Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The first locally grown asparagus. Early this year just like the may blossom and the bluebells.
Very expensive too, but a treat not to be missed. When it is local and in season I buy as much as I can and if I had been offered the very first cut of Worcestershire asparagus as a wedding present I would certainly not have turned it down - see here. Honestly, some people!

The first local purple sprouting I've seen this year too.
I bought these vegetables from a deli where they have only very recently stopped adding up your bill on the paper bags they put your purchases in. They have a new-fangled till now but they still use paper bags and I am quite happy with that because I can fold them up and save them for use in lunchboxes, and after that they can easily be recycled or composted.

Above are my cheese and ham purchases from the same deli. Wow! I hear you cry, but wait, they are more interesting than you might think. The picture shows them exactly as I bought them. Naked. 

I took along two plastic tubs and asked the chap who served me if it would be alright for my cheese and ham to be put straight into my tubs without any other packaging. 'Of course' he said. 
If I had thought to bring another tub I would have gone to the butcher next door and asked for bacon the same way. You can buy plastic boxes large enough to hold a chicken so any meat could be bought this way from a butcher.

It's got to go.

You don't have to bring all that plastic packaging home and I for one am going to make it my mission to reduce the amount plastic I use when I'm shopping. I'm also aiming to stop using clingfilm and plastic bags in my kitchen.
 Reduce, reuse, recycle, in that order.
 Don't just concentrate on recycling, reduce first by refusing to accept plastic bags and packaging as much as possible, it isn't always easy. Take milk for example. I looked into having a milkman deliver my milk in proper glass bottles from Milk &More but my 18 pints a week would have cost me over £11 and I pay £5.86 at Waitrose. It isn't easy being green.
An easier decision was to order some of these reusable sandwich wraps for my family to use in their lunchboxes. You can make these and patterns are available on the internet but frankly I'm too darned  lazy. I also ordered some of their bags which will fit into my handbag meaning I won't be caught without a reusable bag again.
As I mentioned on my bread making post I use plastic bags for freezing my loaves. I am not sure whether there is an alternative to plastic bags in the freezer. Would cloth bags work? My bread doesn't spend more than 3-4 days in the freezer. Big plastic tubs would work but then I'd have a space problem. 
I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried freezing food without plastic bags. I'm not keen on using foil as an alternative.
Ideally I'd like to stop using the plastic tubs too, one can buy lidded glass containers and stainless steel ones are available from the US. I don't want to throw all plastic out though at least not until it breaks.

For excellent advice on how to reduce your waste visit the inspirational  My Zero Waste.
This post I found particularly useful



  1. I must admit the milkman is one of my few extravagances, mainly because when I worked with farmers I knew just how much the supermarkets ripped them off with milk buying.

    I never thought of taking plastic boxes with me shopping. Good plan.

  2. Thank you so much for linking to our site and I'm very impressed by what you are doing to reduce your waste. It's great to hear of other places that are receptive to you taking your own containers as many companies bring out the 'health and safety' red tape. Not sure about freezing bread, I'd probably stick with reusing old plastic bags or keep a couple of sheets of polythene especially for this purpose.
    Keep up the great work and I love all the beautiful photos on your blog :)

    Warm wishes
    mrs Green @myzerowaste.com

  3. Thanks Mrs Green :o)
    It's thanks to you that I took my tubs along to the deli in the first place.

  4. I want that asparagus...

  5. Sue, I use shopping bags made of oil cloth - I hate those plastic bags from the grocery store. Some of our markets give us a discount when we use the reusable bags. Good job on promoting green living.

    Hugs from Oregon, USA -- Teresa :-)

  6. Anonymous7:10 pm BST

    Perhaps Kate and William get lovely organic asparagus from their Dad's garden? Bit of a waste accepting what you don't need. For me asparagus is a bit broccoli like in flavour but not so tasty, so I tend to give it a miss. Spring greens is more my thing.

    Good ideas for saving on the smaller plastic bags and other packaging but I found when I took my own bigger shopping bags I started to buy bin liner bags where I hadn't before and was having to double up as well because they were not very strong, so not saving plastic at all! I don't know if wrapping things like bread up in cloth would work, a special bag maybe? We have all got spoilt with plastic because it is just so useful. I'm not so in favour of paper though - all those poor trees being cut down (and machinery to do it!) Also the health food shop gives out paper bags only and they are not useful for anything afterwards in my experience, so that is very wasteful too. Their cloth one on the other hand is brilliant as you can carry it on your shoulder or in your hand. I know some people make little net bags so they can bypass the plastic ones on the fresh produce - you can see through them but they are light weight and reusable.

  7. Thanks for your interesting points Anon. And yes William and Kate only refused the asparagus because they have been overwhelmed with gifts -I was just being cheeky :o)

    Surely paper is a renewable resource? more trees can be planted just as more apples/wheat/asparagus but plastic is made from a non-renewable source -oil isn't it?-and it doesn't rot unlike paper.

  8. Zero Waste Home takes french glass jars to the store and has everything she buys put in the them and then freezes it all. She has a nice way of packing lunches using a Japanese method - her son demonstrates on video.
    I use net bags I made for fruit and veg and bring my own bags to the store but I dont think that the deli or meat counters will handle my containers - I guess they have rules about it.
    I buy all my fruit and veg and meat from the Farmers Market from May until October; just take a couple of bags and they will let me put strawberries etc. in my own containers.
    Ikea have some nice big glass jars.
    They dont charge for plastic bags here in the Mid West yet but I m sure its coming(as it should)

  9. I would think if you were carefu you could reuse the freezer bags lots of times xxxx off to look for a pattern for a sandwich wrap now!

  10. well done you! I avoid excess packaging as much as poss, even if it means paying more to buy things individually rather than as a multipack or things like that! I keep jute bags in my car and funky patterned folding ones in my bag and I never use cling film or plastic bags! If only more people joined us!

  11. Lizzie, Zero Waste Home is inspirational, but it just isn't possible to shop the way she does here. I saw her son wrap his lunch -so clever.

    I think it easy to feel overwhelmed by inadequacy when reading about such good examples as Bea at Zero Waste Home. The thing to do, I think, is start with one thing, one area of your life that you can work on.

  12. I have diched kitchen roll and shopping bags. I use sandwich wraps but am struggling with dropping food bags for freezer, bin bags and foil for baking...any suggestions?

  13. I still get milk from the milkman, not just because I prefer the reusable glass bottles, but because it doesn't matter how much snow there is (e.g. last December) we always get our delivery.
    I try to use containers in the fridge/freezer and not clingfilm or plastic bags but haven't considered taking them when shopping (but I do take oilcloth and cloth bags)
    I think we should do the best we can and not beat ourselves up if sometimes we stumble.
    Carol xx

  14. I don't wrap the sandwiches in my daughter's lunch box - just put 'em in a re-usable tupperware. She appears to eat them so they can't come to much harm.

  15. Oh well done you! I am a liitle disappointed in how many containers can't be recycled over here. Just moved from the US. Am going to splash out on some asparagus this weeken. Just a thought maybe C and W don't like it! Not many people bring their own bags to the supermarket in the UK, at least where I live :(

  16. Anonymous10:26 pm BST

    Interesting post and I agree wholeheartedly with you about reducing the use of plastic bags. When my cornflake boxes are empty, I remove the inner bag and use it to store food in the freezer. It's reusable several times, and you can write on it too so you know what's inside.

  17. You are so right! It makes me sick how much we waste...if we had to dump it in our back yards we would certainly think twice... Our house had a bottle dump in the back woods. All buried over but just yesterday 3 bottles rose up ..frost heaves I guess but they are from the 1900's. Imagine if we dumped in our own yards now! We all need to do better.....

  18. Just a thought - grow your own asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli. Tastes better , is cheaper and comes without packaging!

  19. Our first local asparagus was only £1 a bundle the other day. Which reminds me that I must do something with it!

  20. I started carrying plastic containers with me when I went shopping. Local traders were happy to let me use them. However it requires forward planning which is not my forte. You have pricked my conscience and I shall try to do better from now on. Thank you.

  21. I always have the same dilemma with the whole 'being green' thing. With 5 kids to feed it's always hard to make the right choice when the alternatives are so much cheaper. Supermarkets have a lot to answer for!
    Thanks to your blog I have made all my own bread, rolls and snacks for the last 10 days or so and the kids prefer it! I have taken along a reusable coffee cup to my favourite cafe at the beach, but must think about containers at the shops too.
    Thanks for the food for thought!
    Sandra x

  22. Yes, Bea s lifestyle is extreme.......not something I could achieve but I do compost everything I can and do a few more things she does.
    Trouble is, I m not a minimalist.........nowhere near !

  23. Great post Sue, one day we will all disappear under an avalanche of packaging. Bought a new toothbrush the other day and had to fight through the packaging to get at it.

    Asparagus my favourite - now that is one thing I can eat on my new slimmer me plan.

    Perhaps it may be the time to approach our local stores - ours in very environmetally conscious - and ask about the possiblity of less packaging for fresh goods.

    Ours does jute bags for groceries - but cloth bags sound the way forward. Health and safety would, no doubt, have a field day however.

  24. Anonymous12:29 pm BST

    Dear Sue
    You are right about trees being renewable but I get a bit illogical about that as I love them so much; I can't bear to see them chopped down - a big hypocrite as I love books and therefore am hugely responsible. Sometimes I'm reminded of how things used to be, when watching films showing historic times before plastic. Sandwiches would be wrapped in a cloth or waxed paper, milk collected in a jug etc. We could do some of that. I remember when bread was wrapped in wax paper and penguin chocolate bars etc were wrapped in paper not plastic. Somethings we could easily go back to, others are much harder!

  25. Anonymous2:18 pm BST

    Oh how I love this post! We are trying to reduce, reuse and recycle too but it can be so difficult sometimes when so many things come pre-packed already! Let us know if you find an alternative to plastic bags for freezing, won't you?

  26. I think the answer to the bread freezing problem is, as others have said to keep reusing plastic bags for as long as possible. The waxed bags in cereal boxes would possibly work if I actually bought boxes of cereal.

    I have taken the plunge and registered with Milk&More to have glass bottles of milk delivered three times a week.

  27. Great post, I love the sandwich wraps. Here in Switzerland most supermarkets charge for reusable bags and don't offer standard plastic ones. We buy our veg at the Market but it's really annoying that you have to put each veg type into a thin polythene bag (why does an avocado need to be in a bag? Or a lemon!). The organic stall doesn't do this but the prices are just too high for me. We're considering the switch to cloth nappies - it's a bit scary though!

  28. Good for you Sue!

    I use glass lidded bowls in the freezer bought from a local shop but onloine here.

    Very handy and reasonably priced I thought, Mine were £8 and no p&p of course. I also re-use (probably like you) any tubs we buy too. I rarely use plastic bags, reuse the paper ones from the greengrocer and do as you suggest at the butcher's. He just needs me to mention I've got my own container and pre weighs the box before piling in what I want.

    I think our milk probably does cost more from the milkman but we buy fresh juice and bread from him too and our weekly bill all in is around £14. It saves me money in that we don't pop to the shop for milk when we run out and end up buying other things while we there!

    And I must agree with The Coffee Lady too. I know our milk comes from a small dairy in Stafford using milk from equally small local farms. A price I can justify paying; I gave up wine instead.

    Have a lovely weekend.
    P.S. I'm going to give your lovely bread receipe a go this week. Wish me luck!

  29. My parents use cereal packet liners to freeze and store food items closed with a plastic clip. Even the recyclable ones are pretty indestructible - then again you'd have to buy cereal.....

  30. Some super ideas, particulary love the sandwich wrap, will order when I get back home, I waste so much foil and plastic wrap, it's dreadful.
    Thanks Jude x

  31. Anonymous2:29 pm BST

    Great tip about bringing tubs with you when going shopping. I will have try this next time i go shopping.. I inheirted some lovely glass boxes from my great aunt a few years go. They have plastic lips which sort of stretch over the top- they are great for storing my baking stuff in.

  32. Hello Sue,
    I don't know if this will suit your baking ways, and it probably would mean more oven-time (and, therefore, more energy use), but I was also bothered by the need for plastic bags for freezing a baking of several loaves of bread and am trying this:

    I am experimenting with it at the moment and haven't got the dough just right yet (freshly-milled flour seems to make a wetter dough than it should be), but it is lovely to have a glass jar of dough just waiting in the fridge for whatever I think to do with it...pizza and cinnamon rolls thus far.

  33. Thanks for your suggestion Lesley. I have read about five minute artisan bread many times and I have experimented with refrigerator dough. I have also tried sour dough bread -making a starter and feeding it. All are worth considering but we found we liked my plain old wholemeal loaves best and I don't really want to be baking everyday.

  34. Pati from London7:17 am BST

    Morning Sue, hope you are well. Am trying to catch up on your posts as we've been on hols for the past week and only returned on Friday night. Before we came back to the UK, I placed an internet order in Tesco so that our weekly shopping could be delivered first thing yesterday morning, a practise I hardly ever do but saved me time, I must admit. I was quite shocked at the amount of plastic bags they used to bring all the items,though! some of them only contained one thing inside. I couldn't believe it! I felt it was such a waste... My plastic reclycling bin is always the first one that gets filled also and even though we try to cut down on the amount of plastic we get, it is quite difficult as supermarkets used it a lot, even the local grocery uses them for berries, little tomatoes etc... It's so difficult to avoid. I love your idea of taking the containers to the shops, had never thought about it but will definitely try it. My local fishmonger's sells eggs and I always bring him the egg box back so that he can use it again with other people... Enjoy the lovely weather, Pati x


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