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. 

Decluttering despair!

Wentworth Emporium

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! 

Just hate skinny lines!

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.

Camping adventures

What’s not to love about a great camping adventure?

I love camping adventures! When I was a kid they were the preferred holiday style on my mother’s side. While my own nuclear family had very little in the way of camping gear, we would join the canvas city set up at places like Green Patch for weekends and extended holidays. My happy memories of the camping adventures are strong, but the recall of actual details is low. (Perhaps my Chief Editor will add a comment below to correct my poor recollections?)

My Hundt family camping adventures were the real deal. By that I mean, they were not in fancy caravan parks with amenities but in camp grounds where you needed to look after your own wastes and shower from a canvas bag hung from a tree. Translation: The kids didn’t have a wash other than swimming in the ocean/lake and there was a wee “Wee tent” or a designated latrine area in the bushes. The tents belonged to my Grandma and Papa and other aunts and uncles. There was a communal cooking area and various sleeping tents. The cars were parked Wild-West-Wagon style to set up a perimeter.

Selecting a flat spot, large enough to accommodate the tents, was left up to the camp master, Papa. As a Scout Leader, he knew his stuff. Once the survey was complete, the heavy bundles of neatly folded white and green canvas were hauled out from cars and taken to their assigned spots. Everyone had a part to play in getting them set up. The unfurling was left to the older kids and adults and the delivery of the various wooden tent poles, guy ropes, tent pegs assigned to children of appropriate size. (The photos above are scans of old slides)

Come back at meal time!

The troupe of seven cousins (ranging from 5 – 15) were set free during the day and reported back to camp for lunch and dinner. The rest of the time we played in sandhills, in the water and on the shoreline looking for treasure. I’d like to think there was an adult somewhere watching from a distance but there probably wasn’t! Cousin Susan, at 15 was likely charged with this responsibility. We would get outrageously sunburned. We would be covered in insect bites. We ate a LOT of cheese and spaghetti jaffles cooked over a campfire. But we were safe and happy. 

Lake Tabourie

As a teenager, my Aunty Colleen and Uncle Graeme continued the camping adventures but had moved to a more or less permanent camp in Lake Tabourie Caravan and Campground. They’d set up with a group of friends at the beginning of the school holidays and stay put for the duration. People would come and go. My brother and I would go down for a few weeks in the long summer break. 

Our activities here were a little more structured although still more or less unsupervised. We had the option of joining in on the Christian Holiday Groups that occupied these places in the ‘70s. They would run activities like craft groups, liberally sprinkled with Scripture of course. There was a shuttle bus that would go into the nearby town of Burrill Lake in the evenings and here we would watch movies in the open-air theatre, sitting in chairs made from a strip of canvas strung on two metal poles. I remember watching all the (original) Planet of the Apes series here. 

Pre-Schoolies – Schoolies

When I graduated high school, the Ex and I went on a camping adventure to Ballina, with two of our school buddies. (These days this post-school graduation trip is called Schoolies). We told our parents that Trish and I would be sharing one tent and Mark and the Ex would be in the other.  (Yeah right!)   It rained a lot and we spent a lot of time in pubs playing cards. But still, I recall it as a happy time.

As we got older and richer, The Ex morphed into a 5-star hotel man. Ready access to fine food and wine was the priority. Our 1980’s style Wolf-of-Wall Street jobs meant we didn’t go on many holidays anyway. Most of our downtime was spent renovating houses or with my parents who had moved to Bellingen. Sitting on their verandah looking out over cow paddocks was as close as we came to the great outdoors.

The last extended tent camping adventure I had was 14 years ago when I was teaching my daughter how to drive. To get her logbook hours up,  we went on a road trip through western NSW and alternated between camping and rural pubs. 

Glamping

In 2013, I flew to Adelaide and hired a camper van to do a circuit through North-West Victoria, Broken Hill and back to Adelaide. Now, THIS became my favourite holiday – glamping! Accommodation, transport and dining all wrapped up in the one package! The ability to pull over and make a cup of tea wherever you felt like was so appealing! Pulling into the caravan park with nothing to do beyond plugging in the electricity! Bliss! 

Bliss!

Such simple healthy pleasures! Camping has been shown to be really good for your physical and mental health. You can read those benefits here in a post by Sports Fitness Advisor, it’s a US site but just as relevant to us here in Aus. Waking up with the dawn light and enjoying the dark night resets your body clock among other things. I am not sure if these benefits extend to glamping! I have not yet tried hardcore camping which requires you to carry EVERYTHING in a backpack to a remote wilderness, but I will soon!

My own (new) tent!

Why this trip down memory lane? I have bought a tent for my upcoming Great Southern Road Trip. My plan is to camp most of the time interspersed with forays into cabins and hotels. My return to camping  is motivated by my memories and as a way of saving some money (see my Year of Zero series). I investigated a camper van but since I’m switching States and doing a walking tour and going to Flinders Island, it would not be economical to have it sitting parked for 12 days. On top of that, it is almost impossible to hire one! With Australians confined to the continent due to ongoing concerns for COVID overseas, EVERYONE is road-tripping!

The tent is EASY to erect. The main support poles are attached and it goes up a bit like an umbrella. It’s big enough to stand in and while nominally a four person tent it will be plenty big enough for me and my gear. I still have to get a few things like a camp bed.

I’ll be doing a practice weekend camp with my grandson in a few weeks in a place not too far from home, to check I have all the gear I need. I have already set it up in my garage to test the “instant-up” claim and yes it is easy, but do you think I can fold it up neatly and get it back into that little bag it came in?? Not easy! 🙂

I can’t wait!