Reduced-plastic grocery shop – Morrisons

On Monday, I went to Morrisons to do my shopping.

While I was there, I saw some pretty great things – my favourite being trays of local eggs where you could purchase as many or as few as required.

If you can read my crappy writing, this is our meal plan for the week. In order of consumption they go…

Lasagne  – I made this on Sunday night so it was ready for when I got in on Monday. It was made from leftovers, so no shopping needed.
Vegetable Chilli – I had some peppers and leftover homemade guacamole in my fridge, as well as canned tomatoes and kidney beans at home. Of the groceries above, I’ll be using onion, garlic and carrot.
Ham Quiche – This is going to use up the ham my son didn’t finish last week, as well as some eggs we already had in. Of the above, I’ll be using the flour to make the pastry.
Stir Fry – I’ll be using another of the peppers from my fridge, some spring onions I have at home, rice, and a variety of condimemts (i.e. fish sauce, sugar, five-spice, soy sauce and cornflour to make a sauce). From the pictured groceries I’ll use a chicken thigh (possibly two) and the brocoli. The rest of the chicken will go in the freezer for future recipes.
Chick pea curry – This is a favourite in our house. I’ll use a can of chick peas that I already have, plus some rice that we already have, plus some lime pickle we already have. From the above, I’ll use onion, garlic and carrot, plus some of the non-brewed condiment* for the start of a mango chutney I’ve been making.
Beurre Blanc – this is the Jack Monroe recipe, only I use spagetti and butter beans instead. The wine we use was inherrited when my inlaws died, and I tend to keep this recipe for the end of the week when the cupboards are running low. It’s a real treat to finish on.

The stuff unaccounted for includes:
Strawberries, 6 bananas, 2 passion fruits, 2 lemons, 4 apples, 1 pineapple, lots of flour, lots of butter, sausage meat, 12 bagels, 1 bar of white chocolate and the rest of the non-brewed condiment.

Plans for the rest:
We’ll just snack on the strawberries. I will carve up the pineapple, mix it with the passion fruits and one chopped apple and we’ll have this as topping for yogurt (more on that in a second) and oats as breakfast. The bagels will cover us for breakfast for 3 days. For lunch, we’ll be having a combination of things on bread, made from the flour above and fresh yeast – usually hummus and grated carrots, or some sort of egg. The sausage meat has been made into sausage rolls of Daugher’s lunch box. she’ll start the week with two of the eight I’ve made, then the rest will go in the freezer so I have some ready-made things for more rushed weeks. The chocolate is for me.

Additional:
This week’s menu is chick-pea heavy so I’ll be collecting the aqua faba to use as an egg substitute in the baking I do (some of it has already been transformed into chocolate mousse for Daughter to take to school). This way, I can use the actual eggs I have as bread topping and in the quiche. Also worth noting – this week I’ve purchased pineapple, but it’s been melon for the last few weeks and I’ve taken to drying the seeds in the oven for use in baking.

Yogurt:
I promised more information regarding the yogurt I was planning to eat this week and I will deliver, but as I’ve been typing out what’s going on there, I’ve realised that it deserves its own post… watch this space.
TLDR? I tried making yogurt from expensive glass-bottle milk…

THE PLASTIC I BROUGHT HOME

And here’s the bottom line bit… How much plastic did I bring home? There’s a film on the top of the cardboard strawberry box (not recyclable) , the meat box (PET1, curbside recyclable) with its film (not recyclable), the butter wrappers (not recyclable), and the tube the sausage meat came in (not recyclable).

As I’m sure you’ve all guessed, the animal products required the most packaging. In future, I can avoid these by taking my own tubs to the Morrisons butcher counter.

How much did it cost? The groceries from the supermarket on Monday were just under £33. The milk – the three litres I bought of it – were £3.60 in total. That makes our weekly shop £36.60. That’s not to say that we’re only eating £36.60 worth of food though – as I detailed above, a lot of what we’re eating is based on food already in our fridge.

So, is it possible to feed a family of four for a week on under £50, whilst still being low-plastic? Sadly, not from just one shop, and not without dietary changes. It also requires a lot of organisation. Husband needs to remember to make bread each day before we can have that for lunch, and I need to make things like chocolate mousse and hummus, not to mention yogurt. Hopefully the further involved we get in this lifestyle the easier it will become.

What are your top-tips for reducing plastic at the supermarket? Let me know either here, or on Twitter. ❤

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*I use non-brewed condiment instead of vinegar because a. it’s cheaper than even the big bottles of malt vinegar, b. it comes in glass bottles when malt vinegar comes in plastic, c. the stuff they stock in Morrisons is made in Scotland so has fewer food miles in relation to me and d. I can use it for cleaning too so it’s multipurpose.

Mending my sunglasses – A Do Nation pledge

I’ve had my sunglasses for five years now. They were a birthday gift from my (late) inlaws and I adore them. But because I’ve had them for five years, and because from time to time they fall off as I chase children/dog across the park, or because I walk into trees while I’m out mushrooming, or I sit on them as I get into the car, they’re not in the best of shape.

So. Having signed up for Do Nation’s ‘Fix It’ pledge, I decided that my sunglasses should be the first thing I tackle. I used this tutorial and bought some second hand lenses from ebay. In the interests of transparency at this point, I should say that the lenses cost more than a supermarket pair of shades. Even second hand, Ray Ban lenses were an eye-watering £35 but I didn’t want to risk wasting money on knock-offs and having them not fit my frames so I shelled out for the branded ones. Apparently, the seller had these lenses removed from their own frames and replaced with prescription equivalents and on this occasion, it worked out cheaper than buying directly from Ray Ban.

Going forward, since I plan to keep these glasses until I’m unable to repair them any longer, I’ll be setting up a saved search on eBay. That way if any bargainous ones come up, I can (if funds allow at the time), make a purchase. Failing that, I’ll know what the average price will be so I can save up when the current lenses start getting scratched.

I’m also going to make more of an effort to use the case that the glasses came with. The popper broke shortly after I bought them so I haven’t used it in at least four years, but I’m hoping I can either repair it, or swap it for my prescription glasses case – it’s a hard-shell and as I only wear my regular glasses between the bathroom and the bedroom when I’m without my contacts, this seems like it might be a sensible arrangement.

I pledged to fix four things during the length of the Do Nation ‘Fix It’ pledge. I plan on also mending a memory quilt that was made from my kids’ baby clothes, the oven (which came with the house and has never really worked properly) and whichever thing breaks next.

Have you done any of the Do Nation pledges? Which do you think would make the more difference in your life?

Stock Alternatives

Throw a

When I first began looking into ways to reduce my waste when shopping, I had more money available to me than I do now. So I didn’t think twice when choosing OXO stock cubes over the own brand ones – even though an OXO is just under 10p, a mid-range Tesco brand stock-cube is 5p and an ASDA brand stock-cube is 4p*.

I chose OXO because the chicken and beef flavours don’t contain any palm oil, and the packaging is 100% plastic free. The vegetable cubes are also plastic free, but they do contain palm oil.

Everything else I looked at either had a metallic paper wrapper (unrecyclable) or came in a tiny plastic pot.

So… problems all round, really, when it comes to stock.

You can’t be a palm-oil free vegetarian, for example. And to be a plastic, palm-oil free meat-eater you need to spend twice as much. I looked into using Boullion powder too, but that also contained palm oil, and comes in a tub you can’t recycle, and my local supermarkets don’t sell it so I would have to order it specially online which creates yet more packaging.

After the OXO cubes ran out, I took to using lovage leafs from the garden, along with extra salt and for most things, these work amazingly well. My mother-in-law always called them ‘Maggi Herb’ after the German stock company which is what gave me the idea, and sure enough, it really does taste very similar. If you pop a few leafs in with your pasta, for example, you can forgo a sauce when making a pasta salad – just add a little bit of oil after you’ve cooked it to stop the pieces congealing. But again, it’s not a perfect solution (not that such a thing exists) because the plant only grows during the spring and summer – dying off during the colder months – and because not everyone has the space to grow it. Our plant has, in the past, reached over 2m tall – hardly ideal for a window ledge.

So I decided to have a go at making my own…

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Before I get to that part though – and I know I’ve rambled on about stock for long enough and I should just get on with telling you what I did – I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone is going to have vegetable peel that they’re happy to use. We peel vegetables – in part – because of the pesticides used in farming, so depending on the rules where you live, your access to organic food (or food you’ve grown yourself) and your level of personal comfort, you might like to set aside your peel to compost, then peel a thin layer of flesh from your chosen veg. You can then use these just-below-the-skin peelings instead. For ease of writing, though, I’m just going to refer to ‘peel’ going forward.

Anyways. To make my stock, I used:

Beetroot peel (but any sweet, root veg will do i.e. carrot, parsnip, sweet potato)
Potato peel
Lovage leafs (if you can’t get lovage, celery leafs are a good alternative)
Finely ground table salt (I buy mine from Lidl – it comes in cardboard, then i decant it into a old plastic bottle to store it)
A microwave or conventional oven
A pestle and mortar/something else to grind the dried peel in

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First of all, you need to dry the peel. There are a few ways of doing this. You can either dry the peel on a baking sheet in your oven – it should be on its lowest setting for a long time, rather than on high for a short period. If you’ve got good weather and a vehicle at your disposal, you can place the peel on a baking sheet on your car’s dashboard in the sun and leave it there all day, removing it in the evening as the air begins to cool. Or you can do what I did and microwave the peel for around 3.5minutes on full power, wiping the microwave down after every 60 seconds to do away with the steam.

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You then need to dry the lovage or celery leafs in the same way.

Once you’ve done this, grind the lot into a powder with the pestle and mortar. Add about a teaspoon of salt per two tablespoons of vegetable powder and mix well. You’re good to go!

Plastic free, gluten free, cheap, vegan and (depending on your peel) a great way to reduce food waste. Winning.

Use about 1tsp in place of a regular stock cube in your recipes.

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*Prices correct at the time of publishing – via MySupermarket and rounded up to the nearest 1p

The next steps towards less waste…

So last time I posted, I touched on a few of the things that I’ve already been trying to do at home, in order to produce less waste.

This time, I thought I would briefly write about the next few steps I’m planning to take.

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The pretty pea plant which grew over the summer. Hopefully there will be more next year.
  • Further reduce the plastic in my bathroom – I already use bars of soap and shampoo, as well as a mooncup, but we also have an electric toothbrush, dental floss and plastic toothpaste tubes so there’s work  to do there. Let’s not even start on my contact lenses…
  • Reduce the money we spend on heating – We have an oil-fired boiler so there’s lots of scope for improvement there, though none within our budget at the moment. I can, however, mend the dodgy radiator knob in one of the bedrooms so that it’s not scaldingly hot on its minimum setting, and I can put extra foil insulation down the back of our heaters. I can also ensure the boiler is regularly serviced to make sure it runs efficiently.
  • Try to cut down my fuel consumption in the car – With both children going to school/nursery outside of our catchment zone, and with everything being literally miles awaythis is going to be the hardest area in which to make changes. We do have a relatively small, relatively new, fuel-efficient petrol vehicle though, and do just have the one, so I suppose that’s a start.
    – Distance to the nearest settlement = 3.5 miles.
    – Journey time on foot = 1 hr 15 minutes (it’s all up hill and the river means I can’t walk in a straight line).
  • Try to cut down on our water consumption – as I stated previously, I already have a bottle of water in the toilet cistern to reduce the quantity of water used in each flush. But I still love a long shower, and I still sometimes run the tap while I’m washing dises…
  • Grow more of our own food – we only really grow fruit and herbs in the garden just now, which is an absolute waste of land when you take into account that the rest is poorly maintained grass…
  • Reduce the number of synthetic clothes we wear – which would be a lot easier if school uniforms were made from sustainable fibres…
  • Address the plastic in our cleaning products  – This one should be relatively easy as I only tend to use bleach, washing up liquid, vinegar and the various powders for dishwasher/washing machine.
  • Reduce our meat consumption – though the meat we do get comes from the farm at the end of our track, is grass fed and comes with fewer than 30 food miles.
  • Eliminate palm oil – I’m so close now… honestly, I am. This requires a post all of its own though…

What sort of things are you doing that go above and beyond the reusable water bottle and cloth bags?

 

The first steps towards reducing household waste.

I’m not starting from scratch – just so you know.

Through a combination of various factors (primarily financial) these are the environmentally friendly things we’re already doing/using or are trying to do/use:

    • Meal planning – nearly no food waste here! I even endeavour to save things like melon seeds and chick-pea water to use in recipes.
    • Reusable containers – for packed lunch, school snacks, water and tea.
    • Reusable shopping bags – for bread, pick ‘n’ mix sweets, fruit and vegetables and anything else I can find.
    • Cloth napkins – to replace kitchen roll or paper serviettes at the table.
    • Drying clothes outside -rather than using the tumble dryer. (In reality, because this is Scotland and our house is damp, we only really do this during the summer months but it’s better than nothing, I suppose).
    • Using the library – because how many times do you really read a book?
    • Renting our video games – because how many times do you really play an RPG more than once (Mass Effect and Divinity: Original Sin being my notable exceptions).
    • Using a Nokia 3310 – instead of a smart phone. I only charge it once a week.
    • Growing our own food – not much of it, mind you. Mostly herbs and some fruit.
    • Foraging – because who doesn’t love a free meal?
    • Using loose leaf tea and filter coffee – because they taste better and you don’t get tea-bag ghosts in your compost.
    • Shampoo/soap bars – In the bathroom, we use solid shampoo and hand soap.
    • Water displacement – In short, I’ve filled a plastic bottle with water and placed it in the cistern of the toilet. It’s a modern take on the old ‘brick in the tank’ trick, the advantage of the plastic bottle being that it’s not going to break down and wreck your plumbing like a brick might…
    • Cancelled all junk mail – which isn’t as hard as you might think. Check out the Mail Preference Service if you’re in the UK, and Royal Mail’s door-to-door opt out form.
    • Reusable sanitary products – I’ve been using a Mooncup for the past 8 years.
    • Breastfeeding – no longer applicable, but I did feed breastfeed babies.
    • Cloth nappies – again, no longer applicable, but we did enjoy a cloth bum.
Our lovely home-grown mint.

So whilst I’m happy with these choices, I don’t feel like I’m doing enough. I’d like to at least halve the volume of landfil waste that’s going in my bin every month and I’d especially like to get my recycling down to one box a month.

Easy, you say. There’s people online who fit a whole year’s worth of rubbish into a pretty jar. 

The issue I’m having?

I live in rural Scotland and I’ve got a budget I need to stick to. There are no plastic-free supermarkets within many, many miles of me and zero-waste artisan products from etsy etc. cost a lot more money than their supermarket equivalents.

So, using what I have access to, I’m going to try and keep my costs as low as is sensible and reduce my wastey outgoings. And what do I have access to I hear you ask? A handful of supermarkets, one (tiny) specialist refillery and a glass-bottle dairy that’s really too far away to make it a sound ecological choice on account of my petrol useage. And the website DoNation. And the collective wisdom of the internet, my local library and the people of my community.

Wish me luck. I think I’m going to need it.

Hello!

Welcome to Trail of Breadcrumbs.

My aim in making this site is to chronicle our efforts to live in a more environmentally friendly way. Let me tell you a little bit about us.

We are a family of four with a single, self-employed income. We live rurally in a part of the United Kingdom where there isn’t access to regular public transport or large, centralised communities. The nearest place you might call a large town is over an hour’s drive away. Our nearest supermarket is 30 minutes’ drive. There is no chance of glass-bottle doorstep milk delivery where we live (though I wish there was).

What we do have is an abundance of opportunities to forage wild foods, an amazing garden which we plan to work and a wonderful community.

I hope the things that I discover and chronicle here will help other people make changes which could potentially reduce their outgoings – both financially and environmentally.

xx

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