Week 3: 30 days of zero waste

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I'm a bit late getting this blog post published. September is hectic on its own, but doing this challenge has added an extra layer of busy-ness!! (For those needing to catch up, here's my week 1 and week 2 post)

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This week I'll be sharing some of my wins and challenges, and a recipe for you!! Zero waste has got me in the kitchen most days, baking and cooking up a storm.

Wins

There are some definite advantages to doing this challenge:

It's fun!

Seriously, I AM having a lot of fun. I enjoy being in the kitchen, so that helps. I've been making my own yogurt, tortilla wraps, granola bars, muffins and even tried sour cream the other day (it was a fail, which I'll discuss below.)

I don't think it's impacted my grocery bill (much)

I'm not going to do a detailed cost breakdown, as I just don't have the time. But based on what we normally spend week on groceries, I don't see a huge change. 

Yes, we're paying more for things in bulk (as often I can't take advantage of sales on items that are packaged or wrapped in plastic.) But guess what we're not spending a lot of money on? All those packaged items that normally sneak into our cart! My cupboards actually look quite bare. Making a lot of things on my own is definitely helping keep costs lower.

I'm more organized

This challenge has forced me to be very organized about food. I can't leave things to chance, as then we'd end up buying products with waste. So we're following a meal plan, and every morning/evening I'm assessing what needs to be made or bought to prep for those meals.

Challenges

As with any "extreme" challenges, things can get tough:

This is a lot of work

Not gonna lie, zero waste is a HUGE amount of work. You have to be on the ball at all times. You have to catch employees before they start wrapping your groceries in plastic. You have to always remember to carry cloth bags with you (I'm also carrying around jars...which may sound like I've got some hooch stashed in my purse!!) And ALL family members need to be really conscious about their own purchases too, as sometimes they'll forget.

It's hard to find certain items

There are some products that I can't find in bulk - dog food, coconut milk, and worchestshire sauce are just three I'm struggling with, but there are others. And yes, I know I can make my own dog food and coconut milk, but it ain't happenin!!

I also had a grand plan to do an entire Thanksgiving dinner waste free. But it turns out you can't just pick up a chicken or turkey without plastic packaging (that said, one kind farmer I contacted invited me to his farm to help kill the chicken myself - I'm still not sure if he was serious) Abattoirs will wrap pork and beef in brown butcher paper, but not chicken or turkey....go figure??

For harder to find (or expensive) items I'm trying to make my own. Sour cream was a fail, as I tried it with 10% cream that I can get in reusable jars. So I've broken my own rules and bought some 18% in a carton - I think the higher fat will help it to solidify.

One tried and true recipe that I've been using is from the Homemade Pantry - flour tortillas. We eat an insane number of these, for school/work lunches as well as taco nights.

If you want to go DIY in your kitchen, this is THE book you need - it has all the basics, from sour cream to pickles!! I use this food bible constantly (link below)

Flour Tortillas

4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 tablespoons of vegetable oil shortening or lard

tortillas

Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in large bowl. Cut butter and lard (I found some lard from a local farmer) into the bowl in about 1/2 inch pieces. Then using two butter knives or a pastry cutter (or just your hands!) cut the fat into the flour until the mixture becomes crumblyand fat is in about pea sized pieces.

Slowly add 1.5 cups of warm water, tossing as you go, until you form a sticky dough that holds together. Cover with a damp towel and let sit for 10 minutes. Break the dough into 16 balls (depending on how big you want the tortillas you may get more or less.) Cover with a damp towel. Heat up a frying pan to a high temperature - I use a cast iron pan. 

Flouring your surface and the rolling pin, roll out your dough. It has to be THIN, probably thinner than you think. It took me a few tries to get the right thickness. Throw it in the hot pan, and watch as it begins to bubble up. If your pan is super hot, this will take less than 1 minute. Flip the tortilla and cook for 1-15 seconds on the other side. You have to watch this really closely, as they will burn!!

Top with beans, rice, veggies, cheese - whatever! These are obviously best when eaten warm, but we freeze a whole stack and use all week.