Food and Grocery Shopping (Zero Waste Update 4)
Well… I tried to delay this blog a little longer, but it’s time. I am going to be honest – this is the area producing the rubbish at home. Does everything have to come packaged?!?!
But let’s start from the beginning.
Almost a year now Nic and I have been vegan. This is primarily a result from some documentaries we watched like Cowspiracy which describes the environmental implication of animal agriculture globally. According to the film creators, the vegan diet daily saves 5,000L water, 20.4kg of grains, 2.5m2 forest lands, the equivalent of 9kg of CO2 and one animal’s life. It is believed that this is the most ecological and zero waste way of eating for us and our Planet. For me that is a start to reduce rubbish and I am quite happy with what we’ve accomplished.
There are two ways we get food into our house. Every week we get a produce box** – 8 types of vegetable and 3 types of fruit. Right now we use Riverford who are organic certified and deliver to our door. Most items are unpackaged or come in paper bags or card boxes. They do however use some plastic bags for the salads and greens. All packaging we receive we send back to Riverford so it is their responsibility to dispose of the waste they produce. 2 month ago they announced they will focus on changing their packaging and I am happy to be supporting them in that undertaking.
The rest of the food comes from the supermarket. Things like peppers, mushrooms and avocados we buy loose in our mesh bags. The packaged produce we buy is from the reduced section – food that will be thrown away if not bought by the end of the day. I believe that it is more ecological to buy the food and bin the packaging that to let it all go to landfill. It’s also cheaper but just as tasty.
Dry goods like rice, pasta and beans we keep in glass jars (reusing Tesco’s gherkin jars) but unfortunately we buy packaged in plastic. I haven’t yet come across a bulk store where I can refill my own jars. I have recently learned there are online suppliers that do a similar service but I haven’t had the chance to research them and compare prices.
Our waste mainly comes from processed foods – vegan cheeses, soy sausages, bread, humus (so much humus), canned tomatoes or chickpeas. Whenever possible we choose recyclable packaging (paper, card, aluminum, glass) although I still count it as part of the waste we produce. Unfortunately we haven’t yet weaned ourselves from those products. It hasn’t yet been a goal for us and we also don’t have the kitchen equipment to do stuff like humus from scratch. I hope to soon have a food processor to help with these undertakings.
We are very careful not to bring excess waste at home, but there are so many new vegan products that we want to try and support. Sometimes taste is a bit more important. After all I am sure that the environmental benefits of a vegan diet outweigh those of a packet of gummy bears.
I cook a lot and try to use all edible parts of the plants. The rest we either give to Thor (the pepper destroyer) or it is added to Nic’s parents’ compost bin. We keep all food waste in one of our freezer draws and empty every two weeks. I tried making a vegetable stock out of the veg peels, but I really didn’t enjoy the result.
Another rule we have is to empty the fridge once a week. Usually on a Tuesdays we will finish any leftover veg we have as the new Riverford box gets here on Wednesdays. This way we don’t let food go bad and always know the inventory of our food. The same happens in the freezer as well. Whatever we buy will be eaten by the end of the week. The supermarket is only 3 min away and we don’t need backup food for just in case.
To keep some more delicate foods (like broccoli, spring onion and greens) fresh longer I keep them in water so they can’t wilt. If something does stay in the fridge for too long we make it our priority to find a nice recipe to use it in. For example after we tried a combination of roasted potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke, the artichoke started piling up. But it turns out that slow roasting the artichoke on its own makes it a great side dish and it doesn’t clutter the fridge anymore. (We keep all produce in the fridge as we don’t have free space in our small kitchen).
We drink water straight from the tap and in large quantities (at least I do). I personally find the water in our area to have a nice and refreshing taste.
I drink my tea loose – either mum’s home-picked one, black or any from the tea room in Dobrich. I steam it in my IKEA pot and it’s such a nice thing to have a small ritual with a different flavour every day. Nic drinks three types of coffee – instant, decaf instant and espresso. The first two we buy at the super market (and I reuse the jars for my teas). The coffee grounds we get from small coffee shops where they grind it straight into our jars with absolutely no waste. He uses a Cuban coffeemaker and I use the used coffee ground to exfoliate. If we decide to get any alcohol (cider or wine) it comes in glass bottles anyway.
We keep in our kitchen only what we need – one chopping board, two knives, two pans, one mixing bowl, three pots, three baking trays… We don’t have a pizza wheel as we have a knife; don’t have a wine bottle opener as we have a pocket knife; don’t have a rolling pin as we have water bottles; and we use our kitchen towels instead of oven mitts. As table-wear we have four of each – plates, glasses, cutlery, etc. This way our kitchen is very tidy and I don’t dive into cupboards and draws to look for something buried in other useless things. This also allows us to keep the counter top free: with the exception of a fruit bowl and a microwave. Kitchen is ready to be used at any point.
I still use baking paper but I am looking for silicone mats instead. To substitute cling film and aluminium foil we use bee's wrap – cotoon fabric covered in wax which nicely sticks to dishes. However we don’t have many leftovers that require wrapping and if we do we prefer to use jars. Our napkins are hand sawn by me and each of us has their own pattern.
I personally feel comfortable in my minimalist kitchen and with the food habits we have. It allows me to cook more, clean less, try new things and (almost) always be happy with the results.
I am interested to hear what your zero waste kitchen habits are so feel free to share them with me. And I need ideas for:
A good food processor
Silicone baking mats
Zero waste dry goods shopping (rice, pasta, beans, etc.)
*”One Year Vegan” – new blog on 28.04.18
**Soon I will post a blog on the veg box and how it makes my life easier.