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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The plastic challenge - week three

This week's shop was pretty successful.  I bought quite a bit of meat including some for my grandmother.  She decided she wanted hers in a container rather than in a plastic bag - it's catching on.  Fortunately our local butcher is extremely supportive and is more than happy to fill up my own containers.

We went shopping on Saturday for some more vegetables, and the one thing we didn't come back with (aside from peas of course) was a cauliflower.  We were in Waitrose and all the cauliflowers are in a plastic bag.  We know that it is the same in Sainsbury's.  The last cauliflower I bought was in Whole Foods Market where they are not in plastic bags.  We could maybe have found one at the market, unpackaged but we decided we would do without as we had bought sprouts in one of our own Onya Weigh bags.

The one bit of plastic we came back with this week was a tub of Philadelphia cheese.  I've decided this purchase is exempt from my plastic challenge as I buy it for making cheesecake or tiramisu which is a good way of using up leftover/stale cake.  We had half a chocolate log in the fridge which had really been there long enough so it got mashed up into the base for tiramisu and soaked in Tia Maria and strong coffee.  Then I whipped up the Philadelphia with some icing sugar and spread that on top and covered it in grated chocolate. It is now all eaten up as pudding after Sunday lunch.

Making tiramisu out of the leftover chocolate log
There was some extra chocolate sauce left over from the chocolate log, and so I turned this into a fridge cake.  This was another plastic challenge as I have up to now made my fridge cake by lining a loaf tin with cling film.  This was easily overcome though, by using a pork pie tin which has a loose bottom, lined round the edge with some Bake-o-glide.  It worked really well and was easier than the cling film method.

My new method for making fridge cake

So why do I consider the Philadelphia cheese packaging to be ok?  Well, it is most certainly reusable in our house.  I always keep the empty pots, wash them out and reuse them for example for snacks like peanuts and raisins or grated carrot and celery sticks which I take when I am working away from home and Junior Daughter takes to school.  There is no other plastic packaging other than the tub itself.

Mid week I decided I needed to buy my cat food as they say you should introduce new cat food gradually.  I did buy the Countrywide brand and the cats like it. So again more plastic, but at least it is in a useful bag.

Here's the Pitt Purchased plastic tally to date:

2 toothpaste tubes with lids
2 plastic bubbles from the battery packaging

In addition, but with plans to make use of the plastic:

1 tub with lid from Philadelphia cheese
1 bag from cat food washed out, dried and back in use.

I have also pulled out of my plastic store a small plastic bag when I've needed one. It was from apples. I'll be keeping this and no doubt reusing it again, because apples from now on will only be purchased loose.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

The plastic-free challenge - we can no longer buy The Guardian

Mr Pitt's Parmesan Bites with Chilli and Rosemary

So, after feeling the glow of success last Saturday, we went out on a mission to acquire more good quality plastic tubs to continue our naked shopping.  Senior Daughter is also keen to join in even while living away, so we will be needing lots more re-fillable pots to manage our mission.

We also needed butter, cheese, toothpaste and some small round batteries for our kitchen scales.

The butter we buy is wrapped in paper, so there's no change there at this stage as although our aim is to reduce single use anything, we are at the moment concentrating on plastic.  We headed to the market with a suitable cheese sized plastic tub to see if there was a cheese stall.  No luck there, so we decided to give Waitrose a try.  We did come away with a chunk of cheese in our plastic container but the young lady who served us looked a little perplexed and it took some explaining that we didn't want any plastic packaging in the box with it.  She used a sheet of plastic to hold the cheese while she cut it and to transfer it to our box.  I think she then threw away that sheet of plastic. However, if we hadn't taken our own container, not only would the cheese have remained wrapped in the sheet of plastic, it would have been placed inside another plastic bag, so at least we are saving on waste if not entirely.

The toothpaste, however, was our first failure.  Dental hygiene is a big worry for people and I had done a little Internet research about alternatives to toothpaste in plastic tubes.  I occasionally use LUSH toothy tabs, which I really like and I always use these when travelling.  As I understand it they are basically toothpaste in solid form.  They are packaged in recycled cardboard, which itself is recyclable.  I have probably been using them on and off for about a year, but unless I use them consistently and completely ditch the tube toothpaste then I won't really know if I pass the dental check.  So, I've decided to try to be more consistent on my use of the toothy tabs.  I realised that one thing that stops me is that I haven't been keeping them in the bathroom for fear they will get wet.  So my plan is to find a small jar to keep them in, so they stay dry and are always to hand.  Old habits die hard, they do say, and sure enough I find myself reaching for the toothpaste tube more often than not.

The batteries for the scales were another fail! They had a small plastic bubble to keep them in place on a piece of card.  However, we do want to get our scales back into use and return the ones we had to hastily borrow from my Dad on Christmas Eve, when ours packed up.

The next challenge, I think is going to be cat food.  We did a bit of research, to see if we could find a local bulk buy place where we could fill our own container, but no joy.  We looked at brands like Go-Cat that come in a cardboard box, but the meat content is around 3.8% rather than 38% like our current brand.  My thought so far is to switch to the Countrywide own brand which comes in a no-nonsense clear plastic bag, which would be recyclable, or washable and reusable if opened carefully.  It seems to have largely the same ingredients as the current cat food.  I've got a couple of days to make a decision. In the meantime, I would be grateful for any suggestions.

I'm also on the lookout for somewhere to buy frozen peas in my own container. So far, we have just done without, but we are missing our peas :(

Last but not least - we realised we can no longer buy The Guardian at the weekend as it comes wrapped in plastic. NO OTHER NEWSPAPER on the shelf in Waitrose had a plastic wrapper so why does The Guardian feel it is necessary?  I'm sad about that, but I'm sure the unread sections of the stash of Guardian's we already have will keep us going for a while.

To date the 2015 Pitt purchased plastic tally is this:

2 toothpaste tubes with lids
2 plastic bubbles from the battery packaging.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Scrapping the single use plastic packaging

Can it be done? What will life be like without single-use plastic?

I thought I was going to lose junior daughter and Mr Pitt on day one. New Year's Day in the Pitt household is traditionally a day for chilling out and eating snacks.  Junior Daughter had friends staying for New Year and so when she took them home Mr Pitt instructed her to buy snacks. Please remember the plastic free bit, I urged and received back a 'don't worry, Mum'.
Soon I get a phone call asking what she could buy. Maybe tubs of nuts, was my suggestion. But she couldn't see anything in a reusable tub. Then I cracked and said that I couldn't think of anything and I wasn't going to be eating them anyway. (Not true!)
A few minutes later I get a text:
"There is 100 per cent nothing I can buy."
I wasn't sure what to expect. But she did indeed come back with nothing. I raided the snacks cupboard and pulled out a few unfinished packs of crisps and found a tub of Yorkshire Crisps from a hamper I had been given for Christmas. I thought it was bound to have a plastic inner. But No. The tub is on its third use now full of roasted peanuts from Whole Foods Market. It has already transported sugar from SESI Oxford to the fairly heavy glass storage jar I use. Mr Pitt also came to the rescue with a yummy tortilla - a Spanish tapas dish he made from fried potatoes, onion, marjoram and thyme, fried up then transferred to a quiche dish, covered with beaten egg and then grilled.  So we had a lovely film and snacks evening after all.

The snack attack issue was solved on my trip to SESI Oxford. When I stocked up with dry goods like flour and sugar, I bought peanuts and raisins in my own Onya Weigh bags. JD is taking these to school daily in a Philadelphia cheese tub. Then in Whole Foods Market I filled my Yorkshire Crisps tub with salted peanuts and bought dried salted broad beans, giant salted corn and Taiwanese Chilli Rice Crackers in my own containers. Today we will make a batch of mini cheese biscuits and some banana bread.

So far we have still been producing plastic from using up stocks, but we've managed to do all our shopping totally naked. So, off to a good start.

Using up the stocks.  This is the plastic we have generated in a week.