Finite Resources

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There are many, many ways of looking at the environmental issues facing our planet today.  Different people choose to focus on different things but our goal is the same – to do the best that we can to preserve the health of the planet for future generations.  Right?

Some people try to source as much as possible second-hand, others eschew plastic at every turn, barely a handful of waste is the goal sought by another group and then there are those who are always looking for a way to recycle or re-use items that are no longer required.

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Plastic seems to have been recently declared ‘public enemy no. 1’ due to the masses of micro (and not so micro) plastics in our oceans and the detrimental effect it is having on marine life.  I agree with this sentiment and do the best I can to minimise my use of single use plastic products.  However, I have not rushed to get rid of all my plastic containers and other items as I believe it is my responsibility to use my existing products wisely and extend their life as much as possible.

Some people disagree because of the perceived potential risks of using plastic – particularly where food and drink are concerned.  I do not have a problem with this as I do not use plastic for storing liquids, oils, acidic foods nor do I use plastic where there is heat involved – such as the microwave.

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There will always be some plastic products but it is our responsibility to restrict the use of plastics to those applications where it is necessary.  Not only for the marine life but due to the fact that plastic is made from oil which is a finite resource – there is not an endless supply.  Most people can clearly recognise single plastics – water bottles, drinking straws, disposable cutlery, takeaway food containers and so on but it is the composite plastics that are less obvious.  These include takeaway coffee cups, reuseable ‘green’ shopping bags, ‘foil’ chip packets and packaging where plastic may be sandwiched between 2 layers of paper or cardboard.

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The purpose of this blog post is to encourage people really try to make a difference where plastic products are concerned.

Here are a few goals.

  1.  Minimise your use of single use plastic items – look for re-useable, non-plastic alternatives.
  2. Dispose of any plastic waste carefully to ensure it stays out of waterways and oceans.
  3. Remember that plastic is manufactured from oil and oil is a finite resource.
  4. Use recycling as a last resort – it is not a licence to keep using as much plastic (and everything else) as we want and assuaging our guilt by simply tossing it in the recycle bin.  At best, plastic is downcycled not recycled.  It only has one secondary life then it becomes landfill.
  5. Be a conscious and responsible consumer.

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It is not yet July but there is no time like the present to begin to phase out the single-use plastics from your life and consider what else you can change.

 

 

Glass is Good

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I have tried, as much as possible, to reduce our use of single-use plastic.  I know that there is always more that I can do so it is a work in progress, or as some would like to say, a journey.

As with any journey, it is also easier if you are connected with like-minded travellers so I am a member of a couple of different Facebook groups whose members have similar goals.  Some people are keen to remove all plastic, however, I am not about to throw away all of the plastic containers I have (to landfill) so that I can replace them with glass.  On the other hand, I am happy to look for glass when I need some more.

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After much research, I recently purchased 2 dozen Ball preserving jars.  You can read all about them in this post.  I have used some when I made jam recently but am also looking at other ways of using them.

I am aware that some people regularly freeze food in glass but that is not something that I have really done much so I decided that some research was in order as I know several people have had problems with glass jars breaking in the freezer.  This is not a saving of resources or money so I want to avoid that happening.  It turns out that for a glass jar to be suitable for freezer use it must have straight sides – that is no shoulder where it slopes in to the neck of the jar.  The preserving jars which I chose meet this criteria and are also deemed as suitable for freezer use on the panel on the box.

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Naturally, you also need to use commonsense and not put hot jars into the freezer and leave suitable headspace for the food to expand when frozen.  I also choose to chill them first in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer as well as keeping the lids loose until they were completely frozen.  This strategy seems to have been successful.

Here are some jars of frozen mango puree and refried beans which I was about to transfer to the small freezer downstairs.  I tend to keep this freezer for storage and items which I use on a day-to-day basis in the freezer section of the refrigerator in the kitchen.

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The other purpose for which glass can be used is when taking your own containers to be filled at the shop.  This afternoon I took one of the smaller jars to the deli counter at the supermarket and bought olives.  There was no problem with the staff weighing the container prior to filling to to assess the tare weight and the price sticker was attached to the bottom of the jar.

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Plastic containers certainly have their place and I will continue to use them rather than discard simply for the sake of discarding them, however, it is an interesting exercise to test the boundaries as to how and where glass jars can be used.

 

And the Cleaning

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When I cook I invariably make a mess.  In fact, we have a standing joke that I cook and GMan cleans up.  I must admit he is very good at doing the dishes and I think he spent the majority this weekend washing dishes.

I finished off yesterday’s efforts this morning by portioning up the refried beans for the freezer as well as cutting and pureeing lots of mangoes to go in the freezer.  Mango preparation is a messy, sticky business.

In between all of this GMan is experimenting with making sourdough bread and he cooked the first two loaves this evening.  I think that is a work in progress which will not be discussed any further until we have some more successful attempts.

After we had dinner it was time to tackle the last of the dishes and eliminate any mango residue from the benches and splashbacks.

The kitchen is now sparkling and my final step was to mop the floor.  Everything is ready to go for a new week.

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Lots of clean and clear surfaces.

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I remember reading about minimalism that clear surfaces simply afford possibilities.  I love the truth of this statement.  From an uncluttered sofa which invites you to sit and relax to a clear kitchen which is just brimming with the opportunity to prepare meals this logic can be applied to virtually every surface in your home.  It can be a powerful tool in creating a mindset that embraces a simple, uncluttered home and life.

 

Cooking From the Cupboard

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My last port focused on using fresh, seasonal produce – mangoes in my case at the moment.

Tonight I am sharing what I cooked today.  Using mostly ingredients that I have on hand in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer I had a big cook-up and made the following:

Bolognaise sauce
Choc fruit and nut balls
**Pizza bases (gluten free)
**Refried beans
Chilli con carne
**Muesli (gluten free)
**Mexican quinoa

We had Mexican quinoa for dinner and have enough for our lunches on Monday.  The bolognaise sauce and zucchini noodles will be for dinner tomorrow and there are 4 serves (2 meals x 2 people) in the freezer.  6 pizza bases are are par-cooked and frozen.  8 serves of chilli con carne are in the freezer.  3 dozen choc fruit and nut balls in the freezer and ready to be added to lunchboxes.  The muesli container is refilled and will last mea couple of months.

The items marked with ** have already been covered in previous blog posts and the links can be found by clicking on the tab near the top of the blog “Recipes – Food”.

Here is the recipe for the bolognaise sauce.

BOLOGNAISE SAUCE

250g mince
1 cup dried red lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Frozen cherry tomatoes + dried tomato powder
1 tablespoon dried mixed herbs
2 teaspoons vegie stock powder
1/3 cup red wine

Pour boiling water over lentils – allow to stand for at least 2hours. Saute onion and garlic, add mince and brown. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes.

You could use canned tomatoes plus tomato paste. Mine are from the garden.

I use a large soup ladle to portion up the mixture.

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The chilli con carne is the same basic mixture but I omit the mixed herbs and add the following.

2 cups kidney beans (I soak and cook my own but you could use canned ones)
1 cup refried beans
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
Tabasco sauce to taste

I will add the recipe for the Choc fruit and nut balls in the next day or so.

 

 

Meals with Mango

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I like to make the most of seasonal produce.  Using what is in season means reduced costs as well as minimal transporting and often there is less packaging.

It is even better when it is grown in your garden or immediate locality.  Thanks to the generosity of some neighbours, I currently have access to an abundance of mangoes.

We have been eating them fresh but there are many ways to incorporate them into meals, too.  Here are a couple.

The other night I made mango sorbet.

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Here is the link to the recipe.  I have also added it below with some slight variations to the instructions to suit myself.

Ingredients

3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups water
4 medium mangoes, flesh removed, peeled
1 egg white

Method

Stir the sugar and 1 1/2 cups (375ml) water in a small saucepan over a low heat until dissolved. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Cook, without stirring, for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Place mango flesh in a food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to a stainless steel bowl and add the cooled syrup. Cover and freeze, stirring with a fork occasionally, for 2 hours.

Use an electric beater to beat the egg white until soft peaks form. Fold into the mango mixture. Freeze for 3 hours, until just frozen. Place in a food processor and process until smooth. Return to the pan and freeze for another 3 hours or until firm.

Tonight I made mango salsa.  The ingredients are what I happened to have on hand.  You can adjust to suit your own tastes.

Ingredients

1 large mango, finely chopped
2 birdseye chillies, finely chopped
1/2 can corn kernels, drained
Juice of 1 lime

Method

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.

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I served the salsa with grilled chicken and brown rice.  The salsa was an interesting combination of sweet and hot which we like.  This may well be too hot for your liking so you could try finely chopped capsicum (bell peppers) instead or just a pinch of chilli powder.
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Another Parcel

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About 10 days ago I placed an online order with OzFarmers for some glass jars.  They arrived by courier a few days later.

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Time to open it up.  I was impressed that the box had clearly been reused and was excited to find that the packing was not bubbled plastic or styrofoam beads, but good old newspaper.

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The newspaper was shredded quite uniquely but it is a little difficult to see in this photo.

These are 2 Weck glass jars with glass lids.  I am quite glad that they were wrapped in bubble wrap to ensure that they arrived safely.  We ordered these as GMan needed one for making a sourdough starter.  He has been making bread in the breadmaker for many years using bread mix and yeast but has decided to branch out and try sourdough.

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Since we were only able to buy these online, it made sense to purchase an additional one so that we would have a spare.  I have used reused glass jars for preserving jam, chutney and sauce but recently made the decision to invest in proper canning jars with a two-piece lid.

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I bought 12 of each of two sizes – Half pint and Pint jars – for those of us who deal in metric the actual capacity is 250ml and 500ml respectively.

Here is a closer look at the newspaper packaging.  There are about 6 layers of newspaper which have clearly been put through some sort of mechanical shredder to make a series of incomplete cuts and then it is spread to make a grille pattern.  The newspaper is now in the compost bin and the cardboard box is flattened and will be used as a weed suppressant when we next spread some mulch in the garden.

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Sadly, the entire trays were shrink-wrapped in plastic but rather than just ripping it off, I split the corners at one end until I was able to slide the whole wrapper off in one piece.

This is what it looked like.

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I sealed the untouched end with an elastic band and this will now be a future rubbish bag for my kitchen bin.

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No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to completely eliminate single-use plastic but it is possible to be conscious of your consumption and to think outside the box when it comes to disposing of it.

I am comfortable with accepting what is a relatively low level of plastic packaging to enable me to acquire products which should last a lifetime.  By using the jars we bought to prepare more of our own food we will reduce reliance on other food packaging.

A Particular Passion

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During the holiday break I have had time to read and post in various groups and forums.  I participate to varying degrees in several groups.  I find that many of them have quite a narrow focus, sometimes to the exclusion of all else.

Some of the topics covered include:

Frugal Living
Zero Waste
DeclutteringMinimalism
Veganism
Upcycling
Buying Nothing New
Simple Living
Plastic Free Living

I dabble in all of these to some degree apart from veganism although we have reduced our intake of red meat to quite a modest level.

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At times it seems that I am not sufficiently passionate about any single topic, however, I feel that they are all inter-related and one aspect can support another.

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Hence, this blog contains posts which cover and wide range of topics and I hope you will find something of interest to you.

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Please let me know if there are particular topics which you would prefer to see more of or less.

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