Just lately, I have been going down a sustainability minimalist rabbit hole. I have been reading lots of blog posts. Binging on podcasts series like The Slow Home Podcast (Australian) and Sustainable Minimalism (American). I have written a few posts about consumerism, minimalism and frugality myself.
Last week I announced a new series called From the Vault. Essentially these posts are place keepers while I decide what to do about this here blog.
You might also be interested in listening to the New York Times Podcast The Rabbit Hole which explains how YouTube can lead to radicalism. I’m staying away from the radical nonsense and sticking to how I can reduce my carbon footprint!
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
kombucha vinegar (when I leave the kombucha for too long!)
breadcrumbs (fresh and toasted)
tortilla chips from stale tortillas
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:
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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.
I have spent the last couple of days decluttering (Again!). Rather than feeling joyful as I sort things into piles nominally labelled ditch, donate and decide later; I am getting more and more depressed!
It’s bothering me because over the last few years I have tried REALLY, REALLY hard not to bring unnecessary things into my home BUT I still have a mountain of stuff. It’s all useful stuff in some form or another, but I am not sure it will all get used in my lifetime! I have followed the one-in one-out rule but I still have every available bit of storage in my home filled. I had a successful Year of Zero where I bought nothing (well nearly nothing) new in 2018 and again in 2020.
So why do I still have so much stuff? I should have less stuff! When I look at the offending items, most are things I have had for a (really) long time, like stationery that dates back to my first time at Uni, forty-odd years ago! I even have a blank exercise book that belonged to my grandfather! Now that’s serious dedication to resource husbandry and storage stamina!
Writing paper anyone?
I have so much blank and lined writing paper it’s embarrassing! You know that scene in Gone With the Wind where Scarlett is forced to write between the lines on a previously used piece of paper? Well, I need those circumstances to be recreated where paper is in short supply and everyone is desperate for sheets of unused paper! I could corner the market with the amount of ageing writing paper I have managed to accumulate!
Another overstocked item in my stationery cupboard is packets of paper clips! I haven’t bought any in the last 10 years and for some reason, I have 3 unopened boxes of 100!
I know if I were decluttering in the style of Marie Kondo or the Minimalists I would have piles labelled something like: discard, recycle, donate and sell. Well, let me tell you no one wants to buy a hundred or so blank exam writing booklets that I purloined because they had widely spaced lines! You see, I prefer to write on blank paper or paper with 10 – 12 mm feint ruled lines. I hate the standard 8 mm stuff and the fat lined paper is so hard to come by. When my school was ditching some fat-lined exam booklets back in 2009, I grabbed them!
And… I’ve still got them! I have used some but not as many as I obviously thought I would. I guess my plan is to just keep using them until I fall off the perch. Or hope we get a paper shortage! Whichever comes first.
Hoarder or Frugal?
I’m beginning to think I might be a closet hoarder! (see what I did there?) Or am I just frugal? It is all very tidily arranged and nothing is spilling out and there is a place for everything but it’s overwhelming. I don’t agree with throwing things out for the sake of it. If I threw all the paper out eventually I would need to buy more and that would be a waste of resources and just add to landfill. In my mind, it’s better to plough through it one ream at a time!
My vow today dear reader is to not buy, accept or otherwise obtain any more writing paper until what I have is used up! I had better start writing a War and Peace length novel by hand! 🙂
I have written about minimalism, decluttering and consumerism before. If you’re interested, you can start at my post about the Konmari Bandwagon.