Thursday, September 10, 2009

Party of One

As I pondered what to make for dinner tonight I recalled the milk sitting in the fridge that needs to get used up and thought "Curry dishes are milky, I bet I could make that." So I set out on to read a bunch of recipes, largely ignored all of them, boiled noodles, cooked veggies in milk + coconut oil (turns out curries use coconut milk), threw a bunch of spices at it and ended up with an interesting result. As I was eating, I thought to myself "It's sure a good thing I don't cook for anyone else!" What I ended up with was very edible and didn't taste bad, but it was too sweet, weirdly thick and the spices were off in their proportions. It was yet another moment when I realized that I live my life differently based on the size of my household; when there's just one of me it's easy to take risks in the kitchen since I'm the only one who has to stomach the results. There's also no one around to point out the gross factor in using my 'hair gel' as an ingredient in my dinner (coconut oil does wonders for taming frizz). On the other hand, if there were other people living with me there might not have been the desperation to use up the milk because someone might be around to just drink it (I can't stomach milk plain due to a childhood allergy).

There are plenty of other areas of my life that are more or less flexible based on the fact that I'm the sole member of my household. Crunchy Chicken is gearing up for this year's cloth wipe challenge and there have been quite a few comments about how people can't participate because of the other people who use their bathroom. I just tuck my bag of used wipes behind something when guests arrive, and otherwise no one is around to notice (let alone be offended by) a pile of folded cloths on the counter or in the bag or drying on a rack in the laundry room. Speaking of my laundry room (which is really just a closet) it's a simple task to line dry my laundry since I only produce one load a week and a rope zig-zagging through the shelves in that closet can hold a full load. I once told some co-workers about line drying when explaining how my electric bill is so low and got the response "You can tell she doesn't have kids if she has time to do that." Since no one is demanding my attention I also choose to take the 2 hour commute via public transportation to grad school classes, rather than the 40 minute drive. I can also set the thermostat wherever I want, and choose to let my apartment get a bit stuffy to conserve warmth (to the chagrin of my friend who visited last weekend). This is not to say that I wouldn't do these things with kids or a partner, it's just easy to do now because I don't have to worry about missing time that could be spent with others or negotiate with anyone else's preferences.

There are also items that are harder to manage on my own. You may have read some of the saga that was my multiple failed attempts to compost. As one person who tries to minimize food waste without a yard, I have yet to find a way to compost. I also have to buy things in smaller packages, which means more waste. I was shopping with a friend and he tried to convince me to buy the double sized can of baked beans (cheaper and less packaging than buying 2 cans), but I really only want to eat half a can and then am good for several weeks, so the double size would either result in me being exceedingly sick of baked beans or an entire can being sent down the disposal, neither of which are good choices. I want to buy in bulk, but I have limited space and limited usage of most things so getting a membership at someplace like Costco just isn't feasible (I was heartened to see my twitter friend @ashleymarie6 facing that conundrum as well). Same thing with getting a CSA share, I couldn't possibly use a family size one. My friend did offer to give me her leftovers if she gets a share next summer, but we'll see how many leftovers there actually are!

Overall, I'm enjoying these years in my 20's to 'go wild' (with environmentalism, not much of a party-er), figure out which changes are workable and develop habits that will later become so ingrained I no longer think of them as extra effort. But, I look forward to a time when I'll have my own house to make bigger changes (a real garden with rain barrels!), to being able to share the burdens and joys of eco-living with other people, and to having enough food waste to finally sustain a population of worms.

(This post is my contribution to September's APLS Carnival, which I am hosting. Email me a link to your post by Sept. 15 to be included!)


  1. I thought I was reading my own post at first - look up a ton of recipes, and then casually toss them aside and do my own thing! :-)

    Sometimes I admit I envy being able to do my own thing and take things a bit slower. I can't even fathom coping with public transportation if it was an option in my area these days!

  2. Hi there! I can absolutely relate to much of this post! I'm new to your blog, so forgive me if I should know this from past posts, but where are you located? If you happen to be in Chicago, I can offer suggestions of places that offer CSA veggies on a weekly basis so you can order only when you need, instead of a whole season. A friend and I are splitting one, even though we don't live together. We get the box and then designate a night to whip our veggies into awesome meals, thus benefiting from local produce AND community! And, even though I am just me, I find that I produce far too MUCH waste for my wormies to eat!

  3. I can see how some things would be more difficult as a single person, but many things would be easier. You can do more things that would be harder to convince other family members of, but I can see it would be difficult to find ways of eating more consciously without creating waste. Kudos to you!

  4. Being able to cook only for yourself is definitely different than cooking for a group. It is becoming more and more clear the life has different phases. It sounds like you are really enjoying the phase that you are in now!

    On the composting issue, I know some communities are beginning community-wide composting efforts. Maybe there is one near you?

  5. Robbie: I will admit I don't use the bus system around town, just for the long and traffic filled trip into the city.

    Jackie: A weekly CSA sounds cool! I'm near Boston though, so that one wouldn't work out very well.

    The Mom: Thanks!

    Steph: I tried looking into local composting places once, but never got any replies to my emails and so forgot about it. I should try again.


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