Zero-Waste Menu No 1

I remember our excitement over our first plastic-free meal (cooked by my daughter MK*):

We were thrilled. We felt a little deflated when we noticed a plastic cheese wrapper. Still. We had come a long way. However it did take two or three months to get to that point. I think some menus could have sped up the process, so with that in mind, I present you with menu no 1 for a day of zero-waste meals. This menu assumes you can buy staples in bulk and milk in glass bottles.

I see these menus as examples merely. Of course, feel free to follow this list down to the last morsel if you like!


Steel-cut oats garnished with chopped fruit, chopped nuts and yogurt

  • Take five minutes to begin these at night to save time and energy in the morning. For 3–4 servings, combine 4 cups water and 1 cup steel-cut oats in a pot. Heat on medium-high and whisk occasionally. When the oats begin to boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid. In the morning, heat up the oats.
5 reheat
Steel-cut oats in the morning, ready to be reheated


  • I buy loose-leaf tea in bulk. I brew it in my tea infuser or teapot with built-in infuser.


  • What could be easier to make without waste than a salad with seasonal vegetables? Layer yours in a jar for lunch on the go.
  • For dressing, combine oil and lemon juice or vinegar. I make scrap vinegar and I sometimes ferment my kombucha to the point of vinegar.
Last summer’s seasonal salad of watermelon, cucumber, red onion and cilantro salad with homemade ricotta cheese


  • I cook soup about once a week and use up veggies that we may not otherwise get to. You can read my post about soup here. I love vegetable soup with a heaping spoonful of fermented sauerkraut on top. Yes the heat kills the probiotics but the tangy kraut tastes delicious.
  • Make a large pot and freeze it for later (just make sure to use a wide-mouth jar and leave an inch or so of head space so the expanding soup doesn’t break the jar—learn from my mistakes).

Piece of fruit

More tea


Spicy black beans

  • I cook black beans in my slow cooker a day or two before I need them. Last week, I made extra and squirreled some away in my freezer (see note on freezing soup).
    • Cook 1 to 1 1/2 cups dry beans.
    • Saute a chopped onion, a couple of cloves of garlic and a chopped jalapeno in lard (or coconut oil) until tender, about 5 minutes. Jalapeños are out of season now, so I’ve been adding a teaspoon or so of my hot pepper puree to bean dishes.
    • Add beans with some of their liquid and simmer until much of the liquid has cooked off.
    • Add 3/4 to 1 tsp salt and lime to taste.
    • Garnish with cilantro and sour cream.
  • You can use other types of beans: pinto, white, whatever. Experiment. It’s difficult to mess up beans.
spicy black beans
Spicy black beans topped with chopped cilantro and homemade sour cream

Sour cream

  • So easy. One cup of half and half plus 1 tablespoon cultured buttermilk plus 24 hours covered with a cloth at room temperature. I have never seen sour cream in glass or ceramic jars. Perhaps you have.

Sourdough tortillas

  • I like this recipe. I’ve added a pinch of citric acid as recommended and it really does soften the dough. I make batches of tortillas in advance and freeze them.
sourdough tortillas 02.21.15
Sourdough tortillas


  • You can easily prepare a side of vegetables waste-free. Buy them at the market and you wan’t have pesky stickers to deal with. Some vendors use twist ties with plastic labels. Others bunch things together with elastic, which I hand back. They don’t seem to mind.
  • You don’t need to peel organic vegetables.
  • I love roasted vegetables and cook them often. I also steam them, toss them in salads or serve them raw with hummus.

Hard-boiled eggs

  • I now get my eggs where I live through our community’s CSA but discovered last week that we can’t return our cartons for reuse. A vendor at my farmer’s market accepts them but apparently she breaks the law by doing so. I’m not sure how much longer I can unload my illicit cardboard. If the police catch up with her, at least I can recycle the cartons.
  • I often serve these on the side at lunch or dinner.

Fermented food of your choice

  • Fermented salsa would be ideal but we don’t have any right now and tomatoes will not reappear at the market for several months. I often eat krautchi with my lunch or dinner (or breakfast).

More tea

  • If, like me, you cannot tolerate tea this late in the day—but only if you hope to sleep at night—try herbal tea.
Snack if you must

So there you have it. A look at the simple food I typically prepare and eat in a day. I do spend a lot of time cooking but probably not that much more than the average person (who cooks). Most of the ingredients I make ahead of time—the yogurt, tortillas, beans, sour cream and ferments—so making meals means I simply assemble everything. Like a hippie version of Sandra Lee :p

*MK has revived the blog she began at age 16, The Plastic-Free Chef. She started us on this path.

11 Replies to “Zero-Waste Menu No 1”

  1. Linkk to plastic-free chef didn’t work. 😐

    1. Thanks Abby. It should work now.

  2. Those tortilla look divine, is the recipe on your blog for my mexican-food lover of a son ?

    1. Thank you! They taste really good and use up discarded starter! I haven’t written a post on them but I found a recipe I like here:

      1. Thank you ! Will get the boy onto the job soon.

      2. You’re welcome and you are one smart mother!

      3. I needed a compliment like that today, thank you!
        I do try and bring my two youngsters up to be independent (and sometimes it does taste nice too…) but I’m sure you know all about it.

      4. You’re welcome. I know about trying! I hope I succeed!

      5. All we can do is try I think (and preach by example), they will have to do their own succeeding !

  3. I love the concept here!

    It’s certainly something I am going to look into further. With the right research there is absolutely no negatives to all meals being like this. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks for checking it out 🙂

Leave a Reply