Chickpea, tomato, peach, and basil salad with olive oil, balsamic, and black pepper. Fuel.
Chickpea, tomato, peach, and basil salad with olive oil, balsamic, and black pepper. Fuel.
Cashew butter and fruit at the workbench. Purchased at the Belfast Co-op.
Pictured above is a market I’ve been frequenting here in the Pine Tree State. Fresh Off the Farm has been my main source for produce and dry bulk goods since I’ve been here. The employees are really accommodating and friendly. I love stopping in.
Even small produce are kept loose for customers to take just as much as they need. There’s always something local, like potatoes, baby garlic, cucumbers, or carrots available.
Pack of goods.
This star anise was purchased in bulk at Fresh Off the Farm in Rockport. So far the store is my favorite source for groceries here. I picked these up for a friend at the wood school. They are a key ingredient to a delicious Thai meal he cooked and shared with me.
The last two weeks have been fantastic. My weekdays are filled with studio work—learning to sharpen hand tools and cutting dovetail and mortise and tenon joints. I’m working amongst some really inspiring people here and I’m making friends. Breaks from the work are filled with adventures on land and in water. Hiking, biking, swimming, and sailing.
Getting package-free food in this new setting is going really well so far. There are a couple great dry bulk grocery store options (one of them even sells bulk spices) and for the most part I’ve been able to get what I need. For the sake of research and curiosity, I plan to check out a couple recommended co-ops that are a bit farther (one 7 miles and the other 25 miles) away at some point. I may need to refill on cooking oil before I leave Maine and I’d also like to get some bulk tea.
I’ve been making dinner at home for friends and myself and saving the leftovers for lunch the next day at school. There’s also a business not too far down the road from campus called the Market Basket with a great prepared food selection and the employees have been so nice about filling up my stainless steel container on the days that I arrive to school without lunch. The picture above was taken on such a day. I enjoyed a meal of wild rice with walnuts, roasted potatoes and stuffed grape leaves at my workbench.
I had one fail at a fish market in Rockport called Graffam Bros. Seafood Market when I went to get a piece of Arctic char to cook at home. I introduced myself to the woman at the counter and proposed my special request. She happily agreed but then laid two pieces of sheet plastic on the counter to cut my piece to size. At the register I asked her if there was anyway around having to use the plastic and she explained that she needed to cover the counter surface to make the cut. Understood. The next time I went back, I was shopping to make dinner for myself and two others. The young man behind the counter that day was able to tare my container and put one large uncut fillet directly into it. The piece ended up being the perfect amount for the three of us. It was super fresh and delicious.
For sustenance, I’ve been toting stone fruit, carrots, almond butter, nuts, and energy cubes to class. Yesterday I snacked on wild blueberries while out on a hike with a friend. My land people have been extremely generous in offering me sugar snap peas and berries from the property and when the grapes on the deck are ready, I will help myself. I’ve been eating like a king.
Breakfast this morning. Peaches with sweet and purple basil from the garden and balsamic from Olive Del Mondo.
I’d like to share this sweet and tart salad I’ve been making with ingredients from the farmer’s market. Back in May I started buying rhubarb and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I’ve been experimenting with different recipes and this one is my favorite so far. It’s so simple and easy to make. The recipe below is loose. The measurements will depend on the size and number of salads. I just wing it.
spinach, rhubarb, strawberries (optional), red wine vinegar, honey, olive oil, and water
Tear and rinse spinach and place it on a plate.
Cut the rhubarb on a diagonal to get two-inch pieces.
Place the pieces in a skillet and add enough water to float them. Bring to a boil and stir in about a tablespoon of honey. Simmer them until soft (they cook quickly, maybe 3-5 minutes).
Remove the rhubarb from the liquid with a slotted spoon or spatula and place over the bed of spinach, but leave one or two pieces of rhubarb in the skillet to make the dressing.
Add about a tablespoon of red wine vinegar to the skillet and simmer the liquid until it thickens to a syrupy consistency. Let cool and then stir in olive oil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
Add sliced strawberries if desired.
I have been meaning to share this image of a recent trash-free tailgating session. Last month I went to a concert in Mansfield, Massachusetts with my two best friends in the world. We made a hearty quinoa dish with apples, walnuts, kale, carrots, olive oil, and lemon juice, packed it in one large container and carried it in a cooler. We brought water in glass bottles, homemade trail mix in a jar, some fruit, and three forks. The venue doesn’t permit concertgoers to carry in their own food or beverages so we loaded up on the protein-rich meal in the parking lot for stamina, eliminating the need to purchase overpriced, over packaged food from inside. As we grazed and chatted, I stood admiring my friends in the pink light of the setting sun thinking, “I could do just this all night.” But the show ended up being pretty fantastic too.
After shopping the Lippitt park farmer’s market on Wednesday afternoon, I stopped by the recently opened Olive del Mondo at 815 Hope Street. My friend Seth sent me word about it at the beginning of the week and I was excited to check it out. As I’ve mentioned in many other posts, I have been getting my oils and vinegars from the Alternative Food Co-op in Wakefield, RI. I travel down there every 1.5 to 2 months to restock. The co-op products are very satisfactory—especially for cooking, but when it comes to dressing oil and vinegar, I have longed for a bulk source of specialty products. Growing up, my Italian father was always so excited to bring home dark green earthy olive oils and thick sweet balsamic vinegars to feed us. He’d open a bottle or can, drizzle it’s contents over a tomato or soak it into a piece of bread and present it to me with ebullience saying, “you’ve got to try this!” It spoiled me.
As I stepped into Olive del Mondo, a huge smile came over my face. Glinting stainless canisters or “fustis” of oils and vinegars line the walls and island displays. Printed cards carefully describe the contents of each. I immediately noticed the emply dark glass bottles with cork stoppers that fill the lower shelves, and thought, “this looks promising”. I approached the young woman at the counter and introduced myself. I expressed my excitement and asked about the bottling system. Jennifer (that’s her name) explained to me that customers buy a small or large glass bottle to fill with the oil or vinegar of their choosing and then when they’ve finished with the product, they can bring the bottle back to the store to be washed and reused. The shop is equipped with a washing and drying system (bottle trees) in back. Fantastic! Plastic sampling cups and utensils are provided for customers to try different flavors, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem to use one’s own sampling vessel brought from home.
Jennifer and her husband Salvatore—who came in while we were talking, opened the business together. Both are graduates of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and their sensibilities show in the details of the store layout. We chatted about waste reduction projects. They told me it was a bit of a struggle to convince the Department of Health that the reusable bottle system could be sanitary, but eventually they were able to get it approved. I asked about the containers their products are delivered to the store in and Salvatore told me that they do come in plastic jugs (this is standard in shipping because of plastic’s lightweight characteristic—more weight equals more money and fuel). One jug fills one entire fusti. The plastic shipping container is certainly an imperfection in the bulk goods shopping system. It’s something that I discussed with Rosemary, the manager of Alternative Food Co-op, when I toured the store in January. She told me that paper and burlap are still being used to distribute many dry bulk goods, but today most liquid bulk products are shipped in plastic.
It’s important to acknowledge that buying imported food products is not a Zero Waste practice. As implicated by the shop’s name, the products Olive del Mondo carries are shipped here from around the world. While writing this post I realized that I did not know where the olive oil I buy in bulk at the co-op comes from. So I called them up and spoke to Liz, who is the store buyer and she told me that currently the olive oil they are purchasing in bulk is indeed imported and that it’s an issue they are both aware of and concerned about. So far they have not been able to find a distributor of bulk domestic olive oil.
When it comes to shopping for liquid bulk goods, variety is not always easy to come by… but there’s no shortage of it at Olive del Mondo. I really enjoyed speaking with Jennifer and Salvatore and I so admire the work they’ve done to set up the reusable bottle system. Currently, oil plays an important role in my diet, as it’s one of my main sources of fat. And while vinegar is a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, the real reason I continue to consume it is that I simply love it. I passed on sampling in the shop because I didn’t have a vessel on me, but I did purchase a small bottle of 18-year aged balsamic and a reusable pour cap (the standard stop caps cannot be returned for reuse). As it turns out, it’s the most delicious balsamic vinegar I’ve ever tasted. I will savor every last drop.
Today was a great day. I hit up the farmer’s market, stopped into the new olive oil and vinegar shop on Hope Street and bought some amazing aged bulk balsamic vinegar (more on this soon!) and then headed for the coast to watch the sun set on the longest day of the year (and for some relief from the heat). It was particularly beautiful tonight. I managed to get a swim in too. Happy summer solstice!
Little black forager ants (I believe they’re sugar ants) have been appearing on two windowsills in my apartment. When I open up the screens and stick my head out I can see them scaling the brick exterior. And as I mentioned before, there are tons of ants in the garden too. Amazingly, they don’t seem to have found their way into the kitchen yet, but I have seen some lone rangers crawling around on the floor in the living room and bathroom. I imagine that if I don’t act their numbers will likely grow.
I’ve been reading about environmentally friendly ways to keep ants out of the home and it seems that there are two different approaches. The first is to deter ants from entering by keeping surfaces clean at all times, storing food in sealed containers, and strategically placing natural ingredients like cinnamon, cloves, lemon juice, castile soap, baking soda, or vinegar in the areas that the ants frequent.
The second approach is to actually exterminate the ants by using a slow acting homemade insecticide bate made from sugar, water, and borax (or boric acid—an odorless, non-volatile powder that is considered a safer alternative than more hazardous synthetic chemical pesticides). When the mixture is placed on pieces of cardboard or absorbed into cotton balls, the forager ants will feed on the it and carry it back to the nest where they pass it to the other ants, eventually killing the colony. When an insect consumes boric acid, it poisons the stomach and affects the insect’s metabolism. Every source I’ve found that gives a recipe for this bate cautions readers to keep it away from children and pets. Boric acid can be toxic to humans and other mammals if inhaled or ingested in large quantities.
I’m going to try my luck at deterring them before resorting to the poison. I have all of the deterrent ingredients mentioned above on hand. All of them were purchased in bulk without packaging.
Bulk Medjool dates at long last! This precious package-free treat came from the co-op in Wakefield. They’re kept in a jar in one of their refrigerators.
These “date bars” recently appeared in a local bulk bin and I’m really excited about them because they taste a lot like Lara Bars, a packaged food I used to enjoy. Just like a Lara Bar, this snack has is made from very simple, healthy ingredients. Dates are the base ingredient—a fruit I love but have not been able to find in bulk. Buying these is far more economical than buying individual plastic wrapped bars.
Since making oat milk at home, I’ve wanted to try making other dairy-free milks. For some reason I had the impression that nut milks would be more complicated than the oat milk but, as it turns out, the almond milk I made today was even easier! It’s raw so the cooking step was eliminated.
In a pot, I covered raw almonds (purchased in bulk!) with water and soaked them overnight. In the morning rinsed them, added more water and blended them in the same pot with my immersion blender. The soft nuts broke up more quickly than I had expected. I probably blended them for one minute total.
Then I strained them through a clean mesh produce bag. Straining them through a bag is quicker than though a mesh wire strainer because you can squeeze every last drop of milk out, leaving only the almond solids. There are nut milk bags on the market designed specifically for this purpose, but my produce bag worked perfectly.
I am saving the solids to make my next batch of energy cubes. But they could be useful for many cooking projects.
Delicious raw almond milk. No Tetra Pak and no added ingredients like evaporated cane juice, calcium carbonate, tapioca starch, salt, potassium citrate, carrageenan, or sunflower lecithin which you often see listed on the back of store bought brands. This homemade version is naturally sweet and with the 1 to 3 ratio I used, it’s thicker than any almond milk I’ve ever had out of a box. I may experiment with honey and spices for future batches. Maybe even a little cocoa powder for chocolate milk!
So here’s the recipe written out…
2 cups raw almonds
6 cups water
Soak the almonds in water for about 8 hours or overnight.
Discard soaking water and rinse almonds.
Combine almonds with the 6 cups of water.
Blend until smooth.
Strain the liquid through a mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or a nut milk bag (I used a mesh produce bag). Save the solids and use for a baking project, mix into a cooked grain dish, or use as a filler for energy cubes. Store the milk in the refrigerator. Drink it straight, pour it over cold cereal, or use it to cook hot cereal like oatmeal.
Flounder from The Local Catch.
I love, love, love arugula.
Homemade spicy lentil soup to go. There’s an electric cooktop in the kitchen of the office building I work in. I can put this container directly on the burner to reheat food. I keep my own kitchen towel in the desk in my office to use as heat pad for a hot container, to clean up spills, and to dry my hands after washing.
Many people have asked me if I miss eating snack foods like chips, crackers, and granola bars, which are only available in packaging. To my surprise, after nearly a year of working on this project, I can honestly answer that I do not crave any packaged food—savory, salty, or sweet. I’ve managed to find healthy, package-free replacements to satisfy every kind of hankering. When I look at the dried bulk and produce section of the grocery store, I see ingredients for small snacks or large meals.
After consuming nearly all of the energy cubes/chunks I purchased at the co-op last week, I decided to try making my own. I looked at a few recipes online and then just improvised. I ended up with a vegetarian, dairy-free, gluten-free, nearly raw (except for the almond butter and the popped amaranth), delicious snack.
My “recipe” is below. The measurements are approximate. I used what I had on hand—any other nuts, seeds, fruits and grains can be substituted.
1 cup honey
1 cup nut butter (I used almond)
1 cup popped amaranth
½ cup chopped almonds
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
Heat honey until warm. Slowly add nut butter until just mixable.
Add and mix in the remaining ingredients one by one. When the mixture became too stiff to stir, I used my hands to fold in the rest of the dry ingredients.
Press the mixture into an oiled 8”x8” pan. Cool for one hour. Cut into 1 inch cubes. Store in the refrigerator for up to one month. Freeze indefinitely.
Popped amaranth is really easy to make.
Place a skillet or a saucepan on the stove over high heat. Let it become hot enough that a drop of water disappears when you drop it on the surface.
Put a spoonful of dry amaranth seeds into the skillet (only pop a small amount at a time, otherwise the amaranth will burn).
Shake the skillet or stir the seeds continuously until all the amaranth has popped (about 15-20 seconds).
Pour the popped amaranth into a bowl and add more spoonfuls to your skillet until you have the desired amount.
Pressed in the pan…
They are sticky and delicious. I’m storing them in 16oz glass jars in the refrigerator. They’re a great snack before or after a run, or even as dessert.
Okay, last one… look at all that good stuff!
I decided to try making oat milk at home. The standard recipe that I found on several online sources looked really simple. The ingredients are: oat groats, water, and salt (optional). So I picked up some organic oat groats in bulk from a nearby Whole Foods.
The oat milk was so easy to make. Here’s the recipe I followed:
1/4 cup raw organic oat groats
4 cups water
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.
Soak the oat groats in a bowl of water for about 8 hours. Rinse the oats and discard the soaking water.
Place the oats, salt, and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil then cover and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes. Remove from heat and let the oats cool completely.
Blend the cooked oats with the 3 cups of water until very smooth (I used my immersion blender and added the water directly to the saucepan—which meant less dishes to wash afterwards!).
strain through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container. I reserved the solids to use in a baking recipe (not sure what I’m going to make yet). The oat milk will keep for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
You can also make raw oat milk.
Leave the soaked and rinsed oats in a colander in a cool spot for 12-24 hours to initiate the sprouting process. Then blend the oats with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 4 cups of water until very smooth. Let the blended oats sit for 1 hour before straining.
The texture of the oat milk is smooth and creamy. Cooked oat milk tastes nutty and I’ve read that raw oat milk has a grassier flavor. Homemade oat milk is a wonderful solution to a packaging problem. Store-bought oat milk (and other boxed liquids) come in a drink carton that is comprised of 75% paper, 20% plastic, and 5% aluminium foil. There is also usually a plastic pour spout on the top of the carton. Making your own is also far more economical. A quart of organic oat milk from the store will cost around 3 to 4 dollars. The oat groats I bought in bulk only cost $1.69 per pound.
f drinking the milk straight, you might try sweetening it with a little honey. Today I topped mine with freshly ground cinnamon. It was delicious.
Today I made a trip to the Alternative Food Co-op to restock on some goods. It’s been almost exactly two months since the last time I visited, which seems to be close to the average time between my trips. It was a beautiful day and the drive was nice—still, I wish the shop was closer to my home! I can’t say enough good things about the co-op’s staff and their bulk goods selection. I came home with package-free olive oil, canola oil, turmeric, curry powder, chili powder, chocolate energy cubes, dried mission figs, baking soda, natural bar soap, and conditioner.
The market bounty in my refrigerator.
The Saturday farmer’s market at the Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, RI.
Lots of stands, lots of customers!
A trash-free breakfast of hot amaranth, nuts, seeds, and fruit—with a drizzle of olive oil.
After years of wrestling with flimsy ball strainers, I’ve finally found a system that works really well for me. My stainless steel mesh basket strainer hangs on the lip of most of my mugs and my 16 oz glass jars (The jar lid doesn’t close completely tight around it, but it’s fine if I carry it in my hand). The strainer is durable and extremely easy to clean. I brought this soothing herbal drink to work with me today.
I love the way bulk foods look stored in glass jars. Simple ingredients boasting great potential. I love the sound food makes when poured from cotton bulk bags as it ‘pings’ against the glass.
I have photographed and mentioned these before, but I want to talk about how much I love the design of Weck jars. I think they are in many ways an improvement on the traditional glass wire bail jar. The seal is the same with a rubber gasket and a fitted glass lid, but the clamping system on the Weck jars employs two loose stainless steel clips that snap onto the lid and lip of the jar, forming an airtight seal. Because the lid can be removed completely, they’re easy to clean and dry. The stainless steel clamps won’t rust the way the wire can on a bail jar.
They’re great for canning and food storage. For the dry bulk grains on my counter that I use nearly every day—like quinoa, I simply cover the jar with the glass lid. Other dry bulk goods—like nuts, seeds, tea, spices, and chocolate, I seal with the gasket.
Weck seems to be growing in popularity in the States, which means increased availability. Recently I’ve been able to find them in boutique home goods stores and even at Crate and Barrel. Last year I ordered a set directly from the company website and it arrived in big cardboard box filled with packing peanuts—woops. I took the peanuts to a UPS store where they reuse them. Many shipping companies will accept used packing materials as long as they are clean. Of course it’s always better shop at local business when possible. I carry my large canvas tote when I go shopping for new or used jars and bottles. I’ve learned to throw in a sweater or some t-shirts to wrap fragile items in.
A personal favorite.
If you haven’t already heard about in.gredients, check out this video! The in.gredients team is busy remodeling their store in Austin, inching towards the grand opening. Meanwhile they’ve been sharing updates, facts, and inspirations on their wonderful blog.
Bulk local honey!
Today I was able to find the washers I need to finish a woodworking project in bulk at The Home Depot. Small victories.
Picked up a couple more glass jars at Savers the other day to accomodate more dry bulk goods. I spent 4 dollars on the pair.
Yesterday I took another trip down to the Alternative Food Cooperative in Wakefield to restock on oil, soap, and baking soda. This time I brought my camera along and received permission from Rosemary–the co-op’s manager, to take pictures inside the store. Before the recent opening of Fertile Underground, Alternative was the only food co-op in Rhode Island. Shopping there is a very different experience from the conventional grocery store shopping experience I’ve known most of my life. As I’ve mentioned before, because of the variety of goods available in bulk, this resource has allowed me to take my project to a more thorough level. The co-op’s success is the result of a good business model, excellent management, and invested, conscientious employees. I want to share these images of what alternative food and household supply shopping can look like.
The co-op has the largest dry bulk food section of any store I’ve visited in the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area. Here I can find red quinoa, forbidden rice, and even goji berries. Spices, teas, and medicinal herbs in glass jars line the back wall. Oils, honey, and vinegar are kept canisters next to the spices. There is also a refrigerated bulk foods section. A small produce section offers fresh organic fruits and vegetables from local growers. Hot soup, baked goods, coffee and tea are offered at the front of the store. While I was there, a masseuse was giving massages to customers.
All of the stations in the store are extremely clean and well organized. Any spills around the bulk dispensers are quickly mopped or swept up. Pans and brushes hang on the wall so customers can clean up after themselves too.
The dry bulk foods supply is kept in a walk-in refrigerator located in the kitchen at the back of the store. I’ve always wondered how the foods that I scoop out of the bulk containers are packed and shipped to businesses. Inside the refrigerator, nuts, legumes, grains, and flour are stacked on simple wooden shelves, mostly in paper bags and boxes.
The back deck can be reached by walking through the kitchen. It overlooks the municipal lot where customers can park if there are no spaces on the street. Beyond the lot lie the Saugatucket River and a bike path that runs along it. Rosemary said that riders headed south from the co-op would arrive at the beach in about 15 minutes. In the summer the deck is set up with tables and chairs and the awnings are rolled down to provide shade.
Before shopping I weighed my containers again at the register. Then I filled up my glass jars, bottles, and bulk bags with olive oil, canola oil, quinoa, almonds, baking soda, and castile soap. I should be well stocked for at least another month, but if Alternative Food Co-op was located in Providence, I would do my daily shopping there. Many thanks to the whole co-op gang for chatting with me and for letting me photograph your beautiful shop.
I brought my ‘no trash gear’ with me to visit with my parents over the holidays. While out shopping for food, I put appetizers from their local grocery store’s antipasti bar straight into my stainless steel container. My dad and I share a taste for olives, especially Sicilian Castelvetrano olives (the dark green ones). I’ve found it’s been pretty easy to practice trash-free shopping and eating while traveling as long as I remember to bring a couple containers and bags. I don’t mind asking store employees if their policy will allow me to use my own. Even if initially there is some confusion over the request, I find that most of the time people are willing to accommodate me.
The No Trash Project has rather naturally led me to a territory previously unknown to me–medicinal herbs. How can I treat illness, heal injuries, or relieve pain and discomfort without making trash? This past weekend I finally visited Farmacy Herbs in their Providence shop. I mentioned the business in an earlier post about trash-free medicine, at which point I had only ever seen their products at my local farmers markets. The shop is in a small one-room building across from North Burial Ground Cemetery. Mary Blue (Farmacy’s founder) helped me find the herbs I was looking for on the shelves and gave me some recommendations for herbs that may help relieve menstrual cramping. At the self-service table setup next to the wall of dried herbs, I scooped my selections into my own glass jars and weighed them. I was surprised to find that my purchase of nettle leaf, raspberry leaf, cramp bark and ginger root (3oz or about 85 grams total) only cost me $6.00. In the half hour I spent in the shop, many customers came and went. I was excited to catch a glimpse of what seems to be a community of people taking advantage of this wonderful resource. I spoke briefly with a woman named Suzie who is enrolled in Farmacy’s Herbal Education and Training Program. She was helping to tend the store as a part of a work-study arrangement. She told me that classes take place in the shop. On their website you can see a list of topics covered from herbal terminology to wild fermentation techniques. Browsing these topics motivates me to learn about growing, harvesting, preparing, and using medicinal herbs.
More food storage. Purchased in bulk without packaging, plus a couple home grown foods, and some spices with labels that were purchased before starting the project.
From the left: carob chips, flour, rice, fennel seed, cumin seed, sugar, granola, nutritional yeast, raisins, camomile tea, flax seeds, cannellini beans, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, chili peppers (grown), rolled oats, dried apricots, stevia powder (grown), cocoa powder, almond butter, millet, green tea, yerba maté (grown), balsamic vinegar, sesame oil, canola oil, salt, pepper
All of the spices on my shelf are available in bulk at the co-op. I’ve been thinking about how long mine have been sitting, and as time goes by, their freshness fades. I may end up giving some away if I don’t find the inspiration to use them. I like the idea of buying smaller amounts of each spice at a given time so that they are more potent.
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One month of trash-free bulk foods on my countertop.
Getting ready for a trip to the co-op. Empty 16 oz glass peanut butter jars make great containers for loose tea, dried bulk goods, nut butters, baking soda, and even bulk moisturizing lotion.
All images and content © 2012 Colleen Doyle, No Trash Project.
Working toward a package-free, waste-free life.