One Day to Go

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Stocking the Plastic-Free Pantry

The shit gets real tomorrow. I can’t believe it’s June 30 already! In the last two weeks, I’ve made some discoveries:

Secret plastic-free shopping

Westfield Doncaster (or ‘Shoppo’ for those in the know) is a secret plastic-free haven. On the ground floor, you can buy soap with no packaging at the health food store. Then scoot about three metres to the Nutshack and fill your bags with nuts from the bulk bins. Upstairs, Spudbar serves baked potatoes with plates, knives, forks and tables: everything you need for a quick lunch. Here in consumer heaven, we have one of the best plastic-free food courts I’ve seen. I know, it’s very confusing.

When life gives you dragon fruit

School holidays started last week. I had half-prepared muffins but ran out of time to bake them. Not wanting a half-baked result (god, I’m hilarious), I searched the house desperately for a last-minute solution, when my eyes fell on that dragon fruit. I bought it in a spontaneous plastic-free frenzy a week before. Ridiculous pink-flame skin and bright-red, black dotted interior that bleeds profusely when cut, subtle sweetness like pandan; that’s what I brought my classmates for our end of term party. And they seemed to like it. Either that or they were very polite – I only had to eat half of it. Thanks to this little experiment, I’ve discovered I’m a fan of this impossible cactus fruit.

Recent failures

  • Panic-purchasing: spices for mulled wine, crumpets and peanut butter for dinner. You know, the usual.

It’s all about habits

I have a few bad habits that feed off each other and make it harder to stay off the plastic:

  • having no idea what’s in the pantry
  • waiting until something completely runs out before buying more
  • rushing off to the nearest convenience store whenever I need something

I am thirty-two. I have been adulting for fourteen years. Don’t say it.

If I’m going to make this work, like, really work, I need to make sure we always have stuff in the house. I’ll start with the seven essentials for hopeless vegetarian cooks: milk, bread, cheese, mixed herbs, oil, red lentils, tomato pasta sauce: not hard. I also need to make time to shop and cook (not much time but, you know, more than zero). I’m going to block out some time in my calendar. Maybe I can fit it in somewhere between re-runs of Crownies and Game of Thrones. Maybe I can make my own pasta. I’ve done that three times in the last fourteen years. Should be a doddle.

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No Food Coop For You

I was back at Melbourne Uni today, working on some nerdery. Once again I faced the challenge of a plastic-free meal. I tripped lightly up the stairs, past the wom*n’s room, dreaming of a falafel sandwich from the Food Coop. Sadly, no. Food Coop has gone dark (possibly for semester break, I dunno). Sad times.

I contented myself with sushi and coffee from Plush Fish. Refusing the chopsticks in plastic wrap was easy. Who eats California rolls with chopsticks anyway? To my delight, I found soy sauce bottles at each table. The waiter offered me ginger slices from a plate next to the counter. But the real reason I chose Plush: they are the only food outlet in all of Union House that serves coffee in reusable cups. Given the caffeine intake of the student population, that’s a little scary.

ODDS AND ENDS

  • A notebook

Being the kind of person who never plans anything, I didn’t have my computer so I fell back on the old pen and paper method. I scrounged around in my bag and found a pencil, but no paper in sight. Luckily for me, the mini-mart at Union House stocks notebooks. There they were, shoved unceremoniously onto the bottom shelf of the stationery aisle without any plastic wrap to protect them. Perfect!

  • Four o’clock munchies

In a throwback to the 90s, I settled on a yo-yo biscuit and a bottle of Bundaberg ginger beer with stealth plastic inside the metal lid.

Total plastic consumed: one stupid plastic seal inside a metal lid. Damn it.

Plastic-free can be spontaneous (sort of)

Spur of the moment shopping

After working for an hour at a local café, I wandered around aimlessly looking for the library (which was closed) and so I ended up drifting into Wild Things grocer down the road. I’m normally too embarrassed to buy food there. It’s a bit fancy. Piedimonte’s supermarket over the road is more my style (their deli is excellent). But we had a couple of plastic fails at the supermarket recently so I thought, what the hell?

I hadn’t come prepared. I didn’t have any containers for collecting bulk foods and my bag was crammed with work stuff. Still, here’s what the spontaneous purchase coughed up …

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Spontaneous plastic-free shopping

I shoved everything into my bag next to my laptop except for the bread which I carried home in my arms. Sure, I ended up with some baker’s flour on my jacket but, luckily, I have hands. If anyone looks at me strangely, I can just brush it right off (which I did, in front of the mirror at home).

Easy beans on toast for lunch

Ingredients

  • Fresh sage, courtesy of person with a garden (it keeps for weeks in a glass of water)
  • Beans (I used black eyed peas, but whatever)
  • Tomato pasta sauce from a jar

Method

  1. Cook in a pan.
  2. Serve with bread and maybe cheese.
  3. The end.

 

This is the semi-spontaneous bit: a while back I had all these dried beans in the pantry and I was like, how do you even cook dried beans? Who has the discipline to soak them the night before? Nobody, that’s who. So I just boiled the crap out of them while doing some stuff at home and then (here’s the organised bit) I froze them in single portions. I’ve had bad times trying to defrost huge chunks of cooked beans (especially with only two of us in the house).

This time, I found the lid had created a vacuum seal. No problem: I just soaked the jar in some warm water (and did the dishes at the same time – my turn on kitchen duty). Before, the place looked as though a troll had finger-painted the benches with food. Now it looks like an almost functional adult lives here. Win.

 

 

I have to tell you about kohlrabi!

Our failure-tainted voyage to the supermarket last week yielded two new taste sensations. The first was Maasdam cheese and the second, which I forgot all about, was this guy …

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Photo by You as a Machine, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

That’s right, it’s kohlrabi. We were going to buy cabbage, but they’d chopped the poor babies in half and covered them in … you guessed it, plastic wrap. This guy was naked so we took him home (sorry).

To my huge surprise, roasted kohlrabi is actually tasty. It’s sort of crunchy, a bit like broccoli stalk (which you can eat, by the way – slice it up and put it in stir fries). My other half (the other one who lives in our house, you know) served the kohl with roast potato, black beans and sumac and it filled up my stomach hole so perfectly I can’t wait to eat the leftovers after this.

P.S. In case you read my donut post yesterday, it was a mirage and the donuts were shrink wrapped. Rather than just eat potato, I eyed off the only plastic-free meal containing more than two food groups: a bacon and egg muffin. Only problem is, I’m veggo. I was reminded of the little cartoon person in The Trolley Problem (only a lot sillier and more Kantian) as I bought the muffin and proceeded to throw out the bacon. Feel free to mock me.

 

Innocent ‘junk’ food

Currently struggling with the desire for post-exam take-away from the canteen. Those muffins are shrink wrapped and the coffee machine is piled high with disposable cups. No crockery. I stare at a lonely chocolate donut and wonder what packaging they will serve it in, while seriously pining for a hot drink. There are potato cakes in brown bags. One of them is most likely ending up in my belly, unless I choose old mate donut. I don’t even like donuts. What is happening?!

Today was a zero plastic day

…mostly because I ate at a café and then sat at home all day and had leftovers from the fridge. Well, I lie. I left the house to buy wine. That’s what public holidays are for.

The Burgers Broke Me

Delicious parcels of potato and lentil goodness, you and your shrink-wrap will be the end of this project.

When your partner comes home from the supermarket with burger ingredients, you don’t question it, you nom. Though, does lettuce really need its own waterproof bag? And could I make veggie burgers in the time it takes to go to the shops and buy their plastic-laden cousins? No. Cooking is painful and I suck at this.