About two weeks ago, I started school at Fleming College in Lindsay, Ontario, Canada for a postgraduate program in sustainable waste management. I completed my undergrad in environmental governance at University of Guelph in December 2018. In 2015 after my second … Continue reading
To be honest, I buy some of my groceries with packaging these days. In high school it was easy to write this blog as a “perfect” plastic-free website because I lived with my parents and I didn’t pay for any of my ingredients. Now I make minimum wage so I have to shop at No Frills. I avoid waste when I can but I buy regular dairy since the stuff in glass bottles is 5+ times more expensive. I also don’t buy in bulk very often because I look for clearance items at No Frills most of the time. If I want to go to Bulk Barn it’s a further drive and I don’t have gas money. When I’m older I can be more conscious about what I buy but right now I don’t have the money or time to shop at multiple grocery stores. This is actually an informative experience because its showing me how being a “perfect” zero waster is inaccessible to a lot of people. I’m simply too poor. We need more solutions to deal with waste that don’t require average people to bankrupt themselves. Why should I have to pay extra money out of my meager paycheck to compensate for the fact that corporations manufacture enormously vast quantities of waste? Why aren’t they held accountable for that? Maybe they could hire some engineers to design new materials and downsize their packaging. Or maybe they could give grants to poor municipalities to build composting facilities. If you have any more ideas along those lines please leave them in the comments! I am curious to hear what other people think about this. That said, here are some ways that I save time and money these days – and sometimes manage to cut down on waste.
- Make pancake batter and store it in your fridge. I was a baker in one of the kitchens I worked in, and I learned that some batters can be made ahead and stored for a week or even 10 days. So I make pancake batter, store it in empty yogurt containers in my fridge, and fry up pancakes quickly on busy mornings. Yogurt containers are plastic but I like to repurpose what I can. There is yogurt from a biodynamic farm sold in returnable glass jars in Guelph, but it’s $6 which is too expensive for a student budget. So I buy the $2 plastic quarts and reuse the containers. They are actually really handy not just in the kitchen but in general. I will write a post about that sometime.
- Make a big batch of oatmeal and store it in your fridge. If you reheat oatmeal in a pot with a bit of water, you can get it back to the same consistency as hot oatmeal. You can do this in the microwave too. I like doing this in the morning because its faster than cooking oatmeal from scratch. It takes about the same amount of time as making a packet of instant oatmeal.
- Soup is a great thing to bring on the go (if you have a way to heat it up). There are a couple microwaves on campus, so I bring soup from home in a jar and heat it up and eat it here. I like simple blended vegetable soups because they’re easy and quick to make and they help me up my vegetable intake. I’ll post an easy vegetable soup recipe next.
- Hardboiled eggs are another great thing to eat. Eggs are super cheap and if you make a big batch of hardboiled eggs then you can have them ready to go from your fridge. At some farmers’ markets, you can give empty egg cartons to egg vendors and they can reuse them. I’m able to do that in Guelph, but I’m not sure about other places. In some places this isn’t allowed because it’s not considered sanitary. If this isn’t allowed at your farmers’ market, egg containers are compostable and recyclable.
- Cook a pound of of dry beans in a large pot and freeze them in containers for use in individual recipes. I wrote a post about how to cook black beans a few years ago. Cooking times vary from bean to bean, but the cooking process is basically the same for most beans: soak, drain, add to a pot with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Before you remove the beans from the heat, take out a spoonful of beans and check them for tenderness. Wait for the beans to cool then transfer them to jars or containers of your choice. Leave at least an inch of headspace, especially if you’re using glass! Food expands when it freezes and glass jars can explode in your freezer. Transfer the containers of beans to the freezer and thaw as needed for refried beans, hummus or whatever you want to make with them! Making a big batch doesn’t save as much time as eating canned beans, but the significant cost savings make it worth it to do this. A pound of typical dry beans (chickpeas, pintos, etc.) costs no more than $2.50. So when I cook a pound of dry beans, I get probably the equivalent of four to five cans for the price of one! Even if you consider the cost of electricity/gas for your stove and water, this saves money. Last point: I add a strip (1-2 inches) of kombu seaweed to the soaking water and cook the beans with that same strip of seaweed as well. This seriously works to make the beans more digestible.
- Carry fruit with you. This sounds like pretty straightforward and simple advice, but I’m serious. If you have fruit with you, you’ll be less likely to make an expensive packaged vending machine impulse buy of candy or chips. Sometimes if I’ve been studying for a while, I get bored and I just want to eat something for the sake of it. Eating out of boredom is a bad habit, but eating fruit is generally pretty harmless.
- If you buy cheese, shredded cheese is more expensive and has more packaging. A brick of cheese is packaged in plastic too but it’s less plastic and its cheaper for the same amount of cheese. I like to buy cheese on sale then shred and freeze it.
I’ve been hired to cook vegetarian lunches and dinners for a family summer camp for a week. It has been difficult to find good ways to add enough protein to the meals. I had the idea of adding chickpeas to cold pasta … Continue reading
I’m not vegan, but I started making vegan pesto because I can’t find cheese that isn’t packaged in plastic. I blogged about buying an unpackaged whole cheese wheel a couple of years ago, but it’s really expensive and you have … Continue reading
Frittatas are a good way to get more vegetables into your diet. I made this one with green vegetables because there happened to be a lot of green vegetables in my fridge. Green Vegetable Frittata My photo of ingredients got messed … Continue reading
Cauliflower takes the place of couscous or rice in this tasty side dish. I got the idea for this recipe from the book Grain Brain, which has some recipes in the back. I realized that I wanted to write a … Continue reading
I haven’t been able to post anything for the past few weeks because the end of the semester got pretty crazy. But I’m home in California for the summer so I’m able to post more now. A couple days ago I made … Continue reading
I don’t usually like vegetarian chili because I find that without meat it isn’t hearty enough. I tried adding sweet potatoes to this vegetarian chili to give it a boost and it ended up tasting really good. Vegetarian Chili with … Continue reading
I tried to donate blood on Monday but was turned away because of low hemoglobin. So I’m trying to eat more iron. This soup has lentils, potatoes and swiss chard, all of which are good sources of iron. I soaked … Continue reading
I just want to start out by saying that it’s ironic of me to write a blog post about eco-friendly food right now because I’m waiting at the Toronto airport to fly home to California for reading week. Flying is … Continue reading