Glass Jars

January 3rd, 2006

At the Container Store, they sell glass jars for a buck or more. What a hoot. You can go to Safeway and get nicer jars for not much more money, with the added advantage that they are filled with tasty jam or pickles. Anyway, we use glass jars for food storage. This helps us reduce the mound of bags filled with rice, beans, flour, sugar, etc. that end up buried and forgotten in the back of the cabinet. We use things more quickly since we can actually see everything, and jars seem to keep most foods fresher with less mess. Plus they are free, so when we move, we can just recycle them and start over again. I also like fewer garish labels confronting us every time we open the cabinet – it is really easier on the eyes. A few tips:

  1. Soak the labels to remove them. Nothing nastier than a jar covered with sticky goop. If water doesn’t work, try baking soda or rubbing alchohol. If that doesn’t work, recycle it and wait for another kind to come along.
  2. Tall jars are better than squat jars – you can fit more side-by-side in the cabinet and see what’s in them.
  3. Some jars, like Classico pasta sauce, have measurement markings on the side, which can be helpful.
  4. The plastic liner in most lids can pick up smells. We’ve soaked them with dish detergent, scrubbed them, and rubbed them with baking soda, but it is difficult to remove strong smells. It does fade over time, so just leave the lid out for a while. Someone suggested soaking with vinegar, so maybe we’ll try that next time.
  5. If the lid doesn’t have a plastic liner, it may be cardboard. Hard to clean, so just recycle and move on.
  6. If you are going to stick a knife in the jar (to get jam or something) then try to use one that has straight sides all the way up to the lid, so that stuff doesn’t get stuck when you try and scrape it out. Bonne Maman jam jars are perfect for this. (And it is good jam.) If you are going to pour stuff out of the jar (e.g. dry rice or beans) then use one that rounds at the top and has an opening smaller than the width of the jar – since it is narrower, it is easier to pour stuff out accurately into a measuring cup. This knowledge is hard-earned after many messes on the counter, so heed it well.
  7. For sanity’s sake, try and accumulate a bunch of identical jars, and discard the singletons as soon as possible. Otherwise finding the right lid is a constant irritation. Even worse, sometimes the wrong lid will feel like it fits, but actually not seal at all, making your mini-marshmallows hard and nasty.
  8. Even better, there are some jars like the smaller Mt. Olive pickle jars, that use the same lids for two different sizes. 100% goodness.

If you do something similar, we’d love to hear about any jars that nest for more compact storage. Keeping a variety on hand can get cluttered since they don’t stack well.

Starting up again for 2006!

January 1st, 2006

The original intent of The Minimalist was to be a daily clearinghouse of multiple articles interesting to aspiring Minimalists. This was just too much work, and we couldn’t find and write about articles fast enough to even approach anything comprehensive. With a fresh start in 2006, posting will be more personal, more in-depth, and more unique…but less frequent. Please join us (again) in exploring “everything about less!”

Spork

July 27th, 2005

Not only does this newly designed spork remove the need for two separate utensils, but it is also about as environmentally friendly as a disposable utensil is likely to get.

Via Treehugger.

Driven to Distraction

July 22nd, 2005

There have been a number of articles about email and other technology interruptions/distractions lately. CNet adds their own to the mix. Of course, stepping back can be difficult:

It’s all part of a culture shift that has accompanied all of the new modes of communications. These days, corporate culture frowns on those who turn off their instant messaging software or don’t respond quickly to the latest e-mail.

“People start to look at you with contempt or disgust if you shift away from the technology,” Honore said.

I think this will start to switch as people become truly fed up with being expected to be constantly available. I like being able to keep up with what’s going on all the time, but I would hate to be expected to be instantly responsive 24/7.

Prepaid cellphone plans – wave of the future?

July 20th, 2005

Right now, standard cellphone plans are monthly, with a pretty hefty bucket of minutes. My wife and I never even come close to using all of our minutes, yet we pay the same amount as if we’d used all of them. Plus, the monthly bills have a large number taxes and additional fees that really swell the total amount paid. The Washington Post had an article a little while ago about prepaid being used more and more by folks who don’t want a monthly plan, especially younger users. My mom uses a prepaid service, and it works fine for her. Now Net10 has announced that they have flat-rate 10 cents/minute prepaid cellphone service, nationwide. That is getting close to tempting for a switch. At minimum, it will hopefully put more pressure on cellphone companies to lower their monthly rates. For now, I’m staying put since I like not worrying about minutes at all, but this is something to keep an eye on.

Via I4u.

Looks unsafe at any speed, but wow, this two-seater is pretty cool

July 19th, 2005

Twike makes a skimpy looking battery powered two-seater vehicle that supposedly gets the equivalent of 550mpg and has a max speed of 55mph. Of course, if you hit a speed bump, you’re probably going to be hurting, but I’d love to be proven wrong. Maybe it has a rollcage or something? I think I’d also want to add one of those orange flags on a long pole your mom put on your bike when you were a youngin’ so that cars would hesitate a second before running you down – the Twike seems like it might be a bit hard to see from a Hummer.

Via TreeHugger.

Self storage – wow, we have lots of stuff

July 18th, 2005

Slate writes about our Self-Storage Nation today. I expected this to be a one-sided piece about how we’re all such pathetic overconsumers that we can’t cram all of our crap into our ever-larger houses. Indeed – that is about half the article. But the other half talks about some of the other reasons for self-storage, including people who are moving or getting divorced, as well as the fact that more and more houses are built without attics and basements.

But still, people. Do we really need “1,875 billion square feet of personal storage?” Much of that really is just:

mementos we somehow can’t live with, and yet can’t live without, and exemplify the downside of acquisition, the moment when you realize there are more bread machines, plastic lawn chairs, and treadmills than anyone could use in a lifetime.

Just give it away to someone who can use it, or recycle it. Spending cash to store stuff you are never going to use is just silly.

Hacking the Prius so you can plug it into the wall

July 15th, 2005

Yes, hybrid is a good thing. I’ve been following the story of the folks who created a kit to allow you to plug in your Prius and then run it 100% on battery to get phenominal gas mileage. Some people ask why Toyota didn’t just make it an option. I think they made the right choice for the broader market – they made it work just like a standard car, removing one of the possible pieces of opposition to adopting the technology. In addition, there are some significant additional costs, like more battery storage, that would make it non-trivial to add.

But I think we’re almost ready for it as a manufacturer option in the next few years – once people really internalize that they can use it just like a normal car, having the plug-in option to really crank that gas bill down will probably be a welcome improvement. Until then, the enthusiast hacker market can get it from EDrive right now.

Topeak Bikamper

July 14th, 2005

If you’re biking across the country or something, you may need to camp out. You could carry a full tent, but the Topeak Bikamper cuts down on weight and bulk by using your bike as a support. I love dual-use like this – making the most use out of what you have. Gizmodo is apparently wrong on the price though – they said $300, but the Topeak.com website indicates a suggested retail of $219. Still darn expensive, but a good idea.

Via Gizmodo.

Cheaper, simpler cellphones

July 13th, 2005

I love my cellphone, but sometimes it crashes and refuses to make a call. And it isn’t a cheap model – it just got distracted by doing too many other things like keeping my calendar. Most of the world can’t afford even a basic cellphone model. Wired talks about how Cheap Is New Cell-Phone Mantra, with manufacturers hoping to create a phone that will sell for under $15 by 2008. To do it, they need to minimize just about everything:

Manufacturers also cut costs by using black-and-white screens, doing away with MP3 support for ring tones and providing 100 spaces for contact information rather than 500.

Well, that’s ok. Please just make them call reliably.