Category Archives: Product Review

One Word 2020

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the one word resolution. It’s a trend that’s been around for a while now, and something I’ve even blogged about before. The basic idea is that instead of making a list of resolutions you’ll abandon, you just pick one word and make it your focus for the year. I’ve been doing this for a few years now – some more successfully than others. I start thinking about it in November or December. I pray for God to lead me to the right word. I’m still waiting for something nice like peace or joy, but God knows this Enneagram one too well. Past words I’ve focused on include honor, warrior, and in 2019, yes.

This year I find myself inspired by the word challenge. I might have preferred something like rest or relax, but I doubt those words would have inspired the kind of changes I need in my life. Don’t get me wrong, some of us need to learn to rest or to relax, but that’s just not where I’m at right now, and the God who directs my path knows that.

I’m getting a head start on this year’s word. I’ve started a Pinterest board on the topic, and I’m collecting challenges that other people have put out there. I have exercise/fitness challenges, eating challenges, reading challenges, housekeeping challenges, and much more. They range from week-long to month-long challenges. Some look like they’ll be fun, while others look like they’ll be more, well, challenging. I’ll link it to the Food Shelf Friday Pinterest board so you can see what is inspiring my year, and maybe find a challenge or two that motivates you.

The first challenge I’m taking on in 2020 is my month-long January challenge. I’m calling it “A Thousand Things,” and I’ll tell you more about that next week. Most of my challenges you’ll never hear about, but when I hit something like A Thousand Things which connect to Food Shelf Friday’s mission, I’ll share them here on the blog or the FSF Facebook page. Others I’ll just keep to myself or share with my accountability groups. I doubt you care how long I can hold a plank or if I’ve managed to hula hoop successfully (a skill I have never managed to master, no matter how hard I try!).

Whatever your resolutions, be they one-word, a whole list, or none at all, I hope you learn and grow in 2020. I pray that your families are blessed and healthy, and that this year is a good one for you. Thank you also for coming along on this journey with me. I love researching and writing, and I hope that I manage to say something that is meaningful and helpful to you this year.

Happy New Year!

Food Shelf Friday’s Fair Trade Favorites

Fair Trade Favorites

Fair Trade: An international trade arrangement in which the producers in developing nations are paid a fair price for their products, thus reducing poverty, unethical treatment of workers, and environmental degradation.

If I had unlimited resources, I would buy everything organic and fair trade. I hate the reality that Central American banana workers are being paid a pittance to work long days up to their elbows in pesticide residue processing my bananas, that most cocoa growers have never tasted chocolate, and that my $100 sneakers cost only four cents in labor and were probably made by a child.

Our artificially cheap consumer goods come with a high price.

But day-to-day, right here in my own home, It’s hard to take the price hike that comes with moving from non-organic to organic produce and from bargain shopping to fair trade. We have spent our whole lives with these artificially low prices, and sometimes even they’re too much for us. So how do we move from being part of the problem to part of the solution?

There are two ways. One of them will cost you more money, and one will save you money (And if you do both, it will reduce the burden of the expensive way). Are you ready?

  1. Buy fair trade and organic products as much as possible.
  2. Choose to buy less, and reduce, reuse, recycle.

That’s really simplistic, I know. But it’s a start. When you’re shopping, ask yourself if you really need another purse. Buy fair trade gifts. Shop second hand as a means of reducing the burden on both underpaid labor and our landfills.

This is a super brief intro to the topic of fair trade, but I think most people are familiar, and what I really want to do today is introduce you to some of my fair trade favorites.
4815821f5eed207df868e6943cbb75df BR040EN-tangled-beads-bracelet-z 1. Noonday Collection:
Noonday sells jewelry and accessories made by fair trade artisans around the world. Their products are beautiful, and each piece has a story. My personal favorites are my Callypso Earrings, made from sustainably harvested water buffalo horn, and the Tangled Beads Bracelet, which came from Ethiopia. Many of the pieces made by Noonday’s Ethiopian artisans are made from old artillery. The first time I held my bracelet in my hand, that reality hit me like a flood and I got choked up thinking about how something sad was being remade into something beautiful and providing economic opportunities at the same time. Noonday averages around $35 for a pair of earrings or a bracelet, and $50-ish for necklaces. Prices vary of course depending on the materials.

chocolate2. Endangered Species Chocolate:
I’m a bit of a chocolate snob. I worked in a department store for a few years, right near the candy counter. When they got samples or if there were broken pieces in a shipment, we were the grateful recipients of some serious goodies. And once I got used to Godiva, I lost my appetite for Hershey’s. Knowing that chocolate is one of the products known for unethical production, I have really cut back my consumption. When I do indulge, my favorite is Endangered Species Chocolate’s 72% cocoa natural dark chocolate. It’s smooth and flavorful, and available at my local grocery store.

s0608892_sc7 3. Caribou Blend coffee:
When I started learning about the importance of fair trade, I went looking for two things: chocolate and coffee. I knew that those were areas notorious for unethical production. We were buying our favorite Caribou Blend at Costco. We have a Keurig, so I’m already overpaying for coffee, and I was afraid to ask! But I was pleasantly surprised to find that many Keurig K-cups were available in fair trade varieties, and excited to discover that my go-to coffee was already Rainforest Alliance certified (Rainforest Alliance means that both the workers and the environment are cared for during production).

fair-trade-flags 4. Fair Trade Friday box from Mercy House, Kenya:
Subscription boxes are all the rage right now. For a fixed monthly fee you get a box of goodies to try – food, clothing, beauty, or accessories from different vendors. A few months ago, I joined up with the Fair Trade Friday subscription box from Mercy House. Every month I pay $31.99, and I get a package of goodies made by ethically treated artisans. My most recent box contained a cute purse and a pair of turquoise earrings. When I joined I assumed that I would be giving a lot of the items as gifts (at least that’s how I justified it to myself…) but I have wanted to keep most of the items for my own use!

So those are a few of my fair trade favorites! What fair trade companies or items do you love? Share in the comments! And if anyone knows of a company that makes sneakers (actual workout/running shoes, not casual tied shoes), please include that. That’s one area where I haven’t found an option I like.

And, by the way, the opinions in this post are entirely mine. None of the companies listed here have asked me to review their products or offered me anything to talk about their products (although, if they want to send me some freebies, I wouldn’t object! Lol)

Make sure you find your way to the Food Shelf Friday Facebook or Twitter page this week for a giveaway of a nice assortment of items from Mercy House’s Fair Trade Friday.

Fresh Paper: Food Revolution?

Fresh Paper

A couple weeks ago I saw this video on Facebook for a product called Fresh Paper. The video suggested that this product was a powerful new tool in the battle against hunger, because it would give fresh fruits and veggies a longer shelf life. I found Fresh Paper on Amazon, 8 sheets for $8.89 (That’s about $1.11/sheet), and conducted a couple of experiments with the product. I would like to point out that I was not asked to do this review by the manufacturer and I was not given anything, including free product, to write this. I just found the possibilities of an all-natural produce saver intriguing and so I ran my own experiment.

First, I went shopping for groceries on March 25, and I picked up a bag of butter lettuce, a box of organic baby spinach, baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, a box of strawberries, and a box of blueberries.

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I washed the butter lettuce in my salad spinner, spun it dry, and tucked a sheet of Fresh Paper between the two parts of the salad spinner.

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With the spinach I left it as is and just tucked a sheet of Fresh Paper into the box with the greens.

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The hard veggies (baby carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower) I cut into bite sized chunks, rinsed, and put them into my plastic chip and dip storage container. I laid the sheet of Fresh Paper on top, right in the middle. (As you can see in the picture, I wrote on the Fresh Paper sheets so my family wouldn’t throw them away)

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For the berries, I set a sheet of Fresh Paper on the shelf in my fridge and put the berry boxes right on top of the Fresh Paper. Those plastic berry boxes are full of holes, and that’s what it looked like the Fresh Paper package was suggesting. I noted at the time that the strawberries were pretty dark red already and looked like they would age quickly.

For a week I peeked at and photographed the veggies and berries every day, taking notes on how they were aging.
The Fresh paper looks like thick pieces of note sized white paper. They are made entirely from a blend of herbs and spices, and they smell a lot like maple syrup. The package says each sheet lasts two weeks, and you can tell when it’s no longer working because the maple smell goes away.

I had two questions for my experiment:
1. Does the Fresh Paper work – will it make my fruits and vegetables stay fresher and last longer?
2. After reading the package and looking at the product I also wondered if the maple scent of the papers would change the flavor of my produce.

Results:
20150401_173552_resized 20150408_131100_resizedThe butter lettuce and baby spinach: This was amazing. Usually I can’t go through a whole package of greens before they get wilted and I’m throwing out bad pieces and picking for good ones. This time I had two packages of greens, and both were still in good condition after two weeks. They never began to smell like rot, though I did find just a few leaves that had turned as the weeks progressed. Inside both containers I could smell the maple of the Fresh Paper, but it had no effect on the flavor of the greens. Organic greens are expensive, so I was very satisfied with these results.

The hard veggies: The carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower don’t age nearly as fast as salad greens or berries, so I couldn’t really tell if the Fresh Paper helped or not. At the end of two weeks I chopped up what was left for soup, though it was still in good enough condition to eat raw. In the future I won’t waste a sheet of Fresh Paper on hard veggies because they just don’t age faster than I eat them.

The berries:
20150330_122939_resized– Blueberries don’t age very quickly, and when they do, they go the direction of drying out, not rotting, so the Fresh Paper didn’t have a lot to offer the blueberries. The best way to deal with they is by removing them from the hole-filled plastic clamshell container they come in, and putting them in something that will protect them from drying out.
– The strawberries were a different deal entirely. I mentioned that I thought they were pretty ripe when I bought the package, and I was right. By day three I removed one strawberry because it was starting to grow mold. By day five I noted “Strawberries aging visibly.” On day six, “Strawberries look bad.” On day seven I performed a salvage operation where I threw away the worst berries, cut away all of the bruising, mold, etc. and washed the cut berries in water with a touch of vinegar and just ate them.

I decided that the berries needed a new/different experiment, so I kept the empty berry container and bought two new boxes of berries (on sale!) that were in much better shape than the first set I worked with. I dumped all the berries into a big bowl and carefully selected three sets of five berries that were all close in size, color, and appearance of quality. One berry quintet was put back into one of the plastic boxes as-is. One set was put into a plastic box with a sheet of Fresh Paper (tucked right inside the box this time). For the third set I tried something I saw on Pinterest, and washed the berries in a solution of water and vinegar and then gently let them dry on a bed of paper towels. Those went into the third plastic bin. The three plastic boxes of berries were stored on the top shelf in my fridge, and I checked on them every day. The berries not used in the experiment were put into a Tupperware bowl with the lid sitting loosely on top, and we ate those berries during the week of the experiment.

What do you think happened? Which group of berries aged best? I expected the as-is berries to fare the worst and start aging first, but they did not. It was actually the vinegar water berries that started visibly aging first. Where my son and I pick berries every summer, they tell us not to wash the berries until we’re ready to use them, and it looks like they’re right. The Fresh Paper and as-is berries caught up, though, and at the end of the week the three sets of experiment berries all looked exactly the same. No benefit to any of those processes. The berries in the Tupperware bowl still looked pretty good. They weren’t part of the experiment but I was shocked to be able to keep enjoying that group while I watched the others rot away. So it seems that the strawberries are not unlike the blueberries. Both are picked before they are ready to be eaten, and they ripen during transport (and/or by spraying them with chemicals that make them ripen, but that’s a whole different blog post). Those berry boxes are designed to aid ripening/aging. Leaving your berries in the boxes is inviting them to continue aging. 20150411_074406_resized

In the case of berries, skip the Fresh Paper and just transfer them to a container that is less porous.

Conclusion: Fresh Paper is pretty neat, it does work on some produce, and it didn’t affect the flavor of my veggies or berries. I will buy it again, but I won’t waste sheets of it on hard veggies that age slowly or on berries that seem to age quickly no matter what. I didn’t see enough benefit in those situations to use a $1.11 sheet, and we generally eat those things before they go bad anyway. I think next time I buy bananas I will put a sheet under the bunch and see if I can keep them from aging too fast, because they also go bad before we can finish them.
Any other fruits and veggies you want me to test with the Fresh Paper? How might this all-natural solution affect the world’s hungry? Let’s discuss that in the comments!