Do you ever feel like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, wanting to start again? What if we told you that you could take it back to basics and do away with plastic by trying something new? Would you give it a go, or would you keep scrolling?
By now we all know how bad plastic is for our planet. We’ve quit the dreaded plastic straw. We’ve seen the iconic photo of the seahorse cradling an earbud and opted for the bamboo alternative instead. We’ve bought ourselves an eco-coffee cup, heck, some of us even bring our own reusable containers to our favourite takeaway joints. But is that enough?
Convenience often overrules our consumption decisions, which means that plastic manages to weasel its malleable non-biodegradable self into our everyday lives, whether we like it or not. The sad truth is, even when we go through the effort to clean our recyclable plastic and place it in the recycling bin, our dreams of reuse get discarded too, and to top it off - it often doesn’t get recycled. So whether we’re stuffing our non-recyclables into an Ecobrick or grocery shopping with our plastic footprint in mind, we need to remember that no plastic will always be better than recyclable or biodegradable plastic packaged groceries.
We’re not expecting you to go hungry or start a small-scale farm in your back garden (even though that sounds cool) - but how about trying to make things yourself as an alternative to buying them in plastic. Not only do homemade versions of food contain less plastic, but often have less nasties like preservatives and are normally a whole lot tastier too...dependent on your cooking skills of course. Luckily, if cooking doesn’t come naturally to you, we’ve compiled a list of 5 simple foods to make yourself, which doesn’t require much skill.
1 - HUMMUS
If you’ve ditched plastic for #PlasticFreeJuly then you may have decided that hummus served in little plastic tubs is not an essential part of your diet. Silly thought though - hummus will always be essential, which leaves us with one option only, to make it ourselves. Trust us when we say that this homemade hummus recipe is better than any store bought plastic-sealed option you’ll find.
1 can chickpeas*
1 small garlic clove, minced
30ml water (45ml if you prefer a less thick consistency)
30ml extra-virgin olive oil
60ml tahini, or try your hand at homemade tahini
65ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste
Pinch smoked paprika, for serving
‘Whip’ the lemon juice and tahini in a food processor or NutriBullet for 1 minute, scraping down the sides, and blend for another 30 seconds.
Add the cumin, minced garlic, olive oil and salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Blend for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides and blend for another 30 seconds or until well blended,
Open, drain and rinse the chickpeas in a sieve over the sink. Keep the chickpea brine to make vegan meringues and much more. Once the chickpeas are rinsed, add half of the chickpeas to the blender and blend for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom and add the rest of the chickpeas. Blend for 2 minutes, until the thick mixture becomes smooth.
If you find the hummus consistency is too thick for your liking, simply add a tablespoon of water until the perfect consistency is achieved.
Serve the hummus with a dash of paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. Store your hummus in the fridge for up to a week.
*If you’re feeling extra domesticated, save the tin man some effort and swap the can of chickpeas for a cup of uncooked chickpeas. Place the chickpeas in a large pot and cover with about 5cm of water. Boil on high heat for 1 minute and cover the pot. Remove from the heat and let the covered pot sit for an hour. Alternatively, let the uncooked chickpeas soak overnight in cool water for at least 6 hours.
2 - PESTO
Not only is this pesto plastic-free, but it’s also dairy-free. We trade up Parmesan for vegan-friendly nutritional yeast, giving this recipe the cheesiness it deserves. Enjoy this pesto tossed into a pasta, with roast veggies, or with a spoon straight from the jar - it’s that good. What tastes better is the fact that it takes less than 5 minutes and only one dish to create.
2 cups fresh basil, tightly packed
30ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
60ml olive oil
60ml nutritional yeast
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
180ml pine nuts (walnuts or sunflower seeds can be used as a cheaper alternative)
Blend the basil, lemon juice, water, oil, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt and nuts in a NutriBullet or food processor. Blend until smooth, add more water if you desire a thinner consistency.
Store in your fridge for up to 1 week, or freeze your pesto for up to 6 months.
If you happen to have carrots in your fridge at the time of your pesto making session, don’t throw away the carrot tops. Instead, try our zero-waste carrot top pesto recipe.
3 - YOGURT
You won’t believe us when we tell you how easy it is to make your own yogurt. Gone are the days of paying R70 plus for a small tub of vegan yogurt. 2 ingredients and 1 jar, that’s all it takes.
1 can full fat coconut milk. You can use any dairy-free milk of your choice.
2 vegan-friendly probiotics capsules (capsules are easier to use as they don’t have to be crushed)
Shake your can of coconut milk well and pour into a sterilised, dry glass jar.
Empty the probiotic capsules into the jar and stir with a wooden spoon, not a metal spoon as this will cause the probiotic to react negatively. Stir the mixture until smooth and creamy.
Cover the jar with a cheesecloth or clean, thin dish cloth and secure with a rubber band or string.
Allow your yogurt to activate for 24-48 hours in a warm place. The longer you allow your yogurt to rest, the more tangy it will become.
Once your yogurt reaches your optimal tanginess level, seal with a lid and store in the fridge. Refrigeration will also help to thicken your yogurt to more of a Greek yogurt consistency.
If you enjoy a sweeter yogurt, add maple or agave syrup, or other flavours such as vanilla extract or your favourite seasonal fruits.
4 - GRANOLA
Now that you’re cultured enough to make your own yogurt, the next step is obviously homemade granola right? With our easy 6 ingredient vegan and gluten free granola, the answer is definitely yes.
250ml gluten free rolled oats
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
60ml maple syrup
375ml roughly chopped nuts of your choice (walnuts, pecans, almonds etc.)
120ml coconut flakes
125ml finely ground almond flour
10ml coconut oil
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Instead of lining your baking tray with baking paper, brush coconut oil along the tray to avoid sticking.
Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Fold the mixture together using a rubber spatula, until the mixture is well mixed and clusters begin to form.
Place the mixture on the baking tray, using the spatula to spread out the mixture, nudging the granola into small clusters.
Bake the mixture for 20 minutes, then using your spatula, flip the granola, keeping the clusters intact. Bake the granola for 10 more minutes, or until the granola is golden brown on the edges. Your granola will crisp up once it has cooled.
Allow the mixture to cool for 30 minutes by placing the baking tray on a cool rack. Store your granola in an airtight container for up to 2 months at room temperature.
5 - VEGGIE STOCK
Vegetable stock often comes in mini sachets, cubes wrapped in foil or a plastic tub. What if we told you, you could not only ditch the plastic, but also give a second life to your veggie scraps? Unlike store-bought options, our veggie scraps stock has zero preservatives or plastic. This might require a little more time than our other recipes, but we promise you this one's worth it.
2 large onions, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
15ml olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
5 thyme springs
5 parsley sprigs
2-3 cups frozen veggie scraps
If you plan on adding frozen vegetable scraps, collect them over time and store in an airtight container in your freezer, until you have enough veg to make the stock.
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on a medium heat.
Add the chopped carrots, celery, garlic and onions to the pot, stirring often. Cook until softened.
Add the bay leaves, herbs, water and frozen veggie scraps. Reduce the pot to a low heat, partially covering the pot, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.
Strain the stock with a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, discarding the solids.
Allow the stock to cool, pouring the stock into ice trays, creating perfect portion sizes for your stock when you’d like to use them.
There’s so many more recipes you can try, from nut butters, to dairy-free milks, crackers, apple cider vinegar, jams, the list goes on. We’ve compiled these recipes, so that your shopping list decreases over time and as such, your plastic consumption will too. We don’t expect you to start making everything from scratch, but when it’s quick and easy, while improving your plastic footprint, why not give it a try? You may find yourself picking up a new hobby, wondering why you didn’t start sooner, or maybe you’ll never do it again. But you’ll never know until you try and Plastic-Free July is the best time to give it a go.