Food prep, packaging and storage – The road to ditching plastics!

People who've done my low tox course can relax a little today. Why not share in the comments below today's lesson, the changes you've made since October's course - It would be no doubt inspiring for people to read and decide what they're going to work on next.

Plastic is the ultimate sell fo the convenience life style, isn't it? Just cling it, pop it in the freezer bag, pop it in the bin bag, the zip lock, the tupperware. ARGH! It's everywhere and this has been my biggest challenge on the road to conscious living. Do not ever feel, as with anything we've talked about food wise, that all the change has to be immediate.

I'd say it was a 6 month journey to finally ditching single use plastic bags and bottles - It took me that long to break the habit and involved in the end me doing things like carrying groceries home in a gym towel, an overflowing tiny handbag or a jumper, as well as getting super thirsty a couple of times to remember: Bring the darn bottle next time. Simple.

Why should we attempt to reduce our purchase of plastic items moving forward? This film will provide you with the passion to make the changes we need to make.

Plastic highlights the tag like of this course - Shape your health. Shape the world. Dr David Suzuki estimates that the average adult has 1 kilo of plastic swimming around their bodies. 1 KILO (Nearly 2 pounds!)  Imagine what those hormone disrupting components do to us subtly and slowly over that time? Crazy to even contemplate... It's time to do something and get good at using less of the evil stuff.

Plastic is very costly to recycle and damaging to the environment - especially wildlife and ocean life. The most important message on plastic is to reduce where possible and stay away from the BPA / BPS / PVC varieties. Life is at best 90/10 as a conscious living person, especially if you're in the city or a town, because you simply cannot control everything and everyone else's choices. So, while I say a definite yes on ditching single use drink bottles, shopping bags and smoothie cups (I take my jar to About Life if I'm craving a smoothie and they fill that), BPA, PVC... If you have to get a plastic lunch box here, or your favourite eco cleaning product or make up is in plastic, then relax. You might never eliminate plastic altogether, but every piece of plastic counts.

There is no 100% perfection and things just aren't black and white nor should we insist they be. That is why when I first started my blog, thinking of what 'identifying terms' resonated with me, "LOW" was the word I chose, when I realised that NO was both impossible as well as the fact that it would mean people might always have a sense that they weren't doing enough. I know I've felt like that, and no one needs to feel like that when what we're doing - even one little thing - is awesome. I'm not going to refuse an IV in a hospital, nor feel remotely guilty about needing it should the occasion arise, touch wood. It's not about perfection, it's about the things that we can influence and choose daily. 

You. Are. Doing. Enough.

Whatever little choices and changes you have made, where you are with what you can... They're enough. Until you make the next one. Then that's enough too. There are enough people judging everyone out there in today's world - let's not bring that into a space that is so, so positive and impactful on so many levels.

So as we focus on ditching plastics from the kitchen to some degree, again the focus is to reduce over time and to start becoming conscious when choosing anything new. The one thing to try and reduce the MOST, is single use plastics, i.e, a packet snack or drink packaged in plastic or single use bags. It's crazy that something goes through so much production from its oil rig beginnings, to make something that will be used once for 10 minutes and then is often times not even possible to recycle.

I've done a few categories of plastic saving ideas, and then you have a wonderful interview chat with me and the wonderful woman behind BIOME, Tracey Bailey.

A few things about plastic to help you get motivated about ditching as much as you can from your day to day purchases:

  • In 2002 alone, 5 trillion plastic bags were produced. They never fully degrade, they simply break down into micro plastics affecting wildlife and human life as we ingest without knowing.
  • BPA free plastics may be as bad for you, or even worse for you, than those containing BPA. That's because alternatives to BPA, like BPF might be even more harmful. There is more and more evidence coming to light on this every day.
  • Some of the chemicals in plastic are obesogenic - Causing you to put on weight! So by ditching the weirdo packet of fakeness that is a processed chocolate bar, you're ditching that AND the plastic it's wrapped in - Double farewell for a better YOU and planet. 
  • Roughly 50% of the world's plastic production is used ONCE and then thrown away.
  • The amount of plastic produced in the past 10 years is equal to the amount produced in the entire 20th Century since plastic came into production in the late 1940s.
  • Throughout the world, around one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year by plastics, either entangled and strangled or choked and starved. (source: marine conservation.org)

There are so many more horrifying stats on plastic's take over of the world, but I'd prefer to switch into motivation time and ideas now to get us changing that big picture! If you want to follow plastic reduction inspiration on Facebook I recommend:

My Plastic Free Life

Plastic Free July (A challenge we also run on my page to support each other in ditching more plastic)

Take3 for the Sea, my environmentalist friend Tim Silverwood

Two Hands Project

Do you want to know something cool? If each person here was using 5 plastic bags a week and stopped, we would save 72,800 plastic bags from being in circulation. Isn't that awesome?

At the shops

Stop using individual plastic bags for produce and plastic bags for carting your shopping. There is absolutely no need for 3 lemons to go into a single use plastic bag that then get packed into a single use plastic bag. None. My tip with reusable shopping bags? When you unpack the shopping, place them IMMEDIATELY BACK IN FRONT OF YOUR FRONT DOOR so that they go down to the car with you without forgetting them. This will help anyone who's found it hard, to turn a corner, finally. Of all the low tox changes I made, I think this habit was the hardest - the remembering of the reusable bags so I never had to say yes to a plastic bag. The other corner I turned was suddenly forbidding myself from saying yes to a bag. At first, that meant wrapping shopping in my gym towel, or 6 avocados in my hand bag (I like avocados and I'm pretty sure people thought I was a shoplifter on the way home!) Whatever I wanted had to fit in my hands or hand bag, or I'd have to leave it, because I was not allowed a plastic bag full stop! I was remembering those reusable bags pretty easily after a week or two of that!

Stop buying nuts, seeds and other dried goods at the supermarket or most health stores and buy instead from a bulk bin place or a co-op if you can join one in your area. The enormity of plastic that can't be recycled that is saved in switching to bulk bin shopping is amazing. Truly. You will also save so much money this way. In Australia you can go to Source Wholefoods or Naked or Alfafa House in Sydney - whichever is near you in your capital city that I've not named - feel free to share! In the US there is the bohemoth Wholefoods, and smaller stores like Life Thyme dotted about the place. 

bulk store

If you're a supermarket shopper they're even starting to put these in there... Bring your own brown paper bags or go steal some from the mushrooms in produce section, to come back and use and avoid their plastic ones!

Stop buying 'halves' of fruit and veg. Half a melon, pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage or paw paw means plastic wrap. Buy whole and get a little recipe inspiration to ensure you use it all up over the week. A whole cauliflower could be half roasted with turmeric and olive oil and then served with pomegranate and goat's curd... the other half could be blitzed into a puree with coconut milk and sea salt. Different textures and flavours = not getting bored!

Get re-usable produce bags for delicates. I love these ones from The Keeper.

Ask for a box from the store room if you've forgotten your bag.

Ditch the receipts. Receipts covered in thermal coatings (that plasticky feeling receipt) are covered in BPA in a much more concentrated dose that from food packaging - Say 'no thanks' unless you really need that receipt.

Stop buying convenient 'squeeze top' products like tomato sauce, honey or mayo. Choose a glass jar. You CAN grab a teaspoon and grab what you need. You DON'T need a squeeze bottle. THEY told you you did. Mute the ads and save the planet. Ha! A catch phrase is born. 

In the kitchen

Stop using cheap ice cube trays that break and split every couple of years after all the bending you have to do to get the cubes out. Invest in a couple of stainless steel ones. You will not regret it, these things are indestructible and totally old school! 

JARS. JARS. JARS. Who's already a pro jar person? I have them everywhere and use for everything! If you're freezing leftovers in jars to avoid plastic, be sure to leave a comfortable inch at the top so you don't break the jar when the liquid expands while freezing. If you want to grab a few, BIOME stock some really cute ones.

Ditch the plastic wrap. 4MyEarth again has one of my favourite products,the bowl covers. All different shapes and sizes you can use as needed and for whichever bowl size is appropriate.

4myearth-food-cover-medium-sparrow

Ditch the zip lock bags. Start seeing how much you can put into jars, stainless containers, glass bottom containers or simply wrap in sandwich wrap bags / wax coated paper sheets. The simple act of NOT buying that next lot of them, will see your brain creating the new ways to store things. The TV told you that ziplock bags were convenient. Then your habit told you they were. The price of that convenience is massive for your health and the planet's health and you CAN change this. Tough love is sometimes the answer.

Get a cool take away glass takeaway coffee cup, or even bring your jars down for coffees, smoothies or juices to the cafe - They're cool with it, I promise - No matter how 'recyclable / degradable' they tell you a coffee cup or smoothie cup is from a cafe, if it goes into a regular bin, it ends up immortalised in landfill. No good.

Get even more obsessed with jars - Milk bottles, gift jars for making scrubs as Christmas presses for friends, keep back ones from your tomato paste, honey, rice malt syrup.

Plastic free food prep and storage

Use those jars for

  • Chopped onion. Chop double or triple and jar the lfetovers up to a week to use another day. Keep the lid on as onions soak up environmental bacteria.
  • Stock - A lot of people are paranoid about freezing in jars. As long as you leave a good inch off the top to freeze them, when the liquid expands a little, you won't get cracks or explosions. No one has on my watch so far when we corrected how full people were filling their jars to.
  • Single serve portions of stews, sours and curries. Perfect for defrosting on one of those days when preparing lunch isn't an option. defrost overnight in the fridge and pop on the stove in a saucepan to be ready in 5 minutes!
  • Crudité sticks. Chop a couple of days at a time for snacks with dips and jar the ones for the next day.
  • Leftover animal fats from cooking - Let's say you've roasted a chicken, pork belly, side of beef or anything that has juice / fat run off. Do not wash this down the drain. HUGE saving to be made on stretching your organic / pasture raised meats further by using those fats and pan juices to form the base for the next day's soup or stew or curry.
  • Homemade dips, cultured veggies, pesto, home made ketchup or BBQ sauce... you name it, those jars are going to be your best ally. Show your partner this list and tell them to back off about the 'too many jars' comments (hmmm, is that just me?

Other plastic free storage tips

  • Fresh herbs don't need plastic wrap or tupperware 'high tech storage systems' to stay crisp. Wrap them super tightly in a damp teatowel and refrigerate. Basil / coriander 5-6 days, mint and parsley 2 weeks +++. I promise you!

IMG_5759IMG_5761

  • Keep a damp tea towel at the bottom of your fruit and veg crisper drawer and clean it and replace it each week. This means you avoid wasting food and catching it for a 'throw the ends in' soup with stock, herbs and cream / coconut cream (STRETCH THAT BUDGET PEOPLE AND LOWER WASTE - WINNING ALLROUND!)
  • For leftovers, just put a simple plate on top of a bowl - remember that old trick?
  • Bring parchment paper, a couple of big pyrex type tubs with lids, and take to places like the butcher, fish shop or deli, to have things wrapped or packed without new plastic being needed.

And that's all I can think of - I bet you can think of more? Feel free to share here in the comments or over on the facebook group.

The important thing, no matter how slowly you do it, is to do it at all. Here's a little inspiration for us.

difficult changes

So this John Porter fellow seems to think we can do this. I tend to agree. Be gentle on yourself. Don't freak out (I am classically wired to freak out about not making enough progress and asking that in this instance you NOT learn from the master!) and get excited about ways you're changing things. Simple.

I am so excited to be moving into food as healing and preventative tomorrow. First up will be looking at all the different ways food can be prepared and how they might benefit us differently throughout the seasons and stages of life.

Today's Challenge? To make a journal entry on what you've achieved in the course so far. Write down your favourite achievements. Something you got across the line with your partner or kids, a way you've noticed you're feeling better, or more empowered. A bit of reflection time is good after all this learning and trying of new things.

Your journey. Your way.

Alexx x

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