Low waste vegan dinners: what our family’s eating this week
We’re heading into week 2 of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at our house.
No last minute shopping trips for us.
Time to dig deep in the cupboards! And eat what needs to be eaten ASAP.
So here’s our week of low waste vegan meal plans that the whole family will eat.
Very little processed or packaged foods, almost everything available in our local and Bay Area bulk bins, and no animal products :).
FYI: my approach to cooking is pretty free form so apologies if you need strict measurements. I don’t got ‘em :).
Saturday: Instant falafels, homemade hummus, homemade tahini dressing (Minimialist Baker has 2 different yummy dressings on her site – check them out!), roasted cauliflower, homemade pickled carrots, and mashed potatoes.
It was a little smorgasbord type plate but all the flavors were really yummy together.
A couple recipes for ya: Instant falafel mix from bulk bins (no recipe, just eyeballing it): -put the mix in a bowl. -add a little water, a little olive oil, and stir. -Keep adding water, a little at a time, til the mixture is pretty thick and holds together. -Roll the mix into balls – we did about 2” per ball. -Spread them on a baking sheet & press them down a little to flatten slightly. -We baked ours for about 15 minutes at 425F because we were also roasting cauliflower. You could cook them at a lower temp, maybe a little longer, until they feel as hard and crunchy as you like ‘em.
Mashed potatoes: -wash, peel, and thinly chop potatoes -cook in boiling water with salt for about 15 minutes -drain over a clean bowl so you can save some of the cooking water. -mash the cooked potatoes with salt, pepper, vegan butter, and some of the cooking water til you get the consistency you like. We use either a fork or our pastry device that cuts butter into dough :). Use whatever you have for mashing foods.
2. Sunday: spaghetti with tomato sauce, texturized vegetable protein (TVP), shredded brussel sprout salad, sauteed mushrooms & onions.
3. Monday: vegan pasta alfredo; steamed broccoli with vegan butter, lemon, and salt; chickpea salad with finely sliced red onions, shredded carrots, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. The alfredo sauce recipes comes from Vegan with a Vengeance and is a blend of pine nuts, nutritional yeast, water, cooked onions/garlic, and spices. We used half cashews, half walnuts instead of pine nuts because we’re out of pine nuts :).
4. Tuesday: tacos with home cooked black beans, rice, shredded cabbage, salsa or salsa ingredients, if we run out of stuff, chopped on the side; simple guacamole of avocados, lemon juice, and salt.
5. Wednesday: instant chili, cornbread or toast, green salad
6. Thursday: TBD (I like to leave some wiggle room for leftovers or, pre-COVID-19, going out to eat).
7. Friday: pizza dinner with sauteed veggies, olives, tomato sauce, cashew cheese from Nora Cooks Vegan, popcorn, green salad or other veggies.
There’s our week of low waste vegan dinners! All of these take about 30 minutes to 1 hour to prep, but usually we have leftovers for lunches, snacks, breakfasts, and maybe a future dinner. Plus it’s worth it to us to be eating very little processed and packaged foods. So I don’t mind the time to cook. And now that we aren’t shuttling the kids to after school activities or going anywhere ourselves, we seem to have plenty of time to cook.
Are you planning out your low waste dinners? I’d love to hear about it! Liz
Packaged goodies: bread in paper, toothpaste, rice dream, massive bag of brown rice, pasta in paper boxes, bread flour, pickles, veganaise, earth balance, popcorn kernels in plastic, cereal, soy sauce, wine, olive oil, honey, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, veg broth, & olive oil.
Plus some canned foods for our outside supply.
Here’s our meal plan for week:
Spaghetti with tomato sauce, texturized veggie protein (TVP), and either roasted or sauteed veggies. We usually use canned tomatoes with a few dried herbs, maybe some sauteed onions, as the pasta sauce. Plus TVP for some protein. When I roast veggies, I usually toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and spices (whatever suits my fancy) and then cook them at 425F for about 30 minutes, stirring them halfway through.
Tacos with home cooked pintos from the pressure cooker. We soak the pintos overnight, then drain and rinse them. Toss them in the pressure cooker with chopped onions, cumin, salt, and bay leaves. Cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Homemade salsa is just cilantro, onions, jalapeño, tomatoes, lemon juice and salt. Shredded cabbage tossed in lemon juice or in veganaise. Simple guacamole of avocado, salt, and lemon juice.
Vegan mac n cheese with cashew cheese (check out Nora Cooks Vegan for recipes!), brussel sprout salad (my new fav). I make a honey mustard dressing and toss shredded brussel sprouts, chopped almonds, and chopped dried fruit like raisins, cranberries, dried cherries, or dried persimmons.
Red lentil soup with toast and a green salad. We add onions, spices, and a little lemon juice to the soup. Mmmm yum!
Homemade pizza (I like Bobby Flay’s dough recipe) with cashew cheese (same Nora Cooks Vegan recipe as for mac n cheese) and sauteed veggies (I love mushrooms, onions, and sweet peppers on top) and olives; green salad.
And I’ve got a few food storage tips for you in case you’re buying in bigger quantities right now:
Store your carrots in water to keep them fresher for longer. Change the water every few days – pour it on your garden :).
Clean your greens when you bring them home. Then store them in a cloth bag in the fridge. A little dampness helps keep them fresh.
Mushrooms last way longer in a cloth or paper bag than plastic.
Clean and dry/spin your fresh herbs and store them in a cloth bag to keep them fresh and breathing.
Nuts keep best in the freezer. We put ours in jars in the freezer.
Fresh nut butters keep great in the fridge but if you go through them fast, you can also store them in your cupboards.
If you have extra room in your fridge – keep extra fruit in there instead of on the counter.
Try pickling your veggies with a quick pickle recipe. If you haven’t seen Portlandia’s “We can pickle that!”, drop what you’re doing and watch it now ;). We’ve pickled carrots, cabbage, & beets. Other crunchy veggies like cucumbers (duh) and cauliflower would be delish!
There’s our week of low waste vegan meal planning! Are you getting into meal planning? Any tips or suggestions for me?
Thanks for reading and for all that you do for the earth.
Here’s the thing – I’m not a chef. I work full-time (and sometimes more), as does my partner. And we have two kiddos with dance or piano lessons every day of the week (except Sunday).
SO, our dinners have to be FAST. Easy. Kid-friendly. Vegan. And low waste. Here’s what we’re eating this week for dinners.
Our low waste vegan meal plan for the week
Fruits & veggies for the week.
We shop for these in our cloth veggie bags that you can buy here. I take them out of their bag for the pic but we keep them in these cloth veggie bags in the fridge or in a hanging fruit basket in the kitchen.
This week we bought:
string beans (still in their bags) – see bottom picture.
And a day or so before we made our big grocery run, we got kale, bananas, lemons, mangos, oranges, apples, avocados, and bread in a paper bag.
This is a pretty typical haul for us. I have lots of green smoothies for breakfasts. We have lots of veggies at each dinner. And the kids take fruits and veggies in their lunches pretty much every day.
Pantry staples from bulk bins
We take our own clean containers like mason jars, old veganaise jars, old olive jars, and others to fill with staples that are a little messier. We weigh the jars before we fill them. Most stores have a scale you can use to get the weight of your container (aka the tare weight). Or you can ask a cashier to weigh it.
This week in jars we bought:
corn flake cereal
We put nutritional yeast on everything – pasta, salads, fancy toast, popcorn, veggies. Nutritional yeast (aka nuty yeast) gives food a little earthy-salty flavor. Plus its got vitamins and minerals.
For foods from bulk that aren’t too messy, we put them straight into the same cloth bags you can purchase here. This week in bags we bought:
We should’ve put the cornmeal in a jar – it got the bag pretty powdery and I’m still finding bits of cornmeal in our grocery bags ;). Next time….
We aren’t perfect and still get a few packaged goods most of the time. We pick foods that are yummy, will simplify meal prep, and are popular with the kids. Or essential for my coffee (COCONUT MILK!). Or when the bulk version is out of stock. This week olive oil was out of stock, so we got it packaged.
So this week’s packaged foods were:
a yummy vegan dip called Bitchin’ Sauce that my kids will put on just about any vegetable in their lunches and on their sandwiches.
Corn and flour tortillas for taco/burrito night and for lunches and snacks.
Coconut milk for my coffee.
Olive oil for everything every day.
Our low waste vegan meal plan for the week
Here’s what we’re eating this week. All low waste vegan meals:
Sushi bowls with sushi rice (I found a recipe online that was yummy and easy – rice wine vinegar and sugar) plus finely sliced carrots, cucumbers, and avocado. Plus local seaweed we get in a paper bag at the Santa Cruz farmers market. A little dab of veganaise. Soy sauce. Pickled ginger from a little glass jar that we’ll reuse. We put all of this into a bowl together. Super yum. Kids asked for this meal this week and they ate it up!
Tacos/burritos with pressure-cooked pinto beans; brown rice cooked with onions and spices; homemade salsa made with chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, lemon juice, and salt; shredded cabbage tossed in a little veganaise; super simple homemade guacamole (avocados + lemon juice + salt), and tortillas.
Ramen noodle bowls with
veggie broth (from bulk);
sauteed onions with fresh garlic and ginger;
fresh thinly sliced carrots, zucchinis, and cabbage and cilantro;
beef-style TVP (boiled, drained, and then tossed in a quick and dirty “teriyaki” sauce of soy sauce, powdered ginger, peanut oil, rice vinegar and sugar;
plus roasted cauliflower for the side or with the bowl
And a couple hot sauces in glass jars.
This dinner was super popular with the kiddos and grown-ups. It probably took about an hour from start to finish, but we had leftovers to help out with other meals so I don’t mind the time too much. Plus I love eating lots of veggies at dinner.
ramen bowl dinner
4. Homemade pizza, with quick homemade dough topped with vegan homemade cashew cheese (see Nora Cooks Vegan for her awesome vegan cashew queso!). Plus sauteed bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. And chopped olives. Plus a green salad and probably some popcorn and probably a movie too.
So there you have it – our low waste vegan meal plan for this week. Does this give you any ideas for your upcoming dinners? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
It’s summer time in Santa Cruz and that means SO MANY PICNICS! We’ve got evening concerts at the beach. Potluck parties at friends’ homes. Lots of lunches and snacks at the beach. And dinners in the park.
In this post I’ll walk you through a low waste, easy picnic dinner that you and your kids will LOVE. And you can pull it together in an hour or less!
Last Friday was a picnic dinner in the park for an awards ceremony for my daughters’ junior lifeguards summer camp. Lots of families on picnic blankets with their dinners. And LOTS and LOTS of trash. Plastic forks. Plastic cups. Plastic takeout containers. You get the picture.
But a picnic doesn’t have to equal trash! I fed 9 of us – my family plus another that was visiting – with a super low waste and balanced dinner. And I spent no more than an hour prepping this simple meal for 9.
So read on and get yer easy low waste picnic started!
Here’s what we ate on our easy low waste picnic dinner:
-Local fresh BAGELS. Lots of bagel shops will fill your own bag with bagels. Our local one doesn’t but they do use paper bags instead of plastic. We reuse or recycle or compost it afterwards (if the bag gets soiled).
-Local fresh bread. Also came in paper bags, but lots of bakeries will let you put a loaf into your own bag!
We loaded up the bagels and bread with:
-homemade hummus. (See my super simple recipe below)
-cream cheese in paper and tinfoil – we don’t normally have this in the fridge, but got it for some special something or other.
-butter in compostable paper.
-homemade salsa in a jar.
Also, we brought:
-homemade popcorn with butter and nutritional yeast.
-homemade kale salad (recipe below).
-strawberries with brown sugar for dessert.
-beer in cans for the grownups 🙂 with cozies.
-plus we had some chips in a bag. You could avoid that trash if you ask for some in your own container from a taqueria!
Here’re the supplies we brought for our easy low waste picnic dinner:
-cloth napkins for everyone
-camping/small forks and spoons and butter knives
-small camping bowls
-small lightweight cutting board
-water bottles filled with water
We cut the bread and bagels while we were at the park on our cutting board. We also sliced up the tomatoes and avocados at the park. And we ate the bagels and bread without plates – just in our hands. Same for the popcorn. The bowls were perfect for the kale salad and strawberries. I sliced the strawberries and made the kale salad and dressing at home. When I slice up strawberries for the kiddos, there’s a lot less wasted fruit.
A dozen bagels and half a loaf of bread plus the popcorn, salad, and strawberries were plenty of food for the 9 of us.
We carried everything in backpacks on a 20 minute walk to the park. The food was pretty well secured in jars and covered bowls. I’d recommend keeping liquidy foods in a jar to minimize spills. The kale salad was in a bowl with a beeswax wrap on top, and I put the dressing on once we got to the park. The strawberries were in a jar, and the brown sugar in another small jar. The kids sprinkled the brown sugar on themselves after they finished their dinner. Popcorn was in a bowl that came with it’s own lid (plastic, but pretty handy!).
And here are the easy peasy recipes we used on our picnic:
Easy homemade hummus:
-2 cups chickpeas (we cook them in our pressure cooker for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on if we soaked them overnight or not).
-⅓ cup veg or olive oil.
-⅓ cup water (or less, if your blender is super powerful).
-¼ cup lemon juice.
-¼ cup tahini.
-1 tsp or less of salt.
-optional: garlic, cumin.
Blend everything except the water in a blender. Add the water slowly until you get the consistency you like.
Easy, scrumptious kale salad that EVERYONE likes
-raw kale torn into bite sized pieces (curly or lacinato are our favorite types of kale).
-finely sliced red onion.
-optional: shredded carrots, slivered almonds.
-dressing is about equal parts veg oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice
-mix dressing, pour it over salad ingredients, and toss.
This salad keeps GREAT for a few days in the fridge with the dressing on.
So that’s our easy low waste picnic dinner from the other night. Are you working on a low waste home? What are you picnicking on these days? Let me know and thanks for reading!
What our family eats in a week (working parents – you can do it!).
Yes, I have a job outside being a mom. And yes – we still eat mostly home cooked, zero waste dinners. My hubbie and I both work full time (and then some) and aren’t amazingly organized. But we still get it done. And you can too!
Now, I’ll admit that I work from home most days and don’t have a long commute on the days I go into the office. BUT – and this is important to keep in mind! – I RARELY start on dinner before 5:30pm. We put our kids to bed around 7:30 (they read, wind down, and pass out around 8) so we try to eat dinner around 6:30.
BTW, this is part 2 of my series on easy zero waste meal planning for families! In case you missed part one on zero waste breakfasts, check it out here!
Okay, back to easy zero waste, vegetarian dinners. We aren’t big planners but we know the kinds of foods that we all like to eat. So we shop for a lot of the same foods each week.
Big disclaimer: These aren’t gourmet dinners. If you’re looking for fancy, you’re on the wrong site! BUT – these are healthy, well-balanced, low waste dinners. And our kids LOVE them!
5 easy zero waste vegetarian dinners
Monday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner
Pasta dinner with TVP and a big green salad
We’re lucky enough to have bulk pasta at two shops in Santa Cruz – New Leaf in Capitola and Staff of Life in Santa Cruz. We usually fill a big bulk bag once a month at Staff and it lasts us a few weeks (depending on how many dinner guests we have!).
Sometimes we’ll get a glass jar of tomato sauce (and reuse the jar) or canned tomatoes (and recycle the can – cans are generally valuable to recycle in our town). Other times we’ll toss the pasta in olive oil, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and sauteed veggies. Think mushrooms, sweet peppers, onions, broccoli, zucchini. Or whatever veggies we have lying around in the fridge.
For protein, we’ll rehydrate some dried TVP (texturized vegetable protein). We can get this in bulk bins at Staff of Life and New Leaf. All we do is soak it in hot water for maybe 10 minutes, until it’s tender enough to eat. You could saute it with some seasoning, but we often just toss it with the pasta. The TVP in bulk at Staff of Life comes in 2 sizes – large chunks and small pieces – like ground-round sizes. The small pieces you can toss right into pasta sauce without rehydrating for added protein.
We make a super simple salad dressing from olive oil, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper – all available in bulk at Staff of Life. Or, we swap out the vinegar for fresh squeezed lemon juice (and leave out the pepper) for another super simple and delicious homemade dressing. If we have enough lemons (usually from our tree!), I’ll make extra dressing and put it in a jar to use for other dinners that week, or for lunches.
Salad includes whatever veggies and greens we have – usually lettuce, shredded carrots, sweet peppers, and cucumbers. Toss it with dressing just before you sit down to eat.
That, my friend, is our pretty well balanced, easy, zero waste dinner number one! Moving on…
Tuesday night’s low waste veggie dinner
Tuesday night is taco night, amiright???
Here’s what we usually do for taco night:
–Homemade pinto beans. We soak these overnight and then pressure cook them with bay leaves, chopped onions, salt, and cumin in about 30 minutes. SOOO delicious!
–Homemade rice. Just rice. Sometimes we cook it with chopped tomatoes or onions or canned tomatoes. Usually we skip the extras and make it plain.
–Shredded cabbage with a little lemon juice and olive oil or a little mayo
–Avocado, chopped tomatoes, and cilantro
Note: sometimes we have homemade salsa too if hubbie has time to chop tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, and lemon juice. With a little salt. So yummy. Or we pick up salsa in our own container from a nearby taqueria!
–Corn tortillas. As of this writing, we can still recycle the plastic bags that we get our store bought tortillas in, so this is honestly what we usually do. BUT, there are zero waste options out there. We have a tortilla press and make homemade tortillas too when we have time. It takes us about 20 minutes to make everyone in the family a few tortillas. You might also be able to find a taqueria that’ll sell you homemade tortillas. Another option is to ditch the tortillas all together and use lettuce as your shell! We don’t do that but I’m sure it’s delicious.
–Cheese – we do a few things for cheese. The fastest homemade vegan cheese I’ve made so far is based on Minimalist Baker’s recipe for Mexican nacho cheese sauce. We use ingredients from bulk for this – everything straight into the blender and then warm and serve. Super yum.
Another easy homemade vegan cheese calls for nutritional yeast plus flour (chick pea or wheat or whatever flour you have). This is ready in about 10 minutes. All the ingredients are available in bulk. Check Bob’s Red Mill recipe here. Other times we buy dairy cheese at the store and ask them to cut us a piece off a big block. We also buy it in plastic wrap that, as of this writing, we can recycle. As fewer and fewer recycling centers take plastic wrap, we’ll probably be opting for store-cut and homemade cheese only in the near future.
Wednesday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner
Okay, I don’t know what your Wednesday’s are like, but I’m usually feeling the mid-week hump by this day! So I love a super easy meal we call
Yes, it’s toast for dinner. But we make it extra specially with some homemade hummus. We might make hummus on the weekend or that night. It’s super fast and easy if we remember to soak chick peas the night before. Then 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Then blend with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, a little water, and garlic. I put out cheese slices, olives (Staff of Life has delicious bulk olives), sliced tomatoes, and sliced avocado. For veggies, we have roasted cauliflower or a big green salad.
The bread we get from local bakeries (Gayle’s and Companion) in our own bags usually. Sometimes we get bagettes in paper bags if we can’t get to the bakeries.
Super easy and tasty!
Thursday night’s zero waste vegetarian dinner
If we have extra chick pes aafter making hummus, we’ll often saute them with canned tomatoes, onions, and seasoning (garam masala, tumeric, ginger, a little lemon juice) to make Chana Masala. Served with with rice and sauteed broccoli or some other fast cooking veggie. We usually have a jar of mango pickle in the fridge for a little tang and heat. The jar gets reused or recycled. We put a little salt or soy sauce (from bulk) on the rice. Super yummy.
Friday night’s easy low waste vegetarian dinner
I usually don’t cook on Friday nights so we usually either have leftovers, go out to eat, or order a pizza. I know, pizza delivery isn’t the most sustainable option. But sometimes, especially if hubbie is out of town, it’s what I have the energy for. We ask for it without the little plastic do-hicky and we compost the box at home in our compost. If you want to invent a reusable, plastic-free pizza take-out box, PLEASE DO IT!!! I will totally buy one from you. The world needs a reusable option!
So that’s a pretty typical week of zero waste vegetarian dinners for our family. Is that helpful for you? What are your favorite low waste weeknight meals? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Do you feel overwhelmed by going for zero waste or low waste living? Not sure how to make the switch? I’ve got a few posts for you on easy zero waste meals to help you cut your waste.
How about we start with zero waste breakfast?!
Beginning your day with a belly full of whole foods – easy to prep, easy to find in bulk, and good for you – is a win-win-win! Maybe we should call it a win cubed? To the third? You get the point here…
Going for zero waste means eating more whole foods and fewer processed foods. Lots of packaged food is also processed food. So when you cut out packaging, you cut out some less than awesome food choices too.
But packaged food is so convenient – I get it! And there are lots of healthy packaged options out there too. Your mornings are probably busy and maybe even a little hectic, without loads of time to spare. So how do you get a nutritious breakfast without reaching for something packaged?
I’m here to help! Check out these top 5 zero waste breakfasts that whip up super fast. Bonus: total kid-pleasers! Vegan options! And gluten free options! You ready? Zero waste breakfast, here you come!
1. Ugly smoothie
This is one of my favorites and I crave these some mornings! If you have kids, you have food scraps. (BTW – if you have kids and you don’t have food scraps, please call me right away and tell me how you do this). Okay, so those scraps – carrot sticks, cucumber slices, half an apple, orange slices, etc. You know the ones. At our house, they sit in the fridge. Pulled from lunch bags at the end of the day, shoved into the dark corners of the fridge. And forgotten. I beg the kids to eat them but it doesn’t always happen.
So here’s the solution: pop those forgotten fruits and veggies in the blender for an ugly smoothie! I add a spoonful of coconut butter, a little sweetener, a little water, a little ice. Blend it up and pour! So easy. And super refreshing. And vegan and gluten free! Another option – add cocoa or cacao powder for a richer flavor with added iron.
Okay, it might sound dull, but we LOVE toast in our house. LOVE IT! We usually buy bread straight from the bakery – either Gayle’s or Companion Bakeshop. They’ll put it in our own bag (check these bags out here). If we can’t make it to the bakery, we’ll get bread in paper bags – bagettes come in paper bags at most of the big grocery store chains. We recycle the paper if it isn’t stained. Otherwise, we add it to our compost. Not ideal, but better than landfill or plastic!
Lately we’ve been eating toast with Miyoko’s vegan butter – it comes in 100% compostable packaging. 0% plastic or bio-plastic. And it’s DELICOUS! But some other awesome toast ideas: peanut butter from bulk and sliced bananas on top. Avocado with tomato and cucumbers, and a little salt and pepper. Almond butter with sliced apples. Or homemade cashew cheese (check out my post on that here) with tomato slices. And homemade jam (I admit, I don’t make this, but I’m lucky enough to have a mother in law who does 🙂 ).
So fast and easy. The kids make their own toast. Actually, they make most of these recipes on their own!
3. Oatmeal with the works
This has been another go-to for me lately. I make oats with the works and all of it can be found in bulk! We get gluten free rolled oats at Staff of Life. The ratio is easy – cook 1 part oats to 2 parts water. These cook super fast – about 5 minutes for 1 to 3 servings (½ cup dry oats per serving). I add ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 to 3 tablespoons of raisins (1 T per serving) at the start of cooking. I like the way the raisins plump up and add natural sweetness to the oats. And the cinnamon gives it a nice flavor.
Once the oats are cooked, I add peanut butter, shredded coconut, chia seeds, chopped fruit, a little sweetener, and sometimes coconut milk or water (from a can of coconut milk. Although not totally zero waste, cans from the coconut milk are relatively valuable to recycle, so I don’t worry too much about the can ending up in the landfill). Or you can leave the coconut milk/water out.
These oats are super filling and full of awesome fiber.
4. Vegan pancakes
Okay, before you skip ahead, let me say that you CAN whip up pancakes from scratch and FAST. We love the pancake recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance (and can find all the ingredients in bulk). The recipe says to let the batter sit for 10 minutes before cooking (or even overnight, covered with a beeswax wrap), but skip that step if you’re in a hurry.
Here’s what you need for 6 big or 10 medium pancakes:
1 ¼ c flour
2 t baking powder
½ t salt
1 t cinnamon (optional)
2 T veg oil (we use safflower oil)
⅓ c water – or less, if you use water instead of non-dairy milk (see below)
1 to 1 ¼ c non-dairy milk OR water (we always use water because we never have milk on hand)
1 t vanilla extract
2 T maple syrup or sugar (if you use agave syrup or beet syrup, you’ll need less than 2 T – probably 1 T only).
Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the wet ingredients. DON’T OVER MIX! Mix just enough so that most of the lumps are gone.
Cook on a hot skillet until you see bubbles form on the top, then flip it over and cook a little longer.
We love these vegan pancakes with Miyoko’s butter on top and either brown sugar, fruit, jam, agave syrup, or maple syrup (which we can’t find in bulk, unfortunately, so don’t get that often).
If you eat ’em, you know that eggs cook up sooo fast. Sometimes we make omelettes with leftover veggies from the night before. Or omelettes with cashew cheese – yum! Or real cheese, if you can get that without too much waste wrapped around it. We love them soft-boiled, fried, and scrambled at our house. They seriously only take a little time to cook – fried eggs especially can be done in about 5 minutes. And you get some protein for the day! We save our egg cartons and return them to either Staff of Life in Santa Cruz or direct to egg farmers at the farmers market, and they get reused again and again. Love that!
That’s what we usually eat at our house – fast, easy, (mostly) zero waste breakfasts. And our kids love these zero waste breakfasts!
If you can spare 10 minutes in the morning, you can make any one of these (or all of them!) and avoid packaging waste.
What do you eat for breakfast? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
I got this recipe from Minimalist Baker and make it ALL.THE.TIME. The awesome thing about it is that it only takes about 10 minutes to make it. No nut soaking required. And you can make it on any blender or food processor – no fancy or powerful equipment required. AND it works great even if you don’t have all the ingredients – just use what you have.
The way I make it, it comes out like a thick spread. You can also add hot water to make it more saucy and dip-like. But the spread is great for a quick snack with ANYTHING.
1 ½ cup raw cashews (I get these in bulk and keep them in my freezer)
3 T nutritional yeast (or less, if you realize last minute you’re almost out of it!)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp garlic powder (or none – I never have this stuff on hand)
½ tsp cumin
1 pinch chili powder
1 chipolte in adobo or any salsa or hot sauce you have on hand
1 T olive oil or more for blending (if you don’t have a super powerful blender)
Optional: water to help blend (I ALWAYS have to add a little water to get it blended because we don’t have a super fancy blender)
Put it all in a blender and blend it up! Ta-da! Done! And sooo good.
Like I said, this stuff is great with sooo many things. And it keeps pretty well in the fridge too.
Nut butter energy balls
These are SO yummy and filling and satisfying. Bonus: they also satisfy your sweet tooth! These are probably the most involved to make of all of these easy snacks, but you can definitely whip up a dozen of these in about 10 minutes. You can also customize these to your liking and swap out or cut out some ingredients.
This is also based on a Minimalist Baker recipe. What can I say, I love her food!
About 1 cup dates (a mix of raisins and dried apricots work too if you don’t have dates!)
3 T nut butter (peanut, almond, or other)
¼ c chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
1 T chia seeds (or your favorite seeds)
⅔ c gluten free oats (or whatever oats you have)
Optional: shredded coconut, maple syrup or honey
Blend the dates or other dried fruit into small bits.
Add everything else and pulse it together.
Roll it into balls as big or small as you like.
Optional: roll the balls in shredded coconut.
Optional: put them in the fridge to set, or just start eating them!
So good. Totally worth the 15 minutes to make them.
Okay, these are super fast to prep! But do you need to have some chickpeas on hand. We cook a big pot of chickpeas about every other week. Sometimes we freeze some, but usually we eat them up pretty fast. I love to make bean salads with them, and we also do a lot of chana masalas and soups. Gotta love the chickpea – such a flexible little bean. So, if you don’t already, this might be another staple to add to your fridge.
And here’s the recipe for easy, no fuss roasted chickpeas:
Chickpeas (however many you want to make)
Any other spices you want to add
Pre-heat oven to 400 or 425 F (depending on how hot your oven gets).
Put your chickpeas on a clean dish towel and roll them around to dry them out.
Spread them onto a baking sheet, making sure they aren’t too crowded.
Drizzle them with olive oil, and add salt, pepper, and any other spices.
Toss them around a little on the sheet so the seasoning spreads around.
Bake them for 15-30 minutes, depending on how crunchy you like them.
*Note that you will want to stir them around a couple times while they bake.
These are SO good. I’ll eat them on their own or add them to a salad. Yum yum.
This is my all time favorite easy homemade zero waste snack. Hands down. I probably eat popcorn about 3 times a week. Seriously. I love it. Kids love it too. Duh.
I make sure to have popcorn kernels on hand ALL of the time. For me, the easiest way to pop it is with an air popper, which you can probably find at a thrift store. I like to then drizzle olive oil, nutritional yeast, and salt on it. SO GOOD!
You can also pop it on the stove in coconut oil – also delicious! You have to keep a close eye on it, though, and constantly shake your pot as it pops. It might also take you a few tries to figure out the best heat to pop it at – sometimes I have lots of leftover kernels when I pop this way, sometimes they burn. I definitely haven’t mastered this technique, but it sure turns out tasty!
Another easy popping technique is with a paper bag in the microwave. You can reuse the bag a few times. Add the seasoning after you pop it. Yum and easy!
So there you have it – my 4 favorite easy homemade zero waste snacks. Do you make some of these too? Or do you have some favorites of your own? Let me know in the comments! I love hearing from you.
The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Grocery Shopping
Food packaging is probably a significant source of waste for you, like it was for me too! Going zero waste does NOT happen overnight! Instead, think of this as a process that takes time. Each change you make is a small step in a positive direction.
Below I’ve outlined a step-by-step guide for getting started in zero waste grocery shopping.
Step 1: Make your usual grocery list.
In step 1, make a list of everything that you might normally purchase for the week (or however often you go). Be thorough! List everything to your heart’s desire. If you need to add another category, go for it!
Here are some common categories that can help you put together your list.
Mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter, jam, soy sauce, maple syrup
Tea, coffee, juice, beer, wine
Toilet paper, toothpaste
Laundry soap, dish soap
Step 2: Try to distinguish between your grocery “must-haves” vs. your “wants”
Get two different colored pencils or crayons and take a look at your list. Pick one color to indicate your “must-haves” and the other color to indicate your “wants”. For example, coffee for me is a MUST HAVE. Cheese, eggs, and bread are family MUST HAVES. Either Earth Balance (vegan butter) or regular butter are MUST HAVES – one or the other. Fruits we are pretty flexible on – we can work with what’s available at the farmer’s market or what’s served loose at the store. Veggies we are also pretty flexible on. We prefer to have lettuce, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes, cauliflower, squash, and greens on a pretty regular basis, but as long as we get some variety, we are happy. We also get some veggies that work well in the kids lunches (think carrots, sweet peppers, cucumbers, or cherry tomatoes). We also have dried beans, but again we are flexible on the type of dried beans – pintos, chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, etc. We love them all. Within condiments, we are actually pretty flexible! We like hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup.
Step 3: Assess the bulk situation near you.
What is available to you and where? Check out the bulk finder app (Bea Johnson has one on her website here) to see what’s available near you! If nothing pops up, you might want to try stores you don’t normally go to – call ahead and ask if they have any bulk bins! Health food stores often have bulk bins. Whole Foods is a definite option. Also, don’t forget to look closely at what IS available at your favorite store. There might be more than you realize when you take a closer look!
Step 4: Check for a local farmer’s market.
The farmers market is an awesome spot to get fresh local veggies – often without stickers or packaging! There might even be fresh bread and other staples that you can purchase plastic free. Some staples you might be able to get in a glass jar that you can return to the farmer (at our market, that includes honey and hot sauce). So, try to determine if there’s a farmer’s market near you this time of year, and if you can fit a visit into your schedule. If you’ve got a family, it might be a fun weekend event for the whole crew! Some weekday markets are after work – maybe you can swing by one day after work! Check out LocalHarvest.org for markets near you.
Step 5: Compare your waste-free options with your grocery list
How many of your must-haves are available in bulk? If everything is, say hip-hip HOORAY! And then skip ahead to step 7! But, chances are there are some items you can’t find in bulk. Make a note of all of those must-haves that you can’t find in bulk. Next, make a list of all of the wants that you can’t find in bulk either.
Step 6: Make some decisions
Assuming you can’t find everything in bulk that is on your must-have or want lists, now is the time to make some decisions! Ask yourself a few questions. First, are there any must-have groceries that aren’t really must haves? If not, and you stand behind each must-have, that’s fine! But it’s always good to check what you might be willing to forgo, if even for a short time, to see how that feels. Here’s another question: is there even one must-have that you would be willing to try making on your own? I am assuming you do NOT have the time to make everything yourself. Very few people do! But is there one item that you might try? Again, just food for thought. Could you set aside a little time on the weekend to make it? At my house, that’s hummus and sometimes cashew cheese. We try to make it about once a week.
Now turn to your wants. Here you get to decide how badly you want those wants. You might consider an experiment of forgoing all of them, at least for a little while. The great thing about grocery shopping is that you get another chance to do it again soon and change your mind!
After you’ve made your decisions, revise your list so you know exactly what you are shopping for.
Step 7: Gather your supplies!
Before you shop, collect your supplies! You probably have some of these items already, and can make them yourself, find them at a thrift store, and there are veggie and bulk bags for sale here as well. I always make sure that my supplies are sparkling clean before I take them. I want the stores to feel confident that I’m not mucking up their bulk goods! This helps stores continue to support folks bringing in their own containers.
Here are the items I take with me:
Cotton bags for fruits and veggies
Cotton bags for bulk goods
Jars for any liquids
Jars for any fine, powdery, or sticky bulk goods (think raisins, flour)
Beeswax wrap for bulk cheese
A marker or wax pencil for writing on jars
A scrap of paper and pen for writing down all the codes from the bulk bins (unless you can write on your bag -that works too!) or a smartphone!
Reusable shopping bags. I.e., a bag for all your bags and jars!
Your list that you painstakingly put together!
A reusable coffee mug (hey, you deserve a treat after all of this!)
Let me take a moment to explain about TARE WEIGHT.
What is tare weight, you might ask?
The tare weight, at least in the U.S., is often the number of ounces that your container weighs divided by 16. So, if your jar weighs 8 ounces, simply divide 8 by 16 to get 0.5. That is your tare weight. It means your jar weighs about half a pound. The cashiers will deduct this weight from the total weight of the item when you pay. That way you don’t pay for the weight of the jar in addition to the weight of whatever’s inside. If the store sells bulk, they should understand this process and be able to deduct the tare weight at the register.
If you have a scale at home, you can go ahead and weigh your jars at home and mark down the tare weight! If you don’t have a scale at home, you can take your jars to the store and ask them to weigh them, or look for scales in the aisles that are for customers to use. I use my marker or wax pencil to then write the tare down on my jar.
Step 8: Shop with confidence – and just ask!
Okay, once you are at the store, now’s the time to stick to your list! Get only what is on your list, including your needs and wants. Write down the codes for each item, either on the container or on your grocery list/scrap paper. I often use my phone to track the codes, and since we get the same things over and over again, I have the codes saved already!
For any deli items, ask them if they can hand it straight to you or put it into a container for you. I’ve asked them to cut cheese for me and put it into my beeswax wrap, and they’ve been happy to do it at a couple of stores! Don’t be shy about asking for help, even if no one is working the counter when you get there.
For all those needs that you can’t find in bulk, try to find it in the lowest-impact packaging possible. Here’s how I would prioritize based on preserving our resources, avoiding landfill waste, and avoiding plastic:
First choice: packaging that you will reuse (like a jar)
Second choice: packaging made from recycled materials like recycled paper
Third choice: paper packaging
Fourth choice: metal/canned packaging – this is more valuable for recycling centers than glass
Fifth choice: glass packaging (that you wouldn’t normally want to reuse)
Sixth choice: recyclable plastic packaging – what type of plastic can you recycle in your town?
Seventh choice: non-recyclable materials. This often includes mixed materials.
When I go to pay, I line up my bags on the conveyor belt in order of my codes, just to speed up the process for the cashier. You don’t need to do that at all! But if you’re motivated, it helps move things along a little bit. Especially for items you can’t see through the bag – eliminates the guessing game.
Step 9: Take your food home and transfer it to storage containers (if needed)
I like to move my bulk goods into jars and other air-tight containers once I’m at home. I do try to take a picture first – if you want to capture the moment, do that first! I love those flat-lay grocery pics of a week in food.
But then I put stuff away. Things like chips, oats, and pasta keep better in a jar or tupperware, so I’ll take them out of the bag and put them into a different container at home. I usually keep my veggies in their bags and put them straight into the fridge. I usually take the fruit out of bags and set them on the countertop. Potatoes, onions, and garlic too – just into a bowl on the countertop. This takes about 10 minutes, but it’s a nice chance to tidy up the cupboards a little and feel stocked up for the week ahead.
Step 10: Congratulate yourself!
Phew! You did it! I hope you are feeling proud of yourself for any small changes you were able to implement towards a zero waste home. I know it isn’t always easy to try doing things differently, and your family might not be completely on board yet, but give it time and it becomes second nature.
There you have it! My 10 step beginner’s guide to zero waste grocery shopping. To recap:
Step 1: Make your usual list – be thorough!
Step 2: Distinguish between your grocery “must-haves” and grocery “wants”
Step 3: Assess the local bulk options
Step 4: Look into a local farmers market
Step 5: Compare your local waste-free options with your grocery list
Step 6: Make some decisions & revise your shopping list
Step 7: Gather your supplies!
Step 8: Shop with confidence and don’t be afraid to ask!
Step 9: Bring your food home and transfer it to storage containers.
Step 10: Last but not least, congratulate yourself!
There you have it. My ultimate beginner’s guide to zero waste grocery shopping. Was this helpful for you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.
Can you Go for zero waste with a busy family life? Yes!
You’ve come to the right place! Read further for my top 10 zero waste kitchen hacks for busy families!
Going for zero waste means trying to avoid pre-packaged food and instead cooking from scratch more often. This means not buying disposable, processed foods that are easy to grab and go for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which can pose a challenge if you work 9 to 5, like me, and need to feed your kids and get them ready for bed in a couple of hours time. So, how can we get it all done in our crazy hectic lives? Here are some tips that have helped me in transitioning our home to zero waste.
My Top 10 Zero Waste Kitchen Hacks (for busy families!)
Pressure Cooker! Get a pressure cooker! You can cook beans from dry to delicious in 1 hour or less! You don’t even have to remember to soak them overnight! It’s a bonus if you do – they’ll cook even faster :). So, if you are like me and are home around 5:30 and wanting to eat by 6:30, this is do-able! I got one for Christmas (thanks, honey!). Oh, and did you know that if you soak your rice, it cooks faster too? My mind was a little blown when I learned that trick :).
Bulk Bin Snacks! Keep your cupboards full of bulk bin snacks like granola, cereal, and plaintain chips that you can buy in bulk. Snacks can still be fast and easy without packaging. Our favorites right now are pretzels, sesame sticks, and cacao nibs. Delicious!
Snack Baggies! Buy or make reusable, washable snack baggies for lunches and snacks. Fill one with something before you head out into the world if you think you or the kids might get hungry. If you’ve got something on hand, you avoid having to buy whatever you can find, which may not be healthy or package free.
Fruit! Keep your fruit baskets full! This is the ultimate zero waste snack. Right now we’ve got apples from grandma and grandpa’s trees. I know, we are spoiled!
Menu plan! Menu plan before you grocery shop. I don’t always have an exact menu in mind, but I think of what we’ll have for protein (tofu, beans, TVP, nuts, dairy or eggs) and veggies for most of our dinners, what the kids will pack for lunches, and what are our popular breakfast items. The carbs seem to take less planning – there’s usually rice, quinoa, or pasta in our cupboards. And I always make sure to stock the snack cupboard! I generally go once a week, but sometimes less if life gets too crazy. In those days we just coast on fumes until I can make it to my local shop with lots of bulk bins.
Leftovers! Cook enough so you’ll have leftovers. Leftovers are the best, right? We put in our lunches and have another dinner ready to go too sometimes.
Your arsenal! Carry extra cutlery, napkins, and jars when you are out and about with the kiddos. Great for getting frozen yogurt, or food from the hot bar at your favorite natural food store. I keep meaning to leave some in the car too.
Soak those nuts! Always keep nuts soaking in the fridge for last minute nut milk! We’ve been doing almond milk lately, but any nut will do!
Popcorn! Have some popcorn kernels on hand for feeding kids who show up for impromptu play dates at the house. We love nutritional yeast on our popcorn. Sometimes I make them eat it outside, though ;), to cut down on the clean up process – nuty yeast flakes end up all over the place. Popcorn tends to be a popular bulk item, so hopefully you can find it near you!
Water Bottles! Help your kids remember to always take their water bottles out with them when they are on the go! We are still working on this in our home, but usually at least one of us has a bottle to share in a pinch. We still have plenty of kiddo germs, though, so I try to avoid sharing when possible.
And two bonus tips!
11. This is cheating but, know where you can grab a quick dinner that won’t result in waste. One of our defaults is a local taqueria. Occasionally there is a piece of paper on the plate (e.g., chips in a paper-lined basket), and we’ll bring that home and compost it.
12. Last one: Don’t be too hard on yourself! Life happens. Waste happens. We are all just doing our best to make things a little better around here 🙂 .
Those are my tips! Do you have some? I’d love to hear! Share in the comments below!
It’s back to school again for my kids and I thought I’d share a little about how we send them off with package-free lunches. Packaged items are all about convenience, and I completely understand their appeal. On a busy morning when families are trying to get out the door on time for work and school (and maybe squeeze in a dog walk or some exercise), there isn’t a lot of spare time. So having food that you can grab and throw in a lunch bag is really helpful. And it’s possible to do it without any waste!
Our kids (aged 6 and 9) make their own lunches with a little help from us. We encourage them to pack a fruit, vegetable, protein, and carbohydrate in each lunch, and try to make this process easy for them.
Here’s our top TEN zero waste lunches for kids – easy swaps for your favorite packaged options!
Packaged baby carrots? Swap them for:
Easy to cut carrot rounds. Our kids can safely cut carrot rounds, even with a butter knife. We don’t peel the carrots usually, just rinse and slice.
Cucumber slices. Our kids can peel these if they want, or they slice them unpeeled.
Chopped sweet pepper – kids can slice them chunky and they are still delicious.
Cherry tomatoes are great too – no chopping necessary.
Granola bars? Try switching them out for:
Homemade granola bars. I tried a recipe from Pinterest and the verdict was:
No time for homemade granola bars? Try a cute container full of loose granola from bulk bins.
Try energy chunks or nibs from bulk bins. We love cacao energy nibs – available at New Leaf and Staff of Life in Santa Cruz. DELICIOUS!
Pre-packaged fruit snacks? Try swapping for:
Dried fruit! My kids love dried mangoes, dried apricots, and raisins. Plus, there’s generally no added sugar.
A small piece of whole fruit or half a fruit. Apples, bananas, pears, berries, oranges, tangerines – these are easy to grab. If the piece of fruit is really large, we might help them make a quick slice down the middle so they are less likely to waste the other half. We also love all kinds of berries in our family!
Packaged nuts or chips?
Check your local bulk bins for healthy, savory alternatives! We can get pretzels, corn chips, sesame sticks, and more in bulk at New Leaf and Staff of Life. Nuts are usually a staple as well.
There you have it – easy zero waste options for kids lunches.
I’d love to hear from other busy families – what’s in your kid’s lunches?
Thanks for reading!
ps – stay tuned for an upcoming post all about lunch containers