Someone Tell Me How I’m Missing Out

raisin sourdough bread

If you read environmental news, you may have stumbled across articles within the last week or so on a new type of edible straw. This article from Fast Company contains some unfortunate wording about these alternatives to wasteful, single-use, ocean-polluting plastic straws:

It’s not about the consumer sacrificing anymore, it’s about the consumer having fun and being sustainable at the same time.

Anymore? When was it about sacrificing?

And I don’t know that I would describe a straw as fun. Skating is fun, playing pool is fun, attending a concert is fun…

However, if you must have a straw in your third margarita, but have abandoned your cocktail to go whoop it up on the dance floor with the Adonis of a bartender who has eyed you all night long (now that sounds like fun…), when the bar staff tosses this seaweed-based straw in the trash, it will eventually break down rather than lodge in a turtle’s nose.

But back to that ascetic life of perpetual self-denial (not the name of my elementary Catholic school growing up)…

By choosing to live more sustainably, I sacrifice:

  • Unhealthy processed, food-like substances that don’t taste all that great
  • Colds and other minor illnesses (I get sick WAY less often than I used to)
  • Excess stuff I don’t need and have to maintain and dust and eventually toss at its end of (usually short) life
  • Spending lots of money on said stuff
  • Working more to earn more money to buy said stuff

We environmentalists have not done a good job if the majority of people equate reducing their carbon footprint with a life of self-flagellation, self-denial and utter drudgery. By dropping out of consumer culture (even just a little bit), you actually gain much more than you lose.

Take food. Back when we went plastic-free, our diet changed more than anything else. No more eating store-bought cookies, or crackers, or cereal, or snacks or fizzy drinks. No chocolate bars, or tea bags or even sliced bread.

Hmmm, that does kind of sound like self-denial…

What we eat today

Bread and water

Michael Pollan sourdough bread
3-ingredient sourdough bread
sourdough bread and crackers
Sourdough bread and crackers made with starter discard
raisin sourdough bread
Raisin-cardamom sourdough bread
sourdough bread crumb shot
Crumb shot
naked charcoal water filter
Water filtered with naked charcoal


homemade granola
Homemade granola
overnight steel-cut oats
Overnight steel-cut oats
homemade pasta
Homemade pasta ready to cook
vegan pesto
jars of tomatoes
Roasted tomatoes for chana masala, dal, chili, pizza sauce, pasta sauce, vodka sauce…
vegetarian chili
Vegetarian chili
Pumpkin dal
Pumpkin dal

Would you like a drink with that?

French press
I bought this ground coffee at Peet’s in jar
looseleaf tea in jars
Looseleaf tea in jars
homemade almond milk
Almond milk and cookies made with some of the leftover almond pulp
homemade ginger beer
Highly carbonated natural ginger beer
Ginger kombucha (left), peach-jalapeño kombucha (right)
Hibiscus flavored kombucha
Hibiscus flavored kombucha
Hibiscus natural soda
Natural hibiscus soda
Ready-to-drink mead (left) and a new batch (right)

We snack less but when we do want a treat…

chocolate chip cookies
Chocolate chip cookies
bulk bin chocolate
Chocolate from the bulk bins
stovetop popcorn
3-ingredient stovetop popcorn
homemade crackers
Sourdough sesame seed crackers
hummus with preserved lemon
Hummus made with preserved lemon
soft pretzels
Soft sourdough pretzels
roasted pumpkin seeds
Roasted pumpkin seeds
kale chips
Solar dried kale chips
fermented salsa
Fermented salsa
Simple (and addictive) kimchi

Farmers market fruit and vegetables make healthy snacks… (and dinners)

Fruit trees are zero waste and zero work…

…in California at least.

peaches and nectarines
Our tree produces both peaches and nectarines :O
California peaches and nectarines
More peaches and nectaries
Free lemons
preserved lemons
Preserved lemons
I planted this cherry tree in 2003
bowl of cherries
Bowl of cherries
Twin Peaks cherry pie
MK’s homemade cherry pie

We eat a wider variety of meals than I’ve included here. On this blog, I post recipes for food that most of us have become accustomed to buying in shiny plastic packages. So I don’t have recipes for dishes like a green salad, or steamed vegetables or macaroni and cheese. You don’t really need instructions for cooking those zero-waste style. For dishes like that, your zero-waste challenges confront you in the store.

We eat simple food that tastes delicious. Sustainability and enjoying life are not mutually exclusive states of being. I would argue they depend on one another.

Does this look like sacrifice to you?

48 Replies to “Someone Tell Me How I’m Missing Out”

  1. It all looks like indulgence – the opposite of sacrifice!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Philippa. That’s what I had hoped to get across. ~ Anne Marie

  2. Most excellent and inspiring!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you!

  3. Great post, gorgeous pictures!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you, Christine! ~ Anne Marie

  4. Everything looks wonderful to me. Your reference to straws reminds me that when I was a child living in Chile, the straws we bought were actually that. They came in different sizes, but they all worked, and it is the only time I really liked using straws. No reason they can’t make a come-back.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you, Hilda. The straws were straw?
      That sounds so much more pleasant than using a plastic one. Lots of things need to make a comeback! ~ Anne Marie

  5. Brava, Anne Marie. Your approach, and these pictures communicate a wise, prudent, and sane way to live and to eat. I have truly enjoyed reading your posts, and have incorporated many of your suggestions and recipes into our life way up here in the northernmost tip of Maine. Though there are no free lemon trees and winter is long and very snowy, we produce a lot of food. Like you, I don’t know what I would do without good jars! Thank you for all you’re doing and sharing.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks for that Gail and for reading my posts. I’m glad you enjoy them. I had no idea when I started all of this how important jars would be! I can never have enough. Stay warm up there 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  6. our cherry tree is unfruitful! Yours look yummy!!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      How old is your tree? This one didn’t produce for at least four year. The nectarine/peach tree took even longer before it started to produce. At first, it produced only nectarines and then surprise peaches! Some years, the birds get most of the cherries… You may just have to be patient. I hope you have a good harvest next summer. ~ Anne Marie

      1. about 5 years old. The peach and pear produce (planted at the same time) Our lemon and lime produce more than they should!! Miniature lemon tree was at my grandmother’s place in a pot. When she died in ’93 we inherited the tree. Still producing like crazy. mini lime tree is about 10 years old. Our poor cherry tree just doesn’t like to bear fruit.

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Wow, you’ve got an entire orchard out there! So nice you replanted your grandmother’s tree. Maybe the cherry tree feels intimidated by the other prolific trees 😉

      3. The Zero-Waste Chef says:


  7. People such as yourself allow us all to see the beauty in food, so the idea that you would be “missing out”? If anything, I think some of the people who might say such a thing are the one who are in fact, missing out.

    Beautiful shots and wonderful prose!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you so much 🙂

  8. Your photos are making me hungry! Wonderful post. Nothing missing here that I can see. Must start Sourdough!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Kate! The sourdough is an adventure. It’s my favorite thing to make. And it makes my home smell good too. ~ Anne Marie

  9. Madeleine Lawrence says: Reply

    Hello Anne Marie,

    unfortunately the masses have been hypnotised into thinking they are missing out and suffering in the midst of plenty and way too much! Beautiful photos, as always, how lucky we are to eat and live this way.


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Madeleine. I agree, we are lucky! ~ Anne Marie

  10. Your food looks amazing, and so are your pics. They have definitely put me back on track shopping at the Farmer’s Market (package free) and my palette says this is the best tasting food ever. I’ll continue to work my way down your recipe list as it’s both tremendously inspiring and empowering!

    Onto the straws. I’m an activist in the movement against plastic pollution. This ‘unfortunate wording’ you refer to harkens to the idea that it shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility, but instead the producers. I don’t think that’s a bad thing and maybe this will ‘help’ get that much needed ball rolling. However, and for the record, I don’t feel giving up straws is a sacrifice in the least. In fact it’s a gift of a clean conscience and one less thing I have to think about with respect to this incredibly upsetting state of affairs. To conclude, I don’t need a glass straw, stainless steel, bamboo, paper or seaweed straw (I appreciate that others do). However, I’m not sure I’m even interested in trying it,. Plain and simple it just seems unnecessary and wasteful. Unless the hunky bartender has been eyeing me all night and hands it to me.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks Danielle 🙂

      Ah, okay, well that is a better take. I didn’t want to rake the article over the coals, just that one line bothered me and started me thinking about the popular image of living sustainably. It’s ridiculous that the consumer must clean up after the corporation. These straws are infinitely better than plastic and I agree, they may help change people’s habits and as you say, get the ball rolling. ~ Anne Marie

  11. Mmm, what a drool-worthy set of pictures and such an inspiring post!

    We often hear many of the same things when we try to talk to people about how excited we are about focusing on a sustainable, frugal lifestyle. People have this weird association that being frugal is depriving yourself, but we get so much more in return!

    More time, more savings (leading to more security and peace of mind), less clutter, more happiness, less waste, better food. We do not feel deprived at all, we feel happy and blessed!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks, Kristine. I agree 100 percent. Living this way has made me much happier. I had no idea at the beginning that it would make such a huge impact. ~ Anne Marie

  12. Possibly the only people I know that think ‘straws’ are fun, are children! Anyway I always love reading your posts and I would love it, if you could make a little ‘recycled paper book’ of all your recipes. Here in the UK we’ve been watching ‘Blue Planet’ and learning about the tragedies to wildlife, our human reliance on plastic, is causing. It takes people like yourself to show everyone a different way, of doing things. Keep up the good work & seasonal greetings from icy & wet England!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      This is true. Kids do like them. I would love to do a book. Do you mean printed on recycled paper? I haven’t watched Blue Planet (I don’t think I can yet here in the US) but I keep reading about it in the news. It sounds like it has really helped raise awareness in the UK about plastic pollution. I hope it has the same effect here. We sorely need it. Thank you for reading my blog 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  13. Do you have a recipe posted for your raisin-cardamom sourdough bread? It looks divine!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Stephanie. I follow the sourdough recipe I posted on here (basically Michael Pollan’s recipe) and add the raisins and coriander to it: So, I soak 3 cups of golden raisins (golden taste really good in this) in warm water for 30 minutes, drain them and toss them with a tablespoon of ground cardamom. I add all of this after the second turn of the dough. I got the idea from Chad Robertson’s book Tartine. He says to “add the mixture to the dough and moisten with a little water. Use your hands to cut and squeeze the raisins through.” It’s really good bread, better than cake! ~ Anne Marie

      1. Thank you! I have been using the Tartine method for about a year now. I haven’t tried doing any variations from the country loaf yet but I will definitely give this one a try.

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        You’re welcome. I haven’t done many variations either. My daughter prefers it “plain” (I hesitate to call it that) so I that’s what I mostly make. Enjoy!

  14. “The Ascetic Life of Perpetual Self-Denial” is the name of my new plastic-filled life detox center. Sorry, you can’t have it anymore. (But excellent points, in all seriousness!)

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hahaha! You’ll have them lining up 😉 Thank you ~ Anne Marie

  15. Really well put! Looks amazing.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply


  16. Amen! This looks like the good life right here. And now I’m very hungry.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you, Pam! ~ Anne Marie

  17. It does not looks like sacrifice. Simple living can be so much richer than being a slave to brands. And a slave to work, as you rightly point out 🙂

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you! That’s the message I was hoping to go for 🙂 ~ Anne Marie

  18. Remarkable idea to eat today. Thanks a lot.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply


  19. Marty Wierzba says: Reply

    Well I have to disagree a little bit there, when you have to replace simplicity in convenience, time doing research and the cost of buying things that are just more expensive. Some people just can’t afford to buy all organic and sustainable products. About research though, it’s hard to find products that are made honestly or finding recipes to make yourself, especially when you have no time or have to work two jobs, even just able to make endsmeet period. Although doing so would be great if everyone could, it just isn’t at a point where its available to the masses in an efficient way. It may be very risky for someone who would be considered on the brink of economic collapse. It’s hard for everyone to buy “moraly” if they are struggling with bigger personal issues. Don’t get me wrong, it would be awesome to be able to, but people’s livelihoods are just on the line. As good people, wouldn’t helping people who are having a tough time financially be a greater moral goal to achieve before this one? Just food for thought. Great article though!

  20. WOW!!! Are all of these food recipes found on your site?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Most of them are but not the cookies pictured with the almond milk (the almond milk is though) or the cherry pie. I don’t have the exact recipes for the flavoring in the ginger or peach-jalapeño kombucha but I have lots of other flavors and the kombucha itself. You can find all of my recipes in the recipe index tab at the top. Bon appétit! 🙂

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