Category: Low & Slow

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Day 4, Let’s Do Lunch!

Argh! Lunches! 

I actually hate packing lunches. I HAVE to do them the night before or it’s just utter chaos in the Scrap House of a morning. Silly really, I’ve been packing lunch for myself and others ever since I first left Grandma and Grandad Scraps house at  18. You’d think it’d be a doddle by now.

Thing is… work or school lunches are probably one of the easiest places to lower waste and save some monies.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I went to work one day  and didn’t pack my lunch because I have decided that just for one day a month I will treat myself and buy lunch from one of the cafe’s near the office. I budgeted for it out of my “mad money” (I might blog about how we budget one day) so it wasn’t a shock at all, but lunch cost me about $12. It wasn’t a fancy lunch either. A chicken schnitzel sandwich and a drink. It was nice. I was full afterwards and didn’t feel the need to snack at all between lunch and dinner. The archaeologist I work with also brought her lunch (a toasted wrap, some fries and a drink) for around the same price. We decided to take our lunches back to the office and eat in the conference room, so the woman at the cafe wrapped our schnitzel sandwich and toasted wrap in paper and put the fries in a bag (we both carry reusable coffee cups so no disposables there).

Not so bad I thought … but…. together our lunches cost about $25. I worked it out that if I worked 5 days a week (at the moment I’m only doing two but that will change next month when Uni finishes) and brought my lunch from a cafe every day at $12, thats $60 a week. Multiply that by 50 weeks and that’s a whopping $3,000 a year! Even more if Mr Scraps was doing the same… and more still if the Teens brought lunch from the Caf at their school every day!

I actually know families who do this. No wonder they’re broke despite earning decent wages.

Not only did it cost money but buying our lunch and bringing it back to the office also  left us with paper wrapping and paper bags. I know, paper is recyclable and compostable but….

When I bring my lunch from home in my own reusable container and make a coffee at work in my own cup it costs less than $5 (sometimes as little as $1 depending on what I pack). It also produces no packaging waste. That’s Zero Waste. 

Plus (if I’m doing it properly) it’s usually A LOT HEALTHIER than a schnitzel sandwich (I’m not giving them up completely though… I still love a good schnitty).But I quickly get bored of sandwiches and so do the Teens and Mr Scraps.

My work is actually great for zero waste lunches (I’ve blogged about our zero waste office before …you can read it here) and taking leftovers from last nights dinner is great but sometimes it’s nice to have something “special” just to break up the day. It makes the school or work day so much nicer if you know you have a great lunch to look forward to and you don’t have to worry about how much it’s going to cost you. So these are my must-haves for a great zero waste pack-up (I do ours the night before because … well you know…. mornings…) and at the bottom are some links to my current favourite pack-ups.

  • Drink/water bottles –  These are a must! I have a glass one because it sits on my desk but the Scrap kids have BPA free plastic ones because they get thrown about in school bags and dragged around the school oval at lunch time or during sports. I have a couple of spares tucked away in the back of the cupboard for those days someone forgets to bring theirs home.
  • Lunch Boxes –  I pack them up the night before. We have a collection. Plastic ones, wooden ones and metal ones. I like the Bento style ones with the little compartments. They get used for all sorts of things around here not just lunch, but we have lots because I like to cook extra stuff for the fridge or freezer so we can just grab-n-go. You don’t need a fancy box to put your lunch in though, just use whatever you have, an old Tupperware container  or reuse a takeaway box. The only rule about containers I have for the Scrap House is NEVER reheat anything in plastic (put it on a plate before you pop it in the microwave).
  • Jars – I’m really into food in a jar at the moment. So many things you can put in them Noodles, Oats, Salads, Soups and they look so pretty on Insta-stalk, That Pin Stuff  site and Face-lurk. It’s a good idea if you’re going to eat straight from the jar to have one with a wide mouth. They don’t have to be fancy mason jars either. We reuse old salsa and sauerkraut  jars. But anything you can put in a jar, you can put in an old Tupperware container…except maybe the soup (unless you’ve got a good lid).
  • A Thermos – we have a couple of those wide-mouthed ones and a tall skinny one for hot coffee or tea. A thermos for me is a must for fieldwork days and trips to the park with the Threenager. They’re awesome on cold winter days, but most people forget they’ll keep thing cool too! Just about anything you can put in a jar or lunchbox (that’s not a sandwich… although I haven’t tried it, maybe there’s a way) you can put in a thermos. Just remember if you’re going to eat straight from the thermos that you’ll probably need long-handled cutlery.
  • Beeswax or Vegan Wraps and Cloth Napkins – you can buy expensive wraps or make them yourself. I usually find that a napkin does the job, but beeswax or vegan wraps will act a bit more like cling-film. You don’t really need them if you have reusable containers. Its just handy to have something to wrap that sandwich or muffin in. I found the wrapper your butter comes in (wiped clean of course) is also a good alternative for small things.
  • Cutlery- You can get some lovely little “to-go” packs. The bamboo ones are cute, but the Scrap kids and I just grab flatware from the drawer. I brought some extra spoons and forks from the local op-shop a while ago (because someone will always leave one at school in their locker or in the dish drainer at work – although my work now has their own for us to use so I don’t need to take my own to the office anymore).

So  besides last nights leftovers, what do you pack in these things other than sandwiches?

There’s lots of “Lunch in a Jar” articles on the interwebs,and they’re not all for salad or noodles.Try here or here for ideas. And remember that anything you can put in a jar you can put in another container. But the jars look so damned pretty.

For times when I have access to a microwave, I like to cook up lasagne in small glasslock style containers. Just pop on the lid on when they’ve cooled and throw them straight in the freezer and pull them out on your way out the door. They make great “TV dinners” too for those nights when my meal plan doesn’t work, something unexpected comes up or I just can’t be bothered. Lasagne sheets are one of the few really cheap pasta options we can get here in a cardboard box, sometimes we make our own but we don’t always have the time (or the energy).

I also make pies for the freezer. I can get away with feeding the rest of the Scrap household almost anything if I wrap it in pastry. From scratch  I fry off some mince and onion, add some finely chopped veg and a little gravy then pop into pastry in the pie-maker that Mr Scraps found at a garage sale a few years ago (it makes four pies at a time before that I baked them in large muffin tins in the oven). More often though I make them from leftovers like vegetable curry, beef stew or homemade pasta sauce.

For winter,  soup is great for the thermos and it’s mega cheap if you make it at home! It does need to be heated up in the morning before popping it in the thermos though (unless you’ve got a super-duper on. I used too but the lid broke and I haven’t managed to find a replacement). There’s lots of soup recipes out there on the interwebs. I like to use up leftovers and veg scraps to make soup like my Carrot Top Soup. You can find a recipe here. Or I just throw some Scrap Stock in a pot, add veg and some shredded chicken, season well and you have chicken and veg soup.

For snacks (that aren’t fruit) we like – a little pot of dip or salsa with flatbread or veg like carrot or celery cut into sticks, Scrap to Snack MuffinsNot little Bear Biscuits, Banana Bread or  No Bake Museli Bars,

In an ideal world we’d have time to make everything from scratch and completely zero waste. it’s not an ideal world though so if you don’t have the time to cook from scratch (or your family are fussy eaters or  just plain out won’t eat homemade lunches) you can still do lower waste, cheap lunches. Just buy things in the biggest packets you can find to minimise packaging and keep the cost down. I sometimes do this with nuts or corn chips. Just dish them out into reusable containers  as  individual serves and recycle the packaging.

The challenge for today:  is to do a recipe book or internet trawl and find yourself (and anyone else you pack lunches for) some appetising pack-ups. Even if you are a stay at home mum without school kids and you’re packing snacks for a trip to the park with your baby or toddler, it doesn’t have to be boring.

 

Scraps to Snacks

That little bit of mash.

The green end of your spring onion.

The funny little end bit of the tomato that isn’t quite pretty enough for the salad.

The piece of ham that’s not quite big enough for a sandwich.

Or the stalkss off your spinach…

You could pop them in the scrap bucket for the Immortal Chicken.  You could save them in the freezer for scrap stock. You could just throw them in the compost… 

But did you ever think about turning them into Lunchbox friendly snacks?

Mini Potato Muffins

Makes 12 mini muffins. 

1/2 cup leftover potato (either already mashed or Mash it up with half a teaspoon of butter)
1 egg

2 tablespoons Self Raising Flour

A couple of tablespoons of anything else you like. The ones in the picture have 1/2 rasher of cooked bacon and the green end bits of a spring onion. Cheese is a nice edition or for adults a little Chilli.

Mix it all up really well. Spoon into a greased or lined mini muffin tin and bake at 180 C for about 15 minutes or until firm and slightly golden.
Cheesy Stuff Muffins

Mr Scraps loves these. I like them as a quick breakfast on the bus on the way to work. 

They’re really just a bacon and egg muffin with a scrappy twist. They’re also a great way to sneak some extra veg into the kids lunchbox. 
1 egg, 1 tablespoon grated cheese and 1 tablespoon self raising flour for every 2 muffin tin holes 

(ie to make 12 muffins you will need 6 eggs, 6 tablespoons flour and 6 tablespoons grated cheese).

Finely chopped leftover bits- the one pictured has spinach stalks, the end of a tom, the meat from a lone baked chicken wing, some green onion and a small piece of pumpkin.

Salt and pepper or herbs to taste.

Mix it all up really well, season to taste and spoon into a greased or lined muffin tin.

Bake at 180 C for about 20 minutes or until golden on top.

You can make these just with ham or bacon for egg and bacon muffins.

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Web Errors, War Rations and BOB Cabbage Pasta

It’s been an interesting week so far and it’s only Wednesday!

Those of you who visit here regularly and follow along on face-lurk may have noticed that there are several post missing from the site.

It seems we may have been hacked (either that …or an update went wrong …or  I pushed the wrong button somewhere along the line…which is entirely possible) and Kitchen Scraps went down. I thought for a moment (well, a whole day) that I’d lost her forever. But a clever IT person showed me how to restore a website from old data, and we’re back online… minus a few recent posts. I’ll try and get those rewritten from my notes and re-posted.

It’s taught me a valuable lesson – BACK UP & PROTECT YOUR DATA!

It’s one we all know and should take heed of but in this techno-gizmo world, seem to ignore or just plain forget about. It was (only) a blog that I almost lost forever, but imagine if it was something really important or of huge sentimental value, like your entire collection of family photos, your next best selling novel or all your financials…

Sadly, one of the posts that went bye-bye birdy was the one I wrote about putting my family on War Rations. If you left a comment or saved the link, I’m sorry to say it’s gone now… but a big thank you. There were so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions, it really is a shame they’ve evaporated into the cyber-ether.

The gist of it was that a lot of my favourite (as in the ones I face-lurk and insta-stalk) food gurus and bloggers believe (like me) that we shouldn’t be wasting food. They also believe that it shouldn’t be as ridiculously difficult or expensive to feed our families healthy nutritious meals.

One of my favourite blogs is written by Carolyn Eakins who recreates authentic World War 2 meals. It’s called the 1940s Experiment (my all time favourite modern era) and uses the principals of English wartime rationing to help control her weight and keep herself healthy. She’s not the only one calling for a return to the culinary habits of our immediate ancestors either Sarah Wilson, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall are just three others that come to mind.

Leonora Green  1941. Coupons Required.
Leonora Green 1941. Coupons Required. Image from the collection of the Imperial War Museum London.

The short of it is WW2 rationing saw people eating less sugar, less meat, less fat and more veg. They had to use everything because there was only so much available.This went for everything, not just food. In short, people were healthier,were far more frugal and wasted very, very little.

It sounds almost exactly what we’re trying to do here, right?!

While we’re not at war (although I’m guessing there’s a few world leaders who’d like us to be) and there’s no shortages of food here, I’ve really been embracing the principals of rationing this past few weeks. More veg, less meat and making sure we stick to a meal plan, shop only when really needed and (except for staples like rice, flour and dried beans,peas and lentils etc) using things up completely before running out to buy more.

As a result, I’ve come up with a few new “BOB” recipes (BOB stands for – BACK OF BOAT – those quick, simple, inexpensive  yet  totally delicious meals that can be eaten with one hand or out of a high sided bowl with just a fork or spoon while sitting on deck and lazily drifting on the ocean).

BOB CABBAGE PASTA

This is my take on the old braised cabbage that your mum or grandma might have made. Cabbage was big in England in WW2 because it could be grown at home. The Ministry of Food even issued instructions to housewives on how to cook cabbage in the most economical way. It was pretty much a staple here in Australia too because its cheap, nutritious and like other veg, wasn’t rationed.

Ministry of Food How to cook cabbage WW2 instructions
During WW2 England’s Ministry of Food issued leaflets informing people of the most economical way to cook cabbage.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a recipe for boiled cabbage. In fact there’s no boiling water required. Except for some chopping of ingredients, this literally takes minutes to make. It’s economical too. This makes enough to feed 6 of us as a main meal (or 4 with leftovers). It uses very little meat and only a little oil or butter. You can add additional veg or change out the bacon or chorizo for chicken, pork or you can leave it out altogether.

1 head of cabbage. shredded to the thickness of fettuccine or spaghetti noodles.

1 Onion finely sliced.

2 rashers of bacon finely diced

1 chorizo sausage finely diced

2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter (I like to use a tablespoon of each).

A sprinkle of chilli flakes or one finely diced chilli.

Any other veg you’d like to add finely shredded with a grater (zucchini is great, so is carrot or capsicum)

Salt and pepper to taste.

A large pan (I make this in the 20 Litre stainless steel pot I use to make stock, soup and stew. It has a tight fitting lid and if there’s leftovers, it fits straight onto the bottom shelf of our fridge).

Heat the oil/butter in the pan and add the bacon, chorizo, chilli and onion.

Saute a few moments until the onion is a little soft and starts to go translucent.

Add the cabbage and stir over a low heat until well combined and cabbage has softened but still has a little crunch.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve just put a generous serving in a bowl.

 

 

 

 

Living Low & Slow

We’ve had a few life changing moments in the past decade. Mr Scraps was injured in a workplace accident.Our household income took a major dive (due to Mr Scraps accident and my own decision to pursue an arts career and then further education rather than work in an industry that didn’t allow for much ‘family time’). We’ve lost family members, friends and mentors to cancer and other health related issues. We decided to have another child (the Threenager). Add to that, we got older and (hopefully) a little wiser.

We spent a decade in a weird kind of limbo after Mr Scraps was injured.Waiting for (or rather being bullied by) insurance companies to decide whether he was worth ‘fixing’, struggling to make ends meet, feed kids and have some sort of life (any sort) where we didn’t end up miserable, cynical, overweight and unhealthy.. 
I’m sure Mr Scraps will have his own view on it all, but I was terrified that I’d end up one of those grumpy gossipy old women you meet sometimes in line at the bank or the post office, you know, the ones that hate everyone and everything because somewhere along the line life handed them a rotten orange and they didn’t know that you could chuck the thing in the compost and go pick a new one.
Somewhere along the line we decided we didn’t want to live a rotten orange life. I’m not quite sure when. It may have been when we decided to add the Threenager to our brood, it might have even been before that or it may have been after… it doesn’t really matter when we decided, or even whether it was a conscious decision or not, it just matters (to us) that we did.

I call what we do living “Low & Slow“.

No, we’re not hippy tree-huggers living in a tiny house growing our own sprouts and vegan home-schooling our kids on bicycles (but if you are that’s so awesome and I’m a little jealous).


We live in a little rental house, don’t really garden (I try but I’ve literally killed a cactus in the past), I have a job (just started in my first graduate archaeology position), we live on lower than the Australian average household income, drive a car (it’s old but reliable and fits two adults, five kids, plus Scrap Cat and the Immortal Chicken if required), our kids play mainstream sports, we own a TV and a lot of DVD’s and love the fact that we have running water and air conditioning when its hot. All in all, we’re fairly “normal”.

But we do care about the kind of environment we’re leaving behind for our children and the attitudes that we pass on.

Living Low is really all about living with less … less waste, less cost, less environmental impact, less sugar, less chemicals, less fuss, less stress and less chance of developing any major health issues later on… 
Living with less takes some adjustment. It’s been an ongoing process and we’re still learning as we go.
What we have learned is that it’s not about never having any bills or never eating out at a restaurant ever again (we ate out over the weekend), but rather about knowing that you can pay those bills in a reasonable amount of time and have the occasional night out at a fancy restaurant without giving up any of life’s true necessities or having knots in your stomach when the waiter presents you with the bill.
By living low we’ve managed to get a little fitter, to live within our means and actually enjoy it. We’ve also learned to focus on experiences rather than things.
Living Slow is about taking the time to actually enjoy life without the hustle.
It’s not about being lazy and doing nothing, or being so perfectly organised that nothing ever goes wrong. I still go to work and do university, Mr Scraps still runs the Teens to and from sports practice, the Uni-Student works two jobs.
What it does mean is being able to take a breath between activities and appreciate the little things in life, like ten minutes in the sun with a pot of tea. 

It means being able to leave the stress of work or university or whatever else you do at the place where you do it (I know, easier said than done for some of us). It means choosing what’s important for you and your family and making it a priority, actually putting it into your schedule rather than just dreaming about it.


It’s not about living in you’re own little insular dream bubble, but making real connections, with family and with community. It’s also about appreciation. Appreciation for those connections, for the environment and about finding joy in the simple things.

For us it’s also about conscious,sustainable living. About taking the time to learn how things work and where they come from or even making them ourselves.
And there’s also indulgence, in travel, in natural, wholesome foods and in new experiences….

All in all, it’s a mindset that defines who we are and how we choose to live.
How would you define the way you live ( or want to)?