Zero Waste Week (Days Three and Four): Waste Free Food and Shopping

During Zero Waste Week I’ve been tuning into #zerowasteweek hour on twitter for some great tips and ideas on reducing waste. One of the most common topics has been food waste which got me thinking about our household.

I like to think that we are quite good on reducing food waste. I meal plan for the month so that I know what we need to buy. I’m still struggling with emptying all the contents of our veg box but now that we’re (almost) into soup season this should be less of a problem. I also have this very handy note attached to the inside of my cuboard door to remind me how much pasta or rice to cook for our family (originally from Love Food Hate Waste website).

Zero Waste Week: rice and pasta measurements

But there is definitely more that I can do to avoid an overflowing compost bin. So, as I tend to do one large supermarket shop each month, I sat down and meal planned everything (breakfasts, lunches incl packed lunches and evening meals). This meant I could order the right amount of food. Yet even when I know what food we have and how to turn it into meals there is still the problem of packaging.

For convenience sake (I don’t have regular access to a car, I try to stick to a strict budget) I order one large supermarket delivery every month, interspersed with fortnightly veg and fruit boxes, regular milk deliveries, some refills at local health food stores and small trips to the local shops. Apart from the first activity (which I try to order as waste free as possible) I have learnt to make the other shopping trips as packaging free as possible.

This week I was able to pick up fruit and veg from the local greengrocers as I had transport – and I tried out a new independent butchers so was able to get my meat from there (with far less packaging, but it would be great to re-use my containers for this). Because I use the brilliant Onya produce bags, and our greengrocers have paper bags my shopping haul looked like this:

Zero Waste Week: package free grocery shopping

I was also able to pop into Harvest Health Food Store in Bath and refill my washing up and laundry liquid containers:

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I also decided to go all out this morning and do a massive baking session so that we can rely less on pre-wrapped cakes and biscuits. This is what my kitchen looked like afterwards (there was a lot of washing up so lucky I’d got by bio-d refills the day before):

Zero Waste Week: home baking

But the end result was: stewed plums and apples; plum flapjacks; oat and apple muffins; fruit cake; gingerbread dough (to freeze and make biscuits with at a later date) and fairy cakes (I always make a batch of simple fairy cakes when the oven is one – I just freeze them and the kids decorate at a later date).

Zero Waste Week: package free (and home baked) goodies

So we now have fully stocked cupboards, freezer and I hope we will have an emptier bin and compost as a result!

 

Zero Waste Week (Day Two): Giving away

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I’m only taking baby steps for this year’s Zero Waste Week and am trying to concentrate on one small project at a time. Yesterday I returned an old school badge (we end up with lots of them in our house every year). Today I combined two things that had been nagging at me for a while and used the Zero Waste Week (and current affairs) to give away something we no longer needed.

About twenty years ago we bought a brilliant, good quality Vango three man tent. We stopped using it about thirteen years ago when our youngest was born but kept onto it for occasional camping trips. Along the way, however, it seems to have lost its poles yet the tent itself is still in good condition.

So I’m afraid for the past years it’s sat in the shed as one of those ‘don’t want to throw it away but what can we do with it?’ items. In the meantime we bought some new poles, acquired some old tent pegs and guy ropes and let them all sit together in a pile.

Anyone who tunes into the tv, radio, social media or picks up a newspaper at the moment is aware of how huge an issue there currently is about refugees/migrants travelling to Europe from Africa, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq  (we had our own small experience of the issue while on holiday this summer). Over the past week facebook has galvanised local groups into collecting equipment, clothing and other donations for those who are living in makeshift camps in Calais. So when one local group appealed for tents (even only partial ones) I knew exactly where this tent was going to.

Having checked that it was okay to drop it off with the mismatched poles and pegs I delivered it this morning to a wonderful person who is collecting for Calaid from local villages.

It’s a really small thing, I hope it helps (although I’m aware that financial donations are needed even more – there was an article on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning about this). Zero Waste Week has really made me think about where our possessions go when we no longer have use for them, and whether they can benefit someone else.

Orange milk?!

In my quest to purchase more products with less packaging I experimented with adapting my milk delivery. That is, I ordered more than just milk bottles from my milkman. Although it’s more costly I do try to buy milk this way as a) it always arrives very early in the morning, rather than me having to run out to the local Cosctutters in my dressing gown b) even when we were snowed in we still got our milk delivery while they were rationing milk supplies at the local shop and c) you can return the milkbottles.

With the latter in mind I decided to order a pint of orange juice which looked like this:

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One of the girls did ask why there was orange milk in the fridge!

The thing is it went far too quickly and, at £1.20 per pint it was just too expensive. So I’m afraid I’ve gone back to supermarket tetra packs, which I am now trying hard to save for the next journey to the tip.

National Zero Waste Week – some thoughts

Last week I took part in National Zero Waste Week. This year’s theme was Food Waste and, as it’s the first time I’ve taken part, I tried to cut down on the food waste in our house. As I mentioned in previous posts we have a great compost bin. If I had been a real die-hard food non-waster last week, though, this would have been a very hungry bin. However we still seemed to generate compostable food waste in the form of peelings, teabags, egg shells and leftover cereal from breakfast. While I guess it would be good to tackle some of this in the future what really opened my eyes was the packaging of food that is our single biggest source of waste. This is the one thing that I am determined to tackle having taken part in Zero Waste Week.

So far it has only been baby steps but when shopping yesterday I went to the deli counter to buy ham, rather than pick up another plastic pack of pre-packaged ‘square’ shaped ham. The price per gramme was more expensive at the deli but the meat seems more substantial so we should be able to use less slices for sandwiches etc. It also came in a paper bag with a single sheet of grease-proof paper which is a big improvement.

I am also investigating getting a veg and fruit box which would cut down on all of that packaging. The greengrocers in our local town also offers paper bags for its veg and fruit so I could try that as well. In addition I am going to increase our milk delivery so that all our milk is delivered by returnable bottle. This is a more expensive way to buy milk though and it does seem to be more expensive to shop using less packaging which seems the wrong way round (surely the cost of packaging would be added to the price of a food item?).

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National Zero Waste Week: Coffee grounds

I mentioned at the beginning of this week that I work one day a week at a cafe. It’s set in a lovely little Arts Centre and I feel very blessed to have a job that brings me into contact with some great customers and staff. At the cafe we sell fair trade and only vegetarian food. I work on a Saturday and the cafe is closed on Sunday meaning it’s more important than ever for me to make sure all the food is within date. We usually have some bread left over which myself, or another colleague, take home to make toast or bread pudding. This sometimes happens with milk and (when we are v lucky) cake!

However there is food waste. Partly this is due to having to follow strict Use By deadlines, as is stressed in any food hygeine course and the regulations for food safety we have to follow. We are lucky that one of the members of staff has a couple of pigs (!) so we can save food scraps for them. We don’t have a compost bin at work which I know we should install (especially as we have a small courtyard garden and it would be good for the veggies).

One of the food/drink items we generate a lot of waste from is coffee grounds. While we can pour some of them down the sink to act as a de-greaser we have also experimented with bagging up the grounds and passing them onto willing customers who can take them home for the compost bin. A colleague also did some research and discovered that you can use coffee grounds for your face and body as it acts an exfoliant! There’s a recipe from the Peta website which includes olive oil to make a face mask.

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National Zero Waste Week: leftover curry paste

There is always something lurking in the back of the fridge and, although ours is only three shelves high, it can still provide some great hiding places. As I was doing my weekly clear out/Zero Waste Week inspection I spotted this horror:

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A half used jar of Red Thai Curry Paste.

This is something that seems to happen on a frequent basis in our house and something we must tackle. Typically we decide to make a certain meal as a treat. So we buy all the ingredients which includes the jar of specialist sauce. But when we cook there is still half a jar left over. So it goes back in the fridge and we intend to use it up but that means buying more stuff that we don’t ever use up (in this example coconut milk). So it stays in the fridge and I keep looking at it and feeling guilty. Then before I know it the jar turns into something hideous and gets thrown away.

I posted this image on the zero waste facebook page and got some handy hints on how to stop this happening in the future: put some oil on top, or try adding a wax circle (as you would for jams or chutneys). I will definitely try these although the best idea is to meal plan better so that the jar gets used up within a month.

National Zero Waste Week: compost

I love my compost bin! I’m still not sure how it works but somehow I put all my non-meat food scraps into it and a few months later the worms have turned it into some incredible soil type thing that I can put on the garden. It has worked for years and I do very little to it except feed it leftover breakfast cereal, used teabags and veg peelings. The only time I have to think twice about putting scraps in is when it’s very cold but, apart from that, it works 24/7.

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