Plastic Free July: 5 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

Sustainability

July is Plastic Free Month so I thought it would be a great idea to share some ideas on how to easily reduce how much plastic we’re using. It can be difficult in this day and age to avoid plastic. It seems that everywhere I turn everything is wrapped in plastic – even vegetables! Sometimes using plastic is unavoidable because of this but there are some easy ways that you can reduce your plastic usage that we can all do not only for Plastic Free July but every month of the year.

Swap Your Plastic Utensils

This is probably one of the easiest swaps you can make – instead of using the plastic utensils at work for your lunch (or anywhere when you’re eating out) carry your own reusable utensils. This can mean you have an extra set at work that you use, wash and reuse, or maybe you have a set you keep in your purse. Whatever method you prefer, this is a quick and easy way to reduce your use of plastic every day. And really, who really likes using plastic utensils anyway. You can find loads of silverware and utensils at your local thrift store, or if you’re looking for something new I suggest checking out Etsy for some of the cutest reusable sets you’ve ever seen. Both options are inexpensive and a great way to reduce your plastic usage all year long.

Reusable Bags

This is a no-brainer in California, since our free plastic bags are no longer allowed, but in other areas it may be an important switch you can make to reduce your plastic waste. Reusable bags can be anything from grocery bags, produce bags, zip-up bags to lunch bags. Whether you’re reusing your stockpile of plastic bags or purchasing washable replacements this can be a quick and easy way to lessen your plastic footprint. There are loads of options that can be purchased at local grocery stores for fairly cheap and of course Etsy always has cute and unique options that you can have shipped to you. Stock up on grocery bags, mesh produce bags and even reusable snack bags for lunches. Also, did you know you can wash zip-up bags and reuse them? I’ve been doing this for months now and have even been putting them in the dishwasher. Simply flip the bags inside out and place on the top rack of your dishwasher. Wedge them between a few cups to keep them in place and before you know it your zipper bags will be good as new!

Plastic-Free Produce

This tip can be a bit more difficult to follow depending on where you shop, but it’s also important to let our grocery stores know that we’re tired of all of our food being wrapped in plastic for no reason. I like to try and do my best to purchase only those produce items that come without any added plastic. For example, often times there are english cucumbers wrapped in plastic wrap at my local grocery store, instead of purchasing those, I’ll buy the regular cucumbers that are plastic free. Same goes for bagged salads, herbs, and things like broccoli, carrots or green beans. The easiest way to avoid plastic produce? Shopping at the farmers markets! This is also a great way to get organic produce locally while supporting your local farmers and community. Avoiding plastic wrapped produce can have a big impact per trip depending on what you normally buy and can be also be a great way to encourage us to support our local agricultural businesses.

Buy in Bulk

Buying in bulk means that you can use reusable containers or bags to purchase things like rice, pasta, flour, nuts and other dry items. This greatly reduces waste and is usually cheaper too! Most grocery stores have a bulk area and if you’re lucky you might even have a dedicated bulk store in your area. Simply weight the container or bag you are using before you fill it up and subtract that from the total weight of your purchase before you buy. Sometimes this can be tougher to figure out depending on where you shop, but if you speak to your local grocer they should be able to help. I’ve seen people use everything from cloth bags to mason jars to purchase items in bulk. Not only is it easy but they look better sitting in your pantry too!

Quit Single Use Water Bottles

This tip is probably the easiest and most impactful of all – purchase a reusable water bottle to refill instead of using single use plastic water bottles. This tip is huge because it can reduce a crazy amount of plastic being thrown into landfills. It’s inexpensive to purchase a nice water bottle, whether you like stainless, glass or another plastic option. Most airports, gyms, public events etc. now offer water refill stations for your reusable bottle so it’s easier than ever. Don’t like the water from your tap? That’s easy. You can either buy a filtered pitcher or sink attachment, OR purchase your water in larger amounts to fill up your reusable bottle. There are over 50 billion water bottles purchased each day that end up in the garbage. Purchasing a reusable bottle can make a difference and help greatly reduce our plastic footprint.

So there you have it! 5 Tips to reducing your plastic footprint for Plastic Free July. All of these tips are so easy and don’t cost much if anything to implement. I hope you’ll be inspired to make small changes to help our environment not just for July but for every month of the year!

Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta

Recipes

During the summer months it can be difficult to know what to make for dinner. The heat can make the thought of any warm meal sound horrible even if it’s delicious. And let’s be honest, we can only eat so many salads for dinner. This is where this Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta comes in. It’s served either at room temperature or cold to avoid raising body temperatures while also giving you a bomb of flavor.

This recipe was super fun for me because the star ingredients were actually harvested from my garden. I love being able to use what I’ve grown to create yummy dinners and love even more that it doesn’t go to waste. For this recipe I harvested fresh basil and a big batch of cherry tomatoes. My basil plant was going crazy and flowering so it was great timing. I also couldn’t believe the size of my cherry tomatoes, they seem huge this year (although I’m not complaining in the least). It’s always a joy to head to the backyard instead of the grocery store for ingredients. I really need to get myself a producing lemon tree as that was one of the only items I had to purchase from the store for this recipe. That and avocados, but avocado trees take SO long to produce and I’m not sure how well it would do in our hot climate. I keep bugging the hubs to build me a greenhouse, but that probably won’t happen until at least the fall when it starts getting a little cooler.

I had some whole grain spaghetti on hand which I thought would be a great addition to this recipe. What’s great about it is that you basically throw everything in a blender or food processor while the pasta cooks and voila! Dinner is served. Simply mix whatever pasta you have on hand with your creamy pesto sauce, top with your favorite fresh veggies and your done. Seriously, it’s so fresh, so delicious and so easy it’s perfect for a summer evening meal. You could also use this with zoodles or other vegetable noodles for a low carb option, or mix it with some cooked quinoa for a protein punch.

I was fortunate enough yesterday to have time to make fresh bread for dinner to go with this pasta. I used my Easy French Bread recipe. It was perfect because I came home from work, started the dough, let it rise while I was at the gym and then was able to come back and finish it up. This pesto sauce is also delicious spread on bread and would be great for sandwiches or toast. I can’t wait for the weekend to have toast with a poached egg on top with this sauce, oh and of course some more tomatoes! I imagine this pesto would also do well on pizza, although I haven’t tried this avocado version like that yet (note to self, must try later). It should be mentioned that if you wanted to leave the avocado out for a lower fat option you totally could. However, keep in mind that the creaminess of this recipe does come from the avocado. If you were to leave it out it would still pack an intense pesto flavor it just would not have the same consistency. Overall, I really love this recipe and can’t wait for my basil plant to grow back so I can harvest more! I hope you enjoy it!

Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta

1 big bunch of basil leaves, washed and packed, about 2 cups

2 avocados

3 cloves garlic

1/2 cup raw walnuts

1/4 cup raw cashews

1/2 cup olive oil

1/3 cup lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Cherry tomatoes, quartered – I used about 20, you could also use large tomatoes for this or omit entirely if you don’t like tomatoes

Whole grain spaghetti – or whatever pasta you have on hand

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  2. While pasta is cooking add all ingredients except cherry tomatoes and pasta to a blender or a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  3. Once pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse with cold water until you can handle the noodles without burning your hands.
  4. Add pasta to a large bowl and mix in pesto sauce gradually until you reach your desired consistency. Place remaining pesto sauce in a sealed container and place in the fridge for future use.
  5. At this point you can either add the tomatoes and stir them in like I did, or wait to top each individual serving with tomatoes.
  6. Serve with bread and vegan butter.

And there you have it! It’s literally one of the easiest dishes of the summer and tastes so fresh and delicious you’ll be craving it all year. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Las Vegas, NV

places

Traveling for work can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand your trip is pretty much paid for but on the other you do actually have to work for part if not most of it. This is how all except two of my trips to Las Vegas, Nevada have been. All in all I’ve been about 7 or 8 times. Basically, I’ve been to alot of different places in Las Vegas – some expensive (like that I could not afford and work was paying) and some not-so-expensive. In this post, I want to tell you about some of my favorite places and some of the best places for your money if you decide to visit Sin City.

Favorite Places to Stay

I’ve definitely been spoiled in the hotel department when it comes to staying in Las Vegas. Because most of my trips have been for work I’ve had the pleasure of staying in the hotel attached to the convention center on the strip – The Venetian. The Venetian is one of the pricier albeit nicest hotel on the strip. It’s connected to the convention center as well as the Palazzo which houses a wide variety of shopping and restaurants (some of which will come up in this post). The Venetian is styled after Venice Italy. It features large marble columns, ornately painted ceilings and a full on replica of the canals in Italy. It is one the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever seen which makes paying for it worth it in the end. The casino is huge and is one of the only casinos I’ve seen in Las Vegas that offers a non-smoking area. The pool area is beautiful as well with water features and a full bar that will serve you poolside. They also have two full size spas outdoors that have waterfalls and also poolside service. All of their guest rooms are suites that boast full size bathrooms with jetted tubs as well as showers and full living room areas to relax in. This is not your basic hotel and will run you anywhere from $169 to $610 for their more “basic” suites. If you have the money to splurge it’s definitely worth it.

Another great place to stay that is a bit more budget friendly, while still being beautiful, is Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Now don’t get me wrong, Paris can still be expensive depending on the time you go and what room you choose. But for our particular trip, which was a week before Thanksgiving, we found this to be the nicest and least pricey option. The hotel is styled after Paris, France and even features a large replica of the Eiffel Tower out front. You can even take an elevator ride up to the top of the tower for a bird’s eye view of the city, or enjoy a fancy dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. The casino is adorable with an outdoor feel. The ceilings are painted as blue skies and the bars are set up as if they are outdoor cafes. Even the waitresses wear Paris-style outfits as they serve cocktails on the casino floor. Paris’ hotel rooms are nice and will be even nicer once they complete renovations. They aren’t all suites like the Venetian but are still a decent size with a larger bathroom than your average hotel. I’ve also had their room service for breakfast which was super speedy and delicious. I would absolutely stay here again if given the chance.

Favorite Places to Play

Gambling is a huge part of the entertainment in Vegas. Pretty much every hotel features a casino and everywhere you go you can hear the bells and whistles of the slot machines. I’m not a huge fan of gambling, but sometimes it’s fun to play some of the slot machines and get free drinks while you’re doing it. The best places to play the slot machines are in the Venetian and Palazzo because, in my experience, they still bring you free drinks while you play. I’ve noticed many of the other casinos don’t have cocktail waitresses come around as often which makes it much less fun to lose money while gambling. Another fun place to play slot machines is in what they call Old Las Vegas. This Las Vegas is off the strip on Fremont Street. It is lined with neon signs and some rather different sites than what you will see on the new strip. Fremont Street is home to a giant zip-line ride where you can sail above the entire boulevard of lights, and at night is home to a variety of live music playing up and down the street. The slot machines are fun because the drinks are cheaper, the games are older, and you get much of the feel of what Las Vegas must have been like back in the old days. Visiting Old Las Vegas is like being thrown back in time. Someday, I’d like to stay here as well to get a different feel of the other side of Vegas.

For fun that doesn’t include gambling I usually like to go watch the fountain show at the Bellagio. It’s an engineering marvel of water and lights with fountains set to different music depending on when you’re able to watch it. My favorite song to see is Andre Bocelli’s time to say goodbye. The fountain show is spectacular and definitely something you won’t want to miss if you visit Vegas. The best part? It’s absolutely free. Another fun thing to do in Vegas is to check out all the other design and work put into the other ritzy hotels and casinos. A couple worth checking out are the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace. Both feature amazing design features such as Bellagio’s glass flower ceiling and Caesar’s Romanesque interior. Bellagio also features a conservatory and botanical garden which is redesigned each season. The work that goes into the garden is breathtaking. It’s free to walk around and check out the hotels and their different attractions. You could also stop for a drink at Bellagio’s piano bar near the lobby or play a few slots in either casino. Another fun bar to check out is the dueling piano bar inside of Paris. You could also watch from outside the bar through the large windows if you don’t feel like paying for a drink. Picture two large grand pianos playing tunes requested by the audience. I couldn’t believe the talent of the guys playing and the engagement of the crowd is fun to watch while also being fairly inexpensive.

Favorite Places to Eat

Visiting new restaurants is hands down my favorite part about travelling. I love experiencing new food and trying new places and Las Vegas is one of the best places for that. They have so many different restaurants ranging from run-of-the-mill to Michelin star rated. Whether you’re looking for Italian food, a good burger or something exotic you’re sure to find it there.

For breakfast I love HEXX kitchen + bar located inside of Paris. Their interior is super modern and hip and I loved the variety in their menu. One of my favorite items was their fresh fruit plate, which I know, sounds basic, but is so over the top. It came with a bunch of mini banana muffins and a coconut whipped cream that was out of this world. Also, it’s huge! I’ve never seen a bigger fruit plate in my life! It went perfectly with my bottomless mimosas. I’ve recently learned that my favorite lunch spot in Las Vegas is no longer there after 6 years (super sad face!). So, the next time I go, I will try to update this post with a new lunch spot.

One of the best dinners I’ve ever had was my 30th birthday dinner at Sushi Samba inside of the Palazzo. Sushi Samba is one of my favorite restaurants in Las Vegas and I try to visit every time I am there. Their menu features items that are in a Japanese-South American fusion style. My favorite part is that they also offer an entire vegan menu which can be difficult to find in fine dining. The atmosphere inside is amazing as well with street-style art on the walls, crazy sculptures you walk through to get to your seat, and giant paper lanterns hanging from the walls. If vegan isn’t your thing, have no fear, because they offer a wide variety of meats and sushi items to suit everyone’s taste. Seriously, I went with my dad who is a hardcore meat eater and my friend who is a hardcore vegan and no one left disappointed. They also offer gluten-free items as well as a brunch and a kids menu which I have never tried but I’m sure is out of this world. Next on my list for them is to try their some of the Japanese Whiskey from their extensive drink list. It can get a little pricey to eat here for sure, but the food you are getting is second to none and is an unforgettable experience in and of itself.

Las Vegas can be a super fun place to visit without costing too much money if you plan it out properly. I’d say the most expensive and most dangerous part of the city is the casinos with their many slot machines, the trick is to learn when to walk away. This isn’t to say that you can’t win, though. My husband and I paid for almost our entire trip with winnings off of a single slot machine alone, so definitely don’t knock it til you’ve tried it. Overall, it’s a great city to visit for relaxing as well. There are endless things to do and see, but the hotels can also be so nice that you might not want to leave. I’ve been many times, like I said before, but I think I would go again for sure. It seems like there is always something new to experience in Sin City even if it’s not a show or another casino. If you get the chance to check it out I totally recommend checking out the places I’ve mentioned above.

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Garden Check-In

Sustainability

One of my resolutions this year was to become more sustainable by growing some of my own food. I started mostly everything from seed and I am finally starting to see some of the fruits and vegetables of my labor! Here’s a quick recap of my process: I germinated most of the seeds to start. The only ones I started straight from seed were the sunflowers and the green beans. After germinating I started the seeds inside the house to make sure the weather didn’t beat them up. The beans were the only seeds sown directly outdoors. I did have a few plants die which I replaced with organic seedlings from Green Acres Nursery & Supply. The ones I replaced were the yellow squash and one of the cucumbers (only one of mine survived). I also ended up purchasing a butternut squash plant and an eggplant along with some herbs. The herbs I bought were basil, sage and oregano. I even ended up planting some green onions in a garden bed that were from the grocery store. I think I had a very successful turnout overall and am so happy that things went so well with my first season starting from seed.

Enough recap, let’s show you how everything is looking!

Here is one of three sunflowers. The first image is what the sunflower looked like when it first bloomed. The second shows the seeds forming inside of the sunflower. Stay tuned for a post on how to harvest the seeds.

There are green beans galore in the garden right now! I picked this handful last night and have many, many others waiting to ripen. I can’t wait to use these as a side dish or in a salad. I ate a couple of them raw while I was picking and they are so delicious. Even the ladybugs love them!

Since I bought the squash plants and eggplant later in the season they haven’t produced yet, but the zucchini has not disappointed. This is one of two zucchs I’ve harvested so far, and they are so delicious! And even though only one of the original cucumber plants survived it already has a baby cucumber hiding in the trellis. I can’t wait for the other to start producing too!

The tomatoes haven’t ripened yet, but the plants are loaded with babies! I just know they are all going to ripen at the same time and I am going to be overloaded with tomatoes. I am going to use this as an opportunity to learn to can them into fresh tomatoes and sauces so stay tuned for that! I have cherry tomatoes and larger tomatoes that are coming in – 6 plants total – which is going to yield me a huge crop!

The only fruit items we were looking forward to this year have either already produced or have been taken by the heat. The apricots survived and were delectable. Unfortunately, the peaches seemed like they may have gotten too hot and started falling off the tree while they were still green. I didn’t expect our trees to produce this year at all since it was their first year, but happy that at least the apricot gave us some fruit. What will be sort of cool is picking our neighbors fruit off the limbs overhanging into our yard – figs, plums and grapes oh my!

I’m so thrilled with how everything has been going and can’t wait to see more growth. Stay tuned for more posts on sunflower seed harvesting, canning, pruning and more! Until then, happy gardening!

MelissaRose

Camping at Sly Park

Pop-Up Camping

This weekend was our very first trip in our new pop up camper! We went to the Sly Park campgrounds in Pollock Pines, California. The trailer worked out beautifully and we couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to escape the heat at home. We had a great time boating, fishing and hanging out with family and even learned a couple of things along the way too. Sly Park is located on Jenkinson Lake in Pollock Pines. It’s a little over an hour away from Sacramento in the mountains which makes it a great place to take a weekend away from the summer heat in the city. Jenkinson Lake is owned by El Dorado Irrigation District and provides drinking water throughout parts of the county. Because of this irrigation distribution, dogs and children in diapers are not allowed in the lake. There is also no personal watercraft allowed (ie: jet skis, wave runners, etc.) This keeps the campground fairly quiet and I would think keeps it a bit less crowded as well. There were many stand up paddle boards and kayaks, however, and plenty of fishing boats out on the lake. The water was gorgeous looking from the shore and on the boat. The blue-green color made it look almost tropical, especially compared to some of the other lakes near Sacramento. We ended up catching and releasing around 12 small trout on Saturday which was crazy, and if you look super close at the image below you can see one of two bald eagles that we spotted while we were out too.

There are 9 miles of hiking trails around Jenkinson Lake. I really, really wanted to do the hike out to the waterfall which is halfway along the 7 mile trail that goes around the entire lake. Unfortunately, since it was a short weekend and we ended up in or around the water for most of it, we didn’t end up hiking. Luckily, this beautiful place is pretty close so we could drive up just for the hike if we wanted to. The staff at Sly Park was super friendly from what little interaction we had with them. They have over 190 campsites around the lake with a camp host for each area. Many of the sites are water view, which if you have a chance to visit and snag one of these sites I definitely recommend. There are no hookups in any of the sites, but we didn’t let that bother us much. Luckily our little pop up trailer has an auxiliary battery for lights, water storage tanks for washing hands and dishes and my husband’s mom brought us a generator for powering the outlets (which we really only used to make coffee in the morning). We did not have the generator on the first morning we were there (we thought the battery might power the outlets), but thankfully there is a small market right outside of the park that sells coffee. If we were only going up for the day there are ten day use areas to choose from. We really liked the day use area near our campsite (called the Sierra Point day use area) because it sits on a long peninsula that juts out into the water. We spent most of our Saturday afternoon here visiting with family who had come up to picnic and bring the kids swimming. The boating was super fun too. My husband’s brother brought up his fishing boat and took us and our pup Nixie out on the water. It was the perfect weather for it, not too hot or cold, and Nixie did really well for it being only her second time on a boat. Here she is in the cuddy area posing for a picture 🙂

The campsites in our area were larger than we expected. Especially when they told us we could only have one motorhome/trailer in our site. We could have easily fit another small trailer, but it is what it is. If we would have had guests that were tent camping it would not have been an issue. The site was fairly level and was indicated as such on their website when I made the reservation. We were close enough to the vault toilets and a couple water spigots which was nice. If you don’t know what a vault toilet is, it’s basically a permanent port-a-potty. It’s a little creepy because it’s basically a giant hole in the ground with a bathroom sort of placed over the top of it. Thankfully they were fairly clean and it didn’t end up being as bad as I thought it would be. The site came with a fire ring, a standing barbecue and two picnic tables. There would have been plenty of room for us to have several guests in our site, but again, no other motorhomes or trailers were allowed and that’s what most of our family uses to camp. I loved the smell of the pines trees which filled the campsites and surrounded the lake. Looking up at the sky at night was also amazing. You could see so many stars and it was so dark inside the trailer once we went to bed that you could barely tell if your eyes were open or closed. We also appreciated how quiet the campground was after 10pm. We laid in bed and all we could hear was the whistling of the wind through the trees.

Obviously, since this was our first trip in the trailer we haven’t done any sort of renovating to it. It truly doesn’t need any work other than aesthetically. We were super comfortable in the larger bed, which we are thinking now might be a king size instead of a queen like we originally thought. I haven’t been able to find a floor plan online for this particular year and model anywhere so we just need to measure to figure it out. I was able to find places to put all of our camping gear even though we were worried about the minimal storage space. We did learn a few things while setting up and taking down the trailer. Since we had only taken it down the one time when we bought it we had to try and remember all the steps and pieces that went into assembling it. Overall it went fairly smoothly, and we didn’t yell at each other at all HAHA. Sorry, that’s sort of an inside joke based on past trips and watching other people set up campers. Seems like there’s just certain things sometimes that cause people to bicker and fight a bit (if you’ve ever been camping at all you probably know what I’m talking about), luckily that wasn’t the case for us on this trip. The pump sink (which I forgot to mention in my introductory post) worked great for dishes and washing hands and brushing teeth. The pop-up has two portable 5 gallon water storage tanks that sit inside under some of the seating. We were able to fill one of those up and use it for the weekend. The biggest thing we actually learned was remembering to remove the water from the trailer before packing up and leaving. This trip we accidentally forgot that we had left water inside of the seating. Fortunately, we remembered on the way home and we were able to easily pop-up the trailer just enough to climb in and grab the water and wipe out all the water that had spilled. Had we not remembered it could have meant some seriously devastating dry rot to the inside of the trailer.

We had such a great time at Sly Park and are already looking into booking another trip here. The pricing was super reasonable for what you get and with it being only about an hour away it was easy to pack up and leave on a Friday night after work and enjoy two nights away. We feel so blessed and grateful to have our new trailer. It worked out perfectly for us and is a great balance between tent camping and having a full on RV. I can definitely see us taking many more trips not just to Sly Park but to other areas as well, maybe even out of the state! Let me know below what your favorite camping spots are and if you use a tent or a trailer. We have been looking for new camping spots within California especially that we can take quick weekend trips too. We feel so fortunate that there seems to be an abundance of them fairly close to us, and we can’t wait for our next adventure!

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Buying a Pop-Up Camper: What to look for

Pop-Up Camping

My husband and I love to camp. There’s something so relaxing and freeing about getting out into the wilderness for even just a night, and living in California affords us so many options for places to go. The past few years, we haven’t gone camping as much as we have wanted to. We take a week long trip in May every year, but other than that we haven’t been able to make it out much. Between buying a new house, issues with the camper we were using previously and other scheduled trips we just didn’t have time to get out into the wilderness. This year though, we decided we wanted to try and get out more. What better way to do that than to have a camper trailer that was accessible to us at all times and ready to go at a moments notice. So we started shopping. We learned alot about what we needed and wanted throughout the process. Firstly, we knew that we needed something that we could fit into our garage since we don’t have RV parking at our house. We didn’t want the extra expense of storage and we didn’t like the idea of having to go somewhere else to pick it up before we were able to head out. This basically made it next to impossible to buy anything but a pop-up camper trailer, also known as fold out camper trailers or tent trailers. This realization didn’t bother us one bit. Once we knew what we could fit, we started thinking about all the other things we needed to consider and look for when shopping for our pop up. So, I thought I would use our experience to create a new section on my blog – Pop-Up Camping. This post will outline what to look for, and future posts will tell you about our adventures in pop-up camping including trips, set up and tear down, organizational tips, makeover stories and more. I hope you enjoy! Now let’s get into the things you should look for when buying a pop-up camper.

Budget

This first consideration may seem like a no-brainer, but the first thing you need to think about before even looking at pop-ups is your budget. Sure, it can be super fun to look at dealerships and websites and dream about your new pop-up, but if you’re limited on price it’s better to know before you start drooling over what you can’t afford. When we bought our camper, we knew we wanted to stay around $2,000. Once looking online we figured this gave us enough money to get something nice but older and hopefully something that didn’t need any mechanical work and only minor cosmetic work if any. We wanted something functional and mechanically sound so that we could take it camping as soon as possible. If you have more to spend, consider looking at options below your budget that will give you money leftover for supplies if you need them. We had to look for a few weeks to find something that fit our needs and our budget, but once we found what we were looking for, it was totally worth the search and the wait. Keep in mind that pricing may vary depending on your area. Many campers I saw in other states were quite a bit cheaper than in California for whatever reason. I even saw some that were under $1,000 in certain states. This may be because of the wage limits or cost of living, but just wanted to throw that in there since $2,000 may seem like alot more to people who live in other more reasonably priced areas.

Size

Size matters when it comes to pop-up campers – especially if you have parking restrictions, a large number of people to sleep, or a smaller vehicle for towing. For us, the sleeping capacity was not as important as our ability to fit the trailer in our garage while also still affording us space to reach our washer and dryer and fit my hubbies motorcycle. However, we did want to make sure that there was enough sleeping room for us, our three dogs, and an extra bed for friends and family when necessary. We have a larger SUV so weight was not something that was a huge factor, but if you have a smaller 6 cylinder vehicle or similar it’s important to also factor in how much your vehicle can tow. Camping World’s website has a great feature that will help you determine what you can tow based on the make and model of your vehicle. Check that out here. Another important consideration is parking space. Measure out where your trailer is going to live and make sure that whatever trailer you purchase will fit into that space. We found that the most important dimension to check was the trailer length, since most pop-up camper trailers are right around 7-8 feet wide. Sleeping capacity could also be something that you may need to consider. If you have children or often take people with you on your camping trips it’s important to make sure everyone has somewhere to sleep. Most pop-up camper trailers feature full size (or comparable) beds that pop out on either side and one dinette that folds into a bed. Sometimes there are other seating areas (like in our new trailer) that also fold down into beds. The dinettes are sometimes smaller twin beds, but I have also seen pop-up camper dinettes that fold down into full-size beds as well. Overall, you want to make sure that you have enough space to fit everybody comfortably – pups included!

Amenities

Amenities are things I would consider to be wants more than needs from a camper. For example, one of my amenities that I knew I wanted in our new trailer was that the stove would move from the inside of the trailer to the outside for outdoor cooking. Now, this wasn’t necessarily a make it or break it feature (since I could always purchase a small outdoor camping stove as well), but it was something that I looked for when looking at trailers. Other amenities to think about would be things like, do you want your trailer to have a refrigerator? Does it need to have a toilet or shower? Do the amenities run on propane or electricity or only full hook-ups? All of these items will make a difference in your experience camping if they are things that you are either used to having or want to have on your trips. For us, we knew we wanted a refrigerator but also knew we didn’t want a toilet or a shower in our camper. We typically stay in places that have full plumbing and showers available and so we didn’t want the unnecessary hassle of having a black water tank on board our trailer. Plus, the idea of having a tank of waste kind of grosses me out. We figured that by eliminating the need for this amenity we could also lengthen the life of our trailer by having one less item that may require ongoing (and stinky) maintenance. One of the last amenities we thought alot about was the amount of storage available in the camper. Since we had been using another camper trailer, we already have a stock pile of camping supplies that we knew needed to fit in our new trailer unless we were willing to downsize. In thinking about it, we realized we could probably part ways with some of our supplies since we don’t use them and that we could simplify our needs to fit into the storage area available without sacrificing what we need. Each family’s needs may be different depending on the type of camping they do and what’s important to them during trips. I find it best to make a mental list of what those amenities are either before or while shopping for your new camper trailer.

Condition

Once you’ve decided all of your restrictions and desires you can start the fun part – looking for your new pop-up trailer! There are many things to look for and many questions to ask the seller when shopping for a new pop-up trailer. First, check all of the canvas and make sure there are no tears, rips or holes. The canvas can be one of the most expensive things to replace on a camper so it’s important to make sure that the one you’re buying is worth the money you’re paying. If there are tears in the canvas and you don’t mind spending another couple grand to replace it be sure to factor that into your offer price. Keep in mind that smaller tears can be patched, but I haven’t done this myself and so cannot attest to the level of complication or the skill needed to do that. Ask the seller where the unit has been stored, if they are the first, second or third owner (or whatever!), and ask them how long the trailer has gone unused. This question is important because I’ve actually heard that the worst thing you can do for a camper or rv of any kind is to let it sit unused. Have them walk you through all of the amenities to ensure that everything works. Plug in the electrical, check the pilot lights and overall have the seller show you that everything works. You’re not being a dick – you can trust people all day long, but it’s important to protect yourself especially in the case of the seller not knowing that something may not be functioning as it should. Also be sure to check the structural integrity of the trailer. Check for dry rot in the subfloor, any possible leaks or sagging in the top, and make sure that the lift system for setting the camper up is functional. When we bought our trailer, the seller even walked us through taking the entire trailer down so that he could show us that everything was in working order. A pop-up camper is an investment, and it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure everything is in working order before purchasing, otherwise you’ll just be stuck with something you won’t be able to enjoy as you should. A great resource can be found on ThePopUpPrincess.com where they have a three page PDF document of questions you can ask your seller before purchasing.

I think that’s pretty much everything you need to look for when purchasing a used pop-up camper. Stay tuned for more posts about camping with a pop-up trailer such as camping adventures, how-to posts and makeover process posts. Let me know in the comments below if you like to camp with a pop-up trailer and if you have any suggestions on fun posts for the future!

Until next time,

MelissaRose

Vegetarian Honey Lime Sweet Potato Tacos

Recipes

These honey lime sweet potato tacos are a serious staple in my house. Whenever we have people over and I want to make a vegetarian recipe that will shock and awe my meat-eating friends, these tacos are my go-to. They have the perfect amount of spicy and sweet while also being filling and providing a good source of protein. Need something completely vegan? Easy peasy – substitute the honey for agave and leave out the feta cheese (or use a vegan feta sub). The other great part about this recipe is how easy it is to make as well as clean up. All you need is one large skillet on the stove and a baking sheet which you can line with foil for even easier clean-up.

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This recipe is adapted from Cooking Classy with a few differences. As with some of my other recipes, I often substitute onion powder for the real thing (hubby is not a fan of onions, and let’s be real, dicing them sucks). I also leave the skins on the sweet potatoes for some extra health benefits including extra fiber and potassium (and because I’m lazy). I also don’t take the extra step to heat my corn tortillas in oil on the stove. Usually I just use the microwave, or turn on my gas burner and heat them up directly on the stove. Both options work fine for me and are much easier and less messy than the alternative. I make white rice as a side with salt, cilantro and lime – this is a little Chipotle copycat trick I use fairly often. If you have leftovers from dinner, the sweet potatoes go amazingly on top of the rice as lunch for the next day (heck, I’ve even made that solely for meal prepped lunches). Top it all off with a little cheese. I’ve used cotija and feta interchangeably as they are fairly similar in texture and flavor. I do find the feta cheese to a bit more snappy so I do prefer that one myself, but I know alot of people don’t care for feta so definitely use cotija if you don’t. I’d imagine you could also just use monterey jack if you’re not a fan of smellier cheeses. You can also top these with avocado which is a nice addition. These can be harder to find this time of year even in California. I mean, you can find them, but you bring them home and BAM the next day you’ve got rotten avocados, which to me is the absolute worst.

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I hope you enjoy this recipe. I would definitely recommend using it to impress your meat eating friends. Anyone I’ve ever made these for was super skeptical at first (“sweet potato tacos? say wha?”) but each of them ended up loving the flavor in the end. I think it’s a surprising combination for a fairly standard meal. Don’t forget your favorite Mexican beer and you’ll be on your way to a delicious Taco Tuesday!

Honey Lime Sweet Potato Tacos

2 large sweet potatoes (sometimes called yams), cut into smallish cubes – about 1/2in

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp onion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can sweet corn, drained

3 limes, 1 for garnish 2 for juicing

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Olive oil – for drizzling over sweet potatoes, and cooking your garlic, I’d say a few Tbsp at least

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and place diced sweet potatoes on the baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil (a couple Tbsp) over the top and season with cumin, paprika, coriander, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Toss with hands to coat evenly.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  4. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil to a large skillet and cook minced garlic and onion powder for about a minute.
  5. Once garlic is slightly browned, add the beans, corn, honey and about 2 Tbsp of lime juice (plus salt and pepper to taste). The other lime you can save to slice and squeeze on top of your tacos. Let sit at low while potatoes finish cooking, stirring occasionally.
  6. When the sweet potatoes are finished roasting, remove them from the oven and add to your skillet. Stir to combine.
  7. Add cilantro when you’re ready to serve and stir to combine.
  8. Heat your tortillas however you wish and fill with the sweet potato-bean mixture. Top with your choice of cheese and toppings. Squeeze lime slice over the top to finish.
  9. Crack a beer and sit back and relax with a tasty taco treat!
  10. Enjoy!

Homemade Plain Bagels

Recipes

I am a breakfast fanatic. It is hands down my favorite meal of the day and one of my favorite meals to cook. It’s even more satisfying to make breakfast with breads that I’ve made myself. I’ve used my french bread recipe for french toast, regular toast and avocado toast – all of which were made so much better by having homemade bread. But what’s the next best bread you can get for breakfast? Bagels. You can make bagel sandwiches, toast them and add cream cheese, top them with avocado and tomato and pretty much anything else you can think of! Heck – you can even use bagels for lunch! So when I found this bagel recipe from 2009 on a blog called Sophisticated Gourmet, I knew I had to try it. It ended up being much easier than I expected and the results were delicious. Bonus – not only do they taste great they look so impressive! The first time I made them I was dorkishly proud of myself for having accomplished what I thought might be a total disaster.

Making bagels for the first time was a little terrifying – not gonna lie. Not only is the shaping part a bit daunting, but did you know you have to boil bagels before you bake them? But don’t worry! These are actually super easy to make. I think the hardest part is getting the shape right, but I was able to do it easily on only my second batch. These are also fun because of the combinations of fillings and toppings you can add. So far I’ve used sesame seeds and chia seeds on top and have really loved both. I left out the egg wash mentioned in the original recipe in order to keep these vegan, but if that’s not an issue for you you could always do an egg wash to make a sticky seal for your toppings. I found that adding the toppings after boiling made it sticky enough even if some of the seeds do fall off (doesn’t that happen to all bagels?). The next time I make these I want to try either blueberries or raisins and cinnamon. The original recipe doesn’t say how to do this exactly, but I think I’ll play with it a little bit and post an update if it ends up working.

Like I said before, the most difficult part of this recipe for me was the shaping part, so I wanted to talk a little bit about that. Once you have your dough separated and ready for shaping, you want to make sure you do it on an unfloured surface. I used flour my first batch when trying to roll “perfect dough balls” and quickly realized I made a mistake. The extra flour actually made it more difficult to remove the creases and folds. Roll the dough balls on a clean, unfloured surface to make sure you can get good smooth textures on your dough balls. I found that creating little round loaves first made it easier. Do this by slightly flattening out each peach of dough and then folding and pinching the edges underneath. This will give you a rounded top with all the seams on the bottom. Then you can roll the seamed bottom on the counter top lightly with your hand to smooth it out as much as possible. I went to Youtube and looked up “how to roll out dough balls” and that helped me, but maybe it’s not as difficult for other people. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into the recipe.

First ever batch of bagels

Plain Bagels

1 packet of active yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)

1 1/2 Tbsp of sugar

1 1/4 cups of warm water, split into 3 parts – 1/2 cup, 1/3 cup, 1/4 cup

3 1/2 cup bread flour, I used Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

Toppings – you can really put whatever you want on top, I used sesame seeds and chia seeds

  1. Add the yeast and the sugar to 1/2 cup of warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. At the end of 5 minutes, stir to dissolve the sugar.
  2. While the yeast mixture sits, combine your bread flour and salt in a large bowl and create a well in the middle.
  3. Once yeast mixture is foamy, pour into the well in the flour along with an additional 1/3 cup of warm water.
  4. Using a stand mixer and a bread hook, mix ingredients together slowly adding remaining 1/4 cup of warm water until a firm but somewhat sticky ball of dough forms in the bowl.
  5. Once dough is form, use the stand mixer to knead for about 5-7 minutes. You want a firm dough at the end.
  6. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with damp paper towels. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  7. After 1 hour, punch dough down and let rise another 10 minutes.
  8. Once dough has risen, separate into 8 equal parts. You can use a scale for this, but I just estimate it by sight.
  9. Roll each section into dough balls. You want these as smooth as possible on top. Once you have all your dough balls set out, cover a finger in flour and press through the center of each ball to create a hole. You want the holes to be fairly large as they will shrink quite a bit in the next rise and when they back in the oven.
  10. Once all of your dough balls look like little raw bagels, let rise for another 10 minutes on a baking sheet (covered in another damp paper towel, or I use the same one from earlier).
  11. While the bagels are rising, bring a large pot of water to boil and preheat your oven to 425°F.
  12. Once the bagels are done rising, turn down the heat on your boiling water and gently place each one into the water using a slotted spoon. You can do these one at a time or do as many as you feel comfortable at one time. I do batches of 4. Boil each side for 1-2 minutes. The longer you boil, the chewier the texture of your bagels will be.
  13. After you’ve boiled each side, place them back onto you baking sheet and add desired toppings. Make sure they are still a bit soggy when you do this so that the toppings will stick.
  14. Place bagels in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
  15. Once completely baked, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.
  16. Pat yourself on the back because you just made your own bagels. Take that Noah!
  17. Enjoy!

Transplanting Seedlings into Larger Containers

Sustainability

Since starting my seedlings, I wasn’t really sure how the entire process would turn out. It’s my first time starting my garden from seeds, and while I was up for the challenge, I couldn’t help but be nervous that I might somehow screw things up. I am happy to report that so far, everything has been growing according to plan. I presprouted my seeds a few weeks ago, moved them into egg carton planters after about a week and today I moved them into bigger containers to continue to establish strong root systems. It is exciting to watch them grow and see how quickly some of them begin to become recognizable. If you’d like to see more of that process, be sure to check out my other blog posts under Sustainability.

Last year, I started my garden from pre-grown smaller plants from my local hardware store. Doing it this way was definitely convenient, but I found it had been a bit more pricey than I had anticipated. I mean, sure, it’s great to be able to grow my own food, but why were these little plants so expensive? To top it off, they weren’t organic plants, so I couldn’t even really be sure of what I was really getting – what kind of pesticides may have been used, if any weird processes had been used to grow them or if anything had been done to the soil that they were in. Starting my garden from seeds was an easy choice, even if it meant starting the gardening process months before I needed to with the pre-grown plants. Today I feel like I really got to enjoy some of the first fruits of my labor. Moving the tiny seedlings into larger containers gave me the ability to see how much they had grown, not only above the soil, but in their root systems as well. The entire process was so gratifying, and I cannot wait for the next steps coming up within the next few months.

Since starting this process, I knew I wanted to be as cost-effective as possible. After all, this was one of the main reasons I was starting from seeds in the first place. I did this by repurposing items that otherwise would have been thrown out, and this step was no different. The plants I purchased last year for my garden all came in plastic planter pots – nothing too substantial but sturdy enough that I had decided to save them. At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what I might reuse them for, but luckily had saved every single one of them anyhow. When I remembered I had stowed them away in our backyard shed I was thrilled. I was able to repurpose almost every single plastic pot so far for my garden this year. I’m also hoping, that if I’m careful, that I may be able to save them for yet another go ‘round next year. These were a perfect solution since they already had drainage holes, and were easy to label on the outsides with a permanent marker. This alleviated any need to buy additional markers for the new plants. I did not have any drainage dishes for them, but I was able to use the same black vegetable snack tray I used to place my egg cartons on when I started. They are now sitting in my living room, under the window that gets the best light, and hopefully, living their best life until it’s time to be planted outside.

I’d say this process is fairly simple. The most important part is to be as gentle as possible – we are dealing with babies here after all. As before, I will put this task in a step by step format in an effort to be as clear and concise as possible. Are you starting your garden from seeds this year, or have you ever? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for success.

Supplies

Seed babies (I guess the technical term would be “seedlings”. These are the ones you have in your egg cartons)

Bigger containers such as terra cotta or plastic pots. You could also get crafty and use red solo cups, old containers for food items such as yogurt, butter spread, etc – just be sure to punch some drainage holes into the bottom.

A small trowel or large spoon. I used a large spoon from my kitchen because it seemed to fit best into my egg carton cups.

Vegetable garden soil. I used Kellog Organic Plus Garden Soil.

A tray to place everything on once completed. This is solely for catching any water that drains out when watering your plants. If you are using a greenhouse or something that you don’t mind getting wet you can skip this supply.

Permanent marker for marking your pots. You can really use any sort of labeling system for these that you like. I’ve seen masking tape with writing on it, popsicle stick labels and even small rocks with the names of the plant written on top. Do whatever makes you happiest!

  1. Collect all of your supplies and mark your pots with the corresponding plant name that will be moving in.
  2. Paying close attention to the name on your first pot, fill the pot with garden soil and get ready to dig out your first seedling (deep breaths! And remember to be gentle).
  3. Once filled with garden soil set the pot close by and grab your large spoon. Use the spoon to carefully wiggle the seedling its roots and the dirt around the roots out of the egg carton.
  4. After you’ve removed the seedling from it’s egg cup, hold it gently in your opposite hand. This frees your dominant hand to dig a new hole in your new pot for your plant.
  5. Gently place the seed baby into the new hole of the new pot and fill around with dirt. Press this new dirt firmly into place, making sure your plant is able to stand upright as it did in the egg carton.
  6. Once firmly planted, water with your spray bottle full of water or use a watering can – whichever method you like best – get some water to the seedling. I actually transplanted all of my seedlings, and then watered them all at once at the end, but you can do in whatever order you like.
  7. Place seedlings in a place with lots of light and warmth and continue to enjoy watching them grow!

I’ve really enjoyed my process so far because I haven’t had to thin anything out this way. I know exactly which seeds sprouted and so I was able to move just one plant at a time. I’m happy to say that I only had a couple of seeds that did not sprout at all, and so I have a pretty wide range of seedlings up to this point. I will continue to keep my fingers crossed that these little seedlings stay alive long enough to provide a yummy harvest this summer. Until next time!

MelissaRose

6 Easy Swaps for Sustainable Living

Sustainability

When living sustainability first hit the blogosphere, it seemed like it might be some kind of fad. People started toting around reusable grocery bags, and companies began advertising their use of less packaging. But sustainability isn’t just a trend – it’s here to stay. More and more people are catching on. We’re becoming more aware of the effects that everyday items that once seemed harmless are having on our planet and it’s vast ecosystems. Some of the changes can feel daunting. It can feel like we don’t have the time, energy or money to make the changes we so desperately want to make. However, I’ve learned that there are some small changes we can all implement without too much effort that can make real differences. These are my top 5 now 6! easy swaps for sustainability and how you can implement them into your life without breaking the bank, ruining your routine or causing unwanted stress in your already busy and stressful life.

1.Reusable Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags are one of the first things I can remember seeing pop up on the market that promoted more sustainable living. Grocery stores everywhere started offering their own branded versions of totes and bags that you could purchase for relatively low costs and reuse time and time again on shopping trips. In California, where I’m from, plastic bags were banned altogether; however, instead of them being completely banned, these even thicker plastic bags started making their way into markets. The thicker plastic bags cost around $.10-$.15 per bag, but didn’t seem to be any less destructive than their lighter plastic counterparts. Not only that, but people who weren’t bringing bags had no quarrel with purchasing a couple of these bags and loading them to the brim with all they could fit, trying to save that next ten or fifteen cent purchase. This doesn’t have to be a difficult switch. In fact, there are several reusable bag options that you can try that cost no money at all. If you’re like me, you’ve been saving your old grocery bags since the dawn of time. You can bring these into the grocery store to reuse. I even have a ton of the smaller produce bags that I take with me to the grocery store as well as the farmers market (admittedly, they also work great as dog poop bags). Another free option is to create your own tote bags out of old t-shirts. Instructables.com has a great tutorial on this, and if you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always cut and tie the bottom of the bag as well. Another option I’ve used quite often for quick trips is just using a large purse. Really anything that you use to carry things in will work – tote bags, purses, backpacks, homemade bags, baskets, cardboard boxes, you name it – if it will hold things it will hold groceries. Want to use reusable bags, but always forget them? Keep a stash in your car. Having bags on hand at all times will make it more difficult to forget grabbing them at all.

2. Reusable Water Bottle

I used to buy Smart Waters at the gas station pretty regularly. I’d buy so many that my car was filled with plastic bottles, sometimes not even fully emptied (such a waste!). Once I realized how much I was wasting (and learning more about sustainability), I knew I needed to make a change. There is a serious water bottle crisis happening on our planet. According to this article from The Guardian, there are 1 million plastic bottles purchased every minute. This influx of plastic, although fully recyclable, has overarched our ability to process it all. There is just too much to handle. If you lined up all the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 alone, they would reach half way to the sun. THIS IS CRAZY. Enter: The reusable water bottle. My reusable water bottle of choice is a 24 oz ThermoFlask stainless steel water bottle. You can purchase a two-pack for around $35 from Amazon (they also sell them at Costco). When you add up all the money you spend on water bottles (if you were like me), you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll save by switching to something more sustainable. Not only that, but I find that I drink more water, waste less water and I’m no longer contributing to the plastic water bottle crisis that is occurring in our day and age. A perfect accompaniment to your new reusable water bottle, is a filter pitcher. This ensures you have bottle-ready quality water to drink (at a fraction of the cost), but also ensures you aren’t contributing to what is already a crisis of epic proportions.

3. Bring Cutlery From Home

If you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I very much enjoy cooking and meal prepping. I love being able to bring homemade lunches to work. Not only does this save me time and money, but it makes me feel better throughout the day. Not only that, but the less fast food I purchase, the less I contribute to the use of single-serve plastic cutlery, containers and other utensils. But up until recently, I was eating my lunch at work and realized that I am still using the single-serve plastic cutlery that my workplace provides. This is an exceptionally easy switch, because it does not cost any extra money, it simply requires you pack utensils from home in your lunch. A typical set for me is a spoon for breakfast and a fork for lunch. I pack them in my lunch bag, use them at work then bring them home to be washed. I think what I’ll eventually do is buy a set of utensils from the thrift store and bring them to work to stay. I can wash and use them at work and stop using the single-serve options that seem so convenient. Truth be told, I think food actually tastes better with real utensils! I’ve also seen people do this on the go so that if they end up eating out somewhere they have their own utensils on hand.

4. Thrift, Thrift. Thrift

Again, if you’ve read any other part of my blog, you know that I’m huge into thrifting. Thrifting is the one thing I’ve been doing pretty much me entire life that I didn’t even realize was sustainable. It’s sustainable because instead of purchasing new things, you are recycling pre-owned items and saving them from the landfill. Truth be told, most of my house is furnished with things from the thrift store and most of the items in my closet are thrifted as well. Not only is it sustainable, it’s a great way to save money. You can find pretty much anything at the thrift store, especially if you’re patient, and I regularly find things that are brand new at a fraction of the price they would normally be. For more tips about what to look for at the thrift store visit my post here.

5. Dryer Balls vs Dryer Sheets

Dryer balls are a great way to live more sustainably in that they cut down on waste as well as save you money. Dryer sheets can add up in cost, but with dryer balls, you buy one set and reuse them over and over. Certain sets allow you to add essential oils for an extra scent and others can even attract lint (for those of us with pets, this is a lifesaver!). My favorite set comes from Grove Collaborative (click here for a referral link).  You can buy them alone or purchase them with a bottle of essential oil. (PS. Grove has alot of other great sustainable options for cleaning supplies and other home items – be sure to use the referral link above for your FREE set of cleaning items). I love my dryer balls because they make it so that the clothes dry faster (less energy) while also helping to reduce lint and static from my laundry. I definitely recommend checking these out.

6. Reuse Your Ziploc Bags

Sometimes, trying to be more sustainable can cost money. All of the new reusable snack bags, beeswax food wrappers, fabric produce bags – sure they all look great on your Instagram, but sometimes it’s just not practical to go out and spend a bunch of money on your newfound values. Plus, I know when I started trying to make small changes to my life, I still had alot of things I wasn’t ready to give up yet, or maybe ever. One of these things is Ziploc bags. I know, I know… They’re plastic, single use and get thrown out super quick thus adding to the overall problem. But this got me thinking, I already have a giant Costco sized pack of bags (it’s just me and my husband in the house, so buying in bulk makes things last forever). I don’t want to just toss them out and then spend even more money to buy new alternatives. I did some research online about the materials and makings of these little zipper pouches. Did you know you can wash them and reuse them? Yup. Thus making the Ziploc bag reusable. There’s a couple different ways you can wash them depending on your preference and time. The first is to hand wash. You simply flip the bag inside out, wash and set on a rack to dry. Make sure the bag is open and standing on top of it’s zipper when it’s drying so that the inside (which is actually the outside) dries completely. Another method that I was super surprised even worked is the top rack on your dishwasher. I prefer to hand wash since this can take up alot of space on your top rack, but it is a faster and easier solution if you’re in a rush. Simply do that same thing and flip the bag inside out. Place on the top rack of your dishwasher. I liked to use heavier glasses and things around the bags so they don’t end up flying around inside the washer. You can run a normal cycle with a dry cycle and voila! Resuable Ziploc bags. This is a great trick, and instead of spending money to buy those fancy velcroed snack bags you’ve been eyeing, you’re saving money instead.

So these are my main easy swaps for living a more sustainable life. Each of them are easy to switch and are either free, low cost or will end up saving you money in the long run. There are a bunch of other less easy swaps that I may write about later on, so let me know if you’re interested in those as well! I should also note that this post is not sponsored in any way. I link products that I enjoy using as a recommendation to you. I purchased these with my own money after doing my own research and have been very happy with the results. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions!

How do you try and live a more sustainable life? Do you find some things are easier than others? Are you more likely to make a swap if it doesn’t effect your current routine or spending habits?

MelissaRose