Monday, June 26, 2017

Meal Plan and Grocery Haul #5: Nachos and Sesame Cauliflower

Being a one person IT team for a mid sized company is very demanding and overwhelming. I'm always curious as to how many calories I burn in a day - maybe I should buy me one of those fit bits (secondhand, of course). Once, I'm off of work, I hurriedly get to Oliver's daycare to pick him up before 5:30 since they start charging extra after that, then quickly get home where I have to do chores, tend the garden/flowers, take care of the animals, cook dinner, and handle a very agitated one year old who's screaming "NANA NANA NANA" (banana) at the top of his lungs until I give him a snack. Life is crazy right now. I seriously wish I could say it was slow and relaxing and I had no worries what so ever. But that's just not my reality right now. What makes these nights a little easier, is having a meal plan with easy, put together meals that are also low to no waste and plant based. It also makes life a lot more manageable to get as much prep done as possible with our nightly dinners. So like chopping, roasting, making rice in advance, muffins, bread, etc.


Sundays are usually our day to stock up on produce from the farmer's markets, dried goods from Sprouts, and meal prep as much as possible. It's actually our favorite day of the week considering we treat it as a family day. We always get canolis in our own container on our way out of the market and always try to sneak in a trip to the park.


 After we meal prep, we just relax. We sit outside and watch Ollie as he plays with his trucks and eat dirt (I try to stop him but I figure he'll eventually realize it doesn't taste that great). We let that kid get as dirty as he possibly can on Sunday afternoons. We let him help pick weeds in the garden - while sneaking some strawberries of course, we let him wrestle with the dogs outside, and sometimes he finds his way to mud. It's perfect - it's our perfect. It's a much needed recharge before the craziness ensues again on Monday morning.


So what's planned for this week?


Monday: Pasta with a Lentil Bolognese, Roasted Garlic Bread, and Kale/Carrot Top Pesto (I use my   homemade, canned pasta sauce. You can also use jarred. Just add 1/2 cup to a cup of lentils and simmer until cooked through) Very easy, ya'll!

Tuesday: Sesame Cauliflower over Rice

Wednesday: Nachos with Black Beans, Lettuce, Salsa, Green Pepper,  Radishes, Avocado, and                                 Cilantro

Thursday: Homemade Pizzas with Pesto, Broccoli, Yellow Squash, and a Balsamic Glaze (Make a     simple pizza dough then add whatever toppings you desire. Pesto makes a great sauce!)

Friday: We go out (Usually for....FAJITA FRIDAYS!)

Saturday: We eat with friends or family (Being social is good for the soul!)

Sunday: We clean out the fridge and pantry to use up any older food. (Kitchen Sink meals...right?)

Breakfasts: Granola over Almond Milk, Banana Muffins, and Fruit. Oh - and Pancakes on the Weekends!

Lunches: Leftovers from dinners the night before

Baby Meals: I steamed some broccoli and carrots, heated up some black beans and mixed it with seasoned rice for daycare. We also send him with fruit. For dinners, he eats what we have.


There are some food items not pictured for the following reasons:

  • Pasta sauce comes from my canned stash. I make up a several quart jars worth in the late summer when our tomatoes are ripe.
  • We make the pizza dough from scratch the night before and let it set in the fridge until the next day. You could also check your local pizzerias to purchase dough or you could get premade dough kits in cardboard.
  • The yellow squash is coming from my garden along with the peppers.
  • Almond milk we made last week. It's seriously just almonds soaked in water, blended once soft, and strained. We add dates to ours for sweetness. Recipe soon, I promise!
  • The nacho chips we get from our local Mexican restaurant. They are so, SO good. I bring in a larger cloth produce bag and they fill it up for me. We get them right before we make dinner so they are fresh. It's on my way home from work. If you are looking for a waste free way to get chips, you should try out this method!
  • Blueberries from the market - Ollie was eating them.

At that's it! All for around $50! Can you believe that?!

Have you saved my Pantry List? This list will help you only stock items that can be made into multiple, versatile meals.



You can find all of my previous meal plans here.

Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Dish Brush Giveaway!

I think it's time for a giveaway, my lovelies! I want to share some plastic free goodies to get you one step closer to zero waste!

Have you tried compostable dish brushes, yet? If not, here's your chance to win a set!


I'm giving away one compostable dish brush and one compostable veggie brush (this brush's versatility goes way beyond scrubbing produce!). The brushes are 100% vegan and 100% plastic free!

To enter, simply comment below with what zero waste means to you. Contest ends next Thursday! Good Luck!

You can also find these brushes and more in my shop at www.shopzerowastenerd.com!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tips for a Zero Waste Kid's Birthday Party

So I can barely believe Oliver is a year old. I know people say that time flies but holy cow - what just happened?! Well, here we are. This past year has been nothing short of amazing. He has truly filled a void in our lives that we never knew existed. He's funny, gentle, sweet, and quirky. His personality is so unique and wonderful. We are so, so lucky.

Zero Waste Party


I knew far back that his party was going to be very simple. Sometimes less is more and to keep not only the waste in check, but the stress in check, simple was the only way to go.

The key in planning a waste free party without driving yourself crazy is to first think of all of the stuff that generally makes having parties so wasteful. And seriously, this couldn't get any simpler - just replace all of the waste causing items with reusables. Whoa - did I just blow your mind. We've traditionally gotten accustomed to throwing these elaborate, expensive parties with gobs of balloons, streamers, themed disposable plates, napkins, cutlery, plastic party favors, mountains of gifts, and more. But let me assure you, parties don't have to be that way and in my honest opinion...shouldn't be that way. I can't think of a million other ways to show your  child they are cared for on their birthdays.

So to break this down, here are my tips to making your parties trash free, hassle free, and full of fun!

Skip the Disposables


Zero Waste Party

I'm talking about the plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, etc. Don't waste your money on things that go into the trash. Instead, use real plates, real glasses, real cutlery, real napkins. It looks way more put together and it's completely waste free.

Now before you start with...."I don't have that many glasses, plates, etc. I don't have the money to go buy new things and that just takes of up space...." I know this and I'm not suggesting that. My husband and I only have 4 plates, 8 glasses, and about 6 forks. So how on earth did we manage to feed 25 people? Simple....

Have you seen this amazing graphic by Sarah Lazarovic. I use this as a guide to ensure I make my events as less impacting at possible.

I used all of the plates, cups, and silverware I had, even used my pint mason jars first. I then asked some family members to help with additional silverware and my mother in law loaned me her crystal party plates. Perfect - and didn't cost me a penny!

Provide Plant-based Food

Zero Waste Salad


As you already know, my husband and I eat a primarily plant-based diet. We made potato salad, spinach and walnut salad, grilled veggies with spinach pesto, and I made two pies. We didn't make a cake for the party since Ollie had already consumed two cakes this week. Ok not the entire cakes but still enough that my heart rate increased watching him eat it. I figured he is 1, he will not care or remember if he got a third cake during his party. He's way more concerned with climbing onto everything he can.

Zero Waste Pie


Why plant-based? Plant based food has less of an environmental impact and is easily found without packaging. Simple as that.

Now, I do realize that everyone doesn't make the same dietary choices as we do - and that's perfectly fine - so I mentioned on the invitations to bring a side dish. That also helped save us quite a bit of money as we weren't entirely feeding 25 people out of our own pockets.

Try BYOG (Bring Your Own Gear)

As I was finishing the final touches before guests started arriving, my mother mentioned to me that my party reminded her of church luncheons when she was little. Disposables were never used at those functions so you were always expected to bring your own plates, cups, and cutlery. We used to do it this way people!

Have a Compost Bin

I had our big outdoor garbage bin hidden during the party so people wouldn't instinctively scrape their food in the garbage. I instead put a labeled compost bin next to the buffet tables with a spatula making it simple for guests to scrape off their uneaten food. 

A few of the dishes that were brought contained meat so I had a separate bin for that which we buried later.

Set up a Dirty Dish Drop-off Location

Yes, this is the most inconvenient part of throwing a party with no disposables but I have to say it went very smooth. A couple of family members volunteered on their own to collect people's plates and did all of the dishes before I even realized people were finished eating. My grandmothers, aunt, and Mother in Law had them all finished in 5 minutes. 

If you don't have a group of family members fighting over doing the dishes, set up a few bins with soapy water for guests to place their used dishes. This will help make it easier and quicker to thoroughly clean them all later.

Keep the Decorations Minimal


Zero Waste Party

Do the decorations really matter? Are you trying to impress your child or the parents attending the party? I'm simply asking these questions because I asked myself the same ones to which I realized the decorations were more about impressing the adults.

Skip the balloons (I know the golden number balloons are trendy but ugh...), the plastic table coverings, plastic party favors, and streamers altogether. They are not necessary.

I kept Ollie's decorations very simple! I made a couple banners with scrap fabric and decorated our chalkboard wall. When I look back on my childhood birthdays I can assure you, I never remember the decorations, just the moments with family and friends who chose to spend my special day with me. THAT's the important part. NOT the stuff!

Divert the Importance Away from Gifts

I don't want Oliver to only associate birthdays with presents. Instead, I want him to think of the people who care about him the most who will be spending time with him. I want him to remember His grandfathers playing with him in the dirt or his uncle trying to teach him how to dance - I can say that was funny to watch!

This year, we very explicitly stated that we did not want any gifts for Oliver, instead, we chose to put together a time capsule to be opened on his 18th birthday. We asked family members to write him a heart felt note so that he could read it when he's getting ready to start his path to adulthood.

You could also start a college fund or have money donated to a charity in your child's name. There are many alternatives to the traditional gifts. I'll have to write another post about those in the future



The party went wonderfully! People had a good time eating great food, playing washers in the back yard, and spending time with the little man of the hour. 

"Collect moments, not things," continues to be the quote by which I live my life. Not just for the planet but for my soul as well. We need to appreciate the true important parts of life and ignore the disposable. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

DIY Tea Herb Garden



Mother's day is approaching and like many of you, I've began thinking how on Earth I'm going to show the many mothers in my life just how much they mean to me. And of course, this Mother's Day is extra special considering it has a completely new meaning for me. But it's not about me....it's about the mothers in my life who have always been there and have always supported every endeavor I've ventured towards. This is about them. And I truly wanted to make them something special, this year - and of course, zero waste.

All of the moms in my life LOVE tea. I don't think I have ever seen my mother-in-law without some sort of tea cup or thermos in her hand, so what better gift than a mini tea herb garden! It saves money since they'll be growing their own tea and sit beautifully on their patio or kitchen table for them to be reminded of their favorite child.



So what will you need?


  • Container big enough for all of the plants
  • Stones - enough for a layer across the bottom of the container
  • Dirt to fill the container
  • Herbs perfect for tea
Now, your local greenhouses pay have different varieties of herbs that could be a good addition to this tea garden. Some possible choices include:
  • Lemon Balm 
  • Peppermint
  • Stevia
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile
  • Echinacea
  • Rose
  • Calendula
  • Basil
  • Lemon Verbena
  • and the list goes on!

Instructions

  1. Add the stones to the bottom of the container - this is to ensure adequate drainage.
  2. Take the plants out of the plastic containers and organize them inside the container (take containers back to the greenhouse for reuse or to Lowe's where they get recycled and reused.)
  3. Fill empty spots with dirt
  4. Water
  5. Enjoy!

How to make tea with your new Mini Tea Herb Garden

  1. Pick a few of each leaf or whatever combination you'd like and steep in a reusable tea bag or tea ball
  2. Or dry your leaves in the sun or in a dehydrator, crush up and steep in a reusable tea bag or tea ball




Zero Waste Nerd

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Vegan Coconut Curried Vegetables

You know, you'd think that since I've lived in Missouri my entire life I'd be used to this 80 to 40 degree nonsense that's been happening for the last few weeks. But geez, it gets me every. single. year. But that's ok, colder weather just means that I can keep putting warm soups and curries on my weekly meal plans.

Vegan Coconut Curried Vegetables

I'm a huge fan of curry. I'm an even bigger fan of one pot meals. You all know I'm a minimalist - a minimalist at doing the dishes that is. All of the ingredients get thrown into one big pot, simmered for about 20 or so minutes, and then it's ready for your bellies. Eloquently simple. It's fantastic to sit down to a meal that tastes and looks like it took you all evening to make but in reality it only took about a half an hour. We could eat this curry dish every week - it's that good. It's also one of those dishes we fix for friends and family who are no quite sure about meatless meals. We never tell them that there is no meat or dairy until they say how good it is. It always surprises them. But then again, why is it that when people here the word "vegan" they think it tastes bad. Seriously, peanut butter is vegan....everyone like that! But I guarantee if someone labeled it vegan, they'd stop buying it. I don't get it!

Vegan Coconut Curried Vegetables

Anyway, I'll get off of my rant. If you love curries but are too intimidated to give it a try, seriously add this to your weekly meal plan. I promise you it is SO EASY! It's creamy, sweet, savory, with a hint of heat all in one. Curl up on the couch with a bowl of this on those cold, rainy days or eat it on a sunny day, I don't care.

This also freezes really well if you find that it makes more than you can finish. I will also say that this is Oliver approved (he's 11 months old). The complex flavors and soft veggies makes it perfect for little appetites and as a way to develop their tastes.

Vegan Coconut Curried Vegetables


Author: Megean Weldon
Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serving Size: Feeds 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 6 small red potatoes or 2 large russets, diced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced **I omit this when I feed this to Ollie as it already as a hint of spice without the jalapeno**
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp of powdered ginger or fresh ginger
  • 2 T of yellow curry powder
  • 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk **do not use lite**
  • 2 T tomato paste **you can add more or less to thicken**
  • Cilantro for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Add diced potatoes, carrots, onion, red bell pepper, and jalapeno to a heated pot with 2 T of olive oil.
  2. Saute, covered, until potatoes and carrots are soft and onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic, salt, pepper, ginger, and curry. Saute for another few minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, and tomato paste.
  5. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes and has reduced slightly. It will thicken up.
  6. Serve on top of fluffy rice and garnish with cilantro.
  7. Optional: Add chopped cashews for a crunchy garnish.
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Zero Waste Nerd


Vegan Coconut Curried Vegetables

Monday, April 24, 2017

Meal Plan and Grocery Haul #4: Banana Pie and Chowder!

Happy belated Earth Day, everyone! I know I was absent this past weekend but I swear I had a good reason! Do you ever just get to a point where you need to restart? Brace yourselves, IT analogy coming your way. You know when your PC gets really bogged down from too many processes operating in the background and you restart it to make it faster and to stop those unnecessary processes? Good gracious, congrats if you were able to follow along with that! Anyway - my point is - I decided to unplug. Relax, disconnect, and spend time with the ones I care for the most. I reflected, slept in, explored new places, and just - well - restarted. Things were getting a little overwhelming there for a bit so I apologize for my absence, even though I know you all completely understand and do not need an apology. 💗 


Despite my social media hiatus, I still had to get groceries this week. I guess I like to eat. The weather got a little colder than normal so that set the mood for my meal planning. Warmer, comfort dishes like curry and soup with some spring banana-y flair for dessert.

Some quick tips for those of you who are reading my grocery haul posts for the first time. Welcome!! I shop for items that I can get either completely package free, or come in non-plastic packaging like glass, paper, or metal. This allows for me to compost and recycle rather than send packaging to the landfill. I choose packaging that the Earth can digest - unlike plastic. So, here are a few past posts I've done explaining the process of shopping zero waste.




As you can see, I primarily eat a plant based diet, but you can alter these dishes for your meat loving friends and family if you need to. I spend the majority of my time in the produce aisle. I shop weekly because I find this to be better for me to avoid food waste. Now, I do buy my bulk staples in larger amounts since the shelf lives of pastas, rice, beans, and other bulk goodness is considerably longer than produce.




Tuesday: Spaghetti Squash with Canned Marinara and Toasted Garlic Rolls (Recipe coming soon!)

Wednesday: Seasoned Roasted Veggies with Quinoa

Lunch: Leftovers

Breakfast: Banana Muffins (Recipe coming soon!)

Baby: steamed squash, steamed broccoli, bananas, and what ever we are having.


And that's a wrap and all for $81.03. The biggest expenditures were the components for the banana pie. Cashews and Walnuts are very expensive totaling about $14 together. The pie isn't completely necessary but sometimes you just want to treat yourself.

As for the waste, the rubber bands and twisty ties I take to work for cable management, the glass jar from the coconut oil I'll reuse for gifts, and the cans from the coconut milk are going to be reused for Oliver's first birthday next month. That means that the only waste I'll be sending to the landfill is the plastic seal around the coconut oil, produce stickers, and the receipt.

What are you having for dinner?

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Zero Waste Nerd

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Stocking a Zero Waste Pantry

Zero Waste Pantry


One of the first things I learned when I started experimenting with zero waste living was that I had to change the way I ate. I didn't have the best diet. A lot of food that my husband and I ate was either fast food, processed, and of course, overly and excessively packaged.

Keeping an essential list of pantry goods was key to keeping my grocery shopping easy and cheap, my meals simple, and food waste minimized. I keep a pretty minimalist pantry considering that's the only way it will all fit (my pantry is teeny tiny) and because most meals we have use pretty much the same ingredients. Most or all of my zero waste pantry items can be purchased in bulk where I live so keep that in mind when I say "Zero Waste" Pantry.

I found that when I chose elaborate meals calling for proprietary ingredients I ended up with a stuffed pantry with items that I never used that ended up going bad. The pantry turned into my closet at the time. hundreds of choices but nothing to wear - or in this case - eat. That's another great thing about shopping in the bulk sections because if you do want to try some thing new, you won't end up with a giant package and instead just the amount you need - and trust me - we love trying new things!

So, first things first, when I bring my items home from the store, they are in my reusable cloth produce bags. Check out my post "5 Steps to Zero Waste Bulk Shopping" for a more detailed look at how I shop and if you don't have bulk check out my article "No Bulk, No Problem!". I then transfer them in to glass storage jars to keep them fresh. That allows me to visually see what I have and what I need to replace or fill up. Another bonus to zero waste shopping, right?! Another key component to a zero waste pantry is stocking up on items that have longer shelf lives. This allows for you to purchase in larger quantities to store for meals later.

So what's in my pantry?

Zero Waste Pantry






Grains

Grains are the base to many meals in our household. We love stir fried veggies, Indian food, and a good bowl of pasta. Quinoa is also great for making veggie "meats".



Baking

Baking is such an important part of my life that I gave it its own category on my shopping list. Everything from cupcakes, pancakes, breads, pies, and more come out of my kitchen quite regularly. And of course baking soda is used in many natural cleaning recipes throughout the house.


Legumes

Beans are so versatile. They can be used in about any dish - even dessert! I use lentils in a lot of dishes as a meat substitute like chili and pasta sauce.


Natural Sweeteners

Maple syrup is good for more than just pancakes. It can be used as a honey substitute and replace a lot of refined sugar in dishes. Dates are great for binding ingredients together like in pie crusts or energy bites.


Nuts and Seeds

Almonds get used for almond milk, peanuts get turned into peanut butter, cashews are used in a lot of vegan cheese substitutes like Parmesan, and popcorn is just fantastic - right?!


Oils and Vinegars

Olive oil is my go to cooking oil. I use it when I am sauteing veggies or need to lubricate a pan in place of cooking spray. Coconut oil is used in everything from baking to toiletries. And vinegar is the primary ingredient in my cleaning spray.


Spices

This can be more of a guide to you than anything. Just stock up on your favorite spices. I do have to say, though, nutritional yeast is a great Parmesan cheese substitute if you're looking to cut dairy from your diet. 


Again, very minimalist. But it works more me and my family. Use this as a guideline, add or subtract items, or just use it as inspiration.

Photo credit: shutterbean via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

This article may contain affiliate links that helps support this blog. 💚

Zero Waste Nerd