IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Groceries!

When you live in rural New South Wales, you can’t buy much in your own Mason jar.

I kept seeing pictures like this posted by people I Insta-Stalk & Face-Lurk and felt sad that my grocery hall so rarely looks as pretty as this.

In fact, until I read Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home and Amy Korst’s The Zero Waste Lifestyle, I didn’t actually know what a Mason Jar was. But they made it all seem so easy.

Just shop for groceries at your local bulk store with reusable containers and bags, and you’re set! Unfortunately, our little Australian village (population approximately  2,500) is not nearly as advanced as San Francisco when it came to shopping options, no bulk stores.  The only local bulk store local to us is a 30-40  minute drive away.

For years we’ve use calico bags when grocery shopping and I’ve always brought our veg from farmers markets or loose from the supermarket when ever I can, but in other areas  I’ve  struggled to minimise my family’s packaging waste, sometimes driving long distances between farms, markets, and small businesses in neighbouring communities to seek out minimal or refillable packaging. All that driving isn’t terribly sustainable and it took up huge chunks of time.

Most of all, it was discouraging. I was reading all these eco- friendly-sustainable-zero-waste-money-saving- organic-hippy- blogs and to be honest, felt like either I was completely useless, or that they were completely out of touch with the real world! All these amazing urban bloggers I was following really didn’t  grasp how challenging zero-waste living can be for rural dwellers here in Australia, and probably everywhere else too. In fact, sometimes it felt like they were being quite preachy or condescending.  I hate that. It makes me angry.

Then I found a blog post by Zero-Waste guru  Kathryn Kellogg.

I just wish that more of the zero-waste conversation considered that the majority of us actually don’t live in areas where Zero Waste is an easy option. If only everyone could be so encouraging and try to help everyone figure out alternative solutions that lower our waste (both food and packaging) without either a putting major dent in our budget or increasing our environmental footprint by driving all over the earth to find un-packaged goods.

Not everyone is going to be able to achieve a  ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, but we can all still be make a difference and influence our community retailers to move in a greener direction.

So, what should you do if there are no reusable-friendly bulk stores around?

According to Kellogg, you start by asking yourself some questions:

1. Can it be made from scratch?

There are a lot of things we buy automatically in stores that are easy to make at home, such as pasta sauce, hummus, guacamole, pancake mix, vinaigrette, bread and muffins. Learn how to make them. If you live in the country making up a batch of muffins takes less time than driving to the store, and it’s cheaper too.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with ducking into the local bakery with your old pillow case or calico bag and buying a fresh loaf of bread or yummy muffin. We actually have an awesome little country bakery down the road so I do this often myself. And of all the stores I’ve ever tried to buy “zero-waste” from, bakeries have definitely been the easiest.

2. Can you buy it in a returnable container?

Some dairies offer milk and yogurt in returnable glass containers. You pay a deposit up front that’s reimbursed or transferred to your next purchase. Usually these are smaller-scale, privately-owned dairies that sell a better product. I haven’t found one here, but there’s an olive farm up the road that refills my 4 Litre oil tin every few months (we actually have two tins, one in the cupboard and an empty in the car that we fill when whenever we happen to be passing that way).

3. Is it available in compostable packaging?

Always go for paper if you can because it’s biodegradable. This is especially easy for baking supplies, like flour, sugar, chocolate, and cornstarch. Some pasta and chip brands come in cardboard.

4. Does it come in paper, glass or metal?

Kellogg is a big fan of glass, since it’s entirely recyclable – and it’s one of those few items that’s so costly to produce that recyclers and companies are willing to pay for recycling  (sadly it may have become so expensive here in Australia that a lot of it doesn’t get recycled at all so we’re now trying to avoid or reuse glass jars instead of dropping them in the recycling bin. If glass is recycled in your area though, you can buy most condiments, oils, and vinegar in glass bottles. I recently also found sliced beetroot at the local IGA supermarket in glass.

Metal is also a better option than plastic, as it’s more readily recycled. Just be cautious of BPA (plastic) in can linings.

We tend to buy things in paper or cardboard whenever possible because its not only recycled here, but is compost-able. We buy our flour, pasta, sugar (very, very rarely), baking soda and oats in boxes or paper packaging in the largest quantity we can find or comfortably store. Boxes go in the recycling and paper gets shredded for the Immortal Chicken’s bedding before becoming compost. Just watch out for hidden plastic bags inside food boxes. If you give the box a bit of a shake or gentle squeeze you can usually hear if there’s one in there, but I’ve been caught out a few times with speciality flours and cereals.

5. Can you buy it in bulk?

Buying in bulk is always a good idea to save money (as long as you can eat it), but it’s especially smart if plastic packaging is the only option. Buy the biggest bag you can, like Kellogg did: “We bought a 25lb bag of rice when we first moved to California that lasted two years. That alone saved 25 plastic-wrapped rice bags!”.

We do this for things like cheese, nuts, coffee beans since they keep for a while either in airtight jars or the freezer.

The important thing here is not to let perfection impede your progress.

There are ways to reduce waste, even if they’re not as picture-perfect as the book authors and bloggers  world would like you to think. I mean, if it was really sooo easy everyone would be doing it and they wouldn’t be selling any books would they?

So for today’ s challange:

No matter where you live, next time you go shopping try and swap at least one item that you buy on a regular basis for a less waste producing option.

For example, we started buying a different brand of dry pasta some time ago because it comes in a cardboard box instead of a plastic bag. Bonus is, it actually tastes better than the other brand and doesn’t cost anymore than what we used to buy when its “on special”. We also like cheese and as a family eat quite a lot of it , so I stated buying it in 1kg blocks and cutting it into quarters for the freezer (or I wrap it in a beeswax wrap and pop it in the back of the fridge) instead of buying just enough for the week. Again it costs less, but it also means that instead of 52 plastic wrappers per year being washed and going off to Redcycle, there’s only about 12 and I always have some on hand when I need it.

IT’S ZERO WASTE WEEK! Let’s Talk Recycling

Did you know that September 4th - 8th is International Zero Waste Week?
Are you ready for a challenge?

The first Monday in September marks the beginning of International Zero Waste week.

What is it?

Well, it's this awesome little grassroots campaign that started nearly a decade ago. It aims to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of the waste we produce. And it's growing. It started as a UK thing, but now its gone international with individuals, businesses and communities from 72 countries joining in.

Drop into this blog from Monday the 4th September 2017 for a bit of a chat and a simple challenge every day of the week to commemorate such an important cause for waste awareness.

Now let's talk recycling!

In a perfect  Zero Waste world we wouldn't need recycling at all! Everything would either be 100 % compost-able or reusable.

Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world and probably never will be, but we can all do our bit and in the Scrap household it all began with recycling.

We've always composted what we can and for a long time we've had at least one chicken to eat our kitchen scarps, but we haven't always had the lovely yellow recycling bin provided by local council.

It's awesome! At first you could only put paper, glass and metal in them, but these days they take all sorts of plastics too. Only thing is, while our Red Bin rarely goes out our Yellow Bin has often been overflowing!

The Red & Yellow Bins supplied by local council. We also have a Green Bin for organic waste

Where we live the Red Bin is  the landfill bin and the Yellow Bin is for curbside recycling. We also have a Green Bin that you can put organics in - things like grass clippings, bones, dog poop, kitchen waste, tissues, paper towel, pizza boxes - which goes off to a commercial compost facility.

Now it's great that so much waste is being diverted from landfill, and except for a few things we just can't buy plastic free here (milk) most of what fills our  Yellow Bin is paper, glass and the odd tin can or bit of aluminium foil. But with all the media lately about glass not actually being recycled in Australia, perhaps we should all be doing a little more to reduce not only what goes into landfill but what goes into recycling as well.

There's also a lot of confusion as to what actually can be recycled. For example, for years I was guilty of thinking that the paper cups you get your takeaway coffee in could be recycled because they're paper. How wrong I was. Here in Australia we're told you can put those cardboard tetra packs (the kind you take camping with your UHT milk and juice in or buy your fancy nut-milks in) but in most cases, they don't actually get recycled at all, instead they just get diverted to landfill. This costs recycling companies money and I can't be sure but things like this  may be part of the reason it costs so much to recycle things like glass and companies turn to cheaper imports from overseas.

     Not all glass is being recycled in Australia due to the cost!

So the challenge for today- find one thing in your home that you think might be recyclable, but you're not sure and find out if it actually is (and perhaps if it is, that it actually gets recycled in your area).

Oh, and once you've found out don't forget to send it off for recycling.

If you can't put it  in your curbside bin find out if your local council has a facility that will take it or (if it is small enough) post it off to somewhere that does.

   Pulling apart an old mattress for recycling

For example: We had an old innerspring mattress hanging around that has moved house with us several times because I couldn't find somewhere locally that recycled them and didn't want to send it to landfill (I wasn't even sure they were recyclable and I thought I'd eventually work out how to do something cool with it). Turns out, after a Dr. Google search that if you pull it apart, just about all of the components are recyclable, reusable or compost-able.

In some places old mattresses can be dropped off at recycling centres or bedding shops - Here's how they're recycled.

 

To kick it off - I've made a list of places in Australia where you can send those recyclables that can't go into your regular curbside recycling. I'll be adding more as I find them.

You can find it here on the Scrappy Links page.

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.

 

Homemade Paste Cleaner

Back in 1995 we discovered that the Uni Student, at the time a gorgeous little bundle of gurgling joy, was allergic to stuff. Things like washing powder, scented soap, perfume and other household cleaners caused pretty violent skin reactions. So we went on the hunt for alternatives.

In our search we found lots of “eco”, “natural” and “green’ products. Most of them overpriced and many containing just as many irritating ingredients as .their chemical counterparts. Big lesson here was that just because something is “natural” doesn’t automatically qualify it as “safe” or “good”.

Then my mother found a book and posted it to me for my birthday (we were living in Adelaide at the time and she was on the farm at Burraja in rural New South Wales). It was called It’s so Natural by a fellow called Alan Hayes. It’s still available I think. Give it a search through DR Google and see if you can find it. And that was how I started making most of our household cleaners and many of our personal care  products.

I did hang onto a few of my favourite commercially made products though and one of them is Gumption.


For those of you who’ve never come across it before, Gumption is a white paste sold in a tub that you rub onto dirty surfaces with a cloth. Its great for enamel stove tops, baths and basins, stainless steel pots and pans, dirty bathroom tiles and so many other things. It’s pretty low irritant too and all the safety and environmental information I can find on it says it’s completely safe to use.

So I kept using it, until recently that is. I went to our little local supermarket the other day to find that the price has jumped significantly. On “special” it was almost $6 AU a tub. Granted I hadn’t brought any for a while, I tend to stock up on these sorts of things when I find them at bargain prices and only replace them once they’ve run out, but that seems a little steep for a simple tub of goo.

Surely it could be made at home. While there are no ingredients at all listed on the tub, the information I can find on the interwebs informs us that it’s a mild abrasive with a surficant (soap) and a little peroxide or bleach (I think). I asked over on the Kitchenscraps Face-lurk page and a few of our followers provided links to either similar commercial products and a couple of recipes used by other bloggers. Armed with this info I did a quick rummage through the pantry and laundry cupboards, set to work experimenting with a few different mixes and finally came up with this one. It works a treat.

Homemade Cleaning Paste

1 cup bicarb soda (baking soda)

1/2 cup washing soda (the powdery kind, not the big crystals)

1/3 cup hot water

2 Tablespoons grated soap

1/4 Teaspoon essential oil

1 Tablespoon fine grained salt.(optional – great for tiles but probably not so great on delicate surfaces).

In a bowl mix together all the dry ingredients except the soap. In a separate bowl or jug dissolve the soap in the hot water. Mix the soapy water into the dry ingredients, adding the essential oil. Put into a  wide mouth jar or container (I used an old plastic honey tub) and when needed scoop a small amount out with a rag and gently rub onto surface in a circular motion. Wipe off with a damp cloth.

Note: It should be a thick smooth paste. If it’s dry and crumbly, add more water. If it’s really runny, add more bicarb soda, a little at a time. A 1/4 teaspoon of essential oil is about 20 drops, I used 10 drops each of tea tree and eucalyptus. You can use any oil you like or you could easily leave this out and it would probably work just as well, it just wouldn’t smell as nice.

I tested it out on our grubby stove top and one of my old cast iron enameled pots that had burnt custard stuck on the bottom. 


This cost next to nix to make, does a great job and gets bonus points because it eliminates one more piece of disposable plastic packaging from our household.
 

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.

.

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.

 

 

 

 

I dropped the ball….

Actually, more like sat on it and it went “POP!!”.

My new job, a bit of extra training, full time study, sample knitting, blogging, cooking, cleaning, family…. and for the last month I haven’t seriously kept track of our household budget, cleaned the house properly.

I will say, Mr Scraps does his bit, he’s great at keeping the washing to a manageable level, wrangling the Threenager and driving myself and the Teens to and fro, but there’s some things his bit doesn’t cover. Mostly because of his physical limitations but also partly because (should I say it? because he’s a mere male?) it just doesn’t register for him.

Grotty shower floors, dishwasher smells because the filter hasn’t been emptied, scummy stuff on the inside of the washing machine, groceries, cooking, the electric and gas bills are my domain.

I’m afraid I have to admit that this last few weeks I haven’t managed to keep any of it totally under control.

I’ve done the basics.

The kids all have clean clothes…oops that was Mr Scraps (I just folded and put away or rather threw on the Teens bed and demanded they put it away… needless to say most of their clothes are probably safely stored in what I call their “floor-drobes”).

Everyone is fed.. yes I did this but we’ve been eating frozen leftovers and fake-aways for the past week.

The recycling is piling up in the laundry (Not the stuff that goes in the curbside recycle bin but all the other bits and pieces like soft plastics, old store cards and unwanted books or clothes that I usually drop off on my way to work, post in or organise for someone else to drop off when they’re travelling via a drop-off point).

We all have clean bed sheets, the kitchen benches and the loo are clean … but everything else is… well… meh.

And last week I brought wine IN A BOX! the kind with the baggy thing inside and the plastic poury nozzle… in my defence it was nice wine that Mr Scraps and I quite enjoyed and I am recycling the baggy thing and putting the nozzle in the curbside recycling because its hard plastic and I think? (hope? that maybe?) it is recyclable.

But I’m human and far from the super organised eco-warrior superhero I’d like to be. I have a bunch of kids, a casual job, I study full-time, have an extended family etc etc.. It’s not an excuse it’s just, well..life.

In short, this week I achieved NOTHING! ZIP! ZILCH! NAHDAH!

I’m behind on a sample knit for a yarn company I absolutely adore, I haven’t finished implementing the changes to my honours project that my supervisor suggested two weeks ago, I have a whole bunch of revisions to do on a report for work that’s taken me a way longer to write up than it probably should of and another one that should probably be at least half finished now that isn’t and the Threenager ate toast with peanut butter for dinner tonight because I didn’t feel like arguing over food …

And you know what, it’s completely okay… 

The  skinny of it is – I’m human and life happens. Life happens a lot.

In fact life gets in the way of a lot of things.

I originally started this blog thinking that I would share all my wonderful low cost, low sugar, low waste household and budget recipes and tips with you all, but instead it’s turned out to be about a whole lot more…life as a whole…warts and all… and guess what…?

It’s messy and disorganised most of the time and that’s more than okay.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you drop the ball and buy that plastic wrapped product, put your apple cores in the compost instead of saving them for homemade vinegar, let the shower scum take over the bathroom this month because you were just too  busy or exhausted to clean or forgot to take your list when you went grocery shopping… it’s okay.

Nobody’s perfect. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the “things”. We all have limits to how much we can physically achieve in a day and we all  (us mums especially) need to stop placing ridiculous expectations of perfection on ourselves. 

We’re all going to drop the ball sometimes.. and that’s totally okay.

Have you “dropped the ball” lately? Feel free to leave a comment and tell us all about it..
 

Sunday Scraps – I’m Famous! And No Bake Muesli Bars

Well that’s another week done and dusted. I had two days at work (which I wrote a little about here), a meeting with my thesis supervisor on Friday that went well and was treated to dinner on Thursday night (roast beef and veg with a lemony desert from a restaurant in town).  The Elder Teen has just finished his first week at shearing school on a local farm and Mr Scraps has finally started photographing some of our shed junk to list on Ebay.

My dishwasher tablet recipe was re-blogged twice this week. Once by someone who has been reading my posts here and once after I was approached by someone through Facebook after I left a comment on a post in a sustainable living group. Mr Scraps informs me that I am now officially famous and should start offering my services as an “expert” on TV talk shows You know like those people they get on to tell you how to feed your family for $10 a day on what equates to $50 worth of corporate sponsored ingredients.

I think I might just stick to archaeology a while longer before I start asking for a dressing room with my name on it.

I didn’t keep exact track of what we all ate this week as the Elder Teen was fed by the shearing school,  the Younger Teen had three days of cooking for Food Technology at school  and we ate out Thursday night. Between this and sports training running later than usual two nights this week I didn’t do a whole lot of cooking and we mainly ate the meals I had stashed in the freezer.

HINT:  for busy families the freezer can be your best friend.  Whenever there’s leftovers  divide them up into meal sized portions and stash them in the freezer. It’s great for really busy  days, when something unexpected crops up and your meal plan goes out the window, that week when you can’t (or don’t want to) get to the shops or just when you can’t be bothered cooking. Just pull out of the freezer, heat and eat. We call it Dinner Bingo! Our version of the old frozen TV dinners, but yummier and without the packaging.

We had both the Eldest and the Uni Student home for the weekend which was lovely.  To keep everyone feed I made a quick pot of Veg Soup Friday night using whatever veg was hanging around in the bottom of the fridge (this week it was carrots zucchini, onion and cabbage) and two containers of our homemade Scrap Stock from the freezer flavoured with the rinds from some Parmesan cheese I had saved. The cheese rind  was suggested by the Archaeologist I work with and she was right, it was delicious.

I also whipped up a batch of these yesterday.

They literally take ten minutes ( plus some time to set) and if there’s any leftover they’ll go into school / work lunchboxes during the week.

I make them low sugar by using rice malt syrup, really dark chocolate chips (which is really 85% cocoa chocolate chopped up small and kept in a jar in the pantry) and this time just a sprinkling of sultanas because I found some hiding forgotten in a container in the back of the cupboard but you can literally add whatever you like or even leave them plain.

I love a versatile, throw it all in the bowl and mix recipe. These are  dairy and egg free and could easily be gluten free if you made them with gluten free oats.

No Bake  Muesli Bars

2 tablespoons chia seed

6 tablespoons water

1 & 1/2 cups oats

1 cup oat flour (this is just oats ground until fine and powdery. I use my mortar and pestle but you could use a blender).

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup nut butter (peanut, almond, cashew etc)

1/4 cup rice malt syrup ( or you could use honey or maple syrup)

1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

1 cup of add-ons  –  for this batch I used 1/2 cup of chopped cashews & almonds, and 1/2 cup chocolate chips & sultanas, but you can use anything you like.

To make mix the chia seeds with water and let sit while you pop the oats, oat flour and coconut into a bowl and mix well.

In a saucepan over a low heat warm your coconut oil, rice malt syrup and nut butter until melted and we’ll combined. Let cool for a few minutes then stir in the chia seed/water mix. Mix into your oat/coconut mix adding your cup of add-ons.

Once well combined  pop the mix into a tray lined with paper (or I use a wax wrap). Press down really firmly and pop into the fridge for an hour or so to set (or the freezer for half an hour if you have a Threenager/ Teens/Mr Scraps who don’t like waiting).

When firm, slice into bars. This made  12  about the same sized as those commercially made individually wrapped muesli bars but you can cut them any size you like.

These will last at least two weeks in a container in the fridge. They are quite soft but will hold up okay in a lunch box as long as the weather isn’t too warm ( coconut oil has a tendency to return to liquid on a hot summer day).

Hints: This is really versatile – add a splash of vanilla,  any chopped fruit you desire or even some chopped marshmallows. You could add things like fresh berries or other fruit  but just be aware this will shorten the shelflife of your bars a little and you may need to add a few more oats to soak up any excess moisture.

My Awesome Zero Waste Work Week 

As I’ve already mentioned, I started a new job at the end of last month. It’s been awesome so far. A huge learning curve because I’ve spent over a decade either self-employed or studying and the whole process is still a little alien yet.

I’m only doing a few days a week, so plenty of time to work on my thesis and get things done at home and I’m getting paid to work with people who love the same thing I do… Archaeology!

But another totally awesome thing about my new job is that nobody in the office thinks my efforts to avoid and reduce waste are weird.

It’s a Zero Waste friendly office!

Those of you who face-lurk or insta-stalk me might have already seen my post on Wednesday night about packing my salad in a jar for Thursday’s lunch at work. I didn’t grab a photo but the one of the Ecologists brought his soup in a jar and the Archaeologist I work with regularly brings her smoothies in a jar.

There’s a kitchen…  So we can bring our lunch and snacks ( less waste and way cheaper than buying lunch each day). They keep a filter jug in the fridge so there’s always fresh water to fill your water bottle and a compost basket under the sink for green waste ( our local council supplies them and the bio-bags as part of their Halve Waste program). 

There’s tea and coffee too so no need to get take-out coffee but if you’re heading out to do fieldwork or travel for client meetings everyone has one of these:

And the bathroom is low waste eco-friendly too… 

There’s “unpaved towels”  for hand-drying and eco-friendly Who Gives a Crap loo roll and tissues. I don’t know who is washing the towels. I keep forgetting to ask, but I’m pretty sure it’s done by  the Zerowaste fairy (like the tooth fairy but he/she cleans stuff instead of giving you monies.

It’s not a completely paperless office but the bulk of our work is done on the computer and scrap paper is reused before going into the recycling bin. Any soft plastics are taken home (this week by myself)  to be dropped into a Redcycle bin (nearest one to us at the moment is at the Chiltern Post Office ( the Teens go there twice a week for sports training so it’s not out of the way).

Imagine if every office did these things…

 

Sunday Scraps – How we prep for the week ahead and what we ate this week

A big part of living low and slow is having routines, rituals and habits. No we don’t run around naked in the woods making sacrifices to the Slow Gods (although that might be fun) but we do have some things that we do on weekends that make life just a little bit simpler for the rest of the week. 

The last two weeks have been school holidays here so I must admit that routine did pretty much go out the window but we’re getting back on track now.

Our Weekend Routines

It’s tempting to sit around and be lazy over the weekend, especially when the weather is really nice (or particularly awful) but we I find that if we perform a few little rituals we can handle just about anything the coming week throws at us.

The Bed Sheet Ritual. 

Change all the bedsheets. We don’t necessarily wash them the same day but at least get them all changed so we start the week fresh. This only takes about 20 minutes if everyone does their own bed.

The Ritual Cleaning of the Sports Uniform

Takes a second or two to dump all the sports uniforms and training gear in the machine and five minutes to hang them up ( inside on a clothes horse if the weather is bad).

The Uniform Ritual

Goes hand in hand with the Cleaning of the Sports Clothes. We check everyone has clean uniforms and work clothes, organise any repairs if necessary and hang them all ready to grab and go each morning. This way you don’t have to hunt for socks or shirts or in my case, spend 30 minutes choosing which of the two work jumpers you own goes best with the blue shirt.

The Lunchbox Ritual

Takes about 10 minutes to check what’s in the fridge, freezer, pantry and fruit bowl. I make sure there’s enough for lunches and make a list which I stick on the fridge so the Teens know what they can snack on and what has to be left available for lunches

The Meal Plan Ritual 

This one also only takes about another ten minutes.  I usually already have a fair idea of what’s for dinner for the week but I do a quick double check that we have all the necessary ingredients on hand and if not I try and adjust the plan rather than run out and buy stuff. I plan mainly on a scrap of paper but I have put together and excel spreadsheet version as well. Here’s a printable version for those of you who would like to give it a try.  Weekly meal planner1

The Prepping of the Food

This one can take a little longer depending on what meals we have planned for the week. I usually spend about half an hour doing things like precutting veg or stacking the required fresh ingredients for a meal together in the fridge. I also like to pull  any meat we’ll be eating for the next few days out of the freezer and put it on plates on the bottom shelf of the fridge to thaw ( this way I don’t have to defrost it last minute in the microwave and the chance of it going bad by thawing on the bench is alleviated). Sometimes I also make up a batch of flatbreads to be used that week or put in the freezer.

If we’re home I tend to do a little baking (bread or a slice for snacks), but the bulk of our cooking gets done as needed throughout the week to avoid waste.

The Ritual Checking of the Bills & Notes

This one should probably go at the top of the list. Sometimes it takes several requests before school notes are produced or Mr Scraps remembers that the car is booked in for servicing on Thursday (this for us is also an important Ritual as we have only one car and live in the country so it needs to be kept in good condition). There’s nothing worse than a last second scrounge for a few dollars change for a note produced the morning of the school excursion or worse a phone call from the school to say your child is being left behind at school unsupervised while everyone else goes to the museum so either come pay for them or pick them up. This Ritual ensures that a) I have a chance to set aside the correct monies for any upcoming trips/bills and b) that if one of the Teens misses out on a school activity it’s because they didn’t hand over the appropriate papers when asked ( and I don’t have to rush around after them or feel guilty when I say, sorry but you’re going to have to miss out this time).
We have lots of other little things we do as well, like making sure the kitchen is clean before we go to bed Sunday night and the Threenager and I both wash our hair, but the ones above are the ones that really do make the week run smoothly.  None of these take too long. Most weekends it’s under an hour and can be done between other activities. If you have any rituals you perform over the weekend to make your week run smoothly I’d love to hear them.

What We Ate This Week

(the makings for Friday night’s Fridge Bottom Burgers) 

We were away last weekend and got home Monday night  and I had work Tuesday and Thursday plus a tonne of university work to do so we’ve had a couple of Fake-Away meals this week.

Monday: on the road home from Lakes Entrance we had toasted Ham and Cheese rolls for breakfast, stopped at a bakery (most bakeries are awesome if you are trying to avoid plastics or go zero, they use tongs to pick up pies and pop them on a real plate, into paper bag or your own containers) for beef and mushroom pies at lunch, then stooped at Rosedale for what turned out to be an undrinkable coffee (I drink my coffee black and sugarfree so might be a little more picky than the average latte drinker but this coffee was bitter and burned).Dinner was ham and tomato rolls I made before we left the cabin. Snacks were veggie sticks apples and bananas as well as some lemon slice.

Tuesday: I had toast for breakfast and packed myself a sandwich for my work lunch as well as some fruit and yoghurt. The Threenager and Teens ate Weetbix for breakfast. Mr Scraps and the mob at home ate pumpkin soup from the freezer as well as fruit and yoghurt. Dinner was Chorizo & Tomato Pasta Fake-Away.

Wednesday:  The threenager had Weetbix for breakfast. I had toast and Mr Scraps had beans on toastI made pumpkin scone bread for snacks. The Eldest Teen spent the night at a friends house so wasn‘t home for breakfast.  The Younger Teen slept in past breakfastThe Threenager had veggie sticks and yoghurt. We all ate toasted sandwiches for lunch made with cheese and veg from the fridge and dinner was baked chicken and vegetables

Thursday:  Breakfast was toast for me and Weetbix for the threenager (Im pretty sure when I’m at work Mr Scraps and the Teens skip breakfast)For lunch at work I took leftover FakeAway from Tuesday night. Mr Scraps and the mob ate toasted sandwiches, everyone had fruit and  pumpkin scone bread for snacks. Dinner was Leftovers Lasagne from the freezer

Friday:Breakfast was eggs on toast, lunch was pumpkin soup, dinner was  fridge bottom Burgers and homemade potato chips

Saturday:  For breakfast I attempted homemade crumpets. They tasted good but were nothing like the crumpets I remember my Nan making for meThe threenager and I stayed home while Mr Scraps and the Teens went to netball and foot. We had toast for breakfast, veggie sticks for snacks and boiled eggs for lunch. dinner was beef sausages and mashed potato and I made a pear and Apple flan which we ate with yoghurt for desert.

Sunday: Lunch was homemade potato chips and the last of the Leftovers Lasagne. For dinner tonight I’m making vegetable curry and rice which should have enough leftover for a few lunches during the week.