Plastic-Free Food

Delicious organic biodynamic milk and cream in glass bottles - but with a giant sticker.. what is all that about?

What I have learned about plastic-free eating: lots of vegies. And eggs. And lots of cooking.

Food you can't buy without plastic wrap: tortillas, flatbread, sushi nori, rice paper rolls, crackers, biscuits, teabags, non-gourmet cheese, dips, butter (even the foil wrapper has a plastic lining), any meat from the farmers market, ice cream, chips, pasta, sliced bread, crumpets.

Food you can buy plastic-free if you have a fabulous bulk bin shop like I do: flour, sugar and all the baking requirements, spelt pasta, dried beans, rice and grains, cereals, loose teas, spices, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, honey, peanut butter, oil, condiments, chocolate covered goji berries.

Food you can buy plastic-free from local shops: bread, cakes, biscuits, slices, meat (if they let you bring your own container), gourmet cheese (if they wrap it in tissue paper), fruit, veg, eggs, flour, milk and cream in cartons or glass. Food in cans or glass bottles.

Food you can buy plastic-free from the supermarket: fruit, veg, eggs, flour. Milk and cream in cartons. Food in cans or glass bottles. Edited to add, from comments: Butter in paper, sugar in paper.

My takeaway from this is: the global food industry couldn't exist without plastic. Local food bought fresh is mostly what you get when eating plastic-free.

Even my fabulous bulk bin shop isn't plastic-free - after all, the lentils don't arrive direct from heaven in crates made from compressed rose petals and delivered by angels. They arrive from India in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. The reason this is a good thing is that twenty people can go home with a kilo of lentils each and only one plastic bag is used. The same effect can be achieved by buying a twenty kilo bag of lentils from the Asian grocer and sharing it out with nineteen of your best friends. And if you do not have a bulk bin shop near you, this is an excellent alternative.

But only really local food can come unpackaged. Bread straight from the oven. Veg from the farm. There is a shop down the street that sells pasta made on the premises. It just occurred to me I could ask them to pop some in a container for me. So for options if I don't want to cook?

Recently I read about an adorable 'buy home-cooked food for dinner' set-up called Josephine. Home cooks make dinner, and you order it, turn up at their house, pop dinner in your Tupperware and off you go. If you live in the US you can give this a go. I think this would work anywhere among friends, without having to wait for a San Francisco start-up to come to a neighbourhood near you. Plastic-free takeaway.

Meanwhile, I am going to pop up the hill and buy chips from the food vans at the park. Everything is served in cardboard and paper bags, which I will use as fire starters tomorrow, because nothing starts the fire better than fat-soaked cardboard. Thanks, bearded millenial food truck entrepreneurs, for getting it.


Interesting article about the Josephine start-up. I have a friend here who in a very casual way has started doing something similar. She loves to cook, but she has a small household, so sometimes when she wants to spend the day in the kitchen she texts friends who she thinks might want a tomato pie or some chicken noodle soup and sets a price. She's a fantastic cook, so everyone is happy.

It would be interesting to try something similar with a group of like-minded folks, where instead of buying and selling you were bartering. Someone makes bread, someone makes soup, someone makes casserole, and everyone shares. I'll let you know if I ever pull something like that off!

Anonymous said…
All those foods that come in plastic - convenience breeds convenience. But it all breeds plastic. Shame plastic is so convenient but so environmentally deadly.

We can get butter wrapped in paper. And sugar. Neither available down south? You need both for cooking from scratch. Unless you want to churn your own butter. Can you fit a cow in your yard?

I see it is minus 2°overnight in your neck of the woods. Wow. That's chilly.
simplelife said…
Totally unrelated but I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a good breakfast place in the cbd. I'm here over night.
Cheers Kate
Jo said…
Frances, I love your cooking friend's plan. I would be at her house in a flash! Also, your bartering plan - that is often how my friends and I arrange dinner, but, also you could take turns with four or five friends and make dinner for everyone on, say, Thursday, for pick up, which would mean you would only cook one Thursday a month. That would work for me!

Lucinda, actually, yes, can get butter wrapped in paper, just realised. But I always buy the local butter, which is wrapped in plastic-backed foil. Which is better, local or plastic-free? See the dilemmas.. yes, you are right, I should get a cow.. could there possibly be a simpler solution?? Haven't seen sugar in paper. Will double check.

Kate, Cuccina does the best breakfasts. It is about a 10min walk west from the CBD. Their breakfast burritos are amazing. If you want something right in the middle of town, Mojos. It is a music store, good music, good food, although I have to admit I have never had one of their breakfasts. Also, it is two shops up from Petrarch's, my favourite book store:) Are you free later on sometime? We could meet for coffee somewhere. My email is on the contacts page xx
Jo said…
Kate, but wait, there's more! For the Anne of Green Gable aesthetic, Bryher. I go there for a proper pot of chai. Also Samuel Pepys if you need gluten free and love vintage kitsch. They open at 8 though, which might be a bit late for you..
Anonymous said…
I am always flip-flopping over the dilemmas you mention, like local versus paper-wrapped. Only solution is to put a bit of pressure on the local producers, I guess.
Jo said…
Sarah, yes, it seems more productive to talk to local companies, as often they talk back, and actually listen! And I think you have raised such a key point - our consumer decisions make some impact, but taking the fight out into the public realm and talking to companies is a way to effect real change. After all, companies won't change unless we tell them what we want.

btwLucinda, yes, found the sugar in paper!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Respect. Disposable, use once plastic is a real problem. Like you, I do my best too but end up with a small package of the stuff every single week. Every other material gets dealt to one way or another.

Plastic can be a very useful material though, and I'm planning to replace a faulty water pump tomorrow and then redo the water lines to a garden tap and connected bushfire sprinkler. A lot of those materials are plastic and they're expected to have a very long lifespan. The use once mentality is a complex human predicament. Dunno.

Glad you watched the war on waste. I've been leveraging that recently by getting my hands on good quantities of used coffee grounds. The orchard loves that stuff and I am truly amazed at the quantity of used grounds produced. It is nice that they are going to a good cause: Coffee and soil. :-)!


Jo said…
Chris, I know, plastic is so useful. IV drips come to mind. And yet we use it for straws. And bags.

Glad you are able to relieve your local cafe of some of its waste. Your fruit trees must be going manic on all that caffeine!
Jo said…
*Dar, from Exacting Life, not Sarah. Der. I have my blogging friends mixed up. Oops.. if it helps any, I call my children the wrong names as well..

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