DAYS 18 & 19: THE PLASTIC DIET

The Plastic Challenge has made us realise that some things are near impossible to get hold of without single-use plastic packaging. So, I thought I’d share a few of the foodstuffs that we miss  – and if anyone has any suggestions of alternatives, I’m all ears!

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Home-made oat cakes are rather tasty!

BISCUITS: It’s impossible to buy biscuits without a plastic wrapper. Tunnocks bars have been suggested as they come in waxy paper, but they still have an outer plastic wrapping. Home-made is the only way, and to date I’ve made two successful batches of oat cakes. One day, I’ll get round to making something more adventurous…maybe… when I get time.

SAVOURY SNACKS: Crisps, rice cakes, crisp breads: they all come plastic wrapped. Oh, how we miss salty snacks. I’ve tried making some sweet potato crisps (finely sliced, cooked in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt) which were delicious, but a baking tray full created only a handful of crisps which were gone in about ten seconds, so without industrial cooking facilities, this one is a non-starter.

MARMITE: Glass jar but with a big un-recyclable plastic lid. Love it, but can’t have it.

COFFEE: My partner was thrilled to discover a packet of ground coffee in paper packaging only to discover when he opened it that it was plasticised on the inside. I’m unaffected by this one as I don’t drink coffee.

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I’m okay eating dark chocolate – 100g at a time!

MILK CHOCOLATE BARS: Again, I’m not bothered by this as I’m happy eating non plastic wrapped dark chocolate in large 100g bars, but the lack of big brand milk chocolate options is definitely difficult for others in the household!

PEANUT BUTTER & JAM: As mentioned in my previous post, the only brand of peanut butter I could find in a glass jar with metal lid has a sneaky plastic seal around it. We’ve not found any other options yet. In fact, we’ve also just bought a jar of big brand jam as there was no plastic seal, but I’ve not found a natural-sugars only alternative without plastic yet.

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Hummus in a glass jar – no plastic in sight!

HUMMUS: We used to get through a tub of hummus about every other day, but they come in little, single-use plastic tubs. I tried making my own, which is a bit of a hassle as we don’t have a food processor, but I think it tastes good. However, my toddler is less keen on mum’s home-made hummus and finally, I found hummus in a glass jar with metal lid. “Hooray!” I thought, but again, the toddler did not approve.

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I like the home-made hummus even if no one else does!

COUS COUS: The bulk buy shop might do pasta, rice, flour, dried fruit, muesli and all kinds of other things, but sadly, the only cous cous they have is in a plastic packet.

BERRIES: It seems near impossible to buy berries without their plastic punnet (which shops won’t re-use if you take your own container), but it’s not long to Pick Your Own season, so I’m hoping we’ll soon have strawberries! I’ve been substituting them with loose cherries and plums from the green grocer, but de-stoning these for the little one is a bit of a chore.

NAAN BREADS: We love a good, home-made curry but we’ve had to go without naan as we can only find them plastic wrapped. The good news though is that the bulk buy shop sells gram flour, so home-made onion bhajis, here we come!

YOGURT: I’ve only found one glass jar of yogurt being sold so far and it was “kefir” which is some special type of fermented milk and costs about 4 times the amount of normal yogurt. The problem of plastic yogurt pots can be solved with a yogurt maker which I am trying out right now (the first batch is in the fridge).

In conclusion: Frankly, this would be a far easier challenge for someone who loves baking (that’s not me if you’re wondering – I prefer eating to cooking), and if we’re to go single-use plastic free in the long term, we could really do with a vegetable patch to grow soft fruit, a food processor and maybe even a live-in chef?

All in all, the lack of plastic-wrapped foodstuffs is having a fairly big impact on our eating habits, and it’s mostly snack food that’s taken the hit. Whilst that is no bad thing in many respects, I’m a “grazer” when it comes to eating so I’m spending quite a lot of time hungry because there are no easy snacks to reach for.  It turns out that the Plastic Challenge is actually a plastic diet!

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DAY 1 – DIRTY DISHCLOTHS & PLASTIC PUNNETS

A NEW DISHCLOTH?

It’s 8.30am on Day 1 of the challenge and I’m already stumped. I dropped the dish cloth onto the floor and into the “biohazard zone” under the high-chair, so it’s now residing in the washing machine. I automatically peered into the cupboard under the sink for a new one and…oh…we’ve run out. So, my first challenge of the day is: Where on earth do I find dish cloths not wrapped in plastic? Until I work out the answer to this question or think of a suitable alternative, the kitchen table is left un-wiped.

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I am going to admit that whilst I have pre-prepared a number of plastic-free alternatives for this month, I felt it would be ridiculously wasteful and prohibitively costly to throw out things already opened and in use. As a consequence, I’ve been running things down in preparation (as the dish cloth scenario proves!) and my plan is to replace items with single-use-plastic free alternatives as they are used up or as I spot them in the shops. As I’m also inflicting the Plastic Challenge on my partner and toddler, they will both, no doubt be happy to mop up any hint of packaged food on my behalf.

SEARCHING FOR UNPACKAGED ORGANIC BERRIES:

At lunchtime I headed for our local, large organic veg shop with the aim of stocking up on all kinds of goodies: unpackaged fresh fruit and veg at very least. I had my old takeaway tubs in the car at the ready as I was determined to come back with berries of some sort, and as it’s an organic shop, I hoped they wouldn’t think I was entirely mad for taking my own containers (I’m easing myself in gently before facing the high street).

Whilst I managed a good crop of plastic-free shopping which should keep us going for a few days (hooray for brown paper bags which not only contain your vegetables but slow their inevitable demise), I failed completely on the berries. The strawberries were in plastic punnets (no lids) and the blueberries were in plastic punnets with lids. Undeterred, I put them in my trolley knowing that I had my handy takeaway tubs ready for them to be decanted into at the checkout. However, when I asked if they would re-use the containers I was greeted with a mumble about how legislation regarding re-using food packaging is very strict and they couldn’t possibly change the way they operate for the odd person like me. People like me? Odd! A customer who cares about the environment shopping at an organic store you mean? Hmphhh. Then I asked when the neighbouring Pick Your Own would be open and received a grumble about how they spray their crops. Yes, I said, but they will let me use my own containers…I feel a stern email to the shop manager coming on.

On the up side, I did manage to get most things on the list and was able to buy a slice of double chocolate cake packaged in only a brown paper bag. Now, I really do need to find something to replace that dish cloth!