How to Freeze Food Without Using Plastic

When I post pictures of my jar-filled freezer on social media, I get lots of questions about it, usually along the following lines:

  • Is it safe to freeze food in glass? (Yes)
  • Do you use special glass for the freezer? (No)
  • Don’t your glass containers break? (Only that one time…)

I have had little trouble freezing food in glass. I do however take a couple of precautions:

Always leave headspace when freezing liquids. I prefer wide-mouth jars for freezing or at least jars without shoulders (i.e., straight sides all the way up to the top). I have broken only one glass container in the freezer—it’s one of those things you do only once. I filled a narrow-neck milk bottle with liquid (likely broth, I forget exactly). Even though I had left head space, when the liquid froze, it expanded and snapped the narrow neck cleanly off the (very nice) bottle. Oops.

Occasionally I’ll use pyrex round or rectangular containers with plastic lids, which I bought before I went plastic-free. I don’t use these very often in the freezer because I like to keep the glass portion of them free for roasting food.

Don’t overstuff your freezer with jars stacked all over the place willy-nilly. When you open your freezer door, jars might fall out onto the floor and break.

What I Freeze

Beans. Depending on the recipe I plan on using the beans in, I freeze these with or without liquid. I love having cooked beans on hand in the freezer. I make channa masala or hummus with chickpeas, a spicy bean dish with black beans and refried beans with pinto beans. I dislike the texture and taste of canned beans, not to mention the BPA (or an equally nasty equivalent) present in the plastic lining of canned food. (Click here for directions on slow-cooker beans.)


Beans freezing on the right-hand side

Sourdough crackers. These freeze very well! They taste so delicious, they never stay in the freezer long though. (Click here for the sourdough cracker recipe.) Continue reading

How to Scale Back During the Holidays

Some might say I go too far. When compared to the average consumer, I may seen downright nutty. But I believe that decades ago—before mass consumer culture kicked in—I would have seemed fairly normal. Well, let’s say normal as far as my consumption patterns go… As I have said many times, I’m not extreme, our consumer culture is.

Call me Grinch but…

I have opted out of Halloween for a few years now

Yes, I am that cranky lady down the street who turns her lights off and doesn’t dole out candy. I have older kids (one grown and one teen) so I can easily opt out of this one. The kids in my neighborhood get so much candy as it is. I am doing parents a favor by not adding to it. I think it would be a good night to go ice skating—the rink will be empty. I’ll wear a funny hat😉

Jack-o-lanterns waste so many pumpkins (and all the water and other resources that went into growing that pumpkin). We won’t carve one this year but I have carved many in the past. If you carve a pumpkin, you can at least eat the seeds. They taste so so good. Pick off the larger chunks of pumpkin but don’t wash off the seeds. Toss the seeds in olive oil and salt, spread them on a cookie sheet in a thin layer and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until golden. My younger daughter LOVES these. After Halloween, compost your pumpkin.

Halloween candy presents a big dilemma for a zero-waster. If you know your neighbors well, you can pass out homemade treats. If you don’t know them, your efforts will most assuredly go straight into the trash. Simple Gum comes packaged in cardboard. You could also try to find foil-wrapped candy in the bulk section—at least these alternatives have no plastic wrapping. Bulk Barn in Canada carries bulk candy, with several choices wrapped in foil, however until now, the chain hasn’t allowed shoppers to use their own containers and reusable bags. The company ran a pilot bring-your-own-container program in one Toronto store this past September and just announced this week that it will expand to 26 more stores in Canada beginning November 7th, with Quebec launching on December 8th. Keep it in mind for next Halloween if you live in the Great White North.

I’ll make less food on Thanksgiving

My daughter MK returned to school in Canada this fall so she won’t be here for Thanksgiving. When she is home, she cooks the dinner. It’s her favorite day of the year. She goes hog-wild. Last year, she cooked four pies. She made the bread for the stuffing. She made chutney. She made gravy. She made cocktails. I ate until it hurt. And then I ate some more.

This year, with MK away, I plan on cooking a smaller dinner. I won’t cook a bird. (I know this is unthinkable for many people—I’m not suggesting everyone do as I do, I’m just throwing ideas out there.) My younger daughter C doesn’t like turkey, I can’t find a whole one plastic-free and we can’t eat 15 pounds of poultry anyway. C does love tourtière—a French-Canadian meat pie—so I’ll make her one of those. I’ll also make cranberry sauce or chutney if I can find loose cranberries (Rainbow has carried them in the past), a few vegetable sides, perhaps a nutloaf and a couple of pies. Yes, this is much less food than we usually eat at Thanksgiving…


There will be pie. MK made this one with “ugly” apples.

I buy nothing on Black Friday

I hate crowds and I hate shopping. Before the dawn of consumer culture, shopping was a chore reserved for servants or those who couldn’t afford servants. Instead of shopping on Black Friday, I’ll celebrate Buy Nothing Day by staying home and avoiding the crowds, eating leftovers, watching movies and maybe knitting something.

In what I regard as a hopeful sign (and not merely clever marketing), REI again this year will close all 149 stores on Black Friday and give its employees a paid day off. Last year, seven states offered free admission to their state parks on Black Friday. I haven’t found any information about this for 2016 but Thanksgiving is still a month away, so maybe parks will offer free admission this year as well.

I don’t send Christmas cards

I know this has really annoyed some friends and family in the past. I stopped sending them after I had kids—the task simply fell off the never-ending to-do list. Some of you love to send these, some of you don’t. Don’t feel guilty either way.

I don’t put up a Christmas tree

I haven’t bought a Christmas tree for years. For many people who partake in the holiday season, this goes too far. My mom finds my treeless state utterly horrifying. I’m not suggesting everyone do this. I’m just explaining what I do. Back when I did get a tree—if we were home for Christmas—I bought a small one and decorated it with strings of popcorn, homemade cookie ornaments and whatever decorations I had amassed over the years.

I’ll have a potluck on New Year’s Eve

I’m not exactly a party animal. I can’t remember the last time I went out for New Year’s Eve. In my intentional community, the other moms and I and our kids often celebrate holidays together with a potluck. Everyone brings a dish or something to drink or both. It’s convenient, fun and no one has to worry about driving home after imbibing my mead.

Other events to scale down

Made-up holidays. Valentine’s Day. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Grandparent’s Day. St Patrick’s Day. They’re more like marketing opportunities for business than holidays. If you want to and can (Mom may not like it), scale back on some of these too.

Birthdays. You don’t have to throw an elaborate party for your kids every year. Invite a couple of their friends for a sleep over, bake a cake and watch a movie. Ditch the goody bags. No one likes these bags full of plastic junk. If someone hands you one, politely say no thank you. Truly, this tradition must die.

Weddings. People always look horrified when I tell them this but I got married in Las Vegas. It was pretty simple. I would probably have had a mental breakdown had I attempted to plan a wedding. At The Little White Chapel, we didn’t go through the 24-hour drive-up wedding window or have an Elvis impersonator marry us and I do regret that a little bit. I wore a very nice dress and opted for a wedding band, not a diamond. I told John never to buy me a diamond—blood or otherwise.

According to the Knot’s most recent wedding survey, people have lost their minds. Couples in the US spend an average of over $31,000 on their weddings. In Europe, couples spend much less on weddings—about $5,500 US.

Happy scaling back ;)

14 Benefits of Cooking

Yes, cooking requires time. But I’m not advocating a five-course meal every night. Dinner can be very simple: rice and beans with a side salad; a quick stir-fry; revamped leftovers. I don’t cook anything very elaborate. I simply try to eat a healthy diet—one devoid of processed food.

(Read this post for 18 time-saving tips for cooking real food.)

Other contenders for this post title include:

  • “The Case for Eating Home-Cooked Food” because it doesn’t really matter who cooks it. Typically, mom cooks dinner but dad or the kids or, if you have one, a personal chef could cook it.
  • “The Case for Real Food” because the gist of this post comes down to this: Cut out processed food.
  • “The Case Against Processed Food” but I try to avoid negative titles and besides, there are so many good things to say about cooking your own food, such as:

1. You save money

I can cook a vat of chana masala—enough for at least two meals for three of us—made with organic ingredients of the best quality, for about $12. At my favorite Indian restaurant, one serving of chana masala costs $13.95. (I’m usually very modest but I think mine tastes just as good.) The tomatoes I use cost the most of all the ingredients in this dish. I buy organic dry farmed Early Girl tomatoes, roast them and use them in place of store-bought canned tomatoes. They taste so so good. I could save more money by buying less expensive tomatoes but I figure compared to the average Western diet of processed food, my diet saves money overall, without compromising flavor. If you include possible future health care costs associated with a bad diet, I could stand to save even more cash.


Tomatoes roasted and ready for the freezer

2. You waste less food

You may have produce on hand that has seen better days, or you may have picky eaters who turn their noses up at leftovers. If you learn some basic skills, you’ll know how to use up all these odds and ends. Here are just some ideas:

  • Soup. You can toss just about anything into soup—leftover vegetables, pasta, rice, proteins, that spinach in the fridge that needs using up asap.
  • Stir-fry. This is one of my daughter’s favorite meals. It’s like soup without the broth—just toss it all in there. All you need is a pile of vegetables, garlic, ginger (if you have it), soy sauce, some oil and some rice to go with your stir-fry if you so desire.
  • Pizza. All sorts of toppings can go onto pizza. My boyfriend adds shredded carrots into his homemade pizza sauce to add sweetness—and vitamins and fiber. Have some leftover beans in the refrigerator? You could make hummus to spread on the pizza dough, top it with cheese and bake. (I think I should make this tonight…)
  • Frittata. Don’t know what to do with that quarter onion you have? Or the single stalk of broccoli. Chop it all up for frittata.
  • Oeufs en restes. The name of this French dish translates to “eggs in leftovers.” In a pan, heat up leftover vegetables, meat, grains, whatever, in a little broth if the food is dry, crack an egg in the middle, add salt and pepper and cook covered over medium-low heat until the egg is cooked.

3. You reduce your packaging waste

Occasionally someone on Facebook or Instagram will ask me “How can you possibly cook without producing waste?” It’s a lot easier than a lot of people realize. For example:

  • I eat more fresh fruits and vegetables than I did before I went plastic-free. I can easily buy these package-free where I live.
  • I cut out all snack foods—they all come in shiny plastic packages. That doesn’t mean I deprive myself of goodies. Last night during the debate, I made a couple of batches of delicious zero-waste popcorn for us all to snack on. It tastes so so good and lacks the nasty chemical-laced packaging of the microwave stuff. (Unfortunately I didn’t have any alcoholic ginger beer on hand last night…)
  • I live near stores with great bulk bins and filling up my jars and bags greatly reduces my packaging waste. Yes, the food comes to the store in packaging but that packaging amounts to much less than it would if all of us bulk shoppers bought our small amounts individually packaged.

4. Your kids learn how to cook

I didn’t exactly teach my kids to cook. They just know how to cook because they’ve watched me do it over the years and have helped. My older daughter, away at college, eats pretty well (she sends me pics). Some of her friends think she’s a god because she can cook a simple stir-fry, curry, loaf of bread, pie…pretty much anything really.


A pumpkin pie MK baked this week, using an improvised “pie plate”

5. You may eat more ethically

As Dan Barber says, the most ethical food tastes the most delicious. Take my eggs for example. They come from pastured hens. The hens run around outside. The farmers raise them with love. Because these hens eat what hens are supposed to eat—bugs and seeds they peck at in the ground—they produce delicious eggs with rich orange yolks. Compare that to the horrors of industrial egg farms with hens crammed into battery cages, unable to move; lights on 24/7 to induce more frequent laying; male chicks ground alive. Is it any wonder my pastured eggs taste better? If you take the time to cook, you’ll likely seek out better tasting ingredients, and thus more ethical ingredients.

6. You eat healthier food

This is self-explanatory. Cook food yourself and you control what does—and what doesn’t—go into it. Seventy-seven percent of foods on American supermarket shelves contain added sugar, not to mention multi-syllable non-food ingredients you would never put in your pantry.

7. Home-cooked food doesn’t have a profit motive attached to it

I doubt any of you charge your family for dinner. How can food made for a healthy bottom line compare to a healthy home-cooked meal? Big Food doesn’t love you. It doesn’t have your best interests in mind. Shocking, I know. Food made with love tastes best.


xoxo: raisin-cardamom sourdough bread made with love

8. You support powerful corporations less

Yes, corporations still get some of my money because I am alive and I live in the US—a developed, capitalist, industrial country. I shop at Whole Foods, I use electricity and I still have a car (but I don’t drive much). However, when I shop at farmer’s markets (which I do religiously) and independent grocers (which I do often), small businesses get my cash and more of that cash stays in my community.

9. You become more self-sufficient

What a bizarre point in history we have reached. Most of us can barely feed ourselves. Many of us don’t cook or don’t know how to cook, we outsource just about everything and we don’t grow our own food. But there’s good news. According to this article in the New York Times, more and more people have been cooking their meals at home, learning basic skills and as a result, taking a bite out of fast food chains’ profits.

10. People will love you

I can’t tell you how many people have either asked me to adopt them or have announced they are moving in with me after the zombie apocalypse. A lot. I should really start a waiting list.

11. Your gut will love you

I recently attended The Real Food Fun Event in Palo Alto, put on by the Institute for Responsible Nutrition, where I heard Dr. Robert Lustig, Gary Taubes and Dr. Janet Wojcicki discuss the health impacts of sugar. New York Times writer Anahad O’Connor, who writes about health, fitness and nutrition, moderated.

At one point, Dr. Lustig summed up the problem with processed food like this: it’s low in fiber and high in sugar. Real food (vegetables, fruit, whole grains) on the other hand, is high in fiber and low in sugar. To feed our gut bacteria, Lustig said we need to consume about 50 grams of fiber a day.

Our gut plays a huge roll in our health, our weight, even our mood. Read more about gut health here.


Left to right: Dr. Robert Lustig, Gary Taubes, Dr. Janet Wojcicki, Anahad O’Connor

12. Surly teenagers may talk to you

I feel like an inadequate parent pretty much all the time. But I have done at least one thing right over the years—I’ve eaten dinner at the table with my kids. MK has gone off to college but I still have a teenager at home (she prefers I refrain from using her name in my posts). We almost always eat dinner together. Sometimes we watch a show on Netflix while we eat but at least we sit together and talk.

13. You bring your family together

Cooking and eating with your family helps you bond—and you share the work. My boyfriend and I cook together often. We chop, saute, wash, chat and sometimes drink a glass of ginger beer while we’re at it.

And if you want to draw people out of their rooms or away from the Internet, the aromas wafting from a pot of minestrone simmering on top of the stove or a loaf of bread baking in the oven ought to do it.

14. You’ll start a revolution in your kitchen

As Bill Buford wrote in his book Heat, “Food made by hand is an act of defiance and runs contrary to everything in modernity.” If you want to rebel, you don’t have to partake in risky behaviors (although some of those might be fun). Just bake a loaf of bread or cook a pot of chili. Reclaim your independence from Big Food.

I’ve only scratched the surface in this short blog post. For further reading, please check out:

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan.
Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. Next Wednesday, October 26th, 12pm Eastern, Food Tank will host a webinar with Moss “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” You can register here.

Bentonite-Calcium Tooth Powder

I am not a dentist. I am merely sharing my own experience, not dispensing medical advice.

Now that I have that out of the way…

Full-On Hippie Ingredient: Eggshell Calcium Powder

For a while now, I have wanted to make toothpaste with calcium powder but simply could not find calcium powder in bulk. So I made my own out of eggshells. I ground up sterilized, dried shells into a very fine powder and have not found it abrasive.

I don’t know if eggshell calcium offers dental benefits. If you Google something like “remineralize teeth eggshell calcium” a pile of links to videos and websites will pop up, which all claim you can reverse cavities if you brush your teeth with eggshell powder, or eat the stuff. I’m skeptical.

What I can claim is that my homemade tooth powder cleans my teeth well while it both reduces my waste and saves me money.


Tooth powder

Other Ingredients

Bentonite clay

I have very sensitive teeth. A few years ago, they had reached the point where I experienced pain drinking room-temperature water. A couple of years ago, I bought plastic-free tooth powder from Aquarian Bath, which I highly recommend. If you don’t have time to make your own toothpaste alternative or can’t find bentonite powder, consider buying tooth powder from Aquarian Bath. Cory, the owner, is awesome, and so are her products.

When my tooth powder ran out I decided to make toothpaste that included bentonite clay, one of the main ingredients in the Aquarian Bath tooth powder. After several months of brushing my teeth with these bentonite clay-based products, one day I realized my teeth no longer hurt! I have zero scientific proof that brushing with bentonite clay reduces tooth sensitivity but I’m sticking with what works. My teeth feel better.

Cinnamon and cloves

These leave my mouth feeling fresh. They cost less than essential oils and I can buy them in bulk. My boyfriend grinds up organic cinnamon sticks in a second-hand coffee grinder he reserves just for that purpose. It. Is. The. Best. Cinnamon. Ever.

Baking soda

Occasionally I brush my teeth with plain baking soda but find it a little harsh on my teeth. I included a small amount in this recipe. If you don’t like baking soda, just omit it.

Coconut oil

When I ground up my eggshells, I had planned on using them for a paste not a powder but:

a. I rather like tooth powder

b. I would prefer to eat the small amount of it’s-so-not-local coconut oil I have on hand and

c. Coconut oil leaves some residue on the sink and I’m lazy about cleaning the sink.

So I decided to make tooth powder this time rather than toothpaste. If you prefer a paste, stir in, oh let’s say 6–8 tablespoons of coconut oil (or more) and, to make your toothpaste more palatable, 20 drops of essential peppermint oil.

How to use

Avoid dipping your bacteria-filled toothbrush into the jar. Instead, grab a pinch of tooth powder between your thumb and forefinger and place onto your brush. You need only a little. Brush as usual. Rinse thoroughly and spit. (By the way, I use a bamboo toothbrush and love it.)

If desired, follow with homemade mouthwash.

Bentonite-Calcium Tooth Powder


Tooth powder ingredients


  • 6 tablespoons bentonite clay
  • 3 tbsp calcium powder
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cloves


1. To make tooth powder, combine ingredients in a jar. Wide, shallow jars work best—you can easily get out your powder (or paste).

2. To make a paste, add 6 tbsp coconut oil or more until you achieve desired consistency and, if desired, 20 drops essential peppermint oil to improve the flavor.

3. Avoid dipping your bacteria-filled toothbrush into the jar. Instead, grab a pinch of tooth powder between your thumb and forefinger and place onto your brush. You need only a little. Brush as usual. Rinse thoroughly and spit.

4. If desired, follow with homemade mouthwash.

Chestnut Laundry Soap

While scrolling through Instragram recently, I saw a pic of homemade laundry soap made from horse chestnuts at @less_is_more_pdx. I was amazed! I immediately messaged the woman behind the IG account—Angela Zahas—and asked her if she would like to write a guest blog post about her homemade soap. 

Horse chestnut trees grow in temperate areas of North America, Europe and Asia. Early fall is the time to forage for chestnuts—National Chestnut Week in the US runs October 9th–15th (yes, that’s a thing).


Chestnut Soap

by Angela Zahas

We ride past four horse chestnut trees on our bike ride to our 2-year old and 4-year old’s school each day—crushing the nuts under our bike trailer wheels and enjoying the thrill of watching a seed pod fall and crack on the sidewalk, littering the road and walk ways. And they really do make a mess. I know horse chestnuts are not edible and I was curious if there was any practical use for them. Imagine my excitement in seeing a post a few weeks later on @_wastelandrebel_’s Instagram about making chestnut soap. Was it possible to actually make soap from chestnuts? And would it actually clean clothes? I wanted to find out. Continue reading

Meet Frank, the Zero-Waste Hamster

My youngest daughter, who asked I use a fake name in this post—let’s call her C—repeatedly asked me for a hamster this summer.

C: Can we get a hamster?

Me: Bootsy will eat it.

C: I’ll keep it in my room with the door shut.

Me: Meh.

C: All of a mother’s problems disappear when she gives her child a hamster.


C: Did you look at the brochure I made about why you should get me a hamster?

Me: No. I mean yes I did but no hamster.

C: Can we get a hamster?

Me: I don’t like having hamsters as pets. They don’t live long. They can’t let you know when they’re hungry or thirsty, like a cat or dog can. Pets are a big responsibility. We have to find a cat sitter for Bootsy every time we go away. We don’t have any of the hamster stuff. Hamsters cost money. They poop constantly. They smell.

C: He can be a zero-waste hamster.

We found Frank on craigslist. C changed his original name—Elon Mouse, which I adored—to Frank. He came with a free cage, water bottle and some cage accoutrements, like a hollow tree stump he likes to curl up under. But his cage offered little room for him to run around.

Every time we entered C’s room—and he was awake—Frank would climb up the (short) wall of the cage and look up at us, as if pleading to be let out. We would open the cage door he’d run around a bit on the carpet but I felt bad putting him back in. So I started looking on craigslist for a bigger cage. I hadn’t been having much luck and last week wondered if I should just cave in and pay a pile of money for a new cage at the pet store. But then the perfect new home appeared…

Chez Frank


The hamster mansion

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How to Make Eggshell Calcium Powder

My daughter MK made me some homemade toothpaste a couple of years ago that I really liked. It was very similar to this recipe but she added calcium powder to it. She bought calcium supplements and emptied the contents of the gelatin capsules into her toothpaste concoction. I have wanted to make her toothpaste recipe for a while but have avoided buying calcium powder. Like most supplements, it comes in either a big plastic bottle or a glass bottle with a big plastic top.

Then I remembered something MK had told me a couple of years ago: You can make calcium powder from eggshells. How could I have forgotten about this?

The eggs

First things first. I don’t buy eggs from just anywhere. I get mine from farmers I know. I live in an intentional community, which bought a farm a few years ago. It has been keeping chickens for a couple of years now and I have a weekly egg subscription. These well-treated, pastured hens roam free and eat an organic diet. Unafraid, they run up to humans visiting the farm. The farmers themselves are all vegetarians and we do not eat these chickens.


A vendor at the farmer’s market takes my cartons to reuse

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10 Alternatives to Bottled Water and Soda

If you do nothing else to reduce your waste or if you want to start on the zero-waste, plastic-free path and don’t know where to start, consider cutting store-bought bottled beverages. The gazillion plastic bottles these drinks leave behind create an environmental mess that Big Soda expects us—the consumer—to clean up for them. In addition, because liquids weigh so much, shipping bottled drinks requires a huge amount of fossil fuels. And the plastic itself is made from oil.

All these resources go into getting exactly what to market? Usually water or sugar-water. Maybe some food dye. A pinch of aspartame. A dash of caramel color (a possible carcinogen). And we’re afraid of what’s in tap water? With less expensive—and tastier—alternatives, why spend our hard-earned cash on this stuff?

1. Tap water

Americans buy half a billion bottles of water every week. Making tap water your drink of choice greatly simplifies your life. You buy nothing. You dispose of nothing. You no longer support corporations like Nestlé, which has been pumping California dry. During a drought.

If you like the convenience of bottled water, I promise you will not find the switch to carrying a reusable water bottle painful. Soon, you won’t leave home without your water bottle, just as you wouldn’t leave without your keys. Klean Kanteen sent me the insulated bottle pictured below (no strings attached—I received no compensation for this post). They also included the bamboo and steel top I asked for (yay, no plastic!). I’ll drink my tea and water out of this every day.


Around the bottom of this Klean Kanteen, notice the halo it has earned for keeping plastic out of landfill😉

Continue reading