Zero waste meals (horsetail soup anybody?)

Filed in Blog by on June 3, 2008 6 Comments
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Little Miss Green tucking into a zero waste mealIn the spirit of the WRAP’s recycling week I challenged Little Miss Green to a fun quiz yesterday. I asked her ‘If you were going to prepare a zero waste packaging tea tonight, what would we have?’

” Ummmm, bread?’ she asked hopefully, as the child who, unlike the Bible would have us believe, could quite happily live on bread alone thank you very much.

Seeing as we buy ready made bread that sulks and sweats in plastic, I’m afraid it was a quack, quack oops on that one.

‘What could we do to make bread a ZERO waste product?’ I prompted.

Big, brown eyes alert ‘We could MAKE it!’ she enthused; at which point she got down off my lap, ran downstairs and asked if she could have home made bread for tea.

Errr, no actually; you see there’s the kneading, the proving, the rising and then the…………..It was 3pm already. I promised we would make bread this week however, and I’m just not sure what I’ve let myself in for. Past attempts have failed miserably, as in, total inedible disasters that bounce off walls, leave dents in floors, knock unprepared husbands out and make good building bricks for outhouses.

Even the dog (RIP) refused to eat my first loaves of bread and he would wrap his smiling mouth around delicate hors d’oeuvres of sheep poo on his daily walks, so the bread must have been dire.

Back to the zero waste tea challenge, Little Miss Green came racing back upstairs eagerly to announce we could have an apple. Yay! 10 points.
Then she twisted her hair around her finger, searched about in her mind, said lots of ‘ummmmms’ and tried a tentative “soup”?
Mmmmmm, I buy it in a tin, so it’s recyclable but not exactly zero waste packaging. And the really yummy ones that you buy when you have friends visiting (and want to pretend you’ve spent hours in the kitchen perspiring over a sweating onion) arrive in a very non-recyclable plastic container.

I asked her what was growing in the garden ‘potatoes, carrots, onions and leeks?’ That sounds much better than the reality – there are potatoes, horsetail and bindweed at the moment, but yes, we could make soup from things in the garden. We have herbs; I can perform miracles in the kitchen with herbs. In fact, you can even eat bindweed and horsetail – Now we’re getting somewhere!

So we decided that tea one day this week will be home made bread and soup with an apple to follow. If you wanted to do this yourselves with children you can play with the rules slightly depending on the age of the child.

For young ones, simply get them to look at the packaging their meal creates. You could give them red, amber and green stickers – say red for non degradable packaging, amber for compostable or recyclable packaging and green for zero waste.

For juniors they can come up with ideas for packing their lunch boxes or making their tea lighter on the landfill. You might award them points – 2 points for non degradable packaging, 1 point for compostable or recyclable and zero points for zero waste; the object being to earn the least points. It helps with maths too.

For older children they could plan and then go and buy (dig up or forage for) food and make a zero waste meal.

It’s a gentle way of bringing awareness to the packaging we throw in the bin every day. We’re going to continue looking at our meals this week at Chez Green to see where we can reduce the amount of packaging we send to the landfill.

Remember that the simplest way to reduce our waste is to practise portion control. Just cook and serve what you can eat!

Oh, and I promise that I won’t really serve soup with a garnish of horsetail………..well, unless they put something naughty in the bin.

What about you? Did you have a zero waste lunch today? If not, what could you do to improve it?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (6)

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  1. Hi Mrs Green – love your ideas. As you know, I’ve been getting into bread making recently and it can be a bind, but take a look at this recipe that I found for rolls:

    It’s good enough for me and if served with soup is just the ticket.

    I managed a Zero Waste lunch today…it was the remains of the Bread and Butter pudding I made on Sunday. Not sure it’s cheating when you have just dessert for lunch but it worked for me ;-D

  2. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks for the recipe Almost Mrs Average; I WILL have a go! I can donate them to a kids ball park or something if they turn out like my usual efforts.

    lunch sounds good! I hope you enjoyed it. I don’t think you’re cheating 😉

    mrs G x

  3. Sue says:

    Hi Mrs G,I have made bread nearly everyday for 19 months, I think in that time I have bought maybe 5 loaves!
    I now have the knack and the actual labour time for me is 6 minutes of kneading. In my six minutes I take time to think, I reflect on the day, make plans for the next. The kneading has become automatic, and before I know it the beeper is going! I enjoy it so much that quiet often I end up making another one, or some rolls.

  4. Sue says:

    I like to do zero waste cheap healthy meals meals. I would like to join you on your mission, please?
    Monday was lentil soup (onions, carrots, lentils, stock)
    Tuesday was yesterdays lentil soup with added cheese & eggs, cheese and breadcrumbs sprinkled on top, voila, lentil bake. On Weds we were still on the lentil theme! Tarka Dhal, (onion, lentils, ginger, spices). Thurs was the worst day this week, a hectic evening so 3 packets of dried pasta meals – resulting in 3 unrecylable packets :(. Friday was spag bol (onion, mushrooms, quorn mince, tomatoes, herbs, pasta) waste – plastic quorn bag.

  5. Sue is so right about bread kneading…I find it is a great opportunity for reflecting and contemplating as well as dealing with my frustrations. ;-D

  6. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Sue,

    Great to see you – welcome and thank you for leaving us a comment. We love it when our readers interact with posts on the site.

    It sounds like you have bread making down to a fine art. I also love the kneading process; I find it very therapeutic but I never quite mastered the finished loaf! This week I bought a packet bread mix for the bread maker which came in a paper bag the same as a flour bag.

    it’s not exactly purist, but it’s the first step. Do you bake your bread in the oven or a bedmaker?

    I love it that you’ve taken a look at the meals you are having each day and the amount of waste they produce. I find it particularly challenging being a vegetarian as rice, lentils and the like come in plastic bags or foil lined bags. We can easily buy meat without packaging now, but I’m not sure yet what the alternative packaging for the products I use might be.

    Soup and bread is the obvious no braider of a zero waste meal I guess. I love your idea of adding a topping to the soup and creating a bake from it; that’s very innovative! I think for now we’ll do this challenge once a week – there are so many other things to think about with running the site that I don’t want to overwhelm ourselves with trying to do much each day!

    Do keep posting back your ideas though – it really helps to share experiences. If we generate enough interest, we could raise an article with some recipes on which would be a great resource.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    Mrs G x

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