Waste Free Cooking

Prior to Plastic Free July I was worried about cooking & grocery shopping as I knew that this was probably my major source of plastic & rubbish. However since going to Bin Inn and finding some great blogs and recipes I have found I am getting more resourceful in the kitchen and majority of my meals produce no rubbish and only minimal food scraps.

Preventing food waste:
I collect all of my food scraps and freeze them until I have enough to make veggie stock/broth. This is a habit I used to do years ago, but due to sheer laziness and lack of freezer space (we now have a new freezer & a spare for the flat) I stopped making my own stock and relied on the convenience of stock cubes. Making my own stock is super easy, it's bloody cheap (basically free) and whatever I don't use I can freeze- however with it being winter I always use it up. I compost the used veges after.

I recently made an apple scrap vinegar out of apple peels & cores and the apples used to flavour my Kombucha. I fermented my vinegar in a 1L ceramic stein which was an op shop find for my BF a few years back and left in in the hot water cupboard. I put a few tablespoons of Kombucha in the vinegar and found I had a mini SCOBY by the end of it! The recipe can be found here at Zero Waste Chef.
My fermented apple scrap vinegar

 My Kombucha is coming along nicely, I am now brewing a 10L continuous brew as the demand is high between myself and friends and family for my kombucha. With it being winter it is taking a bit longer than I would like. I am flavouring it mainly with mandarins and grapefruit as we have trees and can't eat them all- especially the little fiddly ones. I also use fruit I froze when they were in season.

My other recent ferments are Sauerkraut and fermented chillies- both of which turned out great! I have also been making yogurt and finding new ways to use it (scones, in a spinach pie, on pizza) and soft cheeses. My kitchen has become very experimental and I am thoroughly enjoying it and finding new ways to use things that would otherwise go to waste.

Cabbage, beetroot and carrot fermented in a jar


What I have been cooking:

As it is winter I have been cooking A LOT of soups- which is the best way to use up any random ingredients and vegetables that have seen better days. Below are some of our dinners from the past month.

Pumpkin Soup with spiced yogurt dip

Spaghetti with weed pesto & homemade cheese

Veggie soup with croutons and yogurt, and the rubbish produced. 

Sauerkraut with bread and falafel purchased from the market, and homemade hummus and ricotta.

Can you tell we like our bread?! Other meals that were devoured before photos included numerous curries with naan and pizzas.

Usually we eat a lot of pasta but I am struggling to find this plastic free, and am also avoiding tin tomatoes as the tins are plastic lined! This one is more of a challenge for me as tin tomatoes were a staple, and with it being the middle of winter tomatoes aren't the cheapest. My pantry has definitely changed in the past month, I used to a shelf FULL of tinned legumes and tomatoes, but now I by them dried in bulk and store in old coffee jars that the BF gets from work.

I think being vegetarian definitely helps to cut down our waste & plastic. My BF is not vegetarian, but as I am the cook he eats vegetarian. He will eat meat when we go out, he very rarely buys meat to cook.

Foods I have yet to find plastic free: 

  1. Pasta
  2. Hard cheese
  3. Spinach/Kale (yes really)
  4. Fresh Milk/Cream (for cheese & yogurt)

UPDATE (September 2016):

  1. Pasta; we now buy this from Bin Inn Onehunga, this is the only place in Auckland where I have found loose pasta.
  2. Hard cheese; I wrote a whole blog post about this here. We don't buy this often, usually from Bin Inn Takanini who happily put it straight in our container. 
  3. Spinach & kale;  this comes in our Ooooby box and we grow it in our garden also. 
  4. Fresh milk; this can be purchased in your own vessel from a local farm, although we stopped buying milk after making the switch. We sometimes purchase milk powder from Bin Inn.

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