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.
- 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.
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.