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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DAYS 13 & 14 – RETURN OF THE JARS

Saying no to single-use plastic has made me change my shopping habits. Now, instead of wandering the supermarket aisles adding various unlisted things into the trolley, I now have to go to high street shops for very specific things. It’s great visiting the bakers and the green-grocers, but as anyone with small children will appreciate, it’s actually much more difficult and time consuming. Preventing a toddler knocking over displays and eating the produce is way easier if they are confined to a shopping trolley! And don’t even mention pushchairs – I can tell you that where I live, it involves bumping up and down a lot of steps into narrow shops where goodies are all within the “swipe zone”. Then you have to hang on to shopping bags whilst manoeuvring yourself and the pushchair around irritated customers before renegotiating the steps to get out. For everybody’s sanity, this is something I won’t even attempt anymore.

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Bulk buying peanut butter is now out because of the plastic container

As a result I’m tending to shop during my child-free moments, rushing around like a blue-bottomed fly to get it done as quickly as possible. I guess it’s inevitable that this is likely to result in the odd mistake.

For me, shopping in the supermarket nowadays consists of a list of about three or four items, and I’ve often come away with only two due to the lack of non-plastic options. Day 13 was no different; after a whizz round the local shops, I nipped to the supermarket to get a couple of items including peanut butter and jam, knowing that both came in glass jars. Easy, I thought…

The peanut butter is slightly annoying because we used to buy it in large (plastic) containers as it’s way cheaper considering the vast quantities that we consume. And as for the jam, I knew they sold St Dalfour which contains only fruit rather than added refined sugar, so I opted for that, plus a glass jar of peanut butter, then trotted off home.

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The sneaky transparent plastic jar lid seals

The bad news came later on, when my partner was having a piece of toast: “Um, you know this jar has got a plastic seal around the lid?” he shouted. “What? No! OMG! How did I not notice that?” I actually filled with panic, distress and self-loathing at having fallen foul of the plastic-gremlins who seemed determined to trip me up.

Okay, so the jar will have to go back and I’ll simply look for another brand (easier said than done as Meridian peanut butter has a metal rather than plastic lid and doesn’t contain palm oil). But, to add insult to injury, I realised this morning (Day 14) that the jam jar was just the same: another sneaky transparent collar of plastic around the lid.

I actually feel a bit stupid for having not noticed the plastic wrap at the time, particularly as it’s something that even prior to this challenge used to irritate me regularly – why is it even there? What happened to the old pop-top lids which meant it was obvious if a jar had been opened. And if it’s so essential, why do only some jars have them?

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Why are plastic jar seals used instead of pop-top lids?

I’m also starting to think that organic and eco-products are often the worst offenders when it comes to single-use plastic which is somewhat ironic considering the consumers that they’re hoping to attract.

Next job; it’s back to the supermarket to stand in a queue at customer services for half an hour to return the plastic-sealed jars. A fitting penance for my time-saving, rushed-shopping mistake. At least the toddler will be safely confined to a trolley.