Going Zero Waste, Simplifying, Uncategorized

Top Five 20 Minute Zero Waste Staple Recipes For the Family (Plus a delish coffee lover’s bonus!)

Time to roll up your sleeves, my friends! We’re going to do a little work- and I mean just a little! Here are my tried and true 20 minute or less Zero Waste staple recipes! Each delicious recipe will eliminate trash and/or recycling and won’t take you any time at all.

This is me being real. It’s my unedited pantry shelf. You can see we’re not completely plastic free yet, and I’m reusing all sorts of jars & lids instead of buying a cute set. But there is my homemade strawberry chia seed jam in the front and that almost empty jar in the back? Well, it’s time to make more pancake mix!

DIY Chicken/Veggie/Bone Broth – Definitely the simplest and least amount of effort here! (**I’m labeling this one as 20 minutes of overall effort – if that!**) Save any and all meat & veggie scraps from your regular cooking. Your leftovers determine your type of broth! Onion skins, chicken bones, pepper tops, celery leaves, herb stems and carrot ends all make yummy additions. Throw them in a big container in the freezer as you have them. When the container is full and contains a variety of goodness, put it in a crockpot and cover with water then simmer for the day. It will cook down a bit and become a nice rich color. Pour it through a strainer into recycled jars or even plastic lunchmeat or yogurt containers and freeze for future use. I keep several large containers on hand in the fall & winter for soups & chilis, then 1 or 2 cup size containers for regular dinner recipes. Broth lasts a loooooong time in the deep freeze. (& Here’s a more detailed recipe if you need more info with alternative methods.)

Pancake Mix – Who doesn’t love a big ol’ Saturday morning breakfast!? Collin & I get some bacon frying in the oven and whip up a double batch of these ‘cakes with blueberries and the kids wake up magically full of joy and eager to do their weekend chores. (Yes we shamelessly hold breakfast hostage until they’re done.) Unfortunately for the planet, the ease of a boxed pancake mix is undeniable, so make this mix ahead of time and measure it out as needed! 4 ingredients and 5 minutes of prep = super quick pancakes anytime you want ’em.

From Scratch Muffins – Going zero waste is absolutely more difficult if you have kids because kids love to snack and snack foods always equal individual wrapping and tons of single use plastic! Enter: the homemade muffin! I got the original red-checkered Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook for our wedding (Eeeek! 15 years ago!) and this basic muffin recipe has been a fave ever since. The website has all sorts of variations but use your imagination! Cinnamon apple and banana chocolate chip are my kid’s faves! We bake a batch twice a week or double it and make it once. It’s a good snack for on the go and always pairs well with coffee when friends are coming over. (Make the streusel topping at the bottom of the page and people will think you’re real fancy! hahaha)

Chia Seed Jam – No pectin required! Only 3 ingredients, freezable or can-able (Is that a word?) and perfect for Healthy PB&J’s: Yum-O! I have made this exact recipe with Blueberries, Strawberries and Raspberries, all with grandiose success!

Easy Peasy Oat Milk – Here is a simple and quick recipe for easy oat milk. All you need is a blender and a strainer. I know many people have actual nut milk bags, but I like to minimize my kitchen gadgets and a simple mesh strainer works for any alternative milk recipe just as well!

***BONUS***Coffee Creamer – Now that you have some freshly made sweet and creamy oat milk, use two cups of it for some incredible chemical-free creamer! I’ve used this recipe for YEARS and although it calls for half & half, I have used every variety of store-bought or homemade milks and every natural/old-fashioned sweetener and it still turns out! It’s a great balance of not-too-sweetness and lovely froth when you shake the jar before pouring it into your coffee. It’s refreshing in your afternoon pick-me-up cold brew and soothing in a hot cuppa Joe before the kids are up. Try making it with some local maple syrup and your fresh oat milk and I promise angels will sing.

Chef’s Note: Hopefully you are buying your flour and nuts in the big bag, which is great, because you’ll use them up in no time. To go one step further, find a local bulk food store and take your biggest Mason jar to fill up. Also, any leftovers or mess from baking can be thrown into your compost bowl. You’ve got one of those right? NOW you literally have ZERO waste!

For the skeptics: I will admit the flavors of home made are different from store bought (SOoo much FRESHER!!) but if you have a house full of kiddos, maybe make them one recipe at a time. OR my other sneaky strategy for introducing new flavors is to make just enough for me and allow the fam only a taste of what I’m eating. Then they want a little more and they’ll just have to wait for the next batch. (Insert evil mom-laugh for using reverse psychology FTW once again!)

OK, start the conversation, folks. Which recipe are you going to try? Do you already have a fave recipe that reduces kitchen trash!? (Who’s got a “bottom of the jar” recipe from Rachel Ray for us!?)

Going Zero Waste, Simplifying

Tiny Garbage Bins Are In

Well if you’ve been to my house, you know I have a tiny garbage bin. I always have. It’s a little bitty one that a grocery store bag fits in perfectly and it only holds a day’s worth of trash so we have the extra motivation to take it out at night and our cupboard never gets stinky.

I have endured some teasing for said garbage bin (when I used paper plates at a party and only two fit in the bin before the bag needs to be replaced) and I even attempted to upgrade it to a lidded version (when Buddy learned how to open the cupboard and help herself to a trashy little snack… the lid did NOT help this situation) but this tiny bin has been with me since we got married and moved into our first little pink house (don’t tell the hubs! We refer to it as “Salmon” when he’s around!). Needless to say, I like my tiny garbage.

I like how a tiny bin creates an awareness of what’s going in the trash (and eventually to the dump!). There isn’t room to put just anything in there and so we often have to consider other options. Could this “trash” go in the recycling instead? What if I flattened/took apart or repurposed this item? And why did I even end up with this trash? Could I have made a different purchase to avoid it ending up here?

Perhaps this is more thoughts about trash than you’d like to hear. (I promised to say a little too much, remember!?) But it leads me to the confession that I’ve always been a “zero-waster”, and now there is finally a cute name for it! So let’s be honest, no one can possibly create “zero waste” (If my garbage ever actually fits in a mason jar, I’ll let you know. At this point we’re FAR from it!!) but it’s really about the process of lessening our impact on the earth and creating a life of LESS stuff/ MORE experiences. This philosophy flows so beautifully with my dreams of the simple life and natural remedies and hand-making everything so that I KNOW what’s in it!

And so I’m continually on a journey to simplify the things that enter our house and use/waste less. I’m sure you’re all familiar with the beginning steps (who else watched Captain Planet and stuck around long enough to hear the planet saving tips at the end!?) but perhaps you’d like to try (or try again!?) a few of them?

  1. Fabric Shopping Bags ~ Duh! It’s kind of old news by now. We all have them, It’s remembering them that’s hard! And have you tried the mesh produce bags yet? They actually do keep your food fresher longer!
  2. Less Paper Products ~ All those pretty plates someone bought off your wedding registry? Use them! Old towels/dish clothes you recently replaced? Use those instead of paper towels for messes. Bring your own coffee cup/stainless tumbler when you go out.
  3. Buy Bulk~ Of course you can find a good bulk food store and bring your own containers. (It’s not that hard, it just FEELS like an extra step…and maybe requires some forethought.) But it also makes sense to buy one large PB rather than two small ones (I promise it won’t go bad before the kids can consume it!). Or you could get the bigger bag of fresh fruit/veggies and freeze some for smoothies rather than buying yet another plastic bag of pre-frozen produce.
  4. Make your own!~ Do you have a favorite thing that you buy all too often and it comes in a non-recyclable container? Go Straight to Pinterest and find a recipe to MAKE IT. Yes, you can do it. I’ve tried it all: Almond/Rice/Soy/Oat Milk, nut butter (EVERY kind!), granola bars, lotion, facewash, sunscreen, bathroom cleaner, dog shampoo- the options are endless! For some tried and true recipes check out my Pinterest board “Going Zero.” And there are millions of more ideas out there. Sure you may fail, but you’re closer to zero waste than you were before the attempt. And usually whatever ingredients you used come with plenty extra to make several batches, so try again!

So crazy enough, my family of 5 has commited to not buying plastic this summer! We’re giving it a go for 3 months to see what we can change and learn and what kind of a difference we can make. To give you an idea of how it’s going I’ll just smile and forget to mention that my first shopping trip contained enough ball jars of ingredients to make my own bread, mustard, protein bars, nut butter and 5 dinners worth of meat wrapped in paper… PLUS a slip-n-slide…. Oops! But we’re learning and making changes and hopefully I won’t get suckered in by the kiddos after an exhausting 4-store shopping trip where my brain did Yoga trying to figure out how to buy things in different packages again!

Now which steps have you conquered and which are you going to try? (And how big is your garbage bin??)