In the kitchen: Plastic free?

A few years ago after donating the microwave to the local charity shop, along with the non-stick pans and baking trays, and ditching the cling film (and the aluminium foil), it turns out that going plastic/toxin-free is not that easy. Plastic Free July®starts tomorrow and while I’m not really a fan of the national ‘donut day’ type of intiatives, this is a global movement worth getting behind.

As an amateur cook preparing food is relaxing. And I like eating. Just to set the scene, I don’t have a vast range of gleaming cupboards or marble worktops, and there’s no stylish Aga, or even a dishwasher. If you remember the series The Little Paris Kitchen: Cooking with Rachel Koo (BBC Two, 2012) you’ll get the picture, right down to the tiny oven with two electric rings. My food processor came to me second-hand, and some of my wooden spoons and cutlery I’ve had for literally decades.

The new initiative focuses on ‘choosing to refuse single-use plastics’ but one day these items will need to be disposed of so I prefer to try and avoid plastic altogether to benefit both the planet and my health. As already mentioned, it’s incredibly difficult and possibly impossible to eliminate plastic entirely. Instead, I work on the basis of baby steps, slowly replacing items over time. Here’s a couple of things in the kitchen I like this week.

Storing Food

“Ideally, food should be stored for as short a time as possible. If you can shop every day so much the better.” Eating to be Healthy (1973). Idealistic maybe but eating fresh food, as opposed to food products, is catching on in the health and food industries.

Sustainable and healthy food storage options; L to R: preparing garlic cloves for the freezer; WaxWrap made with beeswax.

I confess I do like leftovers. A spoonful of tomato puree or half a can of coconut milk for soups or smoothies is usually lurking in the fridge crammed with numerous bowls and jars. It sounds a bit smug but it feels good when I find a use for these odds and ends. It harks back to my childhood and domestic science lessons at school!

Recycled glass jars are ideal for storing all sorts of things in the kitchen cupboard, and homemade soups or leftovers in the freezer. And unbleached greaseproof paper is good for wrapping food although not entirely sustainable as it’s treated and coated. And it’s so easy to just cover a bowl of leftover curry or poached fruit with a tea plate.

“…never leave food in an opened tin. If you do not use it all at once put the remainder in a bowl and store it in the refrigerator”. Eating to be Healthy (1973).

Recently, I tried out some wax wraps from, well, WaxWrap. There’s much to like about this product. 1) It’s made from 100% natural, organic certified, cotton, beeswax, pine resin and jojoba oil. 2) The wraps are washable in cold water (and eco-friendly washing-up liquid if necessary) so it is reusable. 3) WaxWrap comes on a roll, as well as in sheets or bags, so all options are covered.

The designs are pretty and the wrap moulds well over dishes and awkward-shaped foods. It is quite thick and heavy though and it feels a little like folding cardboard but that’s a small niggle. The makers claim a useful life of up to 12 months, around 200 uses, after which they can be re-waxed (just like your Barbour!). Unlike ‘reusable’ plastic items WaxWraps are compostable at the end of their useful life, providing you have a compost heap.

On balance, due to cost, washing and bulkiness, the wraps are a useful additional item in the kitchen but I’ll still be using ceramics and recycled glass jars with lids too. Waxed Cotton Food Wraps set of three, from RRP £16 (Small 20x20cm, Medium 30x30cm, Large 40x40cm) so around £5.33 per wrap.

” Plastic-free is not just about the planet but our health too.” @hashtagtravelin

Antbacterial properties

Research on the antibacterial qualities of beeswax and honey is ongoing. Cardiff University’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, for instance, are using Welsh Wildflower honey in studies on antimicrobial resistance. Find out more about honey’s unique qualities. More…

Cake Cases

Compostable baking cups.

I bought these unbleached, undyed, fully compostable cupcake cases by If You Care from my local wholefood shop. Having thrown out the non-stick bakeware these hold their shape better when popped inside ceramic ramekin dishes to bake. One note of advice, the label says ‘large’ but they’re cupcake-size and not muffin. I like that they’re chlorine free too. Plastic-free is not just about the planet but also our health. Online prices vary from around £1.38 to £2.50 for 60 so they are good value. They make a whole range of products that I haven’t got round to trying yet.

By the way, if you’d like the recipe for these almond and chocolate cakes you’ll find it in an earlier journal entry Summer Wines: (and not a bar-b-que or rosé in sight).

I’m also trying to replace plastic with more sustainable and toxin-free products elsewhere at home. It’s small fry compared to the ocean of plastic out there, and in our homes, but it’s good to start somewhere. Plastic Free July

Have you made a start to clean up your act? Share your recommendations for going plastic-free in the comments, thank you! Stay safe and well wherever you are in the world.

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