Did you know that the average American uses 500 plastic single-use bags in one year? And did you know that most of these bags are not reused or recycled? Instead, they end up as litter in the ocean killing hundreds of thousands of sea birds and marine animals that mistake these plastic bags for food.
It has been many years since I’ve kicked the plastic shopping bag habit. I’ve just refused to carry groceries or other goods home in them (this also goes for paper bags too). If I don’t catch the bagger in time before he or she bags my items I will dump the contents out and hand the bag back to them. I have a nice little stash of reusable tote bags. Rarely do I ever need to use all of them in one trip to the grocery store, and even when I forget my own bags I opt to carry my items by hand instead of accepting paper or plastic bags. The question was, would I still be able to go bag free when purchasing six months worth of food? Buying food for my adventure at Goldmyer gave me a chance to prove the extent of my commitment to avoid single-use plastic or paper grocery sacks.
Lissa and I met up one week prior to our move-in date to Goldmyer Hot Springs. We had a busy week ahead of us planning out meals, creating a food list, buying groceries and a substantial amount of packing. After a couple of days of pouring over cookbooks at the library we had come up with a rough idea of what we were going to eat for the next six months. This was going to be an interesting food experiment on my part as I have been known to be a finicky eater. But after surviving group meals last summer while working on a canoe trail I was up for the task.
Another challenge we faced in food preparation was the lack of refrigeration. With only a small refrigerator in our new cabin, we were limited to taking mostly dried and canned goods. We could rely on the two and a half feet of snow still on the ground to help keep coolers cold for the first few weeks. With careful consideration we had to choose what items we wanted to store in our precious refrigerator space.
Figuring out how much of something we would need was also going to be difficult. There would be no running out to the store if we ran out of something. From Goldmyer, it is about five trail miles and another twenty-five road miles to the nearest grocery store in North Bend, Washington. 18 of those road miles are on rutted, potholed Forest Service roads making driving slow and rough. The thing was we wouldn’t have access to a vehicle while at Goldmyer and in case the road washed out during a spring flood we had to be prepared with six months worth of groceries! And so, with our long shopping list, reusable bags, and plastic storage bins in tow Lissa and I headed out to search grocery stores near and far for our unique and varied food items.
I was exuberant about grocery shopping; Lissa on the other hand, not so much (probably because I have the tendency to spend a lot of time in a grocery store looking at food). I was excited to be filling up carts with all sorts of yummy items, dropping hundreds of dollars at each store and seeing the expression on the bag person’s face when they asked “paper or plastic” and I would say “no, thank you”. In several instances we got some strange looks from the checkout clerks when we wheeled our metal carts up to the conveyer belt filled with an interesting assortment of food. At Trader Joe’s, our cart mostly consisted of canned tuna and chicken, a variety of non-dairy milk, granola and chocolate candy bars (remember that this was six months worth)! Most of our canned fruits and veggies, as well as 25 boxes of cereal, came from the commissary on the military base. Pasta, rice, and baking items we purchased in large bulk quantities at a restaurant supply store. Most of the checkout and bag clerks were curious about our new job and we were delighted to tell them about our adventure. The reactions of these people ranged from very envious to “you guys are nuts”.
After dropping $1,246.89 on six months of food for two people, spending four days grocery shopping, and hitting up eight different stores in six different towns, we were finally finished with shopping. Our next task at hand was to tackle packing up our massive quantities of food! Since Lissa is the expert packer, she took on the challenge of packing most of the food bins (I still had most of my personal things to pack). By the end of packing we had filled up four 31 gallon plastic totes and eleven 18 gallon totes with food and personal gear.
Our preparations had finally come to end. We were packed and ready to head out into the unknown and live a life off the grid in a small cabin in the woods. The food aspect of this job was definitely going to be a challenge. We had just enough produce, meat and dairy to last the first couple of weeks as long as the snow stuck around. After that, it was going to be dried and canned goods for us. We were told that visitors would occasionally bring us treats, so hopefully we would get some fresh produce every now and then. I guess this would be a good time to read up on editable plants!
……Oh and by the way, not a single plastic or paper grocery bag was used in the purchasing of our food.