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Feel Good Diaries: Going to Extremes For Sustainability in Quarantine

Welcome to Refinery29’s Feel Good Diaries, where we chronicle the physical and mental wellness routines of women today, their costs, and whether or not these self-care rituals actually make you feel good. Have your own Feel Good Diary to submit? You can do so here!
Today: A master meal prepper whose wellness practice is centered around sustainability.
Age: 27
Location: Astoria, New York
Occupation: Small online business owner
Salary: $50,000
Day One: 
7:00 a.m. — I quickly brush my teeth and put my contacts in before my partner gets in the shower. We both ditched our disposable plastic toothbrushes for Philips Sonicare electric ones ($69.99 each) a few months ago, and I love that this part of my routine creates a little less plastic waste. 
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While my partner showers, I drink some cold brew, which I need before working out. A year ago, we invested in a gallon-sized mason jar cold brew maker ($35) from Amazon that allows us to brew amazing coffee at home. While we’ve always been “reusable mug” people (it’s a thing, I swear!) to cut down on plastic coffee cups. Plus, brewing at home has saved us hundreds of dollars on coffee, since we’re just buying beans. We’re obsessed. 
If it weren’t for coronavirus, I’d be heading to my gym, New York Sports Club (it’s normally $39 per month, but they’ve only been charging me $9.99 per month during this lockdown), right about now. As a small online business owner, I’ve always worked from home. However, I used to carve out an hour at the beginning of the day to walk to the gym and work out. It was an essential for my mental health. 
Now, I do a quick yoga flow (with lots of chest and hip-opening poses) or some bodyweight exercises (I can do squats and lunges all day) that I’ve memorized before starting my day to avoid jumping right into work. Moving before work absolutely makes a difference in my overall mood and productivity. Even though I’m eager to start answering emails, I know it’s important. 
12:30 p.m. — It’s lunchtime. My business has to do with meal-prepping and planning, so I’m not just on the “meal prep train,” I’m basically the conductor. 
I pull a hearty slice of my chicken, rice, broccoli, and cheese casserole out of a square glass container. The YEBODA container set I have costs $20. I heat it up in the microwave, close my computer, and enjoy it. I whipped it up yesterday, but it still tastes fresh and delicious. I really can’t talk it up enough, so I have to reiterate: I love meal prepping — it’s always helped me keep grocery costs down and our meals generally cost a total of $3 per serving.
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Sometimes I find it hard to eat without distractions, but I know doing it helps my body register that it actually consumed something delicious, so I try to not look at my phone or computer as I chow down.
10:30 p.m. — Bed. I used to struggle with sleep maintenance insomnia (that’s when falling asleep is easy, but staying asleep isn’t), and leaving my phone on my bedside table only made it worse. So a few months ago, I started putting my phone to “bed” in the living room. It never felt right to just leave it lying around outside the bedroom, so I turned parting with it for the night into a ritual. I made a little sleeping bag-like thing out of a scarf, set it on the TV stand and now literally tuck my phone in before going to sleep. There’s something nice about a ritual that clearly defines when phone time is over. When I get into my own bed, I fire up my Kindle ($89) and continue reading Where The Forest Meets The Stars by Glendy Vanderah. I’m halfway in and not sure if I like it yet, but it’s so easy to read. 
If I have two bad nights in a row, I take half of a 10 mg CBD and melatonin gummy from Charlotte’s Web. I bought a tub a few months ago ($44.99) and absolutely love them. However, I don’t rely on them for sleep more than once or twice per week. Tonight is not one of those nights, as my sleeping patterns have been surprisingly very normal during this pandemic. 
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Daily Total: $223.98 
Day Two
3:15 p.m. — My partner and I make our weekly batch of oat milk. It’s a fun activity that we bond over, ever since my partner became obsessed with oat milk a few months ago. It’s that creamy texture! 
Instead of buying it in cartons every week, which was $5.99 per half gallon, we’ve been making small batches by blending oats. We already had all the ingredients on hand this week.
To make oat milk, all you have to do is blend one cup of oats (we buy oats in bulk at Costco — it usually comes to around $10 for five pounds) with three to four cups of water, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of maple syrup or sugar. Then we strain it a few times. That’s it! We keep it in a jar in the fridge for five days and use it in smoothies, in hot chocolate, or when enjoying homemade chocolate chip cookies. 
4:30 p.m. — I’m partially relieved that I’m off the hook when it comes to commuting for my bi-weekly therapy session. I never love coming into Manhattan. Luckily, my therapist, whom I’ve been seeing for a year now, is offering Zoom sessions. We’re continuing our regular routine of hour-long meetings every other week. Each session costs $100 after insurance. I am so grateful I have someone outside of my friends, partner, and family to confide in during this time. Zoom therapy isn’t exactly easy, because even though I have plenty of privacy, it’s weird having my partner in the vicinity. 
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Instead of continuing our conversations about my parents, which is what we focused on during in-person sessions (I know, cliche, but that’s where we’re at!), we mainly talk about the coronavirus and its effects on my mental health. My therapist constantly reminds me to “be in my body” and connect to my breath, which I always struggle with as a very go-go-go type of person. I need to keep in mind that everything we need to feel grounded is already within us — even when everything is up in the air. 
Daily Total: $100
Day Three
2:00 p.m. — Time to make some more cold brew! I got a delivery of new coffee beans from a subscription I use called Bottomless. The subscription is $5 per month plus $13 for every bag of coffee, we go through about two or three per month bringing our total coffee spend to $60/month for two people.
I grind up some beans in our grinder, and prepare the cold brew by putting all the grounds in the filter and adding water. I’m not a huge coffee snob, but I love knowing that this process is cutting down potential plastic waste significantly. Plus, it’s a nice break from work! 
8:30 p.m. — Lately I do grocery shopping late on Friday night to avoid the crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic. I bring my grocery cart with me (it was well worth $40 it cost, because I always have a haul) along with reusable mesh produce bags ($10) to avoid using plastic bags during my trip. (You’ll see a theme in my life: when it comes to plastic, avoid, avoid, avoid!) 
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Thanks to being a great planner, I’m in and out of the store within 15 minutes. My groceries are different every week, but I always get sweet potatoes, onions, bananas, and eggs. These are ingredients I tend to use no matter what’s on the menu. Normally, we spend $30 per week on groceries, thanks to bulk-shopping at Costco once a month. It usually comes to $100 per month, plus a $65 per year membership (or $1.25 per month). However because of the outbreak, our routine has changed and we go to a local store. We’re also buying way more groceries. I end up spending $75 for us for this whole week.
When I get home, I wipe down all packaged groceries with multipurpose wipes. They’re nothing special, and I don’t love how much waste we create while sanitizing groceries, but it’s necessary at this point. 
Daily Total: $144.25
Day Four
9:00 a.m. — My partner and I do yoga together. It’s Saturday morning, so luckily we can slow it down a bit. Our apartment doesn’t have the best set up for two people to stretch out, but we make it work. We throw on a free YouTube video that doesn’t look too intimidating and flow. I find my practice is way more enjoyable when I have a buddy! This sets us up for an easy and relaxing Saturday in quarantine. 
5:00 p.m. — Whenever I cook, I try to make it special. It’s really my creative outlet, so I always feel at home when I’m in the kitchen. I start preparing #TheStew (this is a recipe for Spiced Chickpea Stew With Coconut and Turmeric by Alison Roman that literally went viral). I’m putting my own twist on it, using veggie stock I made myself with veggie scraps (free). I keep it frozen in a Souper Cubes tray ($20), which are such great organizational tools for food in my freezer. 
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I take all scraps I create while I’m cooking and freeze them for future veggie stock. That, or I compost them, which keeps our food waste extremely low. We bought a FCMP tumbling compost bin ($99) about a year ago, and stuck it behind our car in our parking spot. It helps us harvest dirt from our own food scraps, which we’re now using for a window sill garden. It’s the coolest feeling to be able to do this in the concrete jungle that is New York, and cook with food we grew in our apartment from soil we made. 
My partner and I enjoy slurping up our stew together tonight over rice while drinking beer and watching Mr. Robot on Amazon Prime ($119 per year). 
Daily Total: $238
Day Five
10:00 a.m. — I told you I was crazy about meal-prepping, and now it’s finally that time of the week. I’ve practiced this ritual for about five years, and I fully believe it's a form of self-care. To make it feel even more fun, I like to turn on some throwback tunes (I love 90’s rap and hip hop as well as the Rolling Stones). It’s all courtesy of Spotify ($15 per month). 
I also usually drink something special while I’m cooking. Today, it’s an iced matcha from my local coffee shop that’s still operating, even during the coronavirus lockdown. My coffee shop set up a great little booth that separates the workers from customers via plexiglass. You can order through a little speaker box and just stick your credit card in the machine. The barista pushes your drinks out through an opening, and that’s that. I’m really happy I don’t have to do this quarantine without this weekly treat ($5.50). Normally, I bring my re-usable Stojo cup ($20), but they’re not allowing us to bring our own mugs now for safety reasons. I’m still not used to going out wearing an organic cotton mask, which I got from the eco-friendly goods maker Etee for $30 (the price includes shipping and mask donations). 
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3:30 p.m. — It’s nice out, and I’ve been in the kitchen for four hours already, so it’s time to take a break. Right now, with the virus, the only thing I can really do outside is walk. We’re lucky to live near a park, so I open up Audible ($15 per month) and take my usual route along the water and through the sloping lawns for about a half hour. I’m just about done listening to a book called Building A StoryBrand by Donald Miller (I love business books) which takes my mind off of how scared I am to be crossing paths with other people on my walk. I try to keep my distance. It feels so good to get fresh air. 
Daily Total: $85.50
Day Six 
8:00 a.m. — My daily yoga flow is getting boring, so I switch to a workout program I’ve done on and off for awhile called TL Method. (It’s normally $29 per month for the program, but it’s free for me, because I’m good friends with the founder.) I used to do these workouts at the gym, pre-corona but it’s not exactly ideal to do in my apartment. Still, I try. 
I roll out my old yoga mat and do a bodyweight workout barefoot in my favorite Lululemon outfit, which I’ve been wearing during workouts for six years. Investing in quality workout clothes and equipment is a sustainable choice since I almost never need to replace them.
The TL Method helps keep workouts interesting by mixing things up. I choose a 30-minute full body workout and modify moves that require equipment as needed, since I don’t have any. I love dynamic bodyweight exercises where I really have to focus on coordination or balance, like single-leg deadlifts or Russian get-ups. 
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I don’t really like working out at home because there are so many distractions. It’s hard to get going. But once my workout is over, I feel my anxiety and stress melt away.
7:45 p.m. —  While my partner attends his online grad school classes, I take a moment to myself to set the mood and paint my nails while watching reality TV. 
I light the one candle we have (we’re just not big candle people), which we bought while visiting my parents near a cute little waterfront town on Long Island. I get my nail file, top coat, and favorite Essie nail polish (it’s called Muchi, Muchi and it’s $9) and give myself a mini manicure while watching The Bachelor: Listen To Your Heart. I’m really not sure what I’d do without my Hulu subscription ($11 per month). 
Daily Total: $20
Day Seven 
4:00 p.m. — Our ButcherBox finally arrived! We love getting meat from this subscription service for a variety of reasons. Cost is one of the biggest things for me and I love that the meat is sourced sustainably. A custom box with six items ($149) lasts us at least three months. 
Inside our box is a couple steaks, some ground beef, chicken breasts, and a whole chicken. There is something about being able to butcher a whole chicken all on my own that makes me feel Zen. I use every part for stock and future cooking. I take my time, carefully cutting out the breasts, thighs, and wings until I finally have a carcass to make stock with. My Misen Chef’s Knife ($65) makes this process easy.  
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In my household, my homemade chicken stock is basically liquid gold. It makes everything taste better and I love that I don’t have to buy it in cartons from the grocery store. I get a big pot going on the stove in my favorite Cuisinart Chef’s Stockpot ($50), and the apartment smells amazing. 
8:00 p.m. — My partner has class again, so I take the opportunity to take a long (for me) shower. Normally, I’m in and out in five minutes since I only wash my thick, curly hair once per week (it’s a perk that it conserves water). I’m currently trying out this eco-friendly shampoo called Ethique ($16), which comes as a bar instead of in a bottle. So far, I like it. My hair is perpetually crazy and frizzy no matter which shampoo I use (eco-friendly or not). I have yet to find a sustainable conditioner that works for me, so I’m using Deva ($26) for now.
After my shower, I prepare some Swiss Miss hot chocolate, made with warmed oat milk. It’s so delicious. I often find cuddling up with my partner and a cocoa is the best part of my day. 
Daily Total: $306
Weekly Total: $1,117.73
Reflection: I’d like to add more time for wellness practices into my routine, especially while stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown. Normally, I get more manicures, plus indulge in the occasional spa treatment and get my legs waxed. But now that none of those are options, I need to get more creative about self-care. I do find that it’s easy to introduce the eco-friendly versions of my favorite wellness activities into my life, and I’m so glad I’ve been journeying down this path to a more sustainable lifestyle. It gives me peace. 
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