In my dream future I’m living a zero-waste life. In my pleasant present I’m nowhere near it. I have, however, discovered ways and means of reducing my waste – specifically food and plastic waste – that you too might find helpful. To whit:
- I plan and prep lunches and meals as much as possible. Every Saturday or Sunday I’ll do a quick and simple list of food we need and the meals we’ll cook that week. This involves checking our calendars (who’s having lunches/evenings out) and what food is left from the week before. Most of the meals we make will have 3/4 portions so it’s leftovers every other day. I plan for a simple night of food each week too: pasta with roast veg or vegetable stir fry with anything looking a bit limp. My favourite sight is an empty fridge and desolate vegetable basket on a Saturday morning.
- Lunches are prepped on Sundays: vegetables (carrots, squash, sweet potato) roasted; leaves are washed and left with a damp kitchen towel under cling film (I’ll move to wax paper soon!) and a big bowl of a grain like cous cous or bulgur is prepped. Other lunch items are tomatoes; feta (once open I store under water in tupperware); avocado, smoked salmon and various seeds. Every night we’ll prep breakfast and lunch quickly. Saves money and prevents trips to the local deli where excess plastic packaging is inevitable.
- I shop with my list and the planet in mind. I used to do the bulk of my shopping (including fruit and veg) in Lidl or Tesco but the huge amounts of non-recyclable plastic I was left with each week was driving me mad. So I switched it up and now go to the Honest2Goodness market in Glasnevin for everyday things like salad leaves (I reuse the plastic bag you fill yourself at the market each week and carry my own canvas bags – when they’re weighing me down it’s time to go home); tomatoes; carrots and potatoes that usually come under plastic in supermarkets. It’s tough to go in and not come out with delicious bread from Arun bakery or a fortune in meat from the butchers. A bonus is that I can drop into Lidl in Glasnevin on the way home to pick up everything else – including some of the things (like pineapples and sweet potato) that they don’t tend to package. If you exclude the treats we tend to buy in the market (flowers grown in Ireland; nice coffee..) the price difference between supermarket v market is less than €10 per week.
- If a market isn’t an option you can sign this petition calling for supermarkets to ban plastic bags – or give feedback at your local branch and, of course, just not buy the food wrapped in plastic. Easier said than done.
- Grow your own! Okay I’m struggling at present with keeping a mint plant alive (the hardiest of all the herbs!) but I would love to grow some of my own food – someday.
- Buy in bulk. Again, easier said than done. A quick google will tell you that buying food in bulk in Dublin isn’t easy without access to a cash and carry..but it’s possible. Ethnic food shops are great for this – large bags of rice and other staples you can only find in 500g/1kg packs in supermarkets are great buys . (List of the best shops and the easiest transport links to them – because the 5kg bag of rice is a bargain until you have to carry it home – coming soon!)
Do you have any tips to share? This is my no means and exhaustive list and I’m definitely still learning how to avoid plastic and combat food waste.