My Waste Free Journey

Whether it’s from Brexit, Boris Johnson, or more importantly, global warming, the UK is stuck in a whirlwind of terrible news. We’re bombarded daily by a lot of negative information that can be difficult to digest, especially when there are a lot of conflicting opinions. Despite having a strong interest in the matter, I’m currently taking a step back from getting angry at the disaster that has become UK politics, and I’m instead focusing my energy into changes I can make to help reduce my Carbon Footprint and waste.

Something that has become very real for me recently is the constant pressure of consumerism, there’s always something new or better that we should be buying, most of the time when what we already have is perfectly fine.

Fashion

One of the worst contenders for this is fashion, so trying to reduce what I buy is something I try to exercise a lot. Being able to make simple repairs is a great way to cut down the need to buy clothes. There will always be times when you can’t avoid buying something, but what we do with our old clothes afterwards also impacts the environment. At one point, among everything else I owned, I had around 40 dresses in my wardrobe. Some I hadn’t worn for years but couldn’t bring myself to get rid of, others I wore day to day, and the rest were purely for evening wear and didn’t get that much use. After sorting through everything I had (a lot still had tags!), I’d made a huge pile of clothes to be sold, another to go to charity, and one that I planned on recycling with the H&M scheme.

What happens after you sell your clothes on is out of your control, but somebody else buying second hand is a small step in the right direction for our society becoming more eco-friendly. A way that you can be sure on the fate of your clothes however, is up-cycling. I just recently made a cotton tote bag from an old T-Shirt, it was quick, easy, and didn’t require a sewing machine.

Beauty

I’ve also invested in a couple of products from Lush. All of the products come boxed in recyclable materials, either placed in the cardboard on their own or wrapped in a very thin piece of paper. The padding inside is also recyclable, rather than being Styrofoam – I kept this for packing for our move.

I ordered a Wiccy Magic Muscles bar to help sooth my aching muscles after the gym. I don’t really have a product that this is substituting, but if you use something like baby oil or massage oils, you would have very little waste from this product. I also bought a conditioning shampoo bar called Godiva, it’s a lovely yellow bar that contains cocoa butter, cupuaçu butter, shea butter, camellia oil, organic macadamia nut oil and extra virgin coconut oil. It comes unwrapped, but Lush sell their own little tins that you can pop your products in. Last but not least, I ordered a soap called Honey I Washed The Kids. I couldn’t find a tub large enough on sale at Lush, so I’ve popped it in a small Tupperware tub.

I think that people can be put off by the prices at Lush, though after doing a little bit of research and comparing my findings against the prices of one bar to how many bottles of shampoo and conditioner I buy, it seems like this is going to be much better value for money. I’ve been told that one shampoo bar can last over a month, whereas one bottle of my shampoo lasts a few days at most when it is being shared between two people. Again, the soap bar is forecast to last a lot longer than one bottle of my body wash, which leads me to hope my day-to-day waste can be cut down drastically.

Food

For a long time I have flicked between being vegetarian. At the beginning of this year I fell terribly sick after switching completely veggie, mainly due to my intolerance to most meat alternatives. Since then, meat has been reintroduced to my diet, but in much smaller portions. I try to eat a lot of vegetables that I can buy loose from the shop by my house, usually this will be things like courgettes, aubergines, onions, peppers, and just recently, mushrooms. I go through mushrooms by the bucket load and a lot of the time eat them with a mixture of veggies instead of having something like chips when I’m cooking in the week.

We are all aware by now that cutting down our meat and fish consumption is crucial to maintaining the environment, though another thing that is in the firing line right now is the packaging that our food comes in. Many things come in plastic tubs with film lids, most of which aren’t recyclable. I’ve been trying to tackle this is by buying all of my fruit and vege loose, and taking advantage of stores that will sell you meat and fish in tubs you’ve bought from home.

Over the past few weeks I have been exploring bulk buying products like pasta, rice, herbs and spices, though I haven’t quite found the best way to approach this yet. I feel that with only 3 weeks left to move, a sudden bulk buy might be alarming once I come to pack up the kitchen, though it definitely seems to be a way to reduce lots of bits of plastic.

Consistency

Consistency is key when it comes to reducing your waste – making sure that the changes you make can be implemented every day. Whether it’s from the points I’ve made above, or doing things like taking shorter showers and remembering to turn off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth, a more conscious approach to living is a step in the right direction.

Let me know in the comments any tips on living more consciously!

Meal Prepping Fad Or Fab

Since I moved out of my parents at 18, I’ve meal prepped most weeks. I find this method of cooking really effective for my lifestyle, minimising my waste and also cutting down the cost of my food shops.

There are however a number of things that need to be addressed about this way of eating. With any craze, it’s not as totally rosy as it’s made to be. Working in a photography studio, I see every day how we can use technology to blur the lines of reality. As a race, we’ve become so accustomed to seeing everything so flawless that it’s hard to separate real life from reality anymore, and no matter what you think or how much you protest, it’s messing with our mental health.

So with that, I reach my first point.

1. Those meal prep pics? They take hours of work, and I’m not talking about the cooking.

Yes, we all know that great looking things sell really well, it’s the world we live in and I don’t see anybody jumping off soon. But please, stop comparing your wholesome, home cooked meal to a photography studio ‘meal’. The only reason your food doesn’t look the same as the Instagram picture you saw is because the extensive use of lighting, angles, suspended camera’s, hundreds of hours of time, mind numbing labour, expensive freelance stylists (yes, those fancy set ups are done by a professional food stylist) and on-set teams aren’t something any regular person has lay around the house. If you manage to scratch through the photography and styling issues, you’re still going to be lacking a Professional Retoucher who can help bring out all the colours that cameras seem to struggle with – I’m talking the reds (hallo, how many incredible foods can you count that are red?) and the greens (all your healthy leafy posts).

As hard as it might be to accept, you’ll probably never achieve the aesthetics that you see on social media platforms, or even from cookbooks. Something that you can achieve though, is making something that tastes amazing and helps to fuel your body.

2. Some of the best looking meal preps logistically don’t work.

Again, this falls loosely around the same grounds as the previous point, if you’re meal prepping, the chances are you’re heading to work; whether it’s by car, public transport, bike or time travel, your food will not reach A-B looking like a Pinterest picture. Everything gets mixed, shaken, smashed, crushed and generally just looks like total sh*t when you pull it out at work.

3. Some of the best looking meal preps just don’t work at all.

I’m looking at you, Buddha bowls, taco bowls, and anything that has a potato product or lots of liquid. They just don’t work. The main problem with some meal prep posts is the fact that they’re literally an evening meal put into a tupperware tub. Anybody who has ate on this planet since, yano, eating was a thing, will know that there are some products that just aren’t good after being left in the fridge for a few days, never mind when you add your work microwave into the mix.

Some of the worst contenders for this are multi-layer meals. For example, taco bowls that have layers of food that need reheating and layers of food that need to stay cool. Yes, there are definitely ways around making this less of an issue, but unless you have a cold planet to store your hundreds of tiny portions of every component in your taco bowl, it’s more hassle than it’s worth.

My next qualm, anything with a saucy topping is going to make all of your delicious food soggy. Even our trusty friend pasta can fall victim to this horrendous crime, but to be honest, there are going to be more cases where your reheated pasta will end up a bit dry. An easy example of a meal prep hack just waiting to go wrong is ‘Shepherds Pie Bowls’, okay, yes, there’s not many people that don’t go bit gooey over a Shepherds pie, but after cooking, cooling, having it sit in the fridge for a few days and then getting it to work, you’ll probably realise that all your gravy has been sucked up by the potatoes, then your whole meal has just been shook up while commuting. What you end up with is nowhere near as tasty as it should be, and you might find yourself heading to the local petrol station to eat £1 jam tarts – I’m talking from personal experience here.

4. Meals that are just too big, or too small.

There’s been many of days I’ve sat scrolling through Pinterest, looking for that perfect meal to prep for a busy week at work. The portion sizes seem a little large, but you are making it for 4 days, so you try not to worry too much and continue to chop a family’s worth of potatoes for your pastry-free quiche. Only to find yourself in a food coma every day after your lunch. Or you might find yourself on the total flip after choosing to make a ‘low carb, high protein’ Bento box that leaves you reaching for the closest bag of crisps.

There seems to be no real consistency on what you find online, or any proper guidance on how to eat for your needs on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram (or it’s very misguided). The best way to tackle this meal prep minefield is to prep something uncomplicated that you enjoy eating. Otherwise, what’s the point?

If on the other hand, you’re struggling to manage your own portions, something I like to do is make my meals a little smaller for breakfast and lunch, but then prep lots of tasty snacks to enjoy throughout the day – we can touch on this properly another time.

5. They cost too much money.

If your meal prep is costing you an arm and a leg, you’re reaching the realms of ‘is this really worth it?’ If once you’ve bought your ingredients and taken the time making the food, it would have been cheaper and easier to grab a meal deal from Tesco, then the nutritional value of what you’ve cooked won’t outweigh your hardships in the long run. You will find yourself binning the burrito bowl and it will have all of been for nothing.

I love living frugally, I’ve become one of those annoying people that lives for spreadsheets and saving money. This practice has made me quite the connoisseur of cheap meal preps and luckily for you, I love sharing what I find works. For me, I don’t necessarily need to eat a full chicken breast at my lunch, so 2 breasts can be cooked for 4 days worth of meals. Or a 500g pack of mince will also last me 4 days with plenty of veggies. It’s all about weighing up your goals and what works best for your body. If you’re on a strict workout regime, finding a good average of what you burn over the week and making your meals around that number works better for me than trying to chop and change my intake daily.

If you’re a meat eater or have special dietary requirements, you might find than in general your prep does cost a little bit more than others. But don’t let this put you off, it is doable and you can make something really nutritious without breaking the bank.

6. It can be time consuming.

This is a point that we touched on slightly in the previous point, but it is one that I really want to explore a bit more. At one point, my meal prepping could take me 2/3/4 hours, it was ridiculous and a massive waste of time. I was cooking too much, making things too complicated and sapping all of the fun and enjoyment out of it.

I’d bought a tonne of different meal prep boxes and I wanted to use them all. The boxes I had bought had 3 different sections that I wanted to fill to the brim, regardless of whether or not i needed that much food or not. The time it was taking me to chop, cook, clean and then portion out the food left me sweaty and exhausted. By the time it came to eat them, I didn’t actually want them anymore because I had over complicated everything.

I did this for a little while and spent a lot of time (and money by the time I had gone to Subway to replace my tragic lunch), before realising that I needed to strip back my routine and simplify everything that I was doing. Part of this came from realising I haven’t got to try and eat like an Instagram star every day and then another part came from deciding that I wanted to eat things I liked, not things people thought I should like.

With all of this being said, I am still an avid meal prepper. I’ve found what works for me, it takes minimal time to make and I enjoy every meal I have.

Do you have any meal prep stories to share or tips for optimising your routine? Let me know in the comments what you think!

Meal Prep with Frozen Lentils and Veggies

For my lunches this week, I decided to throw some stuff together using this bag of Brown Lentils with Tahini from Aldi. It’s the first time that I have seen this in the frozen section, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I generally make 3 portions for my meal prep, I know that a lot of people online will make theirs for the whole week, but if you’re like me and you have a small freezer and don’t want to lose the will to live, you’ll probably want to do the same!

It only took me 20 minutes to throw this together, so it’s great if you’re strapped for time. Or, if you’re using weekend leftovers on Monday and Tuesday, this is a quick fix to take you to the end of the week if you prep it on Tuesday night.

Ingredients

  • 250g Brown Lentils with Tahini (74p)
  • 400g Tinned Tomatoes (28p)
  • 70g Closed Mushrooms (23p)
  • 178g Sainsburys Frozen Meat Free Meatballs (45p)
  • 165g Tinned Sweetcorn (37p)
  • 190g Frozen Peas (<15p)

To make : £2.22

Per portion: 74p

Preheat your oven 190°C/Fan 170°C/Gas 5.

Place the meatballs onto the tray, (178g works out roughly at 9 meatballs), and then pop them in to cook for 15 minutes.

Roughly chop up your mushrooms, I like them quite big, but you do you!

Throw absolutely everything else into a pan and let it all cook through.

Once the meatballs are finished, portion out your lentil mix into microwavable tubs, then pop the meatballs on top.

Now, here’s the nutritional….

As a whole, you’re looking at 914kcal.

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Whereas per portion, you’re looking at 304kcal. 

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Whether you choose to mix this up with anything is totally your call. I find this really filling just on its own, but if I’ve done a big workout the night before, I’ll mix it with 140g of rice for some added bulk. 

The best thing about this recipe is it’s totally interchangeable. I used the Meat Free Meatballs for convenience, each portion (3 meatballs) has 3.9g Carbs, 3.9g Fat and 8.9g Protein, where as the equivalent portion of Quorn Mince has 2.6g Carbs, 1.2g Fat and 8.4g Protein. 

Meat eaters, I’m not leaving you guys out either. If you subbed the veggie meatballs and added in a the Turkey Bean Mix instead, you’d get around 2.4g Carbs, 1.8g Fat and 7.3g Protein with each portion. 

Let me know what you think in the comments – have you meal prepped before or are you thinking about giving it a try?

P.S – Shout out to Emily for inspiring me to make this one.

My Batch Cooking Shop

If there is one thing you need to know about me and shopping, it’s that I really dislike it. I usually get it done on a Sunday, as I find it easier to meal prep and get my lunches together with fresh ingredients – we all know the midweek struggle when your 500g pack of *insert any meat* has a use by date of yesterday and you’ve got nothing to pair it with.

I use a weekly planner that I stick on my kitchen wall, I find it really helpful as between Jamie and I, we have a heavy workout schedule, so it’s handy to pre-plan when we will need a quick meal. I then correlate the use by dates to each day in the week, this helps me know what I need to freeze and what I can keep in the fridge. Easy peasy. We do grab some bits and bobs from the local shop by our house, though we tend to go late at night and grab anything reduced to make some quick meals.

This one is from the guys over at CGD London. I bought The Life Plan Kit back in January, it comes with the weekly planner, a pen and 2 different types of book planners. They’re worth checking out if you’re trying to get your sh*t together!

As I’m doing a bulk cook this week, I’ve bought extra turkey mince and also a pack of mince beef. I use OneNote to track everything that I have in the house, so I knew that I didn’t need anything like chicken or sausages, but I knew we needed some extra meat and cupboard bits like stock cubes. I try not to over buy when I shop as it seems pointless having things sat in the cupboard or freezer for months on end, instead I tend to run things down before topping them back up again.

Meat

  • 2 x Unsmoked Back Bacon – £1.89 each
  • 500g Beef Mince – £1.49
  • 2 x Turkey Mince 500g – £1.89

Frozen

  • Frozen Smoothie Mixes – £1.79
  • Frozen Mango – £1.49
  • 2 x Frozen Mixed Fruit – £2.39
  • Frozen Lentil Mix – £1.49

Cupboard

  • 4 x Tuna in Spring Water – 79p each
  • Aldi Chicken Stock Cubes – 36p each
  • Apple Sauce – 39p
  • OXO Cubes Beef 18pk – £1.39
  • Olive Oil – £2.89
  • Wholegrain Mustard – 35p
  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar- £1.99
  • 2 x Chicken Curry Tinned – 85p each
  • 2 x Milk Chocolate – 30p each
  • 2 x Dark Chocolate – 30p each

Fridge

  • 4 pints skimmed milk – £1.09
  • Sunflower Spread – 69p
  • 2 x Lighter Mature Cheddar Cheese – £1.79 each
  • Cherry Tomatoes – 75p

Other

  • 12 Large Free Range Eggs – £1.69
  • 5 x Garlic – 39p
  • 5 x Banana – 65p
  • Coriander Plant – 49p

£40.70

When I do a shop like this, my kitchen gets so messy. I would reccomend setting aside a good couple of hours and recruiting anyone who lives in your house with you to help you clean as you go.

To begin with, I made a turkey mince mix that you can use for burgers, meatballs, meatloaf or even mix back up for a quick bolognese or chilli. I use quite a few mixes of flavours to help bring out the full potential of this lean meat, but I’ve never really found anything that it doesn’t mix well with, you can find the recipe here. I also made 3 days worth of lunches (I’ll cover why I only make 3 days worth in my meal prep posts), using a new frozen mix I found in Aldi with lentils and veggies. You can find the recipe for that one here too.

With the mince beef, I made a veggie packed spaghetti bolognese that made a meal for both Jamie and I, then 2 small lunches for me on Thursday and Friday. As the mince was a higher in fat than what I would usually get, I chose to cook this on Wednesday as we had a pretty jam packed couple of days with high intensity cardio, so the mix of fats and carbs was just what we were needing to recover. I decided not to record this one as I’m sure you’re all pretty clued up on the family classic, so I’ll keep it brief and give you a post on my quick weeknight sauce instead a bit later on.

The mince alone was 1255kcal, so once I’d added all of the veggies, made the sauce with our cherry tomatoes and chucked it over some pasta for our post workout meals, it was a pretty high kcal meal. My personal preference on beef is for it to be a lot leaner, and even though this was a really enjoyable meal, I probably won’t be rushing back too quickly to buy it. For a lot of meals like spaghetti bolognese, I’ll usually use frozen Quorn Mince, but Aldi was totally wiped out of this when I shopped.

With one pack of bacon, I made us some delicious toasties filled with gooey cheese. As we had a busy weekend out with friends celebrating a birthday, we wanted to try and keep our costs down on eating out, so we split the pack between ourselves and had it as a brunch before we went out. It kept us full pretty much all day, and costing us around £1 each in total to make, it was a definite bargain over anything you could buy out and about.

With the second pack, I prepped some bacon to go with my eggs. I usually mix up 2 eggs the night before in a tupperware tub and add in some chopped red pepper and a dash of milk to stretch it out a bit, then while I’m making my brew I zap it in the microwave for a few minutes, but this week I decided to make a crust-less quiche – essentially a giant egg cake – and used some leftover mushrooms, courgette and onion. I added in some nutritional yeast instead of cheese, then sliced it up ready to take to work. It didn’t last as long as I had hoped, potentially due to the yeast, so I did have to waste a slice *sad music plays*.

2 of my bananas went into Overnight Banana Bread Oats, (keep an eye out for this recipe) and the rest have been pre-gym snacks for in the car. I still haven’t tried any of the frozen fruit mixes, but I’ll probably pick up some extra bananas to throw into these, so I’ll let you know what I think of those when I get round to them.

I channeled my inner child and used the dark and milk chocolate bars to make some little crunchy cakes from some cornflakes that had started to go a little stale. After melting the chocolate, I added a little butter, cinnamon syrup and some marshmallows before chucking in the cornflakes and leaving them to cool.

To finish the round up of this shop, we come to the coriander plant! I harvested this the day I bought it and froze the crop. The packets on these supermarket plants suggest that you have to throw them away after a certain date, I find this absolutely insane. If you keep watering your plant after harvesting and make sure that you prune it properly, it’ll keep growing back, and it’ll grow back quick. This is exactly what I have done with this plant. Admittedly, I find them harder to keep alive than any plant I’ve ever owned, but don’t let this put you off. If it does die, it’s still cheaper than buying it already harvested. I made us a quick chilli with my turkey mix, chucked some of the frozen coriander for s fresh twist, and still had some left for another day.

Let me know what you think about my batch cook shop in the comments, it would be great to hear how you guys do yours!

Batch Made Turkey Bean Burgers

Ingredients

  • 1kg Turkey mince, 7% fat (£3.78 from Aldi)
  • 400g butter beans (38p if you use the brand KTC)
  • 2 large eggs (28p from Aldi)
  • 1 slice white bread (<5p)
  • 1 onion (28p based on a 3 pack that was 85p)
  • 73g yellow pepper (19p based on half a pepper from a 3 pack that was £1.10)
  • 30g Wholegrain mustard (<5p)
  • Dried ground garlic or fresh garlic (<1p)
  • Salt (I use celery salt) (<1p)
  • Ground pepper (I use coarse) (<1p)
  • Italian herbs (I use a grinder from Aldi) (<1p)
  • Chilli flakes (<1p)

Cost of ingredients: £5.06

Start by chucking all of your mince into a large mixing bowl and please recycle the tubs!

Add in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to the mince followed by 1/2 teaspoon of chilli flakes, 1/4 teaspoon of dried ground garlic (I’d say 1 or 2 fresh cloves if that’s more your style).

Crack in both of your eggs and add about 30g of your wholegrain mustard.

Drain your butter beans, and either in a food processor or with a potato masher, blend them up until they’re smooth and dump them in the mix too.

Chop up around 100g of red onion (I found this to be 1 regular sized onion), chuck that into your food processor and blitz until it’s small, but not mushy.

Do the same with your yellow pepper, I used 73g but if you’d like a much firmer mix that you’re only thinking of using for burgers or meatballs, then I would probably half that as the pepper adds a lot of moisture.

Give your processor a wipe out and then blitz up your bread until you’ve got fine breadcrumbs and then bang them into the mix too.

Before you move on, I’d recommend removing any watches or rings as we’re about to get our hands dirty.

Start really mixing all the ingredients together. I find it kinda therapeutic doing it by hand, but if you’re really not into it, a big spoon will do. Once you’ve really got everything mixed, it’s time to split your mixture.

I measure each portion into these really tiny plastic bags that Jamie bought me when I told him I was out of sandwich bags one day (my sandwich bags are paper, but ok then). They’re ridiculous and plastic is bad, so I try to clean as many as I can after I’ve used them.

I managed to make 10 portions of 150g, with one left over that was a little bit under at 138g. The reason I portion at 150g is that it makes a nice size burger, but this is 100% your call. For meatballs, I still portion at 150g, but I keep the mix in a big ball rather than making the individual balls, then when I come to serve I will usually use a bag per person.

Nutritional Value

I used MyFitnessPal, so that I can show you the nutritional breakdown of this mix as a whole, and as a 150g portion.

Whole Mix:

Per 150g Portion

With a total cost of £5.06 and 11 portions in total, that makes the portion per person a grand total of 46p!

To put this into perspective, I’ve taken a look at the price of Sainsbury’s turkey burgers, as well as their nutritional value.

At 454g a pack, they are 113.75g per burger – 36.25g lighter than what we’ve made -, and at 87.5p a burger, they’re also a hell of a lot more expensive.

But how do they weight up nutritionally?

Well, they are 171kcal per burger, with 6.5g of fat, 3.9g carbohydrates and 23.9g protein. All in all, they’re higher in fat, lower in carbs and marginally higher in protein, but for the difference in price, are they really worth it?

Let me know what you think in the comments – are you willing to put in a bit of time to bulk make things and save money, or is convenience more your thing?

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