[From now on Saturdays are going to be my general blog post days, but I will also be starting a series of recipes which can be made using only loose or minimally-packaged items, which will be published on Tuesdays.]
Going plastic-free means avoiding pretty much all ready meals and convenience food. It feels a bit like going back in time to what I imagine my (great-)grandparents’ generation would have lived like: buying only loose fruit and vegetables, cardboard boxes, or recyclable aluminium tins.
Unfortunately, as I recently realised, tetra paks aren’t all that great either (though for now I will continue to buy my vegan coconut milk alternative in them because I haven’t found anything better yet…): while they can (and should) be recycled, the process means that the different layers of the tetra pak are separated and then used in another type of product, such as cardboard, and hence (as far as I understand) for each new tetra pak, new materials are sourced. If you’d like more information, other people have written much better on this than me – see e.g. here or here or have a look at the official website.
So in order to know what is available to me, I made a list of plastic-free foods. I would think that a lot of them should be available in most supermarkets, though some things (like bulk rice, nuts, chickpeas, oats, or refillable olive oil/vinegar might require specialist shops: I use gaia and Holland&Barrett).
— The List —
- dried dates (H&B)
- raisins (at H&B)
- spring onion
- peas (at gaia)
- sweet potatoes
- cucumber (at gaia… most big supermarkets often shrink wrap theirs… oh dear…)
- olives (from deli counter – they can fill my glass jar)
- pumpkins (e.g. butternut squash, Hokkaido…)
- beet root
Nuts & Grains
- rice (at gaia)
- oats (at gaia)
- red lentils (at gaia)
- chickpeas (at a shop in London called unpackaged which I’m going to visit soon 🙂 )
- quinoa (also at unpackaged)
Other unpackaged foods
- nuts: walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts (at H&B)
- some breads: it’s generally possible to get rolls unpackaged in supermarkets, though they often can’t sell loaves of bread; but at gaia I can buy some bloomers and white bread, and the nearby Lidl used to have German bread and pretzels which were unpackaged (still hoping they’ll bring them back…). Another alternative might be to make my own bread using a bread mixture which can be bought in a paper bag.
- I don’t really use a lot of animal products in my diet anymore (other than the very occasional bit of cheese, or when I’m out and don’t feel like asking/just want to enjoy my cake; I’ve been eating a vegetarian diet for the past decade, but been shifting to a more plant-based one for some time now), but when the husband and I went shopping the other day we asked at the meat and cheese deli and they are happy (or at least able) to give us food into our boxes. So the moral here is: it’s always worth asking, and quite often people are very helpful 🙂
- cheese, salami, meat, fish, (eggs in cardboard boxes), meat sausages…
- While I think this has to be everybody’s own choice, I would also like to point out though that animals are a major contributor to green house gas emissions, and that the raising of animals either for their meat or milk/eggs/etc is not currently being practised in an environmentally sustainable way… I’m going to write a post on the impact of eating animal products on the environment in the future – though I would like to reiterate that I very strongly believe that it is important to inform people, and not to become preachy or tell them what to do/eat.
Tins (while they are generally plastic-free, they obviously aren’t zero-waste – though they are very easily recyclable!)
- some lentils and beans
- sweet corn
- coconut milk (pretty much a staple in my diet 🙂 )
Glass Jars (again, mostly plastic-free but still produces (reusable/recyclable) waste… and sometimes comes with those little pastic wrappers around the metal lids, or all-out plastic lids)
- miso paste
- lemon juice (with plastic lid which Lush will take and recycle!)
- olive oil (refillable at e.g. H&B)
- vinegar (refillable at e.g. unpackaged)
- artichokes in oil
- peanut butter
- tomato sauce
- maple syrup
- apple sauce
Cardboard boxes (also: plastic-free but still produces (recyclable) waste…)
- vegan frozen sausages
Things I’m missing
(I know I could make some myself if I had a food processor, so I’m contemplating that purchase… If you have any suggestions for where to get those items in the UK, I’d be really really happy! 🙂 )
- pasta (I’ve actually found a brand in our local supermarket which sells pasta in cardboard boxes with a tiny plastic window, so worst case, I might go for these… or eat the ones the husband buys, which sadly don’t come in cardboard…)
- hummus (! …I love hummus!)
- dried seaweed (for miso soup)
I’ve also got a vegbox of locally grown organic seasonable foods which I tend to order every few weeks (but which unfortunately does use some recyclable plastic wrapping for some of their products).
Check our my Tasty Tuesday posts (starting this Tuesday) to see some recipes using these items – and Bon Appétit 🙂