists, toxicologists, climatologists, engineers, or any other kind of specialty. We can know a little bit about everything or a lot about a little thing. Either way that suits you, try to find the most credible source of information from academic third parties. There are plenty of “Think Tank” organizations littering the field. Some, not all, house industry in place of academic or field experts. This means that the information you receive may be crafted for the benefit of someone or something other than the common consumer and our global environment.  So be your own Smoking Gun!

Tiff’s Top 5 Picks for Ludicrous Marketing Claims of 2009 – 2010:

Drum roll please…

  1. Oil spills happen…of course if we took necessary precautions and were properly regulated it may have been different.
  2. Made of 100% Bamboo…er, we mean Rayon.
  3. EcoWindow 2000…we just like the name, its not more efficient or made from sustainable materials.
  4. High Fructose Corn Syrup…since the average person doesn’t know why it’s bad for you, why should you?
  5. Safe-Hen Cage Farming…safe from those vicious foxes that is, not us.

If you want to show those marketers that you will not be had, check out EnviroMedia’s Greenwashing index. They offer some valuable information on what greenwashing is, how to spot it, and why it’s important to know the difference between greenwashing and a true eco-friendly company.

So go ahead, show them who’s boss!

Whole Foods Taking Stance on Organic Beauty Products

June 25, 2010 · Filed Under Food, News
Whole Body

The USDA regulates organic food products by making sure that at least 95% of all of the ingredients come from organic products.  Even though I wish it was closer to 100%, it’s still far better than the non-existent regulations on organic beauty products. Even though the government has no regulations in place, Whole Foods has decided to take the situation into their own hands.

Whole Foods recently made the announcement that all of their organic personal care products will have to be certified organic.  This means that it must hold up against the same standards as food by containing 95% organic materials, with the other percentage from a list of approved materials.

It’s good to hear that Whole Foods is not letting personal care products with false or exaggerated claims make it on their shelves.  I have seen way too many products that have the Organic label on them, but still contain dangerous products like parabens, propolyne glycol and other products that you might no consider really natural.

No matter which store you buy your personal products from, always check out the labels and do you research before buying products.  Make sure you are buying a product that has ingredients that are truly natural and is not just full of “green washing”.

Eat, Work (out), Drink, and Be Merry!

May 25, 2010 · Filed Under Food, Health, Nutrition

Americans have some of the most unhealthy lifestyles in the World. From our sugar-laden foods to our car-centric transportation, we could use an upgrade, or shall we say a “life-grade” change. The best news is that we each have the power to change our daily habits to lead fulfilling and purposeful lives. Let’s check out some of the key areas to staying healthy, happy, and living a long life.

Eat Drink and Be Merry
Photo by lapomme.

Get your Groove on! There are forms of exercise that speak to each of us. Whether it is becoming a top triathlete or showing the World your crazy dance moves, we all have a work out groove. The good news comes a plenty when it comes to exercising. First, when we exert physical energy we get endorphins in return, which makes us happier people. Second, exercising can be a social event, meaning making more friends, meeting more people, and gaining a larger sense of community. And what better news is there than to know that some health care providers will reward you for your physical activity prowess? From discounted rates to free gym membership, health care providers are jumping on board with healthy and active lifestyles.

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. Our food choices dictate a great deal about how we feel, how we interact with others, and just how long and healthy our lives will truly be. Now you don’t have to become a local, seasonal, organic fanatic like myself to make a very positive change in your eating habits. First, stay away from processed food as much as possible. Why? Because the additives can be quite harmful. From carcinogens to things that are just plain hard to digest. Processed food comes from machines, not nature, meaning that our bodies may or may not be adapted to digest and utilize the food’s nutrients. Next, try to cut out as much Fast Food as possible. You can go so far as to join the Slow Food Movement or you can simply plan ahead and pack a lunch. This easy step will save you money first of all. It may not seem like it at first, but spending money on a meal versus money on versatile ingredients for several different meals can make a difference. It also spares you from the global supply chain of food. Food that is transported from long-distances or stored for long periods of time lose their nutrients quickly, so by the time they reach your plate you are getting half or less of the original plant nutrients. This partnered with a good glass of local or fair trade wine will make you quite merry and healthy indeed, just ask the French.

Live a Long and Happy Life. You may think that the span of your life is beyond your control. Which of course to an extent is true. Yet studies, like the one recently completed in Italy, found that the more strenuous exercise an individual participates in, the longer their body is able to survive. Essentially, cells in our body die at a very rapid and common rate. Getting a good work out that makes you sweat actually keeps some cells from dyeing, meaning that your body and its health are preserved longer. This partnered with good eating habits that make nutrients readily available for your system to take in and utilize will make you one healthy machine. And if that doesn’t make you happy, then consider this:

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.
~Abraham Lincoln

So get your exercise groove on, especially with the advent of beautiful weather. Partner that with some delicious, healthy, and fresh food along with a glass of wine and enjoy life!

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