Some zero waste convenience food

Filed in Blog, Videos by on January 28, 2009 14 Comments
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supermarket shopping for zero waste convenience foodFollowing on from yesterday’s blog post about zero waste week, you might remember that we won’t have much time this week for a la carte cooking. We also appreciate that many people taking part in the challenge throughout the county are working long hours and will have difficulties finding quick meals that are not wrapped in plastic. Most microwave meals and ‘TV diners’ which so many people rely on come in non recyclable plastic trays.

We’re going to join the masses this week and have a go at getting through this week while relying on ‘fast food’. Not takeaways, but meals that won’t have us tied to food preparation and can take us from saucepan to plate pretty quickly for those ‘gotta eat’ moments.

Where we live, a local supermarket equals two aisles and one till, so it’s a pretty small affair that caters for non-chefs and people on a budget with little time for cooking. We went in and had a browse around today and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. Our county’s greatest chef won’t approve and neither does part of me that likes to provide my family with good, nutritious meals, (and I’ll probably be putting my two on a strict detox next week!) but at least we have proven to ourselves that you CAN have your zero waste cake and eat it.

Take a look at what we found:



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 (14)

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  1. maisie says:

    Well done on finding things that are zero landfill waste but still represent main meals with as you said veggies added.

    Just out of interest, did you shopping cost any/much more than if you had bought the ingredients to make the things you are going to eat this week.

  2. John Costigane says:

    A useful guide to reasonable food with Zero Waste: the crisp box is reusable so can be discounted. For busy lifestyles where ready meals are the standard, unfortunately, highlighting Zero Waste options is very worthwhile.

    In comparison, I have 6 smoked haddock, bought today, 3 tubs Chilli frozen, 1lb frozen mince for mince burgers and 1 steak frozen. That is a normal snap shot with only chicken missing: had that yesterday.

  3. Kris says:

    Just a question about the curry sauce lid – where can this be recycled? I understood the plastic element made it ineligible for putting in a metals hopped at HRC, and it is a prohibited item in our recycling box collection.

  4. greenlady says:

    Heh. I am not going to criticise the contents of the tins, I am fond of the odd tin of Spam myself and sometimes wonder about revisiting the Fray Bentos pies ( didn’t use to like them as a kid but may be my tastes have changed ! ) I have a similar corner Co op so its interesting to think what I would have bought under similar circumstances. tbh I am not very fond of tinned curries and stews so probably would be going for eggs, tinned pulses – baked beans, cannelini beans, chickpeas – and jarred sauces. ( Micro’d if you must :P) jacket spuds and beans is fine for me for a meal, chickpeas – blitz up into hm hummous in no time and accompaniments take very little time to prep, omelettes – another zero waste easily adaptable ” fast food ” either tortilla style or normal, filled pancakes ditto. Also if cooking spuds to go with say, the pie, cook double and use for hash browns or potatoes salad the next day to bulk out another meal 🙂

  5. Poppy says:

    The purists don’t like the idea, but all my lids go into the bag of other bits to be recycled at the HRC. If you look into the container you will see far worse sins than a little plastic on the inside of a jar or bottle lid and many of these have been pointed in this direction by staff in the building.

  6. Rik Boland says:

    What you guys are doing is brilliant and thank-you sooooooooooooo much for a lot of the lessons that you are teaching us, especially me.

    Can I challenge you to not use supermarkets but use local shops and especially cooperatives. I dare say that you’ll see your waste go down and you’ll be helping local shops. I only say this as on your video clip Mrs Green produces some rice what’s in cardboard box then in a vacuum sealed bag, if you went to your local cooperative (or weigh house, similar) than you would just be dealing with a brown paper bag and you be total helping small town business instead of horrid supermarkets.

    I am so trying to get all my waaste to one bin bag but not sure what I am doing wrong, I always thaught we recycled a good 80% of our refuge.

    By the way we got our wormery today! I not built it yet as it dark outside.

    Shalom x

  7. Layla says:

    Interesting video!
    Actually I find I/we’ve been doing these already, pretty much, when shopping anything for convenience..

    I try to stay away from tins as much as possible since the local pharmacist said they’re not really totally ‘safe/healthy’ cause they’re lined with something sorta really bad…(someone at another forum said it might be the bisphenol A or such used… it might be an endocrine disruptor..)
    (after the week) google it or see eg
    Possibly okay in small amounts, but in really big amounts probably not a good idea!
    so lol good you’re planning to counteract with a week of healthy food!!
    And the heavily printed-on cardboard is not really ideal, though probably better than use of too many plastics…

    I do wish we had a local cooperative or weigh house here locally.. I don’t think they exist here.. would love to buy rice in bulk etc!! (in own reusable or simple paper containers)

    PS LOVE your bag!! 🙂

  8. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie: I have to be honest and say that I haven’t costed it out. I should do that and see. I hope it was way more expensive so that the incentive is there for people to make their own 😉

    @John Costigane: Thanks John. We really wanted to focus on convenience this week, as we know many people taking part in the challenge do not have time to cook from scratch.

    @Kris: Kris, we keep all our jars for chutneys and cries of ‘jars please’ which always come up at harvest time on Freecycle, so I really don’t know about the lid. Sorry about that.

    @greenlady: Yup, I always bake a full oven of jacket potatoes and use them up fried, throughout the week. I am using tinned black eye beans and chick peas this week for myself. I guess I should have shown them (although they were already in the house) for vegetarian visitors to the site. And of course, there is always tinned soup if needs must!

    @Rik Boland: Glad you got your womery, Rik. You raise a good point about local shops and co-ops. We use local where we can – farm shop, butcher and local corner shops. I also use a Suma co-op; we can’t buy things loose, but we can buy in bulk which helps to reduce waste. We would love a local ‘weigh house’ but rather live in the sticks where such a place is unlikely! Fortunately, I did not buy the boil-in-the-bag rice; there is nothing inside the cardboard and Lidls sell their own brand with no plastic inside the cardboard too – phew!

    @Layla: Thanks Layla; Bisphenol A is a concern for many. I try to avoid it in all other areas of our lifestyle, but not sure that I manage it. There are so many things to look out for, it would be easy to make everyone fearful. It’s obvious our diets are very far removed from ‘natural’ now and I guess we are sort of ‘adapting’ although medical evidence might not agree……. Ho hum; we do the best we can, eh 😉

  9. Di Hickman says:

    Great options!
    Layla BPA is a concern with ALL tinned food but then there are concerns with any foods these days. It’s a case of weighing up what works for you and trying to come to a compromise.
    Oh and Mrs G making your own curry is definitely cheaper than buying jars 🙂 Can’t vouch for the meat/pies etc as I’m veggie 🙂

  10. Kris says:

    Thanks Poppy and Mrs G – I shall see what my space allows – saving jars up or lids till I next do an HRC trip (despite this week I normally only need to go every few months!)

    I had a small tin-related smile this week, though it was a bit at my poor oh’s expense… Being rather low on fresh vegetables on Tuesday (the day I decided to ditch the idea of shopping and just bought a banana) I suddenly had a brainwave that there just *might* be a tin of carrots in the cupboard. I don’t usually buy them – but 18mths ago when the area flooded I did give in to a bit of siege-buying with unusual tinned items tucked away for emergencies! Joyfully, there was a tin of baby carrots which made the last of the broccoli and leeks look a bit more lively – and prompted my other half to say admiringly “Oh, these look posh, you usually chop them in rounds” – I presume he realised they weren’t actually that posh once he took a bite, but nice enough.

  11. Kris says:

    (Oh and despite the purchase date – they had about a year on the best before still!)

  12. Hi Mrs G – great vid. I remember my own experience when I was suffering writer’s block for the shopping section of the book and ended up spending three mornings at our local Sainsbury’s hunting down Zero Waste convenience food. Surprising there is a lot out there. Frozen vegetables can be added to the list as well because the bags can be added in with the bread bags and carrier bags that many supermarkets recycle in store.

    I’m definitely enjoying the luxury of avoiding the dreaded supermarkets at the moment. However, I am enjoying the delivery of cat food and other dry essential from the van driver at Waitrose. Keep up the great work. Looks like you’re having another fantastic week. 😀 x

  13. Mrs Green says:

    @Di Hickman: Hi Di; I’m sure things ARE cheaper made from scratch; that’s not an issue for us on most weeks, but it’s nice to know you CAN get away with ready made zero-waste food in an emergency

    @Kris: Oooo Kris; you bring back memories; I used to LOVE the taste of tinned carrots. I haven’t eaten them for years; I do remember them tasting both sweet and salty – I would probably hate that now! Glad OH like them and noticed LOL!

    @Almost Mrs Average: Glad to see you are enjoying a little home delivery over there, Mrs A. I love it too…….

  14. Kris says:

    I used to love tinned carrots – weirdly I liked the texture even though I prefer to barely blanch veggies. It turns out I also must have liked the salty taste as these ones were mainly notable for tasting aggressively bland – I cook veg without seasoning as well, but fresh stuff actually has a taste of its own 🙂

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