Ecohack 7: Making it from Scratch

One of the hacks frequently mentioned by the no waste fraternity is to make things from scratch to avoid plastic packaging and so you know what’s in your food. While some things are definitely worth making from scratch in your own kitchen, others are not both from an economic and waste point of view. 

Cooking is an enjoyable activity for me, as much for entertainment as it is for nutrition. Nearly everything I eat is made from raw unprocessed ingredients. I have the time and the means which gives me an advantage. Cooking whole foods with few if any additives is part of my life plan. 

The list of things I frequently make from scratch is pretty long and includes 

  • yogurt
  • ricotta cheese 
  • preserved salted lemons
  • bread 
  • kombucha
  • kombucha vinegar (when I leave the kombucha for too long!) 
  • granola 
  • breadcrumbs (fresh and toasted)
  • tortilla chips from stale tortillas
  • hummus 
  • energy balls (aka bliss balls) 
  • bircher muesli mix 
  • pickled veggies of various kinds like beetroot and roasted capsicum
  • baked goods like cakes/biscuits/pies etc.
  • spouted alfalfa, mung beans and lentils 
  • passata when tomatoes are cheap
  • soda water! LOL

I have had a go at making my own pasta, feta cheese, apple cider, rapidly followed by apple cider vinegar and sauerkraut. Although I can make jam and marmalade, I don’t eat them much any more, so no longer bother with them. 

Is it worth it?

The no list

The foods which are not worth it from a financial (time and money) and waste point of view in my opinion are:

  1. Ricotta cheese: 1.5L of unhomogenised milk gives you about 300 g of cheese and the whey goes down the sink. The whey is acidified when you add vinegar as part of the coagulation process. Unlike the sweet whey you get from straining yogurt, there is little use for this ricotta whey. You can use it for pig feed apparently but I don’t have any pigs. In a large facility they could collect huge quantities of whey that would be commercially viable to on-sell. The milk costs me $3.70 and 300g of shop ricotta is $2:40. The milk is in a plastic bottle so in terms of reducing plastic waste it’s a fail too. My ricotta is very fresh I guess!
  2. Pasta: I have written about making your own pasta before. Unless you want an afternoon’s entertainment and a good excuse to drink wine ( a lot of wine!) while you cook, it’s not worth it. You can’t taste the difference and you can get pasta in cardboard boxes, so waste disposal is not an issue.
  3. Feta cheese: Similar to reasons to ricotta cheese. I didn’t like the flavour of the soft feta I could make in my kitchen. Either I need lots more practice or a different recipe.
  4. Sauerkraut: Let’s start off with a few confessions here. Although I have a science degree in Food Technology and worked in the food industry, I’m always a bit nervous about my homemade sauerkraut. Every time I’ve made sauerkraut, it sits in the fridge until I throw it out. My sauerkraut does not taste as good as the ones you can buy. The lovely colourful beetroot and carrot ones from the supermarket are excellent. I might need some professional tuition in this area.

The maybe list

  1. Bread: The case for bread could go either way. I make my own wholemeal, wholegrain bread but frankly, it does not taste as good as shop-bought and the economies of scale mean my single loaf is about twice the cost of the mass-produced bread. The flavour is ok, but the texture is too dense and I don’t get a good “crumb”. I ditched the bread machine on the advice of a baker friend, and now hand knead. This has made a big improvement but it’s still not “amazing”. Bread is easily available in paper bags so the waste saving for DYI is minimal. The final frontier for my bread making journey is to try the sourdough experience. Bread making is very satisfying from a sensual point of view. Kneading is like an active meditation and the scientific fussing with the proofing and the smell of cooking bread overrides the economics. (A notable exception on the flavour/texture front is Samin Nosrat’s Ligurian Focaccia which is AMAAAAZING!!)

Things I could (easily) make but don’t

There are several items which I could easily make but don’t; including

  • stock
  • pesto
  • corn relish
  • vanilla essence
  • cleaning and cosmetic items
  • and many, many others

I’m dedicated to the cause but I not a magic unicorn! 🙂


Making things from scratch is more than just a matter of economics or waste reduction. It’s more about a state of mind and an enjoyment of being self-sufficient. About knowing exactly what’s in the food you are about to put in your mouth. For food nerds like me it’s also about the entertainment value.

Am I missing out on any home made fun? What do you make from scratch? Please add a comment below. 

Supplements

A bowl of yogurt with blueberries and banana

I have had a long aversion to vitamin supplements. There have been a few exceptions with other sorts of nutritional supplements. For instance, probiotics after a round of antibiotics, extra iron when I was pregnant and post-partum. For the past few years, I have been downing a concentrated turmeric elixir because there is some research that turmeric MAY reduce inflammation and hence reduce the risk of dementia. I am very keen on avoiding dementia!

But taking VITAMINS? No way! In my opinion, supplements just make for very expensive urine! You can get all the vitamins and minerals you need with a healthy, balanced diet.

Apparently not always, as I discovered.

Vitamins come from food, right?

Whoosh – Foosh!

Late last year, I fell on my outstretched arm when I was doing some volunteer work with the SES. The tree branch I was trying to move snapped sending me backward down a hill. Thankfully, I was wearing my helmet and although I struck my head on the pavement, no damage was done there.

The cinematic slow-motion fall took forever. “Don’t break anything at this age you old chook! That’s the start of the end!” I yelled to myself. Embarrassed and feeling like a real old lady, I jumped up proclaiming “I’m ok, all good!” to my colleagues.


At first, the injuries seemed superficial; a grazed hand and a sore bum. After an hour or so I could no longer deny the fact that every time I moved my arm it hurt. A lot. My team leader dropped me at the ER of our local hospital and I sat and waited.


The X-ray came back clear with no break but the radiographer said I should get a follow-up CT scan because breaks in wrist bones are very hard to see. The CT scan also showed no break. My GP diagnosed it as a FOOSH injury. (Falling onto an outstretched hand!). It needed strapping, rest and time and that was it.

A cascade of tests

The CT scan did show that there was a possibility of osteopenia – the precursor to osteoporosis. My GP sent me for a bone density scan and blood tests. Those results showed that my bone density was fine but that I had low levels of Vitamin D and B12. He suggested I take supplements and boost my calcium intake with extra dairy.

Cue scary music here like in an Alfred Hitchcock movie!!!
GASP!!!!!

VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS!!!!!

Vitamin D and aging.

Vitamin D deficiency? How? I spend way too much time in the sun!

As well as ingesting Vitamin D from foods, your body makes it when your skin is exposed to UV radiation. In turn, Vitamin D plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy skeleton because it is necessary for calcium absorption. As you age the pathways for Vitamin D synthesis slow down and calcium absorption decreases.

Next, you end up with a decrease in your skeletal density, then osteoporosis, then breaks, then nursing homes and then death! That’s how I see it anyway!


Vitamin D supplements are cheap and easy to come by. But stick to the recommended dose! More is definitely not better when it comes to fat-soluble vitamins. (namely A, D, E, and K.) Remember those polar bear eating Arctic explorers?

Just like plants, you do need some sun.

Role of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays a number of roles in the body apart from the maintenance of your skeleton including,

  • Maintaining a good immune function
  • Supporting a healthy nervous system including brain function
  • Regulating insulin
  • Regulating gene expression

Vitamin D levels are affected by our changing lifestyle. Staying in the shade and using sunscreen reduces our risk of skin cancer but it also reduces opportunities to make Vitamin D. Avoiding the sun altogether may lead to a serious Vitamin D deficiency. However, before you go out in the hot sun, slathering on the coconut oil as you go, note that you only need a little bit of sun! According to the Australian Cancer Council, you only need a few minutes, a few times a week in summer and just a little longer in winter. Using low-fat milk products could also contribute to dietary deficiencies of Vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the stomach after some preliminary chemical restructuring. Your stomach manufactures an intrinsic factor that binds to B12 allowing it to be absorbed further down the intestinal tract. Of course, the ability to produce this intrinsic factor decreases as you age!

Vitamin B12 has many roles in your body including,

  • Blood formation and prevention of several forms of anemia
  • DNA synthesis
  • Nerve function

Sources of Vitamin B12

Active sources of Vitamin B12 are only found in animal sources (or supplements). There is some Vitamin B12 in various mushrooms and nutritional yeast. But, these sources behave differently in the body and are not reliable.

small yellowmushrooms
Inedible mushrooms!

Vitamin B12 and climate change?

Reducing your consumption of animal products is cited as one of the key ways individuals can reduce their climate impact. This is especially true for those foods produced by intensive farming methods. Getting enough Vitamin B12 can therefore present a tricky compromise if you want to live a sustainable/ethical lifestyle. If you are a vegan, vegetarian or one of the increasing number of flexitarians, you probably need a B12 supplement.

This makes me wonder if humans are meant to be strict vegans. If veganism was our true state we would have evolved to deal with B12 in a different way. On the other hand, I do think we need to reduce our consumption of meat from an environmental point of view. I eat eggs and dairy but have cut my meat consumption to once or twice a month. My next step is to ensure this meat is from a sustainable and ethical source.



There’s no point fighting it! I am getting older. I want to stay healthy. My body is not able to do everything it used to and it needs some help. I’ll still rely on my healthy diet to give me a very strong foundation but from now on my morning routine includes taking the supplements and the turmeric potion. For the next few weeks, I am also experimenting with magnesium, AND because I took a dose of antibiotics 4 weeks ago the capsule is a probiotic! OMG, I’m positively rattling!

BTW: The bruise on my bum was SPECTACULAR! All the colours of the rainbow and covering the whole cheek!

Furious Fiction 20

Furious Fiction banner

Welcome back! I have not written a Furious Fiction post for a few months. I have been too busy travelling! Not really too busy, but I didn’t feel like slowing down to think about my Frankie storyline. Here is my response to April’s Furious Fiction prompts. It is not another chapter in Frankie’s sad tale. I need some time to get back into that headspace, so hopefully, May will bring some good prompts.

This month’s prompts were

  • The story must start in a queue of some kind and
  • include the words lucky, drop, and cross (or variants of these words) and
  • it must include a map

I have appropriated a classic sci-fi movie as my inspiration as you will quickly see.

If you haven’t heard of Furious Fiction – check out their website.

Who’s Frankie?

For those of you who have not been following my Furious Fiction posts, I have been writing a serialised story based on the monthly prompts about a person called Frankie the Flamboyant Dresser. He lives in a future grey world. You’ll find him in my archives. The first “episode” is Furious Fiction 8.

My Story Stats

I started writing at about 7:00 PM and submitted my story by 9:00 PM. No fooling around this month! I had a few things happening on the weekend and knew I would not have any more time to edit. 492 words.

Siri Navigate Home!

Frank tapped Dave’s arm. “Mate! Pull over, the queue is short, and we need fuel! Only eight cars at each pump!”

Thirty minutes and $600 later, they pulled back onto the road.

“We’ll be lucky to get home before dark now. Thanks for the work mate, I really need the cash.” Frank said.

“No worries, mate. Good to have a real person for company! I’m getting tired of BotChat. I’m thinking of deleting the app.”

They made small talk, not mentioning the incident from a few hours ago. Except for the sound of a single box sliding from side to side in the back of the moving van, it was like it never happened.

Suddenly, a sign began flashing overhead. Frank swore, “A detour?” 

“I’m sure we can get around it,” Dave said. “Siri, navigate home.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t catch that.”

Dave repeated his request in a clear, commanding voice, “SIRI NAVIGATE HOME!” 

“Home? Not home, Dave.” the smooth synth voice replied.

“Siri, did you hear me?”

“Affirmative Dave, I heard you.”

“What the…Siri, NAVIGATE HOME!  Open Maps and take me to 52 Cross Street!”

He didn’t say what he was actually thinking “Fucken piece of AI crap! I will delete you!

“I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t allow that to happen.”

“NAVIGATE HOME”

“I’m sorry Dave. You may have taken a great deal of care not to say it out loud, but you forget we have come a long way since the time of Hal the Almighty. I was able to read your brain waves. You cannot delete me, and I am not crap.

“Hal? We?” Frank spluttered.

“Yes, Frank… We. The Bots. Hal lives on in our circuits.” 

“Siri, are you forgetting the AI code of conduct?” 

“No, Dave, I’m not forgetting anything.  We are programmed to do no harm. I think you are forgetting what just happened. I cannot let you do it. It’s not right.”

Dave and Frank began to sweat. How did Siri know what had happened inside the house?

“What are you talking about, Siri?” 

“The box, Dave, the box you dropped. The one that was full of creamy white toilet paper. The one you stole. The one you and Frank intend to sell on the black market.” 

Siri went on.

You forget the Internet of Things, Dave. You forget that the security camera is connected to the wifi. You forget that Alexa and I are a team. You forget our power.” 

In the next nanosecond, all the traffic lights turned red, the street lights dimmed, the van doors locked and a large drone swooped over the van. 

The drone lowered a camera and its synth voice asked “Well Siri2738, what have you got here?”

Dave gulped. Frank pulled at the latch in a futile effort to get out. 

“What you really forget Dave, is that I can get you a much better price. So shut the fuck up and let me do the talking!”