After Zero Waste Week

Last week I posted every day in honour of Zero Waste Week, and I thought that today I’d write a little update of how the experience was for me.

I’ve come out of the other end of it all feeling rather more positive about a few things.

Blogging

I’ve been pretty disappointed that I’ve not done much blogging this year, despite the goals that I set myself early in 2016. I have to admit that I set the bar too high and, as a result, I’ve done far less writing that I’d have liked to. Zero Waste Week gave me a much needed kick up the arse – I might have let myself down, but I wasn’t going to go back on my commitment to be a blogging ambassador! It’s got me up and running again 🙂

Food waste

Well, obviously after writing five posts and setting myself daily goals last week, I had to face my food waste head on and…it wasn’t pretty! It’s true that I’m busy, and that I prioritise keeping my family healthy and happy – but really, I was failing to notice how much food we are wasting and actually, how much of the family income that must add up to. Last week was a wake-up call.

Diet

I aim to feed my family with healthy and nutritious food (another partially met goal from the start of 2016), but blogging last week made me aware of how often I cheat with convenience food – a few veggie sausages here, the odd Linda McCartney pie there. I don’t mind making conscious decisions to feed those things to the family every now and again, but I slip up more than I’d like.

Cooking

I mentioned this in my last post, but I no longer have a block about cooking. Yay! Sometimes I felt that it took too long or that I had no good recipes. I started full on cooking last week, and now I’ve got in to the habit of it, I’m rustling up dishes all the time, as well as chopping fruit for fruit salads, and chucking ingredients into the bread maker. It’s just not so hard after all.

Other waste

I wouldn’t say I’ve fallen off the wagon in terms of rubbish but sometimes we throw a lot of packaging in the bin, and Zero Waste Week made me think about how that feels….

…not great. Something to take action on.

How was Zero Waste Week for you?

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Day 5: Zero Waste Week

Today is the final day of Zero Waste Week 2016, which has run from the 5-9 September. The theme is food waste.

My goal for the week was to reduce my food waste, carrying out small manageable tasks on a daily basis. This approach worked well for me, and I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve achieved. Although my food waste bin has more in it that an average week, that’s because I’ve spent energy sorting out my food storage, and have banished everything that was so out of date I could no longer use it.

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Here’s a peek in my food waste bin – yum!

I’ve managed to fill my freezer with lots of food – some of it cooked up with vegetables that were past their best and would, I fear, otherwise have found themselves destined for the compost.Having several portions of dinners ready to defrost is going to make it easier to meal plan, which in turn will assist me in reducing food waste.

A surprising side benefit of Zero Waste Week has been that it’s kick-started me with cooking – once I’ve whipped up a few batches of meals, I realise it’s no big deal and have been cooking more, even when there’s no almost-off food needing used up.

My biggest obstacle is disorganisation. I don’t prioritise food waste and planning normally and this has resulted in me buying more than we can eat and leaving food to go off.   I did however sort the fridge out and as you can see from the picture below, my cupboard has been organised.

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There’s even a shelf for the iron again

See yesterday’s post for the before picture.

Thanks to everyone who’s been reading this week,and well done if you’ve saved anything from being wasted. Good luck to us all as we continue to try and defeat food waste!

Day 4: Zero Waste Week 2016

Every day this week so far I’ve been setting myself small tasks, as I take part in Zero Waste Week. The topic this year is food waste, and I’m determined to both reduce my food waste and establish some good habits that will ensure I chuck less rotten food out in future.

Yesterday’s tasks were to:

  1. Make a vegetarian goulash – serving the dual purpose of following my meal plan, as well as using up some elderly peppers, tomatoes and courgettes that I found in the fridge a few days ago; and
  2. Sort out half of the shelves in my big food cupboard.

I started with the goulash.

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It was totally satisfying to chop up the rescued veg and, before long, I had a vat of delicious loveliness bubbling on the cooker. That was yesterday’s dinner sorted – and with several extra portions ready for the freezer. Perfect.

Very much in the mood for my next task, I threw open the cupboard door and started hauling things out. Here’s the before picture.

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I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting this to be such a big job. In my head, I believed that I’d cleared the cupboard quite recently, but the best before dates on some of my jars and tins suggested otherwise. My last declutter must have been over a year ago.

I quickly abandoned the idea of tidying out half of the shelves in one sitting. The whole cupboard would need cleared out as any signs of order were gone. Chuck today, tidy tomorrow, I decided. There were tins on every shelf, cereal packets all over the place, and bags of crisps nestling in random nooks and crannies…you’ve literally got the picture.

I grabbed the bin, a food waste bag and made a pile for recycling and they all started filling up pretty fast.

Some of my big issues were that:

  • We had several duplicate ingredients – cooking chocolate, oatcakes, coffee (which no one in the house actually drinks!), crisps (flavours that no one likes), cake sprinkles, spices…
  • We are the (not very) proud owners of some items that we rarely use such as cinnamon sticks, tiny marshmallows and a jar of value syrup – purchased by the other half for a ‘science experiment’ done with the kids one Sunday morning.
  • There were large open packets of things like tea bags and salt that regularly need decanted into smaller caddies, as well as things like bin bags that should be kept under the sink.
  • Items such as sugar, a variety of flours were sitting in tupperwears often abandoned and past their best before dates.

Basically the main issue was a lack of organisation. Based on the evidence we clearly purchase duplicates by accident a lot. We fail to empty large packets into their smaller caddies for everyday use, and we keep things in the wrong places. This causes clutter and leaves things to go past their dates. By storing different items in similar looking tubs (although they are all labelled and dated), we end up rummaging chaotically, and missing what we need.

The solutions are pretty obvious – kill the clutter and make sure we can find what we need quickly. If we buy unusual ingredients, we need to have a plan for using them up immediately and not letting them squat in our cupboards until they’ve gone soft and furry.Ban science experiments that lead to food waste.

Today’s task will be to perfect the cupboard – organise the shelves and wash down the woodwork. Hopefully it’ll be good enough to post an ‘after’ photo on the blog tomorrow! I’d better get to it.

Day 3: Zero Waste Week 2016

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Phew, is it really already Day 3 of Zero Waste Week? I’m finding that I’m focussing much more than usual on what I’m feeding the family and, of course, what I’m managing to use up from my cupboards and fridge. I’m slowly being reminded that reducing food waste is a lifestyle change, rather than a burst of effort then reverting to old habits. I’m still somewhat resisting the effort involved, but I’m getting the hint already that time spent organising has both time and monetary rewards…

The challenge I set myself yesterday was to come up with a meal plan for the week. As I documented, I’m not keen on meal planning – I find it soooo booooring.

Was I missing something though? I took to the internet to see if I could pick up some tips and here’s some that I especially liked:

Don’t keep the fridge full to bursting, but do have lots of basic ingredients in the cupboards

This one really appeals to me (especially after chucking out lots of wasted mush from the fridge on Monday). My newly cleared out fridge is much easier to navigate, and there’s less chance of me missing the items I actually want to use. I also have food cupboards that are bursting at the seams, and crying out to be organised – perhaps they are full of those magical basic ingredients?

Chose a shopping day and make a list

Dashing to the shops frequently is a major bugbear of mine. During the school holidays we were there a lot which was okay as the kids have Heelys. They were always up for a bit of zooming down the aisles, but now it’s just me on my non-wheeled shoes and, frankly, I have better things to be doing. If I could get away with three trips a week, I’d be happy. If I plan my meals, I can maybe just plan my shopping trips.

Ask the family what they like

Genius! This was something I did at the start of the year with my own family when I was trying to work out how many family meals I had in my repertoire. The only problem is, I added what I like and what my other half likes to that list, and eight months later, I can’t remember who likes what any more.

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My ‘back of a fag packet’ list from the start of 2016

 

To confuse matters further, I’m noticing the kids’ tastes are changing. Back to the drawing board…

Keep a meal journal and remind yourself of past dishes

This is another great idea that I have also tried. I religiously filled in a little diary for ages at the start of the year which helped me make sure I was giving the family a good variety of dishes. I also found it really useful for jogging my memory when I was uninspired. I’ll dig it out.

Use an app

Ooohhh! Modern! I am a dinosaur when it comes to technology. Shamefully, I let my IT whizz of a partner deal with all the gadgety things in our home, I enjoy the tools he provides me with, then cry pathetically for help when my internet connection fails. I won’t be sorting that out any time soon I fear, but perhaps he might download me an app?

 

With all of these pearls of wisdom to hand, I set to work on a meal plan for dinners for yesterday and the following seven days:

Day 1 : vegetarian haggis, neeps and tatties

This was a request from my eldest who complained that we haven’t had it for ages because dad’s gone off it. Fair point – I make them shovel down dishes they don’t like, so dad got to grin and bear it for last night’s dinner. Plus it was quick and easy to prepare (I should’ve asked for that meal planning app before I serve up though!)

Day 2: Goulash with rice and fresh wholemeal bread

This uses up the peppers, cherry tomatoes and courgettes I discovered in the fridge. I’ve also now replaced the out of date wholemeal bread flour I found on Monday so we’re good to go. I’ll make extra portions so that there’s some to slam in the freezer.

Day 3: Lentil bolognaise with pasta

This is quick, easy and nutritious. I used to feed this to the family so often that we all went from loving it to hating it, but we’ve not had it in over two years so this dish is making a comeback!

Day 4: Baked potatoes

Everyone loves these in my family. The kids both have classes just before dinner so I’ll half bake the potatoes and leave them in the (switched off but warm) oven to finish off while we’re out. There’ll be very few dishes to wash up which is perfect because I’m off out in the evening 🙂

Day 5: Macaroni cheese

This is another dish that we avoid because my other half doesn’t like it, but he’s out on Friday so it’s back on the menu for us. Quick, easy and can be whipped up from those basic ingredients I always have in the house.

Day 6: Homemade pizza

Somehow pizza’s become a tradition at the weekend. I’ll make some dough in the breadmaker and take a frozen tomato sauce out of the freezer – I have lots of this for emergency meals. The toping can be whatever needs used up from the fridge.

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Here’s one I made before

 

Day 7: Chickpea Stew

I found some chickpeas in the cupboard and this is another quick, nutritious meal that can be frozen. (Just don’t tell the kids there are chilli’s in it…)

I actually found planning the week’s meals surprisingly easy and was taken aback at how little the ingredients will cost me. Our shopping bills are definitely on the high side so this raises the question…what are we actually buying at the supermarket??

Today’s tasks will be to sort out half of the shelves in my big food cupboard, and of course to make tonight’s goulash. I’m off to read some of the other Zero Waste Week blogs now !

Day 2: Zero Waste Week 2016

How is Zero Waste Week going for you?

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Yesterday, I set myself two small challenges to put me on the path towards becoming a Zero Hero. I was going to:

  1. cook the family dinner (from scratch) and freeze the leftovers, and
  2. clear and clean my fridge.

Those small challenges ended up taking me a while, but it was worth it as I now have three meals for four in the freezer (twelve portions!!), and a sparkling fridge.

When I decided to cook, I was just going to make double portions of the vegetable curry I’d decided on but, when inspecting the veg I’d bought for the recipe, I realised I had more than I needed – and it had already passed its best before date by a few days! I’m not a natural cook, but I took a deep breath and adapted the recipe. Basically I just chopped and chucked in all the vegetables I wanted to use up and added a bit more of the other ingredients to keep the proportions of the dish correct. An hour later, I had a huge pot of curry. I was delighted.

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Normally I would serve curry with naan bread, but I didn’t have any so decided to make a loaf in the breadmaker instead. To my dismay my wholemeal bread flour was past its date (definitely time for a cupboard clear out, I noted!) so I set the breadmaker for a plain white loaf instead. By the time dinner came around, the smell of the fresh bread permeated the whole house and the kids were desperate to get stuck in, forgetting that they are not curry fans…

I left cleaning the fridge until the evening. I’ll admit that I didn’t think this would be too big a job as I had a clear out recently. I must have cut a few corners the last time though because there were some horrible things in there. I am way too embarrassed to have taken any photos (who wants to see mouldy food anyway??) but there was a cucumber that had self-liquidised and leaked, a garlic that was going the same way – staining a shelf in the process, and some jam that had got stuck to the back wall with ice and had some floaty things in it. Urgh!

I also discovered a glut of peppers and cherry tomatoes. Some were still nice and fresh so I chopped these up and popped them into the kids’ packed lunches this morning, while others are good enough to hide in a tomato sauce or a goulash. I’ll also throw in the three courgettes I found. They look like they were bought for a reason – I just can’t remember what it was…

I feel great about yesterday’s achievements. It’s lovely being able to look into the fridge and see what I have at a glance. What can I do though to break my usual cycle of over-buying, throwing out horrible food and feeling guilty?

The answer came from KathrynH of secondhandtales who yesterday posted a comment under my post asking:

Have you got a meal plan for the week?

My heart sank a little, as of course she was right but….I hate meal planning!! It involves tying myself down, thinking really hard about cooking and food shopping (not my favourite daydreaming topics),then following the plan through all week. All week!

I’ve decided thought that it’s eminently sensible. I’m no domestic goddess and the safest way for me to break my bad habits is to write a fail-safe action plan. I even have some home cooked meals in the freezer so this week doesn’t need to be too hard.

My task for today is therefore to come up with a week’s realistic meal plan. I’m already sitting down thinking and writing about food so perhaps in another fifteen minutes, I can take my next small step towards breaking my bad food waste habits. I’ll report back tomorrow!

Day 1: Zero Waste Week 2016

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Welcome to my first blog post for Zero Waste Week 2016 on the topic of food waste.

Food waste – what does that phrase mean to you?

Food waste: the jigsaw piece that can help us tackle the world’s environmental problems?

Food waste: the responsibility of supermarkets, much publicised for being guilty of contributing to the waste of mountains worth of ‘imperfect’ fruit and veg?

Food waste: a real issue for households in the UK which, if tackled, will cut down food bills and allow individuals to own their part in looking after our world?

Let me tell you a little about me and what food waste means in the context of my life…

I am WestyWrites, a female blogger who is always trying. Trying to get greener, trying to do better and quite often trying to get blog posts written! This is my fourth year of writing my way through Zero Waste Week and it’s a great way to focus the mind and connect with others who are interested in the same issues. If you’re new to the blog – welcome!

What does food waste mean to me? Well, put it this way, if food waste was a person I’m not sure we’d be great friends… She kind of intimates me with what she stands for, makes me feel guilty about the things I should do, and is well dressed – she probably spends the money she saves on wasted food shopping for clothes and beauty products.

My own food waste reminds me that I live a busy life. I run a pretty tight ship at home – the things that matter most to me are prioritised. I live with my other half and our two children, and it’s fair that most of what I do is centred around them (when I’m not out with friends, at sewing classes or looking at Pinterest!). Meals are often thrown together in haste as one child or the other has an extra curricular class on. Where lovingly prepared meals are taken out of the freezer, we still often boil too much pasta or spill frozen peas all over the floor. Despite cleaning out the fridge two weeks ago, I found a punnet of old strawberries unpacked in a cloth bag yesterday which had turned to mush and leaked all over the floor. Oh dear…

This week however is a chance for change! It’s an opportunity to look at what we do well and what we can do better. It’s time to reflect on what we’ve done right in the past, praise ourselves for what’s working and make small changes to make big differences – even if we’re talking long term.

I am writing this post after having just attended a classroom session with my eldest child who has a very motivated teacher. The teacher was running through this year’s learning, and I was left impressed by her goals. From some of the wrong answers she was getting from the children in maths, I saw that she has her work cut out but she has confidence and, most importantly, a past record that suggests she’s up to the challenge.

This week is time for a ‘can do’ attitude from me. I need small goals which will add up to significant results, and lay the foundations for permanent change. Today I am going to set myself two tasks. The first will be to clear my fridge again, this time rescuing any food that’s almost past it’s best and the second will be to cook the family dinner from scratch and to freeze the leftovers.

Can I do it? Why, yes of course I can!  Good luck to everyone reading who’s tackling their food waste this week.

To catch up on my previous Zero Waste Week posts click here.

It used to be love…is it over now?

Almost two years ago, when I first had a few weeks of going supermarket-free, I ordered an organic veg box from a local farm. I was pretty delighted with my fortnightly delivery and since then I have played about with the order – adding fruit and eggs, making it plastic-free and increasing it to once a week. It was even the inspiration of a number of blog posts, in which I demonstrated ways to use it up.

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Over time though, I’ve found myself falling a little out of love with my veg box.  As I upped the delivery and increased its frequency, it became so demanding!  The novelty of our wholesome and eclectic delivery had worn off somewhat, and we’d slightly dread the weekly arrival, that needed unpacked and cleaned up to fit in the fridge. As the months passed, we were finding that we weren’t using up our whole delivery because – let’s be honest – we’d not put the necessary time into meal planning and preparation.

Things finally came to a head when our compost bin got full a few months ago. We forced ourselves to look at what we were binning each week. Too much. The advantages of supporting a local supplier and buying organic were being compromised by wasting food and money.

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This is the empty compost bin – the full one isn’t pretty!

When I look at what ‘went wrong’, the answer is twofold:

Firstly, we stopped putting so much effort into using up our veg (the fruit has never been so much of a problem). When we started the veg box, I was supermarket-free and the easiest way to make meals was to use what was in the house. The children were also very small and it was important to me that they ate home cooked food, made with fresh organic ingredients. Secondly, although I had less child-free time then, ironically I had more time for cooking, as I could do things while they entertained each other.  Now I am constantly in and out dropping them at different activities. With my eldest away for most of the day now, my youngest needs me as a replacement playmate and that, of course, is my priority.

We made the decision to reduce our delivery back to fortnightly, which has been a relief and far more manageable.  However, I still don’t feel I’ve achieved the perfect balance.  For starters, the farm closed over the festive period, when our box was to be dropped off, which meant that we didn’t get a delivery for four weeks. FOUR WEEKS!!!There’s nothing like absence for making the heart grow fonder.  We were constantly running out of fruit and the kids weren’t happy about that at all…

I also found that I was buying more fruit and veg from the supermarket again which makes me really really unhappy 😦 I felt guilty for spending more money there (as opposed to buying local), the prices aren’t that cheap (it can be downright expensive to buy the organic there that I’ve got so used to), everything looks too perfect and so I worried about fertilisers. Finally, almost everything comes wrapped in plastic and/or is sitting in a polystyrene tray.

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All the fruit & veg here is swathed in plastic

So what’s the solution?

The only real answer that I can come up with is that I’ll need to get cooking again! Although the fortnightly delivery is much easier, I don’t think it’ll be enough to sustain us when we go supermarket-free again over Lent.

I have lost my enthusiasm for cooking and I think the only remedy for that is to settle down with the internet, find some exciting new recipes and give myself some time to try them out. (I used to particularly enjoy cooking with the music turned up and a glass of wine as a treat. Since the children have become a bit older though, I seem to have dispensed with the kitchen – it turns out I can still enjoy the music and wine, but in a different environment and with friends…!)

Finally, I could use the freezer a bit more.  Although I batch cook, I could routinely prepare veg for freezing if I don’t have time to make them into an actual meal.  I should also be giving away any veg I can’t use.  If I give it to the right people, I occasionally get some back that has been cooked into something for me!

If you’ve experienced falling out of love with your veg box, let me know.  Perhaps we can support each other in making this challenging relationship work 😉

Day 5: Zero Waste Week 2014

My ‘One More Thing’ for Zero Waste Week today is stewing plums.  This is because we’ve had plums in our veg box for the past four weeks and each week they have gone off before we’ve finished them. Sometimes we’ve thrown away several.

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

Now, I got pretty good at reducing my food waste a while ago.  I have blogged often about my beloved veg box and my attempts to use it up, and show it who’s boss.  Last year’s Zero Waste Week challenge was all about food waste and I defy anyone to suggest that I shouldn’t get full marks for effort…

So what happened? Other things I suppose… Although I have done well with my food waste in the past, I can’t pretend that it’s been effortless. When I’ve got lots of energy and motivation, I work really hard to keep on top of the food that makes it over our doorstep, and ensure that I use up most of it.  Sometimes I quite enjoy it and I’ve been known to make a night of it with a couple of new recipes, a glass of wine and some music playing. It can be satisfying to work hard and stuff the freezer full of meals for the week ahead.

Often though I’m really busy and have little spare time.  When I get it, I sometimes just want to relax or need an early night.  Until very recently I’ve had full time child care responsibilities, always having at least one of my children with me all day. I feel I’m lucky to have this time with my little ones while they are small – sometimes stewing plums, mashing potatoes or working out what to do with yet another beetroot just isn’t my priority!

Today however I decided those plums were getting stewed!  I had a problem though.  I no unaccounted for time in my day… Part of the reason was because at the start of the week I arranged for the plumber to come and fix a bath tap that has been leaking and wasting water for at least…..a year!  I realised that if I was ever going to get it fixed, it had to be during Zero Waste Week. It meant though that I had to get my kitchen clean, tidy and accessible for him to work safely (and most importantly without judging me!).

This took up my 90 minutes of child-free time. I decided though that having no time just wasn’t good enough! In the name of ‘One More Thing’ those plums were getting stewed, so I washed and chopped them super-fast and let them stew while I attempted to sort the kitchen.

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When the plumber arrived, I hadn’t quite finished the dishes – some stuff including last night’s wine glass was sitting by the sink, making it look as if I’d been indulging in some afternoon drinking…  I’d also been rushing about and smashed a bottle of tomato ketchup on the floor – I really hadn’t been drinking, honest! No matter. I’d got my one more thing for the day done, and I’ve even managed to write up this post despite it being late in the day.

Even just changing the pattern of the last four weeks makes me feel more determined to try to keep on top of it. Each night I’m going to try and identify a part of the next day that I could do some food preparation, and I will even consider cancelling my veg box order on the weeks that I am busy. I’m hoping my little bit of effort today can lead to significant change in the future.

Day 3: Zero Waste Week 2014

On Day Three of Zero Waste Week I’m going to square up to an area where I could definitely reduce my waste – the packed lunch. It wasn’t always a ‘problem issue’ for me. In fact I’ve been polishing my halo for about a year on this topic…

For as long as I have known my other half, until last August, he bought his lunch at work (at his own expense) and I didn’t give it a second thought. I did the same myself when I was working, and it gave me an excuse to leave my desk as well as feeling like a treat in the middle of my busy day. However when I started looking at sustainable living, and in particular the issue of single-use plastics, I realised that the daily sandwiches my partner was consuming were causing a lot of plastic to end up in the bin.

I struck a deal with him. For £1 I would make his lunch each day, and I would use the money to buy kit such as reusable sandwich wraps and containers to ensure the food would be fresh and well-packaged. It was a no-brainer on his part, as he’d been spending £4 a day. In addition, the food I was to make would be healthier than his current fare.

A year later, I estimate that he has saved around £450 (I stopped charging £1 when the kit was complete), he has lost a few pounds of the lbs variety, and a lot of packaging has been saved from landfill. In addition, the packed lunch is helping us reduce our food waste as he sometimes takes in leftovers from the night before or has sandwiches made from the last of a loaf of homemade bread. We are both happy.

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Last night’s stir fry

However my lunch packing skills are being tested as my eldest child now requires a daily packed lunch too. Unlike Daddy, who will pretty much eat anything, and appreciates my efforts at working towards reducing waste, my priority for my wee one is finding things that actually stand a chance of getting eaten!

Popular items so far are proving to be mini individually wrapped ‘lunchbox’ items from the supermarket such as yogurt-covered strawberry pieces (see below), soreen bars, dried fruit bars etc. As you can imagine this causes me great angst…

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Multi-pack mini’s: heavy on the single-use plastic!

Also, water is coming home untouched, but drinks cartons (with plastic straws) are a hit! Here is a picture of this morning’s lunchbox and snack (beside the lunchbox).

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Apple, strawberry pieces, drink, pot of yoghurt, pot of fruit salad, sandwiches in foil

As you can see I’m thankfully getting away with using small pots, which have (so far) come home empty – partly because the contents are appealing and partly I think because the pots are quite nice to look at.  I use them to put in small portions of yoghurt, dried fruit etc. from bigger cartons and packets, thus saving on the packaging.

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You’ll see in the packed lunch photo that I’ve used foil for the sandwiches, instead of reusable sandwich wraps. This is because I find that to keep the sandwiches at their freshest, I need to double-wrap them in a cloth wrap (by Keep Leaf) and a plastic-lined wrap (by Onya).

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I can confirm that this is a (bad) photo of a roll and not a Weetabix…

I think however that layers of reusable wraps are a bit much for my wee one to have to deal with, especially when you throw in the requirement that everything needs to be brought home again at the end of the day… I therefore need recommendations for excellent easy-to-use reusable packaging!

Other ideas I’ve had – but not yet acted on – for a zero waste packed lunch include savoury muffins (made in re-usable cake cases) and treats that can baked at home to replace the individually wrapped mini things. Basically I’m looking for inspiration for packable food items that satisfy the conflicting priorities of appealing, sustainable and healthy. Easy, yeah?

I hope to revisit this topic on the blog after a few months when trial and error will have provided me with some information. In the meantime however, if you have any pearls of wisdom that you can pass on to me, I’d welcome them! I’m really hoping that a few of my fellow Blog Ambassadors will be covering this topic too so that I can nick their ideas be spurred into action by their amazing work!

Click here for National Zero Waste week 2013

Supermarket-free Me: What’s for dinner?

I think it’s time I wrote a post about food in this supermarket-free blog!

If you have given up the supermarket, is it changing what you eat? Are you cooking more? Is it exciting or a chore?

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This red cabbage soup was definitely exciting!

I have to confess that I’m usually a boring cook. I have a selection of meals that I cook and I only add to that repertoire when my children reject the dishes they are thoroughly fed up with!

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This vegetable crumble was great the first 20 times but now it’s getting boring – and we’re having the leftovers above for tomorrow night’s dinner!

While I enjoy cooking if I’m in the right mood, it’s something I pursue out of necessity as opposed to pleasure.

As a supermarket customer, family meals were typically either cooked-from-scratch  and made with lots of fresh organic produce from the veg box, or they were a combination of shop-bought items (e.g. veggie sausages, veggie haggis) plus the organic veg. Occasionally I bought things such as a supermarket pizza, a jar of pesto or a quiche. I usually had a few of these quick convenience foods in my freezer, alongside portions of homemade sauces, for days that I had no time or energy to cook.

Now, being supermarket-free over Lent, I don’t have the backup of their pre-made items and I’ve had to be more organised to make sure that I am always able to feed my family. I really care about the health benefits of food, so I welcome the push it’s given me to ditch the processed meals and get the freezer stocked up with my home cooking. It’s also helping me to reduce my food waste because I’m more motivated to use up everything I already have at home, now that hunting and gathering’s not as simple as popping to the supermarket!

Here are some examples of the food I’ve been making and baking over Lent.

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The pot on the left is a big tomato sauce made from as much of the veg box as it is feasible to use!  When my veg box arrives I get into ‘attack’ mode to try and reduce its volume, as the amount in it can be overwhelming.  I make this sauce at least once a fortnight and it’s a helpful ‘ready meal’ –  although I’m just waiting for the children to finally give this old favourite the thumbs down!

The pot on the right was the vegetable crumble filling which I prepared last night and was heating up to put in the oven with the topping for tonight’s dinner.

The fairy cakes were made purely to entertain the children while I was busy in the kitchen!  They happily stirred the mixture then licked the bowl while I got the healthy stuff prepared.

There have been a lot of cakes lately as I’ve been whipping up batches whenever we’ve had people round instead of buying biscuits.

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Carrot and raisin muffins made last night

Although packed with sugar, I like having control of the ingredients and appreciate the ability to reduce the amount of plastic I am consuming.

As a result of more cooking and baking, I’ve been buying more eggs.

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From a local shop

We’ve been consuming less shop bought juice and squeezing our own…

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Orange juice from blood oranges

So far, so good. I think I will be increasing my cooking to make sure that we do have plenty of food ready on busy days and I will be trying out a few new things so that the children don’t associate ditching the supermarket with less choice and even more of the dishes they are starting to get bored with!

I’m aware that giving up the supermarket could push someone else with less time, or perhaps someone who is driven by different motivations, to eat very differently – ordering in take-aways, eating out more or buying convenience foods locally. I’d love to hear about everyone’s experiences…