Plastic Free July 2020: Reducing Your Wasteline in the Kitchen (Part 1)

At the moment, reducing packaging waste in the kitchen is complicated by the pandemic. I think many people are sensibly basing their shopping habits on where they can get the majority of their groceries and which supermarkets practice the best one-way system and social distancing. Many shops have also hit pause on deli or BYOC (bring your own container) type foods.

However, these are the ways we’ve found to cut back on waste in the past, and I hope that our old normal will become our new normal again very soon.

Eggs

Morrison’s carries eggs produced at a local farm and supplies them without a carton if desired. Simply BYOEC (bring your own egg carton). Cardboard egg cartons in particular can be added to a garden composter once they wear out.

Milk

This is a tough one for us. We drink soy milk and haven’t found a good alternative to the supermarket own brand Tetrapak yet; instead, we stopped drinking milk in our tea, meaning the carton lasts twice as long. Throughout the UK there has been a movement back to milkmen (milk people?), and you can find a local milk person here.

Cheese

This is a product I’d like a few more options for. At the moment, I’m not sure how eco-friendly the wax coatings are on commercially produced cheese (i.e. it doesn’t seem they can be composted), but it seems to be either that or plastic. That being said, I was impressed with the shipment of cheese we received from the Welsh Cheese Company during lockdown. It came wrapped in Woolcool, an insulator made of wool that can be shipped back to them to be re-used.

Fruit and veg

SK Fruits in Chippenham has been a godsend. Most of their products are sold loose so we just pop them in our mesh bags and avoid any waste; they also tend to be cheaper than the supermarkets. They usually provide paper bags as well, which is fantastic for those occasions when I pop in unplanned. Morrison’s is the only place we’ve found locally that do cucumbers without plastic, at least in the summer.

Meat

Jon is a vegetarian and I don’t like to cook, so this isn’t something that we buy often. I have had success using the BYOC  method at shops, both local supermarkets and farm shops.

Bread

We don’t do sliced bread and instead get loose rolls from Morrison’s or Tesco. They can just be popped into one of the mesh fruit and veg bags … although for complete honesty, we actually have a specific cotton bread bag that stops crumbs from going everywhere (similar to this).

Tea

We switched from tea bags to loose-leaf tea a few years ago and haven’t look back. I was originally concerned about the additional mess but simply using a strainer and caddy refills from the Teahouse Emporium and Comins Tea does the job: no packaging waste and great tasting tea. Many refill shops do loose leaf as well.

Condiments

Jon is the sauce expert and recommends Sainsbury’s; unfortunately, Morrison’s tends to be primarily plastic when it comes to ketchup and mayonnaise.

Treats

Jon makes what we (well, me) have termed Joncakes, a chocolate shortbread confection that is not only delicious but the ingredients can be purchased without plastic. Drop me a line for the recipe.

Drinks

Mostly water or tea. Occasionally cordial in a glass bottle. We keep tap water in a carafe in the refrigerator so it’s always cold, and there’s no need to run water until it reaches the desired temperature. If you like carbonation, I have heard good things about SodaStream from a taste perspective, but I’m afraid I don’t know about their eco-credentials.

Dry goods

Beans and pulses, sugar and flour, pasta and cereals … all of these can be purchased at a refill store. We tend to go to Zero Green in Bristol because it’s in a good location to then visit friends in Somerset; they also have a fantastic selection of products. Preserves is along Gloucester Road in Bristol (you may have caught sight of it in War on Plastic). Closer to home, the Wild Food Company is in Malmesbury and Packaging Not Included is in Marlborough. There are new shops opening all the time so check out Zero Waste Near Me for details.

If you want to transition towards eco-friendly products, it is vital to work on incorporating them into your existing habits. Breaking the hold of quick, convenient, grab-it-and-go products takes a little bit of planning, but old habits can be replaced by new with a bit of intentional engineering.

What has worked for us is the humble shopping list. Research has long shown that writing one means you’re less likely to impulse shop (it’s great for your other waistline too!). For us, it has also become an organisational tool. Getting eggs? Toss the egg carton in the bag. Fruit and veg? Add the mesh bags to the pile. Our large reusable shopping bags are put in the same place each time, so all we have to do is grab them when walking out the door.

Beyond food, there are a number of other substitutions that can be made in the kitchen; pop back tomorrow to check them out.

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