Make Your Own: Dishwasher Detergent

All you dishwasher-having SQ readers, this post is for you! While having a dishwasher is a total privilege, if you’re able to have one (ideally an efficient, Energy Star model), they generally use less water and energy than hand washing (not to mention they’re a time saver as well!).

We cook almost all of our meals at home, and, as a result, we create a ton of dirty dishes. Plus, we have streamlined our dish and pot collection, so we have to keep up with the dishes or we won’t have anything to use for cooking or eating. We still do a fair amount of hand washing, since we cook multiple times a day and only run the dishwasher when it’s full...so, we find ourselves using the Spaghetti Scrubbers we wrote about last month for our hand washing needs.

We haven’t yet found a suitable DIY dish detergent for hand washing (not for Kristl’s lack of trying), but we do have one we love for the dishwasher!

Our household is nearly completely fragrance-free, which often makes finding soaps and detergents difficult. When we moved into our new place in December, we went to the nearby Whole Foods and grabbed some “natural” dishwasher pods. We got them home and were aghast to find that the pods in the cardboard box were individually wrapped in plastic. This completely went against our desire to use less plastic (though, honestly, we should have done a bit of research before purchasing - nobody’s perfect!).  

Well, that was the first and final straw. (You know we don’t use plastic straws, either.) If you look in the archives, you’ll see we make our own laundry detergent (link to post). It was time to find a good dishwasher detergent recipe.

I did some research and found this fun play-by-play post by Houselogic, in which they tested six different detergent recipes against oatmeal stuck on a glass lid. I kind of wish they had also tested something greasy, but the oatmeal test was interesting to learn from.

We took the most effective recipe from Houselogic and have tweaked it a little bit.

Here’s what we do:

  • 1 cup washing soda
  • 1 cup borax
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • 2 packets lemon aid Kool-Aid mix or 2 tsp citric acid

Before you ask any questions, here’s a couple things you should know. Washing soda is baking soda that has been heated up to change its chemical structure a little bit. It’s great at all sorts of cleaning, including removing greasy build-up and it’s just as safe and sustainable as baking soda. You can find it in most super markets in with the laundry/cleaning supplies.

Borax is sodium borate and it’s known for its ability to get stuff really fricken’ clean. Crunchy Betty did an in-depth post on borax, which we found helpful in deciding if we were comfortable using borax in our DIY detergents (clearly, we decided we’re fine with it, but you may want to check out that article for more information).

The Kool-Aid/citric acid helps with shining up those glasses and making everything smell nice and fresh. We cut back on the mix, because six packets seemed excessive. We don’t really want our stuff to smell like lemon or Kool-Aid.

To make this dishwasher detergent, mix the ingredients together thoroughly and store it in a jar with a tight lid. We use 1-2 Tbsp per wash. One other thing we do, especially if there is a lot of grease on our dishes or if we have a lot of glasses in the load, is we add vinegar to the rinse aid section of the dishwasher. Your mileage may vary with the vinegar, depending on how hard your water is, but it’s worth trying.

Sometimes the detergent does clump, but it’s nothing a few scrapes with a fork can’t fix!

Oh, and making your own detergent is totally worth the money. The pods we bought at Whole Foods were at least $0.20 a wash, now we’re paying a cent or two at most. If you make a lot of dishes and you have 10 minutes to measure out ingredients once a month, it’s totally worth it.

Have you ever made your own detergent? What’s your go-to recipe? Let us know in the comments!

Earth Day 2018

We don’t typically go all out for Earth Day -- Every day is Earth Day, ya dig? However, since we’re retuning the blog and putting ourselves back out there, we thought we’d share a list of the top items and services we employ to keep us aligned with the earth. One huge part of sustainability is usability (like, are we going to have the energy to keep up that practice long term?), so we’re always down for services that make being more ecologically sustainable easy in the long run. (These things are listed in no particular order and the list is by no means exhaustive - there are a LOT of ways to be sustainable!)

So, let's dig in! First off, seven things we love that are available nationally (and internationally, in some cases):

 Rachel was stoked about our Who Gives a Crap delivery!

Rachel was stoked about our Who Gives a Crap delivery!

1. Who Gives a Crap: Sorry, not sorry, to start this in the toilet, but toilet paper is a huge drain on resources, especially when folks use first use paper to wipe their bums. Who Gives a Crap’s recycled paper is BPA free and all their packaging is plastic free. 50% of all their profits go to build toilets for folks that don’t have them. The TP is decently soft and they are looking at developing a tube free option. (If you use that link, you'll get $10 off your first order!)

2. Spaghetti Scrubs: We just wrote a sweet review of these babies. They now use 100% cotton backing, so if you compost, you can send them back into the soil when they’re spent. (Apparently these are currently sold out pretty much everywhere, but will be available again around mid-May.)

3. Bike Sharing: There’ve been so many times that we’ve said we’d bike somewhere if only our bikes were fixed. Excuses are hard to come up with when there are dozens of bikes on every street corner. Bike sharing has come to many cities recently, and in Durham we have three different dock-less bike rental companies competing for the market: Ofo, Spin and LimeBike. Rachel has used Ofo so far to bike to work and loves it. (We do have our own bikes, but they’re both badly in-need of tune-ups. We’re planning to head to the local bike co-op soon so we can learn how to fix them up ourselves!)

4. Shopping at the Farmers’ Market/Co-op: This isn’t a specific service or product, but choosing to shop locally and put our food dollars back into the local economy is something we do intentionally every week. We know how hard it is to be a farmer (Rachel does especially, from first-hand experience) and so we want to make sure as much of that money as possible goes directly into their hands. Also, the closer to harvest you get the veggies, the better they taste. Being a member of a co-op means you are a decision maker and eligible for member discounts, and at some co-ops you might even get a dividend.

5. Kootsacs: We have been working hard to reduce our plastic usage because plastics are not too kind to the Earth, from start to finish. Kootsacs are made out of ripstop nylon or silk and used for getting bulk food from grocery stores. We have three of the silk variety and they last forever and are completely washable. We have put everything in them from sugar to nuts to lentils to spices. They recover completely in the wash and are ready for another trip to the store. Kristl always has at least one in her bag in case she finds herself at the store unexpectedly!

 Aren't those whales so cute?!

Aren't those whales so cute?!

6. Use your own reusable utensils and straws: More than 100 million pieces of plastic utensils and move than 500 million plastic straws are thrown away in America EVERY DAY. One of the easiest ways to help the planet is to refuse single use cutlery and plastic straws - and if you want to go even greener, bring your own! We use this cutlery holder from Don’t Waste Durham (available for sale at that link or at a variety of events around Durham, if you’re local) - it comes with bamboo cutlery, a stainless steel straw + straw cleaner, and a cloth napkin, all in one easy-to-transport cloth roll. They sell them on their website (and at local events, as well). Prior to using the cutlery holder, Kristl kept two metal forks in her bag at all times, but the cutlery holder is much more useful (and Kristl’s way less likely to stab herself on tines when she reaches into her bag now).

7. Reusable menstrual products: We promised a post on these years ago and haven’t yet delivered, but it’s coming! We both use Lunapads and Kristl also uses a menstrual cup (GladRags is also a well-known reusable pad company). While reusable menstrual products can cost more than disposables up front, they are significantly cheaper in the long run. Our Lunapads have been going strong for well over 5 years (probably even longer) and a few of them are just now starting to show signs of wear. Most recently Kristl used the Lunette menstrual cup and loved it, but the silicone showed some cracks after 3 years of use, so she decided to try out the Stem Cup from Tulip Cup this time around. The Diva Cup is the most well-known cup around, but there are a ton of different cups out there - and a number of guides on how to find the best cup for you. We like this recent one from Wirecutter.


Now on to five things we love here in Durham, NC:

 Making use of our GreenToGo membership!

Making use of our GreenToGo membership!

1. GreenToGo: In Durham, a local non-profit called Don’t Waste Durham sponsors a reusable take out container program called GreenToGo. If you follow us on instagram (@SustainablyQ) you will have seen a couple of pictures of us with the telltale hard plastic green clamshells (like the one on the right). We just learned yesterday that GreenToGo is expanding into pizza boxes, soup containers, and more. The yearly membership is $25 for one box (they also have multi-box plans) and they just keep adding restaurants. No more styrofoam! If you live in Durham and ever get take out, please get GreenToGo!

2. CompostNow: Just this week we got our first bucket from CompostNow in Durham and we couldn’t be more excited. CompostNow is a door-to-door compost pick up service with weekly or biweekly service. We eat a lot of veggies and eggs, plus this service accepts meat scraps and bones and soiled cardboard (e.g. dirty pizza boxes). We’ll be able to divert a huge amount of waste out of our garbage and our recycling. Compost NOW and forever. (P.S. You bank the compost you produce and can use it for your own personal garden or choose to donate it to community growers, isn’t that amazing?)

3. The Scrap Exchange: “The Scrap Exchange is a nonprofit organization with a mission to promote creativity, environmental awareness, and community through reuse.” The essential awesomeness of The Scrap Exchange is how they accept and sort and sell an amazing collection of almost anything you could imagine and everything you couldn’t. They’ve got scrap wood, fabric, paper, test tubes, bottle tops, CD’s, sewing machine cases, tubes, picture frames - and that’s barely scraping the surface. It’s the epitome of one person’s trash is another one’s treasure. You really have to experience it to understand it. If you have any clutter whatsoever in your home, the patrons of The Scrap Exchange will find a way repurpose most of it. They also recently opened a thrift store as well, for more “traditional” second-hand goods.

 We got this sweet little cactus at Urbane Terrain today.

We got this sweet little cactus at Urbane Terrain today.

4. UrbaneTerrain and The Zen Succulent: We are still settling into our apartment in Durham, and being plant loving people, we have gradually been adding living things to the space. The Zen Succulent and Urbane Terrain are two separate local plant shops that are owned and run by people who are not cis white men and we're always looking for ways we can support local businesses run by marginalized folks (we haven't asked specifically how they each identify, though, so aren't including that information here). We are so excited to add beautiful plants to our home from each of these businesses and we hope they (the plants and the businesses) continue to thrive.

5. Fillaree - A zero-waste business that makes refillable, sustainable soap and cleaning products! Small batch, handmade, organic, vegan, synthetic-free - it doesn’t get much better than that. They also make body butters and bath soaks. There are refill stations available at a number of places in Durham and they also recently opened a storefront. More exciting, they’ve just launched a mail order subscription service, so you can use their refillable products anywhere you live!

There you have it! A roundup of 12 products and services we love that help us live more sustainably. What are your top tips for sustainable living? Let us know in the comments. :)

We love the Spaghetti Scrub!

We cook a lot here in the SQ household, which means we do a lot of dishes. Thankfully, we do have a dishwasher in our current apartment, but many of our items get used (and therefore washed) multiple times before our dishwasher is full enough to run. We’re always looking for ways to reduce waste and we realized that our kitchen sponge game needed an overhaul.

In doing some research for this post, it seems sponges should be replaced anywhere from every 2-3 uses to every month, depending on how often you sanitize them. Our previous apartment didn’t have a microwave and, honestly, we weren’t great about boiling our sponges on the stove to disinfect them. We also didn’t have a dishwasher, so we went through sponges like woah - usually because they were smelly, but sometimes because they lost their scrubbing ability.

Over the years, we have used several different types of “natural” sponges or kitchen scrubbers made from natural fibers and synthetic fibers. We’ve tried using dishcloths in the past, but found that we almost always require something with more scrubbing power for our cooking habits. So, for the past while we’ve been buying four packs of Scotch-Brite Greener Clean sponges, with a undyed rough surface on one side and a beige sponge on the other. They were easy to find in our local grocery store or Target and did the job well. However, they come wrapped in thin plastic and are not that great for the environment.

 Gentle scrub made from peach pits on the left, coarse scrub made form corn cobs on the right.

Gentle scrub made from peach pits on the left, coarse scrub made form corn cobs on the right.

Last fall, we started looking for alternatives that packed that scrubbing punch we needed, but were also environmentally friendly and didn’t come wrapped in plastic. That’s when we discovered the Spaghetti Scrub from Goodbye Detergent. When we purchased the Scrub, it came in a pack of two - one made with peach pits for more gentle scrubbing and one made with corn cobs for tougher jobs - and a stainless steel rack to keep them in. The Scrubs are made of cotton and polyester and look like sandpaper noodles. The description indicates that they will last for months; we’ve had them for over four months so far and they don’t seem to be showing signs of wear.

Since we started using these last November, Goodbye Detergent has changed the product a bit. Instead of having a gentle scrub and a coarse scrub, they now offer one that falls between the two - more of an “all purpose” option. It’s made of 100% cotton, rather than cotton and polyester, which means it should be biodegradable as well.

 

 Our Scrubs as of today, April 15. Super curly, still very scrubby!

Our Scrubs as of today, April 15. Super curly, still very scrubby!

 

To use the Scrubs, wet them with water and scrub away - that's it! With use, they curl up, making them look a bit more like fusilli than spaghetti. After washing your dishes, squeeze the scrub out, then place in the stainless steel holder to dry. If needed, they can be sanitized in the microwave or dishwasher, but we haven't found that to be necessary. 

We've thrown all sorts of dirty dishes at our Spaghetti Scrubs and they've been up to the challenge each and every time. We use a fraction of the dish detergent we used to use, which means we're using less plastic, since we're not buying detergent nearly as often (our adventures in homemade dish detergent were disappointing, sadly). Overall, trying the Spaghetti Scrubs was a successful kitchen experiment!

From where we stand, some major benefits of the Spaghetti Scrubs are:

  1. They require little to no detergent for use. The corn and peach cobs are abrasive so you don’t need a lot of soap to remove crusty bits from dishes or pots.
  2. They dry out very easily.
  3. They last forever compared to sponges.
  4. The packaging is 100% recyclable and included no plastic. 

If you can’t tell, we’re head over heels for our Spaghetti Scrubs. When our current ones wear out, we’ll definitely be purchasing the new all purpose option - and of course we’ll update y’all on how that one fares when the time comes.

For those of you who want a close up of the instructions and materials, click here.

What do you use to wash your dishes? Traditional kitchen sponges? Dishcloths? How often do you replace them? Would you try the Spaghetti Scrub? Let us know in the comments!

How We Do Sustainable Living - Year Three

Two years ago, in April, Kristl and I decided that it would be a good idea to start a blog about the way we live. A lot has changed in two years. If you are feeling like you could never live a more sustainable life, like it's too expensive or time consuming, consider that it took us almost three years living together to start living the way you see us today. Sustainable living takes a little while to get used to. It's a transition! So, in honor of Earth Day, we give you How We Do Sustainable Living - Year Three! (For the 2013 installment, click here, and for 2014's version, click here.) Last year, we used a system of colors, bold lettering, and strike-throughs to communicate what we had changed. Let's be real, it confused all of us more than it was worth. This year we are going to start from scratch, but follow the same pattern. So, if you go back to previous years, you'll be able to follow our progress pretty easily. If you don't, you'll still get the picture.

Projects related to housekeeping:

  • Cleaning almost exclusively with products derived from white vinegar or Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap Baby Mild
  • Using rags instead of paper towels - When appropriate, which is most of the time except for when pets are involved
  • Buying post-consumer recycled paper products and recycled aluminum foil - We used to roast veggies on foil, but now we roast them on our Sil-Pat, which is easily cleaned and infinitely reusable, so we rarely use foil anymore.
  • Downsizing our apartment and purging in the process - We moved last summer and definitely got rid of furniture and lots of stuff we didn't need
  • Not buying anything we don't need, especially clothing, books, gadgets, etc
  • Trying to buy things with as little packaging as possible - The less you bring in, the less you have to recycle or trash
  • Still using the same homemade washable swiffer cloths, because they are totally reusable
  • Simplifying and organizing our stuff - We hired a personal organizer to work with us a couple times to streamline our stuff. Organizing and downsizing frees us from clutter and helps us focus on the things that matter.
  • Running full dishwasher and laundry loads to conserve water
  • Recycling, obviously - our building separates paper goods from containers, because we are a six-flat and have to contract our own recycling service. Thanks, Chicago.

Projects related to self-care:

  • Using baking soda as shampoo - Works like a charm
  • Using homemade deodorant - We finally settled on a recipe we really like
  • Making homemade lotion/balm
  • Making homemade facial oil
  • Using Chinese medicine/chiropractic/massage/Reiki/nutritional supplements in addition to Western medicine to keep us healthy - It would be weird if we didn't use alternative medicine, Kristl is an acupuncturist, after all.
  • Using Oral Wellness HealThy Mouth Oil and EarthPaste to clean our teeth - No cavities and no added sweeteners.
  • Daily meditation practice, exercise, and reading - Healthy body, healthy brain.
  • Eating "Sustainable Whole Food Nutrition" for good health - See our blog about How We Eat
  • Using eco-friendly, reusable menstrual products 

Projects related to food:

  • Making at least one batch of bone broth in the pressure cooker per week - Gives the crock pot competition
  • Saving bacon fat and using it to cook other things - Butter and avocado oil tend to be our go-to fats these days, but bacon fat comes free with the bacon, so we totally use it.
  • Meal planning for the week, and buying groceries based off the plan - Helps us keep in our budget and limit food waste.
  • Planning large meals or doubling recipes that we can divide them out over 2-3 days so that we don't have to cook every day
  • We carbonate our own water with our Soda Stream and add lemon or lime to it - Our days of making syrups, infused liquors, and shrubs are pretty much over.
  • We definitely make mustard from scratch
  • We make our own mayo with the immersion blender - Keep an eye out for a video on that trick!
  • We cook 95% of our own meals - Try this at home, but remember, it took us a while to get to this point.
  • Participate in True Nature's meat and egg co-op  - $5/dozen for pastured eggs? Yes, please.
  • Participate in C&D Farm's meat co-op delivery - Part of a wedding gift that just keeps on giving
  • Buy produce from farmer's market or local farms in season
  • Buy local food and local products because we care about local business - See these posts for our restaurant and local products recommendations

Projects of the miscellaneous variety:

  • Not buying cable - It's really easy now, because one of the things we sold when we moved was our TV.
  • Making our own gifts - Much like Christmas 2013, we didn't spend too much on gifts for 2014. We would rather have good experiences with our friends and family than get things for and from them. When a gift is appropriate, we'll make it.
  • Feeding our cat and dog grain free/raw food
  • Using backyard (and maybe community garden) to grow food - We missed out on our old community garden plot this year, but not to worry, there are always locations to grow vegetables. Rachel has plenty of offers on the table and she's making plans.
  • Using mason jars for storage - We cut back on our random glass jar collection when we moved. Now we mostly use Mason jars and it does us just fine.
  • Worm composting - We didn't do the best job of worm composting on our own, but our current living situation pays someone to worm compost in the basement. So we totally take advantage of that service our building offers.
  • Budgeting with You Need A Budget (YNAB) - Our commitment to use YNAB keeps us on budget and honest about the money we have coming in and going out. Confused how this relates to sustainability? Sustainability is all about using resources wisely. Money is a resource, and if you are using your money wisely, that will allow you to use your other resources in a sustainable manner. (And if you use the link above, you save 10% off the purchase price!)
  • Donating to people and projects that are actively working to make the world a better place - If you want to play along, we have some suggestions
  • Working at home/within walking distance of home - This is a transition that has made the next point possible
  • Living CAR FREE - We sold our car almost two months ago, and have adjusted just fine. We use the CTA more, we signed up for Enterprise CarShare, and we just bought Rachel a new bike to help with the transition. However, day to day, unless we are getting a huge load of groceries or going way out of our neighborhood, we don't really notice the difference. The best part is we don't have to worry about parking, street cleaning, city stickers, insurance, etc.

There you have it, our lives in sustainability this year! There are probably things we do that we don't realize. We are in deep, folks!

Sustainable living, especially in the city or on a small budget, is not a competition. It's not about keeping up with anyone; every little bit counts. Tell us what you are doing to live the sustainable lifestyle! Comment below or on our Earth Day post on Facebook

Grocery Delivery Series: CarShare and Public Transit

To conclude our series on grocery delivery, we decided to go in a little bit of a different direction and "deliver" groceries to ourselves. This is a comparison of two weeks of groceries. One week we rented a car from Enterprise CarShare to go get groceries and this week Rachel went to the store via the Chicago Transit Authority. This was also our attempt at a control in this experiment, so when we wrap up for you, you can have a pretty good idea of how the different delivery options compare to getting your own groceries. For those of you who were hanging on for the CSA post, we are still planning on a future post about what to expect from a local CSA farm share in the Midwest, including a compare and contrast of some of the more popular Chicagoland CSAs. When we talked about selling the car, it was always part of our plan to join one of the car sharing programs in Chicago. Sometimes it just makes more sense to take a short trip in a car. Time, location, and even cost can often make using a car the most reasonable option. Conveniently, Enterprise and Zipcar both have cars within a couple blocks of where we live. Also, they both have plans that meet our needs, and they are competitively priced. We chose Enterprise because they have electric cars parked at Uncommon Ground Restaurant, and we wanted to have the option of using an electric car. I mean, we are Sustainably Queer after all.

Rockin' out with our carshare

 

In regards to the CTA, for those of you who live in the great City of Chicago, this is old hat, but if you don't, a ride one-way is $2.25. There is a Whole Foods in Evanston and a Whole Foods in Boystown that are about equidistant from the train. We tend to go to the store in Evanston because it is less busy and occasionally cheaper for some things. This week Rachel did the shopping by herself and so it only cost $4.50 to "deliver" the groceries, but she couldn't carry as much as we could have had we gone shopping together.

Grocery shopping for ourselves!

 

On to the groceries! Turns out, we spend way more on groceries when we are in the driver's seat. Our total at the Whole Foods from the CarShare trip was $90.58. Dude. What happened? Well, first off, we had friends over for pork tacos that Monday, and we got high quality pastured pork shoulder for that. That alone was $36.55. We aren't mad about making delicious pork tacos from relatively happy pigs, but that's an unusual expense. Take the (pork)fat off the top and we're down to $54.03. This is still a little high, but more in our typical range.

Here's the rest of the list:

3 Pears - $2.48

1 bunch Green Onions - $0.77

3 Avocados - $3.00

1 Yellow Onion - $0.67

1/2 lb Mushrooms - $2.99

Ginger Root - $0.51

1 Garlic Bulb - $0.55

5lb bag Carrots - $4.99

1 head Cauliflower - $4.99

1 lb Spring Mix Greens - $5.99

3 Baby Bok Choy - $1.01

Hungarian Paprika - $0.32

Soy Sauce - $2.99

Nutzo Nut Butter - $10.99

Green Salsa - $3.99

Cottage Cheese - $3.19

Ok, so obviously, we do not buy soy sauce, paprika, nut butter, or salsa every week. Great! Then, if we remove non produce items, we only spent $32.55, which is the lowest amount that we have spent on produce, specifically. So, really we didn't spend more. We were just stocking up on pantry items we were running out of. Also, other weeks, we had to make multiple trips to the store, and last week we didn't.

However, was this the most sustainable week? Our trip in the car cost us $17.06, and it also cost the atmosphere some burnt gasoline. Could we have gotten similar groceries and kept one more car off the road?

Here's a random picture of Rachel on the CTA.

Well, what did Rachel get when she went shopping solo on the train? Here's the run down:

1 Bunch Green Onions - $0.77

1 lb Spring Mix Greens - $5.99

2 Bunches Kale - $4.00

4 Pears - $2.84

1 Celery Crown - $2.01

5 lb bag Potatoes - $5.99

2 Jewel Yams - $5.10

2 Red Grapefruit - $3.17

1 Avocado - $1.50

4 Golden Beets - $7.12

Cottage Cheese - $4.69

The total for this trip was $44.22. Who knows why golden beets are so freaking expensive, but we will treasure them as we eat them. For traveling on her own and not having extra arms to carry things, Rachel actually didn't do too bad. The number and cost of produce items was slightly higher for this trip than the average. It's a tricky time of year for produce. Prices will go down once Midwest producers start putting out their own vegetables again.

We will use Enterprise CarShare again, it's a smart program and it certainly makes sense in a crowded urban environment. We will do a full review of it after we've used it a couple more times. I'm not sure that it will always make the most sense for us to use to run to the grocery store. Granted, taking the car only took us a little over an hour. It took Rachel two and a half hours on the train. Sometimes, time is money. Luckily for us, there are small grocery stores dotting our neighborhood and there is an Edgewater Whole Foods slated to open at the end of April. This will make it a lot easier for us to get groceries without having to worry about a vehicle at all.

What we are looking forward to most is the growing season and farmer's markets starting up again. Fresh local food trumps all when it comes to deliciousness, affordability, and sustainability - you've just got to know what you're looking for.

Let us know what you think of this series in the comments! Have you used grocery delivery or a carshare to get your groceries? What has your experience been? 

Grocery Delivery Series: Instacart

Saturday is our month-a-versary of selling our car, and I think we are really getting into the groove. There have been no tears, we've gotten a lot of quick rides from friends, our walking muscles are getting really strong, everything is going well. This week our grocery delivery option was Instacart and it was really cool.  

When we started this project, we told you we were going to show you a bunch a different options. The first week was Door to Door Organics, which had a specific vegetable box, for a specific day delivery, with optional add-ons. Week two, was Newleaf Natural Grocery, which only delivers produce, but it was a great variety for a great price. With Instacart, you have complete control over what you get AND what day you get it. In fact, depending on when you order, you can specify an approximate delivery time. That, my friends, is a lot of control.

 

In our zip code, Instacart will deliver to us from Whole Foods, Costco, Mariano's, Jewel, or Food4 Less. We chose Whole Foods because we are most familiar with their offerings, but in the future, it might be interesting to see how Instacart works for a different location, like Costco. (It seems like you don't need a Costco membership to order from them, so that's an interesting loophole.) When you select the store, you are presented with a list of items that available at the store. The Instacart inventory does not match the entire Whole Foods inventory, because it would be inefficient to inventory the entire store every day. However, if an item is not available on Instacart's list, you can request it, (add a picture and/or description) and if a bunch of people keep requesting the same thing, they will add the item to their list.

 

For example, we used Instacart once in February because there was a blizzard and we needed to go shopping. We wanted a rotisserie chicken, but it was not listed on their site. The shopper was able to find it, and delivered it to us just fine. This time, when I went to add it as a special item, it was already available. So, enough people have been requesting rotisserie chickens through Instacart that they decided to add it to their site as a regular offering. The system is working, people.

 

The other nice thing about Instacart is that you are not required to buy a specific box or bag. We were able to be more specific about what we wanted and we could plan better. We did not need to return to another store for vegetables later in the week, like we did the two previous weeks. If you eat fewer vegetables than we do, you would not need to order as many from Instacart. Hell, you could just order ten bags of tortilla chips if you wanted. And a rotisserie chicken. Whatever you are into.

 

In terms of cost, Instacart is pretty comparable to the the cost of the vegetables from Newleaf, but it is prorated for convenience: quicker delivery has a slightly more expensive delivery cost, but all delivery is same day. Although, if you just want to try it out, we will have a coupon code for $10 off at the end of the post. Their pricing is independent of the store you are buying from, I'm not exactly sure why. It could be because they keep their pricing consistent regionally and do not change pricing based on zip code or sales in stores. However, if you look at the prices listed below, most of the prices are the same as if we had just bought those items from the Whole Foods.

 

Here is what we bought, all items are organic:

  • 1 lb 50/50 greens mix - $5.99
  • 5 lb bag of carrots - $4.99
  • 5 lb bag of yukon gold potatoes $5.99
  • 2 red bartlett pears - $1.58
  • 1 head cauliflower - $3.99
  • 1 orange bell pepper - $1.20
  • 2 celery crowns - $4.41
  • 3 garnet yams - $4.53
  • 1 head cabbage - $1.96
  • 1 yellow onion - $0.55
  • 1 red bell pepper - $1.20
  • 1 bag frozen chopped spinach - $1.99
  • 1 rotisserie chicken - $14.00
  • 2 Kalona cottage cheese - $9.38

Instacart Veggies

That brings us out to $61.76 total, but if you take out the chicken and the cheese, it's only $38.38. That's only three dollars more than what we spent at Newleaf, and it really did last us a week. We had a credit on our account from a mistake our shopper made the first time we used Instacart (remember, it was the crazy blizzard in February, I'm not mad about it), so our delivery was free. Typically, your delivery will cost you anywhere between $4 and $10, it just depends on how quickly you want your groceries and how much you are ordering.

 

So, while Instacart might seem completely luxurious, over-the-top, and something that only fancy people do, if you don't have a car, you want to get a lot of food for a party, or stock up on bulk food from Costco, the delivery fees are minimal in comparison to the payoff. Instacart doesn't waste resources either. If they have a lot of orders going from one location to a certain neighborhood, they will batch orders under one shopper. It saves gas to have one person to be driving for several households than for them all to be driving. It may not seem sustainable at face value, but it actually may be more sustainable than us all going shopping by ourselves.

 

How about you? Have you tried Instacart? Do you want to? This link will give you $10 off your first order. That's at least free delivery and maybe a free five pound bag of carrots, if you looking for a lot of carrots like us. If you are interested in reading our other grocery delivery reviews, you can read about Door to Door Organics here and learn about Newleaf Natural Grocery's Produce Box here.

 

 As always, feel free to drop us a line if you have any questions or comments. We'd love to hear if you think this series is helpful or if you have suggestions for future blog posts. Thanks for reading!

Grocery Delivery Series: Newleaf Natural Grocery

Most people would tell you that having options is important to grocery shopping. You need to know what you are eating, that the quality will be high, and that you will be able to get the ingredients you need. Choice, however, can be a double edged sword; too many decisions can make planning what you are going to eat a huge a hurdle to overcome. When you cook as much as we do, meal planning can be a bit of a chore if the only restrictions are "no processed foods and no added sugar." We often end up with decision fatigue. The Newleaf Natural Grocery Produce Box was a relief for us, because it took away all choice while still giving us great variety and quality.  

Newleaf Natural Grocery is located on Loyola Ave, within convenient walking distance of our house. This store is usually a nice place to swing through if we need more of something for a dish we're making or if we need a quick snack on the way to somewhere. It is very small. I think it may be the smallest grocery I have ever been inside, you do one loop around and that's it. The nice thing is that they pretty much have one of everything in that tiny store, and it seems like they run a pretty efficient ship.

 

A big part of Newleaf's business is their weekly organic vegetable and fruit delivery service. Each week they post of list of 8-9 vegetables and 5-6 fruits and then you can decide what type of box you want. There are small, medium, and large mixed boxes, just vegetable, just fruit, a half fruit box, and a raw box (which contains fewer starchy vegetables). If you are picking up directly from the store, you can choose which day (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Saturday). If you are getting home delivery, your delivery day depends on your location. They deliver as far south as Cermak, about as far west as Western (though you should look at the map), and as far north as Wilmette. Delivery costs $5. Boom!

 

We ordered the "just vegetable" box and a raw box, because you know we like a lot of produce, and we thought it would be cool to have a variety of fruits for a change. You pay in advance, so this cost us $35.

Ok, cool, so what did we get..

3 bags of green beans

2 bunches of collards

2 heads of lettuce

2 bunches of carrots

1 pound of strawberries

4 small onions

2 bunches of broccoli

2 apples

1 1/4lb blackberries

1 avocado

3 oranges

2 tangerines

New Leaf Veggies

Hey, that's not a bad collection of produce. That's the selection from last week, this is what people got this week. Also, it was a lot more fruit than we have been eating, so consequently, we are still working on the fruit well into this week. Everything was ready on time when I went to pick it up on Tuesday. It was all fresh and well packaged. Kristl noted something we haven't seen in months: the lettuce still had dirt on it! Don't freak out, this is pretty cool. It probably passed through fewer hands than most of the very "clean" lettuce we've been eating all winter. This was oddly comforting and made the lettuce seem a little healthier, even if it wasn't. (Dirt = bacteria = probably not a bad thing if you're eating it.)

 

Since we didn't have to decide what vegetables were going to buy, we just made up our meal plan from what we were given. We got meat from C&D Family Farms (also delivered to our door, on Saturday, more on that in a future blog post), and picked up dairy and other items from Morse Fresh Market, which is less than 1/2 a mile a way. Suddenly this whole carless grocery shopping thing is looking a lot less difficult. We bought potatoes, cabbage, and a giant sweet potato for about $10 later in the week, but that was all the produce we added on. We still have green beans and onions. It means the Newleaf Produce Box stocked us up pretty well. If you aren't eating a lot of vegetables, you will probably be fine with the small ($15) or medium($25.50) box. It's really affordable!

 

Who would we recommend this option to?

 

  • Anyone who wants home delivery within Newleaf's delivery area (you do have to meet this requirement)
  • People with decision fatigue around vegetable and fruit choice, who want variety without hassle
  • People on a budget; this food delivery option is very affordable
  • Anyone who wants to support the little guy, Newleaf is a small business and they source from small businesses
  • Anyone who wants to eat local in the growing season, they get vegetables from Fat Blossom Farm and fruit from Seedling Orchard

The other nice thing about the Newleaf Produce Box is that there isn't a long term commitment. You can get it once to try it out, like we did, or you can set up a recurring order to happen every week. It's up to you! Once you have made the transition to prioritizing local food, and sustainably grown produce, finding simple solutions like this is such a relief. Kristl and I are definitely going to supplement our winter diet with the occasional Newleaf Produce Box from now on.

 

So far, this grocery delivery series is making Kristl and me feel like the Ultimate Queens of Produce. We just sit around and produce comes to us. Next week's review features Instacart, which makes you feel super fancy, because they deliver same day and you can get pretty much whatever you want from wherever you want (a slight overstatement). If you missed our review of Door to Door Organics from last week, you can read about it here, and if you want to try it out be sure to contact us for an awesome Door to Door discount code!

 

Grocery Delivery Series: Door to Door Organics

Welcome to week 1 of our Grocery Delivery Series! Today we are featuring Door to Door Organics. The concept here is very simple. First, you choose a type (all vegetable, all fruit, or mixed) and size (bitty, small, medium, or large) of box. Then you are given delivery day options based on your location. You can customize your box with up to five substitutions, and then you can buy additional items from Door to Door if you need. They have a variety of fruits, vegetables, local meats, dairy, eggs, and pantry items. There's even a sale section! Or you can just get your box. You confirm the box, and then it shows up on your doorstep on the appointed day, ta da! This process will happen every week (or every other week, depending on what you choose) indefinitely, but if you want to go on vacation or stop getting deliveries, just put your account on hold. EASY! Door to Door Vegetables

 

Our box was delivered on Monday, 3/2/15. Let's look at what we got:

 

Medium Veggie Box Contents

We ordered a medium veggie box and it contained 1 lb of rainbow carrots, 4 bananas, 1 red bell pepper, 2 pieces of ginger root, 1 green cabbage, 1 cauliflower, 1 bunch of red chard, 1 cucumber, 3 yellow onions, 1 OrganicGirl 50/50! blend, 2 d'Anjou pears, and 2 lbs of regular carrots. We used all five of our substitutions when we ordered, and definitely liked not being locked into getting things we didn't want or already had enough of. One really cool feature is that you can set account preferences - if you have an allergy or just hate a certain item, add it to the list and Door to Door will automatically swap it out for you. You can also add things that you would like more of. Talk about customizable!

Additional Items Screenshot

This second screen shot is of things we added on, because the medium veggie box was just not enough for us. We added another cauliflower, a whole chicken, a bunch of kale, a bunch of broccoli, another cabbage, and another container of mixed greens. These additions brought our total to $76.93. The chicken alone was $13.99, which is a pretty competitive price for a 4 lb organic chicken (full disclosure, it was on sale).

If you notice on the second screen shot that there is a "Credit" line item, that's because we had two missing items. We did not receive the rainbow carrots or the second cabbage we ordered. This didn't ruin our week or anything, but it was confusing. I almost missed it, too. Thankfully, customer support was very helpful, and they credited our account immediately when we notified them (to be clear, they didn't even charge our card for what they missed, which, in our opinion, is even better than getting an account credit).

Let's break it down. Who would be a good fit for Door to Door Organics?

  • You want to eat organic food
  • You have very little time or ability to grocery shop
  • You are trying to stick to a budget and want to avoid those impulse buys that jump in your cart when you go grocery shopping
  • You have somewhat predictable food needs

The food quality is high, the website is easy to navigate, the selections are above and beyond, and the produce boxes are pretty great. Not to mention, the local meat and dairy selections are impressive. Also, the packaging is all recyclable and reusable and you can leave it out at your next pickup for them to properly reuse or recycle. Yay for environmental friendliness!

Our order from Door to Door lasted us about 4 days. According to Door to Door, the medium veggie box should be enough for a "hearty vegetarian couple, or a family with a couple of veggie and fruit minded children." As we mentioned in the introduction to this series, we eat a LOT of produce. We found that the medium box was not nearly enough for us, but we also understand that our needs for produce are much different than the average person. Seriously, guys, we eat ALL. THE. VEGETABLES.  We did end up going to the store 4 times this week to supplement. I think our ideal will be one big grocery haul a week with 1-2 trips to supplement. Such is life when you only eat perishable foods, especially during the non-growing season. In order to get the freshest options, sometimes it's best to shop multiple times a week. Our next vegetable delivery will be on Tuesday, 3/10, with the Weekly Produce Box Program from Newleaf Natural Grocery in Rogers Park. Check out our Week Two Review here.

Have you tried Door to Door Organics? Did you have a good experience? Share your comments below! If you would like to try them out, email us at hello@sustainablyqueer.com for a discount code for $15 off! Yeah!

Grocery Delivery Series: Introduction

Last weekend, Kristl and I took the plunge and finally sold our little blue 2005 Hyundai. There wasn't anything particularly wrong with it, but our big goal this year is to aggressively pay down Kristl's student loan debt, so we're cutting the chaff. Plus, it wasn't the best for winter driving and we found that we were maybe using it once a week. It is pretty simple to transition to living car-free in Chicago, especially when you live as close to work and transit as we do. Of course, we're planning on blogging about our experience with being car-free, so you have that to look forward to! Our main difficulty with being car-free is figuring out how to do our grocery shopping. As part of our debt-reduction plan, we have agreed to only eat out once a month. You read that right - once a month. Combine that with the fact that we don't really eat very many processed foods and that adds up to a lot of perishable groceries. A whole lot.

In the growing season, we get our produce directly from a farm, a farmers market, or a CSA, but in the cooler months, we tend to go to Whole Foods, Costco, or our neighborhood grocery store. We are super lucky that we have 3 small, locally-0wned grocery stores within walking distance of our home that have a decent selection of local, organic foods, but they often don't have the amounts we need. We are not dye-in-the-wool Whole Foods groupies, but because we tend to choose organic for the majority of our produce, it is often the best option because they have quicker turnover. They tend to sell their produce more quickly, thus, the produce you see on the shelf has been restocked more recently than what you may see at a smaller store, even if they are coming from the same regional distributor.

A Whole Foods is opening very close to us at the end of April (hopefully!), which will be very convenient, but in the meantime, we are doing some interesting research into grocery delivery programs. We will review one each week in March, for our knowledge and yours.

Here is our planned schedule of reviews:

Each week we will post a new review and link it to the list above. We have done our best to choose 4 different types of grocery delivery options so that we can provide options for the vast majority of our readers. These options run the gamut from almost-immediate-gratification-someone-else-does-your-grocery-shopping-for-you  to hyperlocal, seasonal CSA. We will compare price points, ease of use, reliability, customer service, and quality of produce. We hope you're as excited as we are!

 

Ninety-Nine Things We Like - Part Four - Local Business Edition

We're back and we want to use our last thirty-three favorite things to shout out to some of our favorite local businesses in Chicago. They run the gambit from art to chiropractic to pet supplies. If we need to do something in Chicago (not food this time!) these are the people we typically support.

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