Saturday, March 21, 2009

Many Hands Make Light Work

From the bean of Green Bean.

Last month, a fellow Booth-mate left a comment on one of my posts that saved me a lot of time, some real money, gave me time with friends, and packed lunches for me. She wished to "find other families who eat the same way [she does] and create a supper club (4 families cooking bigger portions so we can share the work and cook less)."

JessTrev was on to something. With all this talk about the Depression, it makes sense to look back at how our grandparents and great grandparents survived and even thrived in hard times. I recently skimmed through Little Heathens, a Depression-era memoir, and one of the things that stood out was that, while there was a lot of work to be done, the burden was usually shared making the task much more pleasurable.

Sometimes, that meant that people got together and built a house, planted a garden or made jam together. Having done the latter with my green moms group, I can attest that it is a lot more fun than jamming on your own.

Other times, that meant trading items. Swapping biscuits for jam, eggs for milk, radish seeds for seed potatoes.

I decided to take JessTrev's supper club idea and turn it into reality. Eighteen months ago, I started a book club focused on green books by sending out a few emails on the mothers' club board. Over the months, we've morphed into a general green moms group. We still read plenty. But we also watch eco-movies, go on retreats to organic wineries, pick berries, plan gardens and, now, after a couple emails on the topic, do swap snacks.

Last weekend, we exchanged what one friend would later call "$1000 dollars worth of baked goods" considering the time that went into them and what some of the bakers are paid for their day jobs. There were soft pretzels, saltines, graham crackers, oatmeal raisin cookies, carrots mini muffins, raisin bran muffins, shredded carrots packaged in saved salsa containers, and dried fruit.

By trading snacks with our friends, we each walked away with a month's worth of healthy, homemade food, made by people we know and trust without preservatives or other scary ingredients. The swap also forced many of us to expand not just our baking repertoire but our eating one as well. We saved money with all those "made from scratch" goods and, because we packaged everything in our own reusable containers, we skipped the plastic and packaging that comes with buying ready made snacks. There was even a little social time involved in the drop off and pick up -a glass of wine traded, school fundraising ideas or gardening plans exchanged and borrowed items returned.

The following night, I slapped together three lunches in under three minutes. A piece of fruit, some made from scratch goodie or two in each box, a cup of shredded carrots, a Kleen Kanteen full of filtered water, and they were good to go.

Our snack swap - which we will continue each month - proves true another one of those Depression-era adages. Many hands do make light work . . . or at least an easily packed, waste-free lunch.

*Thanks to snack swapping sistah, Elaine, for the top photo.


Heather @ SGF said...

What a great idea! People do this all the time at Christmas with cookies and I never even though to extrapolate on the idea.

Glad someone's thinking :)

Liz said...

I LOVE this idea! Well, actually I love both the supper club idea and the snack trading idea. (And by the way, I saw your post about Michelle and her clothes and have to tell you I thought the same thing. Actually I thought some snarky things about photo ops, etc., even while I champion the whole gardening thing. Looking forward to getting mine in the ground, but it won't be for weeks yet. It's still cold here!)

I'm finding there are SO many green resources on the web. I've done my own thing, but am branching out looking for better tips (I've gotten great ones on cleaning, which is big for me) and different ideas. Lots out there.

I saw where you have a book club. I'd like to recommend a fabulous book on living green, "Super Natural Home" by Beth Greer. It's practical, it's step-by-step (I like that approach) and it doesn't just present problems but offers solutions. I like that best of all. It offers all kinds of ways to reduce the toxins that are way too present in our lives. Very, very useful. Take a look at it.

Electronic Goose said...

Awesome idea!!

You might be interested in this site: It complies writings from Depression and post-Depression era portraits of what life was like in America (a WPA project).

EcoBurban said...

I love this idea, and wish I had moms in my area who would be into this... I think I need to get out of my comfort zone and see who might be interested. I need to move west I think!!

kale for sale said...

Great idea. The place where I get my hair cut does a similar thing in that each stylist brings lunch on a regular rotation - for everyone. So they don't have to go out every day and they only have to make lunch once every couple of weeks. I ask her what they had each time I go in and it always sounds/smells good. As much as I like what they're doing I'd be more comfortable with trading healthy snacks though. I like bringing my leftovers for lunch.

Green Bean said...

Heather: Exactly. Thanks to Jess for coming up with the idea. It made my very crazy week so much more manageable.

Liz: Thank you for the book rec! Sounds interesting.

EG: Love that stuff. So intriguing to read what those before us did in hard times. Thanks for the link.

EB: Never know. I had no moms like that until I reached out to start a green book club a while back. You're VERY busy with work and 4 boys but I bet there are people out there like you. The beauty of connecting with those people is that, once you establish a relationship, then you can do pretty much anything greenish. Like this snack swap. Were it not for the book group, I would have never been able to turn it into reality.

Katrina: Love the idea of swapping lunches. With the economy in the dumps, more and more people are looking to enjoy life but spend less money eating out. It's a great compromise. And, I'm with you. I too love leftovers for lunch. But there never seem to be enough of the really good stuff. :)

Liz H said...

I got together with 3 other "mom" friends. We each make four family size servings of 2 different meals to freeze. Since we do it on a monthly basis, it gives us plenty of time to do our meals. At the end of the month we trade and each has 8 frozen, ready to go meals to use.

Before starting we came up with some "ground rules" as to things each of don't like. Some of the meals are very simple, such as meat and a sauce to throw in the crockpot, but just having them packed up in the freezer saves lots of planning and trips to the store.

JessTrev said...

Ohmigosh I loooove this implementation! You are so amazing, and I just wish I lived closer so I could show up with homemade crackers in hand! I still have yet to implement this, mostly because all the women I know who would be into it also have allergy issues that would complicate the snack array....


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