I found a great series of articles today on www.thekitchn.com on one woman's journey to decrease the waste she brought into and took out of her home. I've included a portion of the article here because I think it has merits we can all strive for.
I myself seems to have lots of plastic left over from fruit and vegetables I buy, especially from Trader Joe's. I was also reminded to buy only what I need and not buy a large package of something because it's a good price. Especially if I am unable to use it all (being just the two of us at home and not a hungry horde!).
Bring your own bags from home rather than get new bags each time at the grocery store. It does take planning! An easy way to prevent forgetting your recycled bags is to leave some in your car at all times (and remember to take them into the store with you!).
Nothing is perfect but if we can all made an effort to leave a smaller carbon footprint on this planet, we and the planet will be better off!
Here is the link to the entire article at www.thekitchn.com.
Taken directly from thekitchn.com:
1. Shop like a European.Your local butcher, farmers market, and green grocer will be far more accommodating (and may even appreciate your consideration) when you ask to skip the packaging than if you were to attempt to walk out of your local Costco with a paper-wrapped pork loin. The roadside honor-system stand where I buy my eggs encourages customers to bring back their empty cartons, and I've found most farm stands are thrilled when I dump berries and cherry tomatoes into my own cartons and return theirs.
2. Do the math.Packaging costs money and the food companies simply pass the cost along to you, the consumer. Ask yourself if the convenience of throwing a prepackaged lunch in your kids' backpack is really worth spending $3 for a couple of crackers, two ounces of ham and cheese, seven grapes, and three kinds of packaging that go in the trash. A cute bento box will accomplish the same result and pay for itself in a week.
3. Think before you drink.Reducing the number of bottled beverages and to-go cups of coffee, juice, or smoothies you consume each day is a painless and significant way to cut down on food packaging.
4. Listen to your garbage.Many packaged and processed foods are pretty easy to make at home, but concentrate on the ones you use most, and that generate the most trash. Making yogurt is relatively simple, and if you have a yogurt for lunch every day, you'll be keeping a lot more plastic out of the landfill if you invest in some probiotic starter, a few glass jars, and a fun-size cooler — all you need to make a quart of yogurt each week. Granola bars, broths, and nut milks are other items that are easy to work into your weekly food routine to eliminate a good amount of food packaging.
5. Go big in the bulk aisle.Grains and dried beans are just a few of the more obvious things you can buy in bulk. Dried herbs, granola, nut butters, coffee, and olive oil are all items that are widely available, sold at attractive prices, and can generally be transported in a container you provide.
Buy bulk popcorn and make your own microwave snack by popping it in a plain brown paper bag with the top folded over a couple of times (it works like a dream, honestly, and it's oil-free to boot!). Visit Asian markets and buy dried mushrooms, kimchi, and tofu from bulk bins. Petco even allows you to buy cat litter in bulk!
Transfer your items to glass jars for storage. I like to designate one for odds and ends of dried beans, mixed grains, and pastas, too; you'll up your soup and pilaf game effortlessly while eliminating clutter.
6. Get an electric kettle.It will allow you to make hot tea; French press coffee; even a trendy turmeric, lemon, ginger toddy anytime you want it for less than $.50/serving. (You can always just go take a walk if the change of scene, not the caffeine, is the true motivation for your afternoon coffee jaunt.)
It's also far less wasteful than employing a machine that uses pre-filled K-cups or pods. You'll spend a few seconds dealing with the used grounds, but they are compostable (unlike a plastic, foil-topped K-cup).
7. Remember that bigger is not always better.Although the product-to-packaging ratio is better when you buy a super-sized container, unless it's something you know for certain you will use every bit of before it expires, gets funky, or you just lose interest, don't go big. When you buy more than need, you are wasting not only packaging but also the product itself.
8. Don't bag it if you don't have to.When I see people putting onions or avocados or bananas — things that have their own protective wrapping — into plastic bags, it makes me bonkers. I'm not suggesting you walk up to the checkout with a handful of loose cherries, but if you are going to peel the carrots, potatoes, or onions before you use them anyway — and you are, right? — don't just drop them in a bag reflexively.
The same goes for ginger, hard squash, garlic, artichokes, citrus fruits — you get the idea. Yes, it may take a few extra seconds to sort the tangelos from the cara cara oranges at the checkout, but they're all going to end up in the same fruit bowl when you get them home anyway, so why bag them separately?
Another bonus: When I buy my fresh herbs and greens bag-free, I find I am more likely to wash and wrap them in a damp towel at home before bagging and stashing them, a food-stylist's trick that prolongs their life by a week or more.
Just make sure to keep your produce separate from raw meat and other foods that could contaminate veggies, and wash them thoroughly before eating.
9. Make like a Boy Scout and be prepared.Stash shopping bags and smaller bags and containers for holding bulk items in your car, your backpack or purse, in the pockets of the jacket you wear to the farmers market, and in your desk drawer. Never leave the house without a beverage container.
Are you dining at a place with notoriously big portions? Will dinner be takeout from the neighborhood Mexican joint? Plan ahead to have the kinds of containers you need so you're not tempted to let it go "just this once."
Read your recipes and make shopping lists before you go to the market so you can be mindful about buying only what you need.
10. Recognize there are tradeoffs.You may reduce your waste, but you won't save on water. Washing, rinsing, reusing, and washing again is the bottom line for reusing containers, bags, and wrappers, and many storage items can't go into the dishwasher.
I was talking to one of my personal chef clients recently about the prune cake Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) makes-her "Grandma Iny's Prune Cake." She insisted it was really good so I was thinking of trying it. He then shared that his mother (now deceased) had also had a recipe for prune cake and asked if I would make it for him. I'm game, why not?
The recipe called for Mocha Frosting as well, most unusual for a prune cake, but my client insisted it was great. Ok, says I.
Turns out he and mom were right. It makes a great combination! And now, I get to share that recipe with you. You can also try The Pioneer Woman's cake to compare. Let me know what you think....
Pat's Prune Cake with Mocha Frosting
Yield: 8-10 servings
Butter, for greasing the pan
8 oz pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of shortening, room temperature (I use butter but you can also use Crisco)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 cup broken nut meats, optional
1. For the cake: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter two 8 or 9-inch cake pans and set aside.
2. Place the prunes in a small saucepan. Cover them with water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until they are soft and mashable, about 8 minutes.
3. Drain the water from the prunes, then mash or puree them. Set aside to cool.
4. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves.
5. In a separate bowl, beat the shortening or butter until creamy, then add the sugar gradually. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add the prune puree.
6. Combine the wet and dry ingredients in increments of 1/3, alternating the flour mixture with the buttermilk, mixing until smooth. Stir in the nuts, if using.
7. Pour the cake batter into the prepared baking pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Do not overbake the cake. You want it to be nice and moist.
8. Remove from the oven when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Move the pans onto a wire rack to cool for 10, then turn out cakes directly onto the wire rack to completely cool.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup of heavy cream
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons cocoa (or 2oz melted semi-sweet chocolate)
3 Tablespoons strong hot coffee, or 1-2 Tablespoons of instant espresso powder
1. Sift the powdered sugar, set aside. Beat the butter and the cream until soft, then gradually add the powdered sugar gradually. Blend until creamy. Add the salt, the cocoa and the coffee and beat for 2 minutes.
2. Allow the icing to cool, then add the vanilla. Permit the frosting to stand for 5 minutes, then beat it again. Frost your cake. Serve and eat!