Another Day in the (Rather Long Countdown to the) Zero Waste Kitchen

Here is a little update on our reducing plastic packaging project. Sometimes, when we're good, we're very, very good, but sometimes we're just not...

I have discovered this - it takes a reasonable amount of organisation and forward planning to keep a family fed and watered, even when you shop at the nearest supermarket and are happy to have plastic bags coming out of your ears. If you want to do something different, it takes extreme organisation, a character trait I do not possess. I cannot tell you the number of times I have left the house without my calico bags for collecting bread from the bakery, or not planned sufficiently for all the dinner ingredients, and I can tell you this - the bulk bin wonderland that is our wholefood shop, or the local butcher, are not open at 6.30pm when you realise there is nothing for dinner, or you need cous cous, so calling The Man to pick things up as he swings by to pick up a child from ballet on the way home from work inevitably means plastic packaging.

So menu planning is high on my list of priorities to be more...consistent about.

There have been some good moments though. Above on the right is our old butter packaging. On the left - a giant 2.4kg pack of the best local farmhouse spring butter, yellow as primroses, buttercups and daffodils. Discovered it in the fridge at the whole foods shop. Posy found the butter dish when she was rummaging through the 'granny crockery' cupboard, and insisted that we use it, like people in 'the old days'. We are storing the butter dish in the cupboard, and the butter is spreading beautifully, and tasting divine. I'm not sure whether to keep the 'mother lode' in the fridge, or freeze it. Its use-by date is December, and we will definitely get through it by then, but I don't want it to start tasting like whatever it sits next to in the fridge..

I've been very good and cut up this week's celery and stored it in airtight containers instead of an old plastic bag.

Posy is happy because now she can help herself to her favourite afternoon snack of celery dipped in peanut butter, instead of waiting for me to hack a bit off the side of the bunch and cut it up for her.

I may have linked to this before, but here is a wildly advanced zero waste family's refrigerator interior, photo at the bottom of the post. I love the celery sticks in the jar, so neat, although I am more of a bulk-buy girl myself. The salad mixes in the tall jars are a clever idea. But why isn't their fridge full of left overs and bottles of beer. Or is that just me?

Now the bread. When I first started buying plastic-free loaves, I was storing them in a big plastic container, but that wasn't very flexible. Now I use a hippy-tie-dyed calico bag which can fit a couple of any-shaped loaves at a time. I find that as long as I fold the bag down firmly over the cut surface it stays fresh. Also, we use about a loaf a day, so if you would use less, freezing half a loaf might be an idea.

I had no idea how I was going to freeze bread without using a plastic bag. For a while there I bought bread every day from the local shop. Then I read that Bea from Zero Waste Home uses a pillow case to freeze her fortnight of baguettes. Mad, I thought, they'd go stale. But it works! A whole loaf freezes beautifully in cloth! I didn't have a spare pillowcase, but I had plenty of the old Coles calico bags. I did think of sewing patches over the Coles logo, but, well, the sewing fairy hasn't visited recently.

Here are four loaves in two bags, just folded over at the top. Now I can't guarantee how long these will freeze nicely for. I haven't kept them for more than a week. I imagine freezer burn would set in eventually.

Of course, the thing you can't do if you aren't using plastic, is to buy a pre-sliced loaf. It will fall apart in your calico bag, and then go stale. The breadknife is our new best friend, and we are learning to cut sort-of straight slices. No, that's a lie. We are learning to eat very odd-shaped slices of bread. The bread is much sturdier, yummier, locally baked, and better for us. But decidedly odd-shaped.


Anonymous said…
You can consider yourself to be my teacher today Jo...I love to learn at least 1 new thing every day and at 4.53am I learned that bread will freeze in calico or a pillow case in the freezer! BONUS! Our fridge has no beer but soon, our beer making kit WILL have beer so that leaves the fridge free for the dozens and dozens of eggs that our chooks are throwing at us. I made coffee icecream yesterday just so that I wouldn't have to feed a dozen eggs to the dogs! I hate waste :(. I don't bother segmenting the celery and cut the leaves off instead. That way the base stays fresh for months. I keep the leaves and add them to soups. Do you ever make spreadable butter? You can keep it in the fridge then and it stays fresher longer and goes a lot further and you have the benefits of olive oil with the benefits of butter BONUS!

Ok, off to slay me some dragons (well...plant another 15 poor long suffering potted babies so that they don't have to suffer this summer in pots ;) )
Bread in pillowcases--who knew?

I've gotten good about taking canvas totes with me to the store, and when I order groceries, I have them bagged in paper, which I then compost. I'm still figuring out what to do about veggies I buy at the store--if there aren't many, I don't bag them, but what to do with a half pound of snow peas? Well, grow them myself, of course, but that takes a LOT of advance planning. I'm working on it!

Jo said…
well, Fran, you taught me something too. Spreadable butter. That may be necessary in summer. I was wondering how I would go in summer, when the butter melts in the cupboard, but it too hard to spread from the fridge. Thankyou!
Frances, I would so order groceries in if they would bag them in paper. Lucky you! I was going to sew some tulle produce bags for buying vegies(you can look them up on etsy. Very cute, with drawstrings), but then I realised that would take about a million years with my track record for procrastination, so I am going to order some online instead. Until then I have been reusing my sizable stash of old plastic produce bags.
I like your slow food solution to snow peas! I have an Australian boof called Slow Food, about a year on a farm. The recipes read like - first get your Jersey cow in calf - so a quiche may involve up to 2 years prep time. Now that is advance planning!
Jo said…
PS Fran, what on earth were you doing up at 4.53am? My clock doesn't even have that time on it, as far as I am aware!
Unknown said…
Oh Jo, Rhonda taught me a trick and that is to wrap the celery completely in aluminium foil. It lasts six weeks and is still crunchy. I know, doesnt sound feasible but it works. I think im going to have to get myself a bigger freezer. So much to store in it.

Thanks Fran for butter recipe.
Jo said…
That's a fascinating trick Lynda. Although I love the way that a celery bunch made into sticks stacks in the fridge nicely. Also, Posy and I are celery fiends, and eat a bunch a week! Especailly if I make hommous.
Anonymous said…
Isn't funny how you can learn little household tricks? Things that sometimes challenge the way you do something which you realise you do out of habit!

You are doing really well in cutting out the plastic! Good on you.

We're a non-celery family. Though I do use it in soup and some stews.
Jo said…
Lucinda, LOVE celery. It is faintly salty and amazingly crunchy, and goes with my other favourite foods - apples (sweet and crunchy), cheese (salty), crackers (salty, crunchy). Can't decide whether bread is one of my favourite foods, or only bread-with-lashings-of-butter. Probably the latter. Anyway, good with a side of celery...
I have this great salad with celery, capsicum, apple and tuna, with cashews. It's some super healthy thing a mummy aussie blogger posted, and it works well to get me eating vege - I love all the crunch, with the salty and the sweet. Last time I forked out for pre cut up celery, just cause then I knew there was no waste (in my reusable bag), but this week I went big, and made a HUGE salad - two serves down with one big serve at least to go.

I knew about the pillow case situation, but then I know the source. We don't eat more than a loaf a month, if that, so the BF buys whatever he wants and it gets frozen, for midnight snacks etc. I'm trying to be GF, and the GF breads aren't worth the price (or the plastic!). Butter, I buy in a paper wrapper, and trash, cause I'm not sure my bokashi system is 'strong' enough for paper, and just how much paper would disturb it. I see you have a little pyrex dish, I just forked out for some of the 1 cup sized ones. I'm planning on keeping it stocked with pepperoni, a rectangle one with bacon (a common ingredient) and then other ones with two chicken breasts, frozen ready for meals (rather than in one huge lump, which failed me last time :().
Jo said…
Sarah, I love the sound of that salad, will be whipping one up tout suite!
Funny - I have a Pyrex dish of salami and one of bacon in the fridge. Snap!
Anonymous said…
I have not put butter in the fridge for about 1.5 years now, except for an exceptionally hot spell in January when it was literally a puddle in my stainless steel butter dish.
I am such a fan of my breadmaker...I put it on in the evening while I make dinner and there is a fresh loaf of bread in the morning. 'Just in time'. No need for storing.
Jo said…
Hi Kali, lovely to see you here. Hoping to avoid puddles of butter! There are people here who would complain... my family are very whiny.
That is certainly a great advertisement for a breadmaker. We had one once, but it broke. I HATE having to throw out appliances. It makes me grind my teeth with rage when something electrical can't be repaired. I have thought about getting another one, but there is no bench space. What to do, what to do?
Anonymous said…
I got such a cheap model - $79, and it has been going for over a year without complaint. I got rid of my microwave which left a lovely spot for the breadmaker. I am on the lookout for a beautiful steel stovetop kettle so I can get rid of the electric one. One appliance at a time... My fridge is also stocked with pyrex dishes of all shapes and sizes now, and jars of my own pickles and jams. My goodness the difference a year makes! Bit by bit. Kali
Jo said…
Kali, if there was a bread machine out there with a 20 year guarantee..I do actually enjoy making bread by hand. Perhaps if I get more organised I could make most of my own.
I am very slow at change, but it is good to see the way we live slowly transforming for the better. Your fridge sounds most interesting!
please tell posy PB with celerey is one of my fave snacks too :-)

Popular Posts