Recession Mama

{April 17, 2009}   Save Green, Go Green

–By Carla

Let me make something perfectly clear: I am not a tree hugger.


Ok so I did hug this ONE tree. Fine. But there was a perfectly good reason for it. It was a really beautiful day in downtown Dallas and my sweet Grandmother and I wanted to give this tree a great big hug, so we did. I mean seriously, look at that thing…it’s a monster. Gorgeous. Just to be clear here, actually wrapping your arms around a tree does not make one a radical “tree hugger”. I don’t go around keying Hummers and burning down new home developments like those crazed ding dongs. I’ve just always felt I had a duty to do my part, small as it may be, to not junk up my little patch of Earth.

Oh and happy Day!

My big brother and I were raised to “think green” even before being “green” was anything other than a queasy physical state. Best example: Mom made us bring our lunch bags home from school each day (do kids even use those anymore?)…and it really drove the nuns  at St. Pius crazy. After lunch in the school cafeteria, the nuns would go around to make sure we all threw our trash away properly but noooooooo, Carla had to neatly fold up her little brown bag and bring it back home. Drove the nuns insane. But that’s how Mom wanted it. And to this day I still cannot see Mom as an environmentalist. She’s not, I don’t think… I don’t really know what possessed her. But anyway, the seeds were planted years ago.

Using canvas bags at the grocery store is second nature for me these days. And because of  the loss of my income, I’m at the grocery store more than ever…picking out things that I actually cook now (and occasionally torch by mistake).

We used to buy packages of everything. If we wanted mashed potatoes, we picked up those plastic tubs of potatoes you stick in the microwave. (SO wrong on SO many levels, but that’s another story) If we wanted lemon or lime juice, we snagged those cute little plastic bottles of juice. Our orange juice came in gigantic plastic jugs. Soap Shower gel bottles clogged up our shower. We bought bagged lettuce and so on and so forth. We both worked crazy hours and figured this was the only way to go.  

Talk about change. Since my layoff…we do things quite differently when it comes to our groceries, mainly out of a need to save money. Then I started noticing the environmental impact of those changes. For instance,  if I’m going to whip up mashed potatoes, I now actually MASH potatoes. What a concept! That means no more plastic tub. We try to buy fewer of those shower gel products. A couple of bars of soap do just fine. That means no more plastic bottles. We now buy cans of frozen orange juice. Again, no more gigantic plastic bottles. And sure, most of those plastics CAN be recycled, but I think about it like this:  it took petroleum to make (some of) the plastics in the first place and it will take energy to recycle that jug or bottle into whatever it’s going to turn into. So we just skip it now, when possible.

Even though we are trying to save money, we do still buy quite a few organic products mainly for the boys, since they’re so little now. But you don’t have to buy EVERYthing organic…and that’s where you can cut corners.

As for beef and poultry, I actually buy raw beef and poultry now and (attempt to) cook it myself. Again, what a concept, right!? We used to buy meats that were prepared and packaged in their plastic tubs…the ones that you toss into the microwave. We’d also buy chicken that was pre-marinated. Now, mama’s doing all the marinating. I’m a marinating fool and I love it. I won’t lie, it was a HUGE adjustment for me to start cooking beef and chicken on my own. For the record, I honestly do not know one other girl my age who knows as little about cooking as me. No one. (I’m rollin’ out the bus…here we go) Up until just a few months ago, I, RecessionMama Carla, had a totally irrational fear of raw chicken. Just couldn’t bring myself to touch it. Not unless I was fully protected against our evil friends, Sal, Moe and Nella….


…but since buying a Hazmat suit was totally not in the trimmed down budget, I had to put on my big girl britches, ask Mom to step aside (yes, she was helping me cook chicken for a few weeks..I’ll admit it. Thanks Ma!) and just grope that chicken while trying to keep from fainting. But it got easier. Now I’m an old pro at it. I was tested recently however, when…covered in chicken juice…I discovered hundreds of millions of ants had invaded my pantry. The old me would have passed out, come to, then called 911, but RecessionMama stood firm, rinsed off, grabbed some ammo and opened a can on those pantry ants.  

Who knew that cutting corners would actually lead to 1) good things for our planet and 2) repeated examples of britch hitchin’.  

(Maybe I am a tree hugger after all…..)



katy says:

Tree Huggers are not going to be happy with you, mama! J/K. I think it’s great that you’re living simpler and not so fast-paced. The recession is helping us all slow down! I think it’s a healthier way to live, don’t you?

recessionmama says:

It is healthier, I think. Well, it can actually go either way, I think. Lots of people are hitting the drive thru lanes (you hear those news stories all the time) because of the “value menu” options, but that can’t be good for the body. It’s just a matter of picking the healthy options where we can.

recessionmama says:

…and I just had to add that last little line. But in the interest of full disclosure, I do drive an SUV. Midsize. Ok?

recessionmama says:

I love it! Seems this recession is making us all face some fears. (I will soon be scraping wall paper off walls and not hiring someone to do it) Next wee, I’m going to attempt to make a pot of beans. They’re cheap, low cal, and a good source of protein. Heck if you eat too many it could also be a good source of fuel. Now I just have to figure out how make those beans. Any ideas?

Teresa says:

You were asked to bring your paper lunch bag back home, because money was not plenty and one bag had to last one week, hihihi….. (not sorry about it)!!… As far as being an environmentalist, I have been separating my trash for years; conserving energy by turning off lights when not in the room; etc. etc…. surprised you hadn’t noticed….. Very proud of you getting the raw chicken “by the horns”; hihi…

Katy says:

When I was in high school, my friend Nora’s mom would make really great baked beans. I wonder if she has the recipe?

recessionmama says:

I’ve heard that cooking beans (black ones, anyway) can be pretty time consuming. I’m just passing that along, but knock your lights out, Heather! I’d love to hear about it. Heck, take some pics and throw ’em up on here. I’ve contemplated the bean thing before…hmmm maybe we could have a bean making party…serve beer….am I way off here? Anyway..and yes, Teresa, thanks for giving away the secret. Teresa = Mom. Mom = Teresa. Thanks for being my biggest fan and for all the tips on saving over the years. You and Sette, really. (that’s arabic for grandmother)

Jennifer says:

Cooking beans, times must be getting really tough, Heather. I know when we were kids you HATED when we had beans for dinner. Of course, I think we went through a period where we had them ALOT. Maybe times were tough….. now that I am older I realize that some of the things my parents did that we thought were sooooo awful when we were kids may have had more to do with saving some money than we realized at the time. Just let me know when you decide to embark on the “bean” adventure and I will walk ya through it!

dallasnewsgirl says:

Posted by katychen: “The recession is helping us all slow down!”

Can’t say I agree with you on this. This is from my own person observation with friends and family:

People who have lost jobs or had their salary cut back back up to 30% are now working TWO jobs to make ends meet. They have done away with conveniences such as the cleaning lady, yard guy, etc. and are doing that themselves, too, in additional to large number of additional hours worked.

People that still have jobs are working long and harder than ever. Salaried folk are getting to work earlier, staying later, etc. all in hopes of keeping their job. Hourly people are working “off the clock” trying to keep their jobs.

With layoffs, the people left at companies have had their duties increased beyond what they can physically do in one day and are totally stressed trying to get it all done.

I know I haven’t slowed down. I’ve gone from a job that was manageable at 8-9 hours a day, to working 10-11 hrs a day and working at home after that and on weekends to boot.

katy says:

Hi DallasNewsGirl,

I didn’t mean slowing down…as in working. Believe me! I always seem to have at least two jobs, and even before this recession I’ve always worked long days. Just this week, I worked 10 hours a day, and I worked all day yesterday from 8:30 in the morning till 11:30 at night. I even volunteer and mentor. In college, I even had three jobs. When I was younger, I worked in Austin, and I worked 7 days a week. Monday thru Friday at a local TV station, and weekends, I worked at a local radio station. So, I would never be the one to say that we’re slowing down, in terms of work. I just meant slowing down, in terms of what Carla was talking about…buying and making real food because it is cheaper than buying the processed stuff sometimes. I also mean, slowing down and seeing our lives in a real way…that it isn’t all about money…that what really matters (or as the Beatles say)…”all we need is love.” In fact, my fiance and I thought we might fight more because of the pressures of not having two incomes, at certain times this year, but instead…we’ve gotten even closer. So, although I’m a practical girl who grew up with a Grandma that told me…Love doesn’t buy the bread…I slowed down just enough to see that love and support helps get you through those tough times.

Teresa says:

Great point, Katy!!!!… love may not buy the bread, but I think it makes us handle situations a little better!!!

katy says:

Thanks, Teresa. I completely agree, and that’s why I wrote today’s post!

[…] a comment on a recent post was misinterpreted, and when I started to explain what I had meant, I ended up with writing almost […]

Maggie says:

Carla- Up until last year, I would not touch raw chicken either! It was the slimy texture to me, but when I moved back to Gainesville eating out everyday was no longer an option…so I got over it. I mastered chicken & pork!!! Reading this blog makes me realize how similar our lives on are such random levels!

[…] Mexico City, it never seemed that money went to her head. After all, anyone who can stop to hug a tree isn’t really caught up in the rat race and impressed with worldly […]

[…] my we know from my earlier post…made me and my big brother fold up our brown paper lunch bags at the end of lunch each day at […]

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