In our quest to live a zero waste life, packaged foods can be a problem because, yes, the packages themselves generate waste. One simple solution to this problem is to either, number one, buy things in bulk whenever possible; or, number two, just make things yourself. Here is a list of foods I find easy to make so I can be waste free, and save some money and the planet. As an extra bonus, these foods are not processed, so they are better for your body. Of course I get the whole convenience thing and that it might be a lot easier just to buy these foods but, unfortunately, our convenience comes at a huge price to the planet; and I promise that once you get the hang of making your food from scratch, it’s a walk in the park — a nice healthy, clean park, that is.
Homemade Mayonnaise—My mom was a classically trained chef, and mayo was one of the first foods she taught me to make. It’s super easy, too. These days, I’m a vegan and do not eat eggs, so here are two recipes for mayo: one with eggs and one that’s made with chickpea brine. One fewer thing to waste, I guess.
Nut Butters—I never knew how easy it is to make your own nut butter: all you need is patience and a food processor.
Place 1 cup of raw nuts in a food processor and mix until nuts start to release their natural oils. This takes a while and requires you to scrape down the sides a few times. Once you have a sticky but smooth dough-like consistency, add 1 Tbsp. coconut oil and blend until nice and smooth. If you like your nut butter sweet, add 1-2 tsp. agave nectar. Keep in a glass jar in the pantry.
Coconut Yogurt—I’m hooked on coconut yogurt. This is my recipe for raw coconut yogurt. Just remember that it does require young coconuts.
Homemade Nutella—Store bought Nutella contains palm oil, which not only is not good for your body but also is not good for the planet. The good news is that making your own is easy and the result, delicious. https://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/homemade-nutella
Butter—Making your own butter is super easy, and the taste amazing. Here is a recipe for butter made with dairy. I have been making vegan butter for years, and this is a recipe for vegan butter that I found in Vegnews. It’s amazing because it acts just like “real” butter: you can use it for frying, for spreading on bread, and for baking. The consistency is a bit harder than butter, but it will soften at room temperature.
- 2 ½ cups coconut oil
- ½ cup oil
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. powdered lecithin
- ½ cup nondairy milk
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Place everything in a food processor and mix until it’s white and smooth. Keep in fridge.
Applesauce—Applesauce is one of those foods that are so easy to make that, once you start making it, you will never have a reason to buy it again.
Kale Chips—I grow a lot of kale in my garden, so one way to preserve it is by making kale chips, a great snack to replace greasy potato chips.
1 cup cashews, soaked for an hour or more and drained
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp. mellow white miso
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. agave nectar or maple syrup
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup water
1 large bunch curly kale, washed, de-stemmed, ripped into medium-sized pieces
In a blender or food processor, blend cashews, lemon juice, bell peppers, miso, salt, pepper, agave, nutritional yeast and water for 1-2 minutes until thick.
In a large bowl, place kale, and add 3/4 cup sauce. Use your hands to massage the sauce into the kale.
If you’re making the chips in a dehydrator, arrange the kale in a single layer, spread out and dry at F115 degrees for 3-4 hours. Flip them and then continue to dry until crispy, about another 2-3 hours.
If you’re drying them in an oven, preheat oven to F250. Bake chips for 1 hour, flipping them once. Bake until completely dry.
Good reasons for baking instead of buying bread are that it tastes substantially better than store purchased bread, reduces preservative intake, supplies more nutrition, and costs less. My family absolutely love home baked bread and prefer it to store bought.
Almond or other non-dairy milks
Baby food—My kids rejected canned baby foods, so I have always made my own baby food. Making baby food might seem very overwhelming for a new mom when in fact it’s easy, fast and safe — and saves lots of money. Here is a link to what to feed baby depending on age and includes lots of recipes.