We just celebrated the end of June, and thus also the end of my month-long challenge to reduce my food packaging waste. While I will continue to buy some almond milk from the store, and purchase certain packaged items I cannot make for myself (like firm tofu), this challenge has really opened my eyes to the value in just trying. Literally every time you choose to bring your own bag, make something from scratch, shop at the bulk store, shop at the market, or choose a recyclable can over something that comes in non-recyclable plastic, you’ve made a difference. So use your consumer power. Use that energy inside you to make the best decisions you can, and your package-free habits will only grow. I personally have been reacquainted with the joy of the bulk store (I still have WAY too many hemp seeds in my fridge – tricky not to go overboard!) and the power of bringing your own bags. And can I just say those mesh bags for produce are awesome conversation starters. People will want to know about them and will remember you for having them. Your eco-warrior aura will grow.
To wrap up the challenge, I’d like my last packaging post to be some final ideas and recipes that will help you reduce your food packaging waste. When you are fighting that good fight, sometimes the hard part is not buying the ingredients, but figuring out what to make with them. You have a big bag of organic quinoa that you bought from the bulk store in your own reusable and washable mesh bag. Now what?
The other part of the equation is, pun-intended, thinking outside the box to new recipes that don’t require as much packaging in the first place, or can be made from simple ingredients that are easy to buy package-free or easy to make from basic pantry ingredients. The best recipes – both for health and for package-free living – use whole, unrefined grains, fresh produce, and easily located ingredients. What I’ve put together below is kind of a resource guide – it provides some ideas for thinking in new ways that will help you reduce food packaging and processed foods in your life. I’ve tested some of the recipes below, but not all, so I can’t vouch for the entirety. Really I’m trying to provide a fertile ground for some brainstorming and some options to get away from some of the most commonly purchased packaged foods.
Recipes and Made-from-Scratch Food Ideas to help Fight Food Packaging Waste
- Tangled Thai Salad. One of my favourite summertime salads is this one from Fresh, the best restaurant in Toronto. Carrots, beets, puffed quinoa (which can be purchased at the bulk store!), currants, limes – just go good. I miss a few things about living in Toronto, and this salad is one of them. Which brings me to my next point:
- Think raw. The beauty of a non-cooked, all-produce meal is that very likely you won’t need to purchase anything in a package, because you’ll have eliminated anything processed from the meal. Try Fiesta Carrot Salad!
- Try Socca, a delicious Italian bread/pancake/crepe kind of thing. Chickpea flour, water, and spices. That’s it. I use it as a pizza crust sometimes, or you can slice and dip it into hummus or tomato sauce. And it’s gluten-free!
- Quinoa, some water, a few other ingredients, and you have a gluten-free and vegan pizza crust. Here’s an easy 5 ingredients quinoa pizza crust from Oatmeal with a Fork.
- Skip the box and try black bean and sweet potato burgers (from Delicious Knowledge). Basically you can make any veggie burger using a combination of beans and a grain, plus a tablespoon or two of vital wheat gluten or a flax/chia egg for binding. Squish with your hands, add some spices, form into patties, and freeze!
- Try homemade red lentil hummus. No plastic tub to throw away!
- Make your own tortillas. This recipe is avec gluten (wheat flour tortillas) and this one is sans gluten (brown rice tortillas).
- Make your own banana soft-serve. Freeze one banana. Puree in a food processor with 2 tbsps non-dairy milk, 1-2 tbsps cocoa powder, and 1 tbsp nut butter (optional). When nice and smooth, scoop into a bowl and enjoy the most delicious soft serve you’ve ever tried. No added sugars, contains a whole banana, and zero waste. This will blow your mind, I promise.
- Homemade almond milk. It’s as simple as this: soak almonds overnight, then drain. Blend soaked almonds with 4 cups water, 1-2 tbsps maple syrup, 1 tsp vanilla, and a thickener, if preferred. I like a tablespoon or two of chia seeds. Then, pour through a nut milk bag or cheesecloth-lined sieve. Use the pulp for chocolate chip cookies (see Tip #12)! If you want a little more almond milk coaching, try this almond milk recipe from OhSheGlows.
- Beans from scratch. VeganCoach has a huge amount of information to make you a home-cookin’ bean-expert in no time.
- Salad dressings. Try a basic vinaigrette (four parts oil to one part vinegar, or be like me, and just pour a bit of each directly on the lettuce and hope for the best) or get fancy with Tasty Yummies’ avocado dressing. Or, make your own mustard and use it as the base.
- Cookies. Best vegan and gluten-free peanut butter cookies ever. I stumbled on this recipe at Blissful Basil a few weeks ago, and I’ve made the cookies twice already. Everybody has loved them and all of the ingredients can be purchased at the bulk store. Or make chocolate chip cookies using leftover almond pulp.
- Brownies. Black bean brownies use beans from a can, but you could take it to the next level and make them from scratch. Try my date-sweetened recipe, or follow the basic and amazing Minimalist Baker recipe. Vegan, gluten-free, and the maximum waste is one recyclable can. These are addictive, though. I warn you.
- Brown lentils. These bad boys are cheap, easily purchased at the bulk store, and quick to cook. You can use them in sloppy joes, veggie burgers, soups, stews, and so on. Try curried coconut lentils from Hell Yeah Its Vegan – all you need in a package is the coconut milk.
- Anything with herbs. Think basil pestos, or cashew-based cream sauces with thyme, or anything of the like. If you grow a pot of basil on your stoop or balcony, the pasta and cashews can be purchased at the bulk store. Add market tomatoes and onions and you are all set. This is a very simple cashew and basil pasta recipe, from the Bored Vegetarian.
I hope this fuels the fires for you and your journey to reduce food packaging waste. To see more tips, check out my earlier post with 15 tips for reducing food packaging waste, or check out the original challenge here.
Happy Canada Day!
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