Waste Free Feb – Day 9 – Plastic Free Fruit & Vegetables

Over the last 8 days I have given tips and advice on how to recycle as much as possible – I find that this is often the best place to start as it doesn’t involve much change.

When you have got on top of your recycling the next thing to focus on is to reduce the amount of plastic/packaging you buy in the first place.

A good place to start is with fruit & vegetables.

Our First Abel & Cole Fruit Box

There are numerous options for buying plastic free fruit and vegetables, these include:

  • Visiting your local market – they often sell ‘by the bowl’ and will tip each bowl into your own bags if asked.
  • Ordering a veg box – we order our fruit & vegetables from Abel & Cole but I have also heard good things about Riverford. Both use the least amount of plastic they can and you return the boxes for reuse.
  • Buying loose produce at the supermarket using reusable produce bags – We have the bags pictured below and they are brilliant – they are strong and have a tag attached so you can stick the price label on if you have pre-weighed. We keep these in the car in case we need to nip in for any extra fruit or veg.

Another obvious way to reduce plastic packaging is to grow your own.

Do you have space for a fruit tree in the garden or in a pot on the patio? Maybe you could grow runner beans on trellis up your fence or have a courgette plant on the edge of a flower bed? Lettuce leaves and herbs are perfect for large pots on your patio.

Generally speaking fruit, veg and herbs are easy to grow and you can have your own organic plastic free produce on your doorstep.

The easiest things to grow (in my opinion) are:

  • Lettuce leaves
  • Courgette
  • Runner / French beans
  • Carrots
  • Raspberries (drape a net over them before they go red).

If you don’t have space to grow – look out for an allotment and if you don’t have time, look for people selling their surplus produce at the end of their gardens.

Waste Free Feb – Day 8 – Reducing Food Waste

One area of waste that became more and more apparent as we recycled more was food waste. To some extent it is inevitable that there will be some waste as we are a family of 5 and the children don’t always clear their plates.

Composting

The first thing we did was to set up a compost bowl in the kitchen for our of our fresh fruit and vegetable peelings/waste. We are lucky to have a garden big enough that we can have a compost heap. Reusing these scraps by composting them to make rich compost for the garden is definitely a win:win situation!.

Other things you can compost are:

  • Small amounts of brown cardboard
  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Grass clippings
  • Hair
  • Hedge clippings
  • Leaves
  • Bedding from small pets (gerbils, hamster etc) – will mostly be wood shavings.
  • Old plants (not weeds).

We have tried different methods of storing compost before it goes out to the heap and we have found our favourite is to have a large bowl and line with a sheet of newspaper and store on a shelf in the freezer. By doing this we have no issue with the bowl getting dirty, no smells and most importantly in the summer – no flies!

Reducing Food Waste

We meal plan our evening meals and our lunches tend to be leftovers or sandwiches/crackers. This means that we more what we need only and ensure we do not have fresh food that will not be used. When cooking food I do tend to cook a big batch in one go and then put the leftovers into individual pots ready to be eaten. I also stack these pots in the fridge with the oldest at the front so they are being eaten in the right order.

Its good to check your fridge every few days to see if anything needs using up. Sometimes I’ll move some containers of soup or chilli into the freezer so that I can have an omelette or salad for the next few days to use up the fresh things. Having a freezer is an amazing asset to avoid food waste!

If you don’t use a lot of bread, you can store your bread in the freezer and just remove a couple of slices at a time as needed.

Love Food Hate Waste have an amazing website full of information on how to avoid food waste. It really is worth checking out.

For the leftovers that are left on plates that cant be re-eaten there are a few options – a Bokashi bin, a Green Johanna bin or a Wormery. We haven’t taken this step yet but it is something we are considering for the future.

Give your surplus food away!

If you do have too much of something and you know you won’t use it – give it away. There are many options:

  • For dry food that is in date – give to your local food bank collection point.
  • For fresh food – offer to your family & friends.
  • For any food – offer on the Olio app for people in your local community.


Vegan Breakfast – Homemade Porridge

I am dipping my toe into the world of eating vegan. I have decided to eat as vegan as possible mainly for health reasons but also for environmental reasons.

I first thought that ‘being vegan’ would be ridiculously difficult and I would feel like I am depriving myself all of the time. However once I looked into it I realised that there are so many choices!

Today I started the day with vegan porridge – this was made simply with:

1/2 a cup of porridge oats and 1 cup of oat milk – heat for about 2-3 minutes or until thick enough.

It is literally that simple!

To make the basic vegan porridge more tasty, try one of these 5 different combinations to add taste and texture:

  • A spoon of peanut butter, a chopped banana and a few walnuts (put in before heating).
  • Some sliced apple, a few chopped dates and a sprinkle of cinnamon (put in before heating).
  • Some chopped dried apricots and sprinkle of ginger (put in before heating).
  • After heating add some blueberries and chopped strawberries.
  • For a treat once cooked add a square of vegan dark chocolate (THIS is my favourite) and some sultanas.

I had the peanut butter, banana & walnut porridge this morning and is was simply delicious – complete comfort food. It was definitely a good choice to banish the winter blues away. I made this in my big Emma Bridgewater Pasta Bowl – one of my favourites.

I will be adding some more Vegan Breakfasts soon, so come back to find some more inspiration.

NB: If you purchase via the links on this page I will get a very small % which goes towards the running costs of this website. This is not a sponsored post and I have no links with the owner of the product. It really is a product that I have and use and would like to recommend.

The Busy Week Healthier Meal Plan

In our family my husband works long hours, I work every day and we have three small children and a dog. Add in the fact that we both volunteer on committees, exercise regularly, have hobbies and the children do after school clubs and our weeks can get pretty busy. Having a good solid routine (that is habit) helps tremendously but some weeks an extra deadline or commitment can tip the balance and I need to focus on that and not spending lots of time in the kitchen.

Here is my version of a healthy eating meal plan when you are time short but wanting to still eat well.

NB: I normally try to make as much myself as possible in part to avoid excessive single use plastic. In weeks like this I have to put that desire to the side so that I can focus on health first. I am no health expert (clearly! haha) – this is just what we do instead of getting takeaways or buying lots of processed food and whilst it is far from perfect it is better than the take out option.

Mon – V – Vegetable stir fry

Buy a bag of stir fry vegetables and cook as per instructions on bag. At the same time boil a pan of water and put in a nest of medium egg noodles per person. Either add a sachet of stir fry sauce to the veggies or just add a splash of soy sauce and a sprinkle of Chinese 5 spice. Drain noodles, mix with veggies and serve.

Tue – F – Omega 3 Fish Finger Sandwiches

Cook Fish Fingers as per instructions on pack, serve in wholemeal or granary bread with lots of spinach and salad leaves.

Wed – V – Pesto Pasta loaded with Vegetables

I get a big pan out, chuck in some wholemeal pasta and an equal amount of frozen vegetables (green beans, peas, broccoli, spinach etc). Cook until the pasta is just cooked through and then drain. Mix with half a jar of red pesto and half a tub of soft cheese. Serve as it is or with a handful of salad leaves (from a bag) on the side.

Thu – F – Sardines on toast

Toast some wholemeal or granary bread. Add a tin of mashed up Sardines (the ones in tomato or spicy sauce are the best), sprinkle with a bit of grated cheese (buy pre grated if you have no time) and grill until it is warmed through and a little crispy on top.

My children normally have beans on toast instead of this – I am still working on convincing them…!

Fri – P – Chicken Wraps (or quorn if veggie)

Grab a bag of  frozen chicken strips/pieces, add some frozen sliced peppers – fry off and add the other half of the jar of red pesto (and a little water if too dry). Eat in wholemeal wraps with salad (from a bag if no time to prep).

Sat – V – Vegetable Soup & granary bread.

Either buy a fresh tub of soup from the supermarket (take caution though as they often have lots of salt and sugar) or buy a bag of diced sweet potato and butternut squash, put it in a pan, add a handful of frozen diced onion, two vegetable stock cubes and cover with water. Boil until cooked. Eat as it or blitz with a hand blender (you can make it less thick by adding more water).

Sun – P – Chicken Dinner

Put some chicken breasts in the oven (covered with foil) to cook. On the hob cook a selection of frozen vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans etc. Microwave a bag of frozen mashed potato. Once all cooked, serve with instant gravy.

Quick Healthy Snacks for the week (aside from fruit) can be:

Carrot batons (bought in a bag) with houmous or soft cheese.

Dried mango with a natural yoghurt ‘dip’.

Malt loaf slices.

Fruit toast lightly buttered.

Make it more guilt free:

To make it slightly more eco friendly make sure you check if the plastic bags are recyclable with carrier bags (a lot say on the back of the bag). One quick way to check is if the bag is stretchy (and not black) then it is likely to be able to be recycled. Save these up in a carrier bag and take to your local carrier bag recycling point (check your supermarket) or hand back to a delivery driver if you get online shopping. Also most plastic punnets can now be recycling along with the normal cardboard etc – check your local council for more info.

Healthier Lunchbox Treats & Snacks

As I have been living more consciously and reflecting on how I want to live my life, one of the areas that I have been working on is trying to reduce the amount of plastic we purchase as well as eating healthier.

One good way I thought to do this was to bake healthier items for lunchboxes and snacks instead of reaching for the sugar filled cereal bars and biscuits.

This week I have made:

Flapjack Cakes (recipe from The Savvy Shoppers Cookbook)

These are really easy to make and also nice and filling. The recipe makes 16 squares which are a perfect size for lunch boxes or a mid morning snack. I have never successfully made flapjacks so I am glad to have found an easy recipe that I can bake which is healthy and not as sweet as flapjacks are.

The other item I have baked this week is the Apple & Cinnamon Loaf Cake (from A Girl Called Jack recipe book).

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This is so soft and moreish – a firm favourite in our house!

I normally try to bake two healthier items each weekend and they last for lunchboxes during the week. If I am feeling really organised I will cook double and freeze half so I can have a weekend off.

These get put in reusable tubs in my children’s lunchboxes and so this avoids lots of plastic wrappers from cereal bars and biscuits which is an added bonus!

Buying less single use plastic is really important to me, it is such a huge task so I am approaching it by trying to swap one thing at a time.

Healthy Meal Plan 1

I am going to share some of the meal plans I have used as I find sometimes seeing other peoples meals can provide ideas and inspiration.

As a rule of thumb I try to have two fish based meals (F), a minimum of two vegetarian meals a week (V), two poultry based meals (P) and one other (O). I made this decision as we were eating quite a lot of red meat and I know that this is something we should cut back on and we also were not eating enough fish.

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My Meal Plan – This was for the first week in January.

Mon – V – Homemade Tomato & vegetable pasta (using up mushrooms, courgette and green beans from the fridge).

Tue – F – Homemade Mackerel curry rice – using tinned mackerel (The Savvy Shopper Cookbook)

Wed – P – Homemade chicken super noodles + veg sticks (The Savvy Shopper Cookbook)

Thu – O – Quiche, new potatoes & salad

Fri – O – Homemade Macaroni cheese, with bacon, green beans, mushroom & courgette (pictured) (A Girl Called Jack Recipe Book)

Sat – V – Naan Bread Pizzas – using courgette, mushroom, pepper, baked beans and cheese

Sun – V – Crackers, Cheese, Veg Sticks, Chutneys (using up the Christmas food)

I have a few cookbooks that I come back to again and again for cheap, healthy, tasty but most importantly quick to make recipes. These are:
The Savvy Shopper’s Cookbook
A Girl Called Jack – 100 Delicious Budget Recipes
Cooking on a Bootstrap
Feeding Kids – The Netmums Cookery Book
If I use these recipes during my meal plan I will note next to them which book I’ve used.