While nursing a sickness and binge-watching the docuseries “Ancient Aliens” on Netflix last week, I turned to baking as a form of exercise. Sleep, wake up, prep a recipe, throw it in the oven, rest, take out of oven, sleep, repeat.
(I realize this sounds like something I shouldn’t do if I’m sick, but I wash my hands constantly and also I don’t share food)
I’ve made four batches of muffins and two loaves of bread. Despite the sickness, the plan was always to start baking more, the sickness just created the house-boundness I needed to start. And this all because of my initiative to be more “green.”
PART ONE: Dissecting my grocery list to make it more environmentally-friendly
Your grocery lists change with age, diets, and morals. For me, that was shifting from low-calorie-everything (calorie-counting), to Dollar Store items (moving out for the first time), to whole foods (hello paleo), to where we are today: minimal waste.
Getting things at Costco, while cost-effective, usually means extra packaging. Paper towels wrapped individually in plastic, wrapped in more plastic as a bundle?
If I had unlimited funds, everything would be organic, everything would be zero-waste. But I don’t so here we are. I looked at my regular shop list for me and my partner (mostly from Costco) and divided it into sections of things I can make, am willing to spend to a bit more on to get elsewhere with less packaging, and things I feel are still worth getting at Costco (within the limits of my life).
Things I can make
- protein bars & granola bars
Things I can get at Bulk Barn
- peanut butter
- oats, grains, pasta
- flour (and other baking items from spices to cocoa to yeast)
Things I can get elsewhere
- salad greens
- toilet paper & paper towels
Things I will still get at Costco
- eggs (stop it, I get the organic ones)
- coconut & olive oil
- frozen berries & veggies
PART TWO: replacing protein bars
If you know a few things about me, one thing is probably that I love protein bars. For snacks, for breakfast, for chocolate-bar-replacements, for coffee time, for anything really. But as I’m becoming more and more conscious about my environmental impact, I am starting to feel guilty about how much single-use plastic I go through with them. Especially as my partner started eating them for a quick breakfast before heading out the door every morning.
I’ve tried making my own protein bars before and they’re never as good, never have as much protein, and are never worth the effort it takes to make them. So to replace the protein bars for my breakfast (as well as my partner’s) and for coffees, snacks, pseudo-chocolate bars, I decided to make muffins.
Initially I started with this recipe which is quite healthy (oats, greek yogurt, banana, only a bit of sugar, no oil) and used mini Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups instead of chocolate chips (I can’t change who I am). A decent alternative for a healthyish, quick breakfast (for ME — I don’t want to hear about your no-grains-no-dairy diet, thanks).
I realized I have to make at least two bathches/week for me and my partner so to ~spice~ things up, I decided to alternate between a healthy muffin recipe earlier in the week, and a more treat-like muffin (basically a cake) on Fridays. Which led to these gems which are basically donuts.
PART THREE: overcoming my fear of yeast
One of the simplest (supposedly) things to make has always made me nervous to try because I SUCK at using yeast. Suck suck suck. Quick, regular — doesn’t matter.
I’ve made several batches of very flat cinnamon rolls in my life and a very hard, thin pizza dough. I’d never tried to make bread because I thought, surely, I will make this flat too?
But I committed to giving it a go for the greater good. I found this recipe and it f*cking worked and I couldn’t even believe it. It tasted so good and I will never buy bread ever again (#sorrynotsorry @ art is in — also HOW are they still using plastic bags for their bread???).
PART 4: making it work for you
I can honestly (and quite proudly, actually) say that the baking I did last week involved very little single-use plastics. All my dry ingredients were from Bulk Barn and were collected in my reusable containers, and my wet ingredients (eggs, coconut oil) are in recyclable plastics. Only the butter was in a wrapper that had to be disposed-of.
But it’s not about going from 0 to 100, it’s about finding a balance that you can MAINTAIN. I enjoy going to Bulk Barn and walking up and down the aisles of colourful ingredients and treats. Each time I’ve been, I’ve found something of interest — something I never thought of getting from there, something that inspires me to make a different recipe, or even a childhood treat that I haven’t see in years. I feel good spending a bit more on package-free lettuce, washing it, and chopping it for dinner rather than getting it for less and it coming in a plastic container. But I still want that giant block of cheese from Costco that costs as much as a smaller one from the deli counter.
If we all start making manageable changes, even small ones, it will have a huge impact.
PS Does anyone still use Pinterest? I know it’s pre-Instagram glory, but I still find it v useful for recipes and store my favourites there.
PPS I still eat chocolate bars (Bulk Barn has them sans-wrapper!).