Let’s talk about zero waste convenience in the kitchen. We are busy people, and cooking meals and making snacks from scratch is time consuming. However, there are plenty of things you can do to prepare so that you’re tired self won’t be reaching for a heavily packaged ready meal! Over the next week I will be posting some tips and tricks for continuing to be low waste, while not knackering yourself out!
Meal plan and meal prep!
I get really anxious when I don’t know what I’m going to cook for dinner. It never used to be such an issue until I had kids. But now, dinner needs to be on the table at 5.30pm so I have to be organised. But this organisation also helps reduce waste. Over time, you will figure out the best way for you to do meal planning, but this is what works for me. Each week I look at what we have arriving in our veg box and what I’ve got in my fridge. I take into consideration what needs using up and what is best when it is fresh and plan my week of meals on that. I also have a jar with scraps of paper with lots of meals we cook a lot on them and if I’m stuck for inspiration, I pick a meal from the jar and see if I can make a version of that.
Pre-cooked & batch cooked frozen meals
Let’s be honest. Some days/weeks we just can’t be bothered cooking. Or you’re meal plan might go out the window. And that’s fine. To resist ordering a take away. Keep your freezer stocked. More often than not, I will cook extra of things like pasta sauce, veg casseroles, soups and stews because they freeze well and are easy to heat up and serve quickly. I also keep some store-bought frozen items in my freezer including Linda McCartney Sausages and Burgers, Natural Cool Peas and Spinach and occasionally some other treat like Linda McCartney pies. Super easy to whip up a quick meal when you have these things on hand.
Cooked & frozen beans & pulses
I buy all my beans and pulses dried from the refill shop. It is cheaper and there’s no packaging (and in fact, most of them come in big 25kg paper sacks so the packaging the refill shop gets them in, is fully recyclable.) At home, I cook in big batches using a pressure cooker. Once they are cooked, I let them cool and pop them in wide-mouth glass jars ready to freeze. I label the lids with a chalk pen and voila. Along with meal planning, this is great because I can look in my freezer in the morning and leave a jar out to thaw during the day, ready to put in my evening meal.
We all love a good snack – particularly kids! Firm staples in my house and popcorn, dried fruit and nuts. All easily accessible at refill shops and they last for ages (if hidden in my house!). Popcorn is fantastic for everyone. Make it sweet, make it salty or don’t season it at all if you’re feeding really little kids. Dried mango never lasts long in my house but raisins, sultanas and dried apricots are also firm favourites. (Remember, go for the brown apricots, not the orange as the orange ones contain sulphides which can be a bit nasty.) Nuts are a great, healthy snack – particularly in a vegan or vegetarian diet. Full of good fats and protein to fill you up.
Special Treat Snacks
Each year around Christmas, we splurge and buy 2 Two Farmer’s Sharing tins. We open one on Christmas Day to share with the family and the we make the other one last as long as we can into the year. These are super pricey but I love the ethos of the company. They also make packaged crisps in home compostable packaging. But we use the tins for storing all sorts of things once they are finished. They’re really good for storing cake, biscuits, kids toys, buttons, arts and crafts items, the list goes on!
Homemade snacks – can you make your favourite store-bought snacks at home?
My kids love Nakd Bars. But they are about 75p each and come wrapped in plastic. However, all is not lost. They are super easy to make, using ingredients from the refill shop. Here’s my recipe for Homemade Chocolate Cashew Nakd Bars.
- 200g cashews
- 10 dates (soaked in boiling water, stones removed)
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp raisins/sultanas
Blitz the cashews in a high speed food processor until they resemble large breadcrumbs. Add the dates (no water) and combine. Add the raisins/sultanas and the cocoa powder and continue to blitz. You want to mixture to stick together if pressed but if it’s too dry add a tbsp of the water the dates were soaked in. Once combine, press into a baking tray (it is easy to make it only fill half the tray – you want them to be about 1-2cm thick). Pop it in the fridge for an hour or 2. Once it has ‘set’, cut into finger length bars and store them in a container in the fridge. These will last for a couple of weeks although, they barely last 10 minutes in my house!
Rethink what you do with sad fruit and veg
The motto in my house is “If in doubt, roast it, stew it or make soup” and that pretty much covers everything. Apples and pears a bit past it? Stew them or make a crumble. Floppy lettuce? Put it in soup (Yes, I’m serious, it is actually delicious). Butternut squash that you really need to use? Roast it! Eat it hot, eat it cold in salad, or make it into soup, risotto or a creamy pasta sauce.
Make refilling easy
If going to the refill shop is new to you, it can be a huge adjustment to remember to bring your containers. And what do you do if you run out of dishwashing liquid but can’t make it to the refill store until next week? Well, I have 2 of everything. My main ones are 2 containers of dishwashing liquid and 2 containers of laundry liquid. Whenever I visit the refill store, I fill up the emptiest one. Don’t forget – you weigh your container before filling – so it doesn’t matter if there’s still some liquid left in the bottom!
Don’t waste your fresh herbs!
Too many fresh herbs? Not going to use them in time. Don’t waste them. You can either dry them out or freeze them in olive oil to use later. Dry out rosemary, sage, lavender and mint by tying the end with string and hanging upside down for a couple of weeks. Freeze fresh herbs by putting them in an ice-cube tray and covering with olive oil. Once frozen you can transfer into a container to keep in the freezer so that you have your tray back. You can also freeze left over tomato paste into your ice-cube tray and then you have handy single portions to add to your dishes.