Thursday, 26 July 2018

Plastic Free July - Week 3

Not so long ago I realised that other people were following the same eco concept as me, and it had a name, 'Zero Waste', because of this I found out there is also a plastic free July challenge.

This month, I've found myself refusing more plastic than usual, it is easier to refuse by saying to yourself or others that you're doing this challenge, and next month you can buy that thing (in reality you probably wont need to buy it next month, but its easier to deprive yourself of something you think you need if you believe its only short term).

Since starting plastic free July, I haven't managed to completely eliminate plastic from my day to day life.
  • People buying you things. (Talking about why I try to be plastic free should help this).
  • People leaving things that can be used up (e.g. food).
  • People offering you food in plastic. (Is it ok if they were going to eat it anyway, and share some with you?)
  • Using up what you already have that is plastic. (What if you haven't found an alternative yet).
  • Being out of the house, expecting to find something without plastic, but not finding anything.

The benefits of plastic free July, include that I'm eating better, less processed foods and more seasonally. Secondly we haven't put our dust bin out this month, and our Rubbish bin is empty, and our recycling can wait another few weeks until it will need to be taken out. We don't have to worry about it being rubbish day, and needing to not miss this for fear of over filled bins. Thirdly, the cost and frequency of shopping, Ive started shopping less, I wont pop into a shop and pick something up, because its hard to find much that is plastic free, instead we are utilising our veg box, and existing pantry foods, and then when planning meals we will do a bigger shopping with lots of plastic free veg and staple foods. 



So far making a few switches like taking my own lunch and taking snacks when I go out, taking tubs out with me is really helping. Buying loose bread and rolls, is usually more pricy, but they taste good too. But my biggest temptation is probably crisps, I've been trying to find good replacements, but when I'm out and about and craving something savoury this is still an issue. things like chocolate are easier to find in just foil and card, which can be recycled, but I'm not craving chocolate too much, you can always buy chocolate drinks without packaging too. 


I've failed to refuse plastic straws a few times, in that either I've ordered a drink or someone else has for me and it has a straw. This has only happened a few times, and I plan to hold onto my straws and use them for Eco Bricks, until I manage to refuse them better. 

I went to Falmouth for a work conference, and knew I wanted to avoid plastic, I packed lots of fruit, and bulk bought dry fruit. Brought a tea cup, a water bottle, and cutlery. Actually the event was catered, and easy enough to avoid plastic. Not avoiding waste completely, things usually came in Vegware boxes, or paper bags, and ready to be served in their containers. I refused one breakfast, as I already had enough fruit that needed eating so didn't need to take anymore. One of the lunch stands said how they don't use plastic, and I did notice their stand was completely free of it. Catering vans are getting much better with their awareness, hoping supermarkets catch up soon. Falmouth is by the sea and I think they all seemed more aware of avoiding single use plastic because of its impact on the oceans.


During this trip my colleague told me she is making Eco Bricks, which is where you save, wash, dry any plastic which cant be recycled and chop it up and squish it into a 2 litre plastic drinks bottle. These Bricks can be used to build things all over the world. 

This weekend I went to Hackney Downs Vegan Market, and found that there were lots of options for plastic free purchases. Like the Smoothie and Juice stand offered either a drink in a plastic cup, or in a glass bottle. I asked them to reuse my Starbucks Mug. Which they understood and were happy to do. A restaurant inside that offered plated foods, and various cake stand which you could buy with no plastic. 

How are you finding plastic free July? 

I'm finding it a fun challenge, not too hard, but almost exciting, because you can find fun alternative. The benefits seem great, its definitely like going back to how your grandparents would live, without plastic, especially without single use plastic. 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Pick your own for zero waste

Recently we have been running down the frozen fruit in our freezer, and we don't plan to replace it, as that requires buying more plastic. Equally you can't really buy berries in the supermarket without plastic packaging. The solution for now, was to get to a pick your own. We went on the first Saturday they were open of the year.

We have visited many times over the last few years. mostly we freeze a little and eat a lot fresh.

We arrived at opening time, and there were already a few people there. We grabbed a small and large punnet, one plastic, one card with a metal handle, but we returned both of these at the end, I asked a member of staff if that was ok to leave them used, and they said, they prefer it.

We bought 1kg, and 2.5kg between the two punnets, we picked for about 45 minutes, and got lots of really red and ripe strawberries. I think it was 4.99 a kilo PYO, and 6.99 a kilo picked, maybe a little more than the supermarkets, but the taste is not comparable. 

We also bought a jar of jam, some chutney and a loose broccoli, they offered lots of picked vegetables without packaging, but we were due our veg box so decided not to pick up too much.

We raided our cupboard for every empty storage box we had. In the end when we decanted the strawberries, we filled an entire cake travel tub, a big circular plastic tub with clip on bottom (or top). I didn't think we would have needed it, but we filled up the second biggest tub with the smaller 1kg punnet of strawberries. Mountains of berries!

We have frozen a load of the strawberries for smoothies, with the green leafs at the top intact, they are added nutrition guys!

For about 5 days after the picking we ate loads of strawberries every day, took some to our friends, and made some rhubarb strawberry muffins too!

We might get to visit again during strawberry season. But we are excited for the Raspberry, tayberry, tummelberry, loganberry and boysenberry seasons!

True Foods Co-operative in Reading

Sadly my home town doesn't have an bulk food or zero waste stores... yet! We have previously visited Rice-Up Whole-foods in Southampton, but due to the distance this isn't a viable regular option. Thankfully we heard about True Foods in Reading, much closer, and not far from places we occasionally go anyway. It's north of Reading, near Caversham.

First off we noticed there are lots of fruit and vegetables, of really good quality, mostly more expensive than on the high street, but about the same or less than the farmers market. They have a wonky veg box, where we picked up two cabbages and plants for sale outside too!

Behind the counter is a fresh bread counter, with a great selection of breads and rolls. we recently picked up a potato and rosemary sour dough. We mostly buy our bread at Waitrose, as you can buy it loose, and you can pick up a bargain at the end of the day if you're not fussed what kind of bread you get. In the last few weeks we have eaten so many different types of bread, zero waste bonus! 

Above you can see the scales and our containers, we have the puffed quinoa and a box of loose wholegrain pasta, we also picked up oats, and aduki beans. the staff were lovely, and helped us to zero the scales so we could use our own container, they even seemed happy that we had brought our own containers. I imagine this could get a bit hectic if lots of people were in the shop, but we did ok. We have kept some brown paper bags from our veg box delivery, which are similar to the ones at True foods, so we take those, and they can weigh at the till. It's hard to remember the weights of everything as you go along, which is actually why I took these photos. 

There was a big variety of products in the bulk tubs, surprises included Nutritional yeast, raw sugar, sun dried tomatoes and chocolate drops. Many varieties or rice, lentils, beans, and cereals.

Below we have refillable laundry liquids, we haven't used these yet, but the prices looked reasonable, and an over view of the tubs and scoops area in the shop. 

Over view of True Foods, it's great if you're in the area and wanting to stock up on your pantry essentials. We visited the Reading vegan market, so took our second trip here. Stocking up on nuts for nut milk, and lentil for curry and lasagna. For us, for now, this is a good way to avoid buying plastic whilst stocking up our store cupboard. The alternative is buying tins of pulses, which can mostly be recycled. Our goal is the buy less variety but use more. I have found nuts and seeds from years ago, some of which I have had to throw away. I am hoping that the Zero waste journey, and living minimally mean we make better use of the fewer things we have in the house. 

  • Tuesday, 29 May 2018

    Journey to Zero Waste

    Plastic free, minimal waste has been something I have done on and off for a few years, but recently I've discovered the zero waste movement which has loads of top tips and support. We have made small changes over the years, but from time to time we have slipped. Having watched a few Ted talks, and been on a few websites, I'm really pumped to start making bigger changes in our day to day life. Im going to document my journey and hope to inspire others who are also going down this road towards zero waste.

    Rule 1 is "Refuse", this made me realise that just because something can be recycled doesn't mean I should buy it and use it once then throw it away. The production of these things uses a lot of energy, making plastic, coloured cardboard, and paper. Someone has to come collect my bin full of these things and I cannot guarantee they will recycle any of it. So refuse, make your money as a consumer speak for you, refusing someones business because they're using too much packaging is a really great motivator for change.

    Everywhere I look I am advised about the top 5; reusable coffee cups, reusable bags, bamboo tooth brushes, metal straws and a reusable water bottle. I've been doing all these things for a while, but lets be realistic, its only scratching the surface, unless you buy a coffee at Starbucks every day you're unlikely to make that much of an impact. If you really need that coffee, just drink it in the cafe, take 10 minutes for yourself that day. For us making swaps that affect what we do, and the food we eat every single day is going to make the biggest impact. The most important tips are to be prepared and to be vigilant, don't give into 'consumption', society and supermarkets telling us its ok to buy everything so heavily packaged.

    Here are the 7 biggest changes we have made to start reducing our waste, our impact, our consumption. I will be looking to make more changes as we continue down this path.

    1. Veg Box: in our case this is local, organic, very little food miles and seasonal. We hardly have any waste and the box it comes in, gets collected at the next drop off. We even visited the farm, ate bbq'd corn on the cob and dug up some potatoes. This doesn't account for all the veg we eat, as we only have a fortnightly box, but its a great basis which we can top up.

    2. Plastic free fresh produce shopping: explore you local supermarkets and find what they do that is plastic free. In Lidl I could pick up; sweet potatoes, red peppers, courgettes, aubergines, limes, bananas, apples, onions, swede. Some fruits and veg will always be easier to find plastic free, and you can take your own canvas or produce bags, not just for the check out, but to fill up as you pick too.

    3. Bulk items: so far I have found Pasta by Barilla whole wheat fusilli is in cardboard with a tiny plastic window, not sure why so many foods need windows, they cant see us! Oats, and flour can also easily be found in paper bags. Otherwise you can go to a whole-foods type store and buy loose amounts of what you need. Once we get though our existing rice and quinoa, we will be looking to top these up from a food co-operative. Our nearest bulk/loose food store is about 30 minutes away by car or train, so we haven't yet made the trip, once we reduce what we have though, we will be looking to top up. Hopefully over time, zero waste and low packaging food options will become more common in every town.

    4. Home made: so far we have learnt to make and switched our hummus, granola, nice cream, nut milk and seitan (gluten meat), soon to try tortilla wraps, bread, maybe noodles. Hummus is likely to big one of the best packaging savings, we usually eat at least a tub a week, but now I can buy loose chickpeas, soak and boil them, (freeze any extra I cook), blitz it up with some lemon juice, tahini and olive oil, and it tastes really good. That could be as much as 52 plastic pots, with cardboards sleeves each year not being produced!

    Homemade hummus

    5. Kitchen and Bathroom: toilet roll, we have just received an order of Who Gives A Crap! the trial box from this awesome company that I've been hearing about for a few years, they use recycled paper, and donate 50% of their profits to build sanitation in places which done have working toilets. I was really excited to try them, each roll is wrapped in paper and delivered in one shipment of 48 rolls every few months (depending on your usage), the trial box is 3 rolls, plus kitchen roll, and tissue box. I will report back on this once I've used them. Kitchen wise, try swapping single use kitchen roll for dish clothes, or tea towels, and instead of cling film, try just using pots with lids. Just move away from the idea of single use, including things like foil too.

    6. Buying second hand; from kitchen implements, garden furniture, clothes and shoes, anytime you purchase something second hand, its cheaper, mostly less packaging, and much better for the planet. We recently bought a smaller Vitamix jug, so we can make more small quantities of homemade sauces, and it was half the price second hand than it was on amazon or Vitamix. Then my giant water bottle smashed as I arrived at training, someone suggested replacing it, which usually I would do right away, but I realised I have two smaller bottles in the cupboard that I'm not using, so rather than continuing to consume, why not use what I already have? Again saving money, as well as energy, and making use of what I already have.

    7. Borrowing; how many times do you mention having just bought something, and someone says they have one they aren't using in their home. Recently we mentioned not having a lawn mower and found my parents have an unused push mower in their shed, too small and laborious for their very hilly bumpy garden, but perfect for our small flat garden, and a bit of fitness for us too. We wanted some garden furniture but didn't want to buy anything plastic, new or second hand, luckily my parents had a load of wooden chairs in the shed, so we have take just 2 for our garden, we have a few camping chairs from years ago we can bring out if more guests come over. Equally if I have an event coming up, I'll ask around if anyone has a dress or a purse I can borrow. Ask your friends, and make do. We washed our car this weekend with a sponge and a watering can, we don't own a hose pipe, and we don't need one. We don't have a clothes line, we have a clothes horse, when the weather turns we can bring it all inside in few moments.

    Check out Bea Johnson and so many more zero waste videos on you tube, and instagram. Remember its about what the biggest changes you can make are, also its a gradual process, you probably wont be going zero waste overnight, but incrementally day by day.

    Monday, 21 September 2015

    Slow cook Spinach tofu lasagna!

    Slow cook Tofu and spinach Lasagna

    ·         Cauldron Tofu, crumbled (pictured below)
    ·         ½ cup nutritional yeast
    ·         1 tbsp lemon juice
    ·         1 tbsp olive oil
    ·         1 tbsp garlic powder
    ·         ¼ tsp salt and pepper

    ·         Spinach (Fresh, chopped or ½ a can of tinned spinach or frozen-chopped spinach)
    ·         Passata Tomato Sauce
    ·         1 tbsp dried Italian herbs 
    ·         Dried pasta sheets (broken into long pieces) Gluten free can also be used.
    ·         20g Cheezly (or other vegan cheese, grated)

    This is the best tofu to make a ricotta, available at most supermarkets. 
    Nutritional yeast, available at health food shops. Nutty cheesy flavour. 
    ·         Slow cookers do not lose water or reduce, so don’t add too much water to this recipe. The pasta will absorb some of the liquid from the tofu and tomato sauce.
    ·         Season the tofu to taste, but I find that because slow cookers don’t reduce and intensify flavour, you may need to over season the food to start. Otherwise add more salt as you plate the lasagne. 
    ·         If you don’t have a slow cooker you can make this in the oven, I suggest switching to Cannelloni tubes and using a blunt knife to fill the tubes, arranging in an oven dish and layering on tomato sauce, baking with foil to keep moisture in the dish.  

    First in a large bowl mix together the ingredients to make the tofu Ricotta.

    Then in the slow cooker, layer, first the tomato sauce, then broken up pieces of lasagna sheets, aim that not too much is overlapping.  
    Then add a thick layer of the Tofu Ricotta, you should be aiming for only 3 layers of pasta, two layers of tofu. 
    On top of that Tofu, layer pasta, more tofu, and then last layer should be pasta and then top that with the tomato sauce. Ensure the sauce covers all the pasta evenly; any pasta not covered will dry out and become overly crunchy. 

    In the last 10 minutes of the cook, grate the cheese on top, you can allow some of the steam to escape while you do this. If making this in the oven i suggest adding a lot more liquid to the top, you could even make a cheese style sauce rather than just grating cheese. Equally if you use a lot of juicy tomato you can just grate vegan cheese on top. 

    The slow cooker should cook this in between 1.5-3 hours depending on the setting (low or high) and the power of your slow cooker. Once the pasta is soft the dish is cooked. 

     I've also made this in the oven as both a lasagna and cannelloni. 

    Sorry for the terrible photos! I make this recipe so often, I forget to photograph it. 

    Looking for more tofu inspiration?
    Try my marinated recipe:

    Wednesday, 4 March 2015

    Pulled BBQ Jack fruit

    Vegan BBQ Jack Fruit

    I finally did it, i made pulled BBQ buns and they were soooo good! 
    I can't get over how much this looks like pulled pork, I've never eaten pulled meat, but I'm in love with Pulled Jackfruit. 
    A friend referred me to this recipe: 
    I made a few alterations, due to not having a few ingredients and made it more spicy. 
    After I made these I realised that the tinned Jack fruit is so mild you can really add any sauce to give it characteristic. 
    So bbq was a success, I'd like to try a more smokey sauce, Mexican, Thai, Chinese and Indian. 
    I tell you honestly, I never made this because it looked like a lot of effort, but in fact it was as easy as most of my weeknight meals. Buy a tin, cook with onion and garlic add stock and twice cook in the oven. Easy! 
    The tin game me about enough for 4-5 pork buns I think. 
    I would be interested in mixing in some protein, either lentils or beans depending on the sauce. 

    Hope this inspires you as it did me! 

    Saturday, 10 May 2014

    Dim T Winchester

    My friend recommended I try Dim T in Winchester, I've seen the resturant a few times and eaten on the same street but never inquired into this little gem. The menu is Asian Fusion foods, with a great focus on starters, who doesn't love appetisers?
    There allergy information is good, they tell you everything with milk or eggs in. There isn't a clear Vegan or not Vegan section, but the staff are very attentive.
    First we ordered 3 starters; Spring Rolls, Steamed Dumplings and my personal favorite steamed and fried Gyoza's (dumplings not vegan, not pictured).
    Delicious Gyoza's, I could have eaten 3 plates!
    We were lucky to get some vouchers to celebrate Buddha's birthday on Tuesday, after signing up to the mailing list, which prompted our meal, and also enabled us to try a few more dishes than we might usually.
    Some of the crispiest Spring Rolls, I've ever had!

    In total we order the 3 mentioned starters, 2 mains which were Sweet Coconut Noodles (below), Japanese Fried Rice with Tofu and a side order of Broccoli Stir Fry with Garlic.
    We had peppermint tea to share, which was served in a cute btu heavy tea pot with small cups.
    My partner finihsed the meal with banana friters with ice cream and caramel sauce.
    For my main, I had Sweet Coconut Noodles, with Tofu. Also pictured Stir Fried Broccoli.
    I have to admit, the Cococnut Noodles were a bit sweet for me, I wanted a bit more of a spicy kick, and I had to eat my Broccoli and Noodles seperately, as the flavours really didn't work, the Noodles made the Broccoli taste too earthy. I will definetly order a more savory dish next time, but this isn't a critism on the resturant as they had very clearly advertised the noodles!  
    I would definetly like to try some more of their dishes, the udon terkyaki is tempting me back. The menu is very flexible in that you can change your dish to have any type of noodle or go carb free and just have all veg; which sounds like a great idea for a vitamin packed lunch!
    My over all experience of the resturant was really good, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was very relaxed, and the staff were very attentive.
    Sign up to the mailing list and try either the Winchester restaurant or one of the London locations.