(the above photo shows all the ingredients, purchased packaging free for my seared Ahi Tuna, radicchio and white bean salad)
About a year ago, I gave up packaging and therefore trash in my kitchen. Meaning I don't buy foods with any packaging... no plastic bags, no plastic cartons, no cans, no boxes. As a LAST resort we recycle the containers for the items which I cannot buy unpackaged (i.e. milk and wine... two essentials). And our kitchen scraps go into the composting bin to eventually feed my garden.
When I first wrote about my packaging free/trash free lifestyle here, I received numerous e-mails from readers wanting to know more. Obviously I hit a cord. Perhaps some collective trash guilt? Perhaps some people think I've lost my marbles? Here is a great short video from Oprah.com about what actually happens to garbage after you throw things away.
My original goal was to fill our trash can only once a month. Now I'm working on a new goal of only having to take my trash down to the curb twice a year. And then less, who knows? It has been like a fun game rethinking the way we shop and live.
The benefits are amazing. We started composting our kitchen scraps and now our garden is enjoying the rich organic matter as the fruits of our labor. We have surprisingly saved lots of money not buying items like prepared packaged foods, paper towels and paper napkins. I am so much more mindful of my shopping and therefore spending. And my family has never enjoyed better meals made from fresh local ingredients. Case in point, Tuesday night's dinner, seared Ahi Tuna salad with radicchio and white beans...
I was surprised to discover how simple it is to live this way. I changed my shopping habits little by little, one step at a time. I found packaging free solutions to just about every thing we need. The key was to NOT make all the changes at once. It would have been too overwhelming and I would have probably given up after the first week.
For each item that you switch to buying packing free you must come up with three solutions... 1. Find a store or market where you can buy the item without packaging. Farmer's markets are usually a great source. I also find a large selection at of bulk dried goods at Whole Foods, including my kitchen soap bars... lavender and goat's milk. 2. In what container or bag will you carry the item home? 3. How will you store it once it is home?
I've come up with tips to slowly phase packaging out of your kitchen for those who are interested in giving it a try. Some people may only want to go half way and that is ok. Just get started and my guess is that you will be hooked too!
- Bring your own shopping bags and refuse all plastic and paper bags at the checkout. I have a smaller bag reserved only for raw meats, chicken or fish so there is no chance of cross contamination with produce etc. Remember to always wash or clean your bags. You have to watch the checkout bagger closely... they often try to bag your food in plastic when you are not paying attention!
- Purchase mesh bags to replace the plastic produce bags. Again, these bags are washable.
- Purchase muslin bags to put your bulk dried goods in such flour, sugar, beans, rice, oatmeal, pasta, cereal, bulk candy, nuts, grains, bulk granola, bulk dried fruit, bulk tea etc.
- Give up paper towels and buy dish cloths.
- Invest in cute cloth napkins for everyday use. (And don't worry about ironing them... it is chic to have un-ironed cloth napkins so says Ina Garten.)
- Purchase glass jars to store your bulk goods in, once you get them home.
- Purchase glass storage dishes with lids for your refrigerator for left overs, washed berries etc. (eliminating plastic wrap) For the meat counter, fish counter, and deli counter use these plastic covered dishes. Have the person put your sliced cheese, chicken, or fish etc. directly into the glass dish after zeroing out the weight of the dish on their scale first so that the tare is subtracted. No paper or plastic wrap needed.
- Start a composting bin for all your kitchen scraps. Collect them on the counter in this cute bin, and take them outside to the composting bin only once a day. I compost all fruit and vegetable scraps as well as egg shells and even my card board egg cartons.
- Grow your own herbs. They will be always fresh and always ready.
Remember, make changes slowly to give yourself plenty of time to find good solutions so that you stick with it. Sustainability is very chic so get on board for your planet's future!
Seared Ahi Tuna, radicchio and white bean salad
Parsley Vinaigrette... pulse the following ingredients in a food processor. Salt and pepper to taste.
2 cups packed flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (two lemons)
1 clove garlic, crushed
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the rest..
1 medium head radicchio, cored, leaves coarsely torn
1/2 pound dried cannellini (white kidney) beans, cooked
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 pound Ahi Tuna (at room temperature, salt and pepper and seared two minutes per side on a very hot cast iron skillet) let cool and then thinly slice
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Place radicchio in a large bowl and drizzle with 4 tablespoons Parsley Vinaigrette and toss to coat. Season radicchio with salt and pepper to taste. Spread on a serving platter. Combine cooked cannellini beans with 3 tablespoons Parsley Vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange bean mixture on top of radicchio. Top salad with sliced seared tuna and sprinkle chopped parsley over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.
For printable recipe click here.
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