I guess no one could argue that the one most important thing to save you money and reduce your waste significantly is learning to cook from scratch. Since I came back from New Zealand, I have grown quite fond of cooking, right now it’s one of my favourite things to do, especially when essays and assignments are waiting and I have been on Facebook too long to excuse not doing serious work with it 😀 I would encourage everybody to learn how to cook; if you really feel you’re bad at it, learn 10ish easy recipes and rotate around them. It’s so simple, it’s tasty, it’s cheap and it’s healthy.
Unfortunately, of course not everything bought in the store is zero waste. As a matter of fact, I used to get frustrated regularly when trying to buy fruit and veg from Aldi here – it’s all packed in plastic, even food with a peel! If it works to protect the food in nature, what makes people think they need another layer of trash to protect it from transporting?? So, my shopping habits have changed and are still changing and I am trying to dedicate a whole post on my zero waste shopping as soon as I have managed to basically reduce all waste; until then, bear with me :). This week I decided to present some self-made alternatives to store-bought food which are cheap, nicer, wasteless, and so ridiculously simple to make that I feel this knowledge has to be shared!!
Food No. 1: Mayonnaise
I can’t understand now that I’ve started to make my own mayo, why people would need to buy these awkward squeezy bottles! The only thing I have to make sure to have on hand is the lemon juice, but since I’m now making some lemonade every now and then (see below), I’m always saving some lemon juice to keep in the fridge (it lasts quite a long time!).
The only downside is that it doesn’t last as long, so I only make a small amount every time to use right away. What you need for two people is:
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ tsp mustard
- 1 tsp vinegar (white wine or similar)
- 160ml vegetable oil
- Some lemon juice, salt & pepper
Mix the egg, mustard, vinegar, salt & pepper in a clean bowl. Take a whisk and slowly whisk in a tiny bit of oil. Stir well while pouring in small bits of oil at a time. It will start to go smooth and lighter in colour the more oil you pour in. When all the oil is whisked in, add the juice of about ½ lemon and season to taste. Lots of recipes stress that you have to make sure not to pour in too much oil at first, but I’m quite careful and I’ve never had any problems with curdling etc. It really is dead simple!
Zero waste balance:
- Egg white – I freeze it until I have enough to make a batch of either meringue or any type of cake (which doesn’t happen too often)
- Egg shells & lemons – compost
- Vinegar & oil – I am still looking for vinegar I can buy without packaging, oil is sold in our university coop, I always get glass bottles so I can reuse them or recycle
- Mustard – I always have a jar in my fridge which usually lasts a long time and will be recycled when it’s empty
- Bottled mayonnaise – squeezy bottles are usually LDPE or PP which usually cannot be recycled
- Of course you can go for a mayo jar if you’re only concern is zero waste
Food No. 2: Lemonade
I stopped drinking soda and fizzy drinks mainly because of my personal taste. I still do enjoy some Coke occasionally (especially when I’m out late and I don’t want to fall asleep), but it’s not part of my daily drinking ‘routine’ as you might call it. We are mostly drinking tap water and squash (concentrate), as well as tea and juice. As a step to reducing my waste here, especially the squash plastic bottles, I have started to make my own lemonade. I love all things sour, so I immediately fell in love with the first batch of lemonade I made (and now that I put more sugar in, others like it, too :D)
What I put into one bottle of about 750ml-1l:
- Juice of about 3 lemons
- 3-5 tbsp of sugar (subject to experimentation)
- Fill with water
Some people prefer to dissolve the sugar in a part of water first and warming it up on the stove, as it takes some more time to dissolve in the cold lemon juice (as I did first), but just mixing it together in any way does the job. And it’s delicious!!
Zero Waste balance:
- Lemon – compost (okay, I’m cheating a bit, my last lemons came in non-recycable net, but I usually try to get the loose ones)
- Sugar – comes in a recyclable paper bag (I’m looking for bulk at the moment)
- Store bought lemonade, soda etc: PET bottles can only be recycled once if they get recycled at all; besides, I don’t like lemonade from the store due to a lot of artificial ingredients, e.g. sweeteners or flavourings which are useless or even possibly harmful
Also – self made lemonade makes a great gift for people if you’re invited over to somebody. Especially for me, who doesn’t really drink alcohol.
Food No. 3: Bread
My boyfriend has recently started again making our own bread. According to him, it’s so simple I could easily make myself (and I trust his judgement 😉 ) He usually makes a small white loaf in a tin which we can eat in a few days, if it does go stale before, I dry the bread for breadcrumbs or bread dumplings. Hopefully soon I will be able to do one of our bread making workshops that our university environmental team offers, in which I will learn to make actual sourdough bread, one ‘level’ above the simple little loaf here:
- 300ml luke warm water
- 1tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp yeast (we have dry granules)
- 500g flour
- Some butter
First things first, make sure the loaf is kept warm at all times to have the yeast operating nicely. Pre-warm your tins on the radiator and your workspace with a saucepan covered shallowly in hot water. Ready to go.
Grease both tins and leave aside in a warm place. Measure 300ml warm water in a jug, add the oil, sugar, salt, yeast, and stir well.
Get a bowl and measure 500g flour, then pour the water from the jug in. Start mixing it into the flour with a spoon at first, then use your fists to knead, that way you don’t get all the dough sticking all over your hands. Knead well for 5 minutes (keep the work surface warm). The hardest part is over already.
Now carve a cross into the top of your loaf (optional so it rises better), chuck it in the tin and put it in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes (60 minutes if you’re using multigrain flour). Don’t put it too hot or directly on to radiator as it might dry out.
Pre-heat the oven to 190°, and bake for 30 minutes. Voilà. Nice, crusty goodness!
According to my boyfriend, it rises more if you put it directly onto a baking tray, although it might lose shape and go flat, so that’s your decision. There is many other recipes around the web if this doesn’t sound satisfying to you, so go ahead and look it up. You can also knead the bread a second time after rising and then give it another 30 minutes to rise.
Zero Waste Balance:
- Oil, sugar, salt, yeast is all stuff we have anyway in our kitchen, so there’s no additional waste to making bread
- Flour – we buy it in bulk from different stores and bring our own bags, so no waste at all
- These awkward plastic bags you get around bread these days? It doesn’t even tell whether it’s recyclable at all (I doubt it)
- Alternative to that: buy some fresh bread from your bakery if making it yourself is too much of as hassle – and don’t forget to bring your own bags