Simple Food Recipes To Reduce Plastic Consumption

Sunday, September 16, 2018
As I've been embarking on my own journey to reduce the plastic waste I consume, I've been noticing more and more which food items tend to be harder to find without plastic packaging. Not that it's totally impossible to find them in plastic-alternatives or with no packaging at all, just that these kind of items require going to specific grocery stores or are frequently out of stock, etc. After awhile, okay, maybe a very short while, hunting down the plastic-free options every weekend gets annoying. I want to enjoy my weekend, not spend it running errands! I began to wonder if all this running to and fro this was doing more harm than good (hello vehicle emissions) and if it was even sustainable for me, yet alone for the rest of the people in this world without access to as many stores, all this time, or the money. In fact, this is what got me thinking about how generations prior lived and shopped for food, and then suddenly the answer seemed so obvious. I need to do what our grandmothers did -- make things for myself!

To be frank, making things from scratch isn't something I just started doing, it's simply something I just realized I was already doing accidentally, and something that I started doing more consciously recently. I haven't started making anything elaborate here; just simple swaps for particular foods I found to be hard to find without packaging. In most of these cases, there's the added bonus of consuming less sugar, fewer preservatives and much simpler ingredients as well, so yay us! So without further ado, here's a quick list of "recipes" (some you can barely call that) that will help you save a ton of plastic each week.

homemade cold brew coffee plastic free zero waste easy recipe mesh colander cheesecloth

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Cold Brew Coffee: Saves 1 non-recyclable plastic coffee stay-fresh bag, 1 coffee filter or 1 plastic-lined cup

We've got a lot of food prep coming up. We better be wide awake and ready to tackle it. Coffee to the rescue! Now of course you can eliminate your plastic waste a lot of different ways when it comes to coffee, and this is just one of them. I like having coffee at home so I don't want to rely on getting coffee with a reusable cup at a coffee shop, and I definitely don't dare drink the office coffee. Instead I just whip up a batch each night when I come home and it's ready to go in the morning!

1 part bulk coffee, coarsely ground (I use about 1/2 cup)
7 parts water (I use about 3 1/2 cups)

1. Add the coffee grounds to the water. Stir to combine.
2. Let sit overnight.
3. Strain coffee into another container. (I use a mesh strainer covered with a cheesecloth, folded over a few times.)


Peanut Butter: Saves 1 plastic jar and 20 minutes of trying to clean the jar before recycling it

Peanuts - can be roasted, raw, salted or unsalted

1. Throw peanuts into a blender or food processor and blend for 10 whole minutes.

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Bread: Saves 1 non-recyclable plastic bag, 1 plastic twist tie

I always thought bread sounded hard to make, but turns out it's not hard at all. I've been using a recipe from Life As A Strawberry and it's turned out great each time. Goes great with some peanut butter. 😉

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

1. Add yeast, sugar and water to a bowl. Let sit for about 5 minutes or until it looks foamy.
2. Add salt to mixture.
3. Add flour, slowly, bit by bit. You're looking for a smooth dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You may need more flour if it's humid outside. I've had to add extra flour every time I've made this recipe.
4. Flour the dough ball to prevent sticking and place in a floured bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for 1 hour.
5. Dump the dough out onto a flat surface and flour the top. Shape into a round ball. Don't be too rough -- you want to keep the air bubble in tact! Place the dough seam side down into a bowl again and let rise for another 30 minutes.
6. While the dough is proofing, place a dutch oven into the over and preheat to 460 degrees. I use a Le Creuset with a plastic lid handle and so far I've not had any issues.
7. After the proofing is done, place the dough into the hot dutch oven (be careful!), cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. You can place the dough on parchment paper if you want to.
8. Take the lid off and bake for about 10-12 minutes more, until golden brown.

plastic free zero waste oat milk homemade easy recipe vegan

Oat Milk: Saves 1 non-recyclable tetrapak

The previous three food items are not entirely impossible to find without plastic packaging, but this one I've never seen without plastic packaging. Lucky for us, it's also ridiculously simple.

1 cup oats
3 cups water, plus extra for soaking
pinch of sea salt
1 date or 1 tsp honey (optional)
1/8 tsp vanilla (optional)

1. Soak the oats in enough water to cover for at least 30 minutes.
2. Drain the oats and rinse.
3. Add oats, water, salt and optional sweeteners to a blender and blend for 2 minutes.
4. Strain using a cheesecloth, nut bag or really any clean thin fabric, like an old cotton t-shirt.

Bonus: You can use the leftover oat fiber to whip up a couple oat cookies!

Vinaigrette: Saves 1 oily and impossible to clean plastic bottle

Salad dressings are the worst. They cost a lot, they never actually taste very good, and most of them come in plastic bottles. Never again.

1 part vinegar - can be red, white, balsamic, etc
3 parts neutral flavored oil, like olive or grapeseed oil
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

1. Whisk vinegar into oil.
2. Add seasonings.

That's all I've got so far, but I'll certainly be adding to my list of recipes as I make more and more swaps. I hope you've found at least something that tempts you! Thanks for reading!

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