Packaging is not your friend

December 16, 2016

So if you ever take a trip down this plastic-free road, there is one thing you will discover almost instantly - packaging is not your friend. It's as though the powers that be have conspired to sneak a little bit of plastic into the packaging of almost every food item. Who decided we must be able to see our breakfast cereal through a tiny plastic window? Who decided that people in the supermarket cannot be trusted with jars and wrapped a plastic seal around the rim? Who decided milk should no longer come in the traditional glass bottle?

 

And who, I'd like to know, invented the secret plastic lining, completely invisible from the outside? Just when you think you've found coffee in a tin, you can't believe it, caffeine withdrawal solved, you skip home, all ready to give yourself the coffee shakes, open the tin and there it is, a 2 mm thick, clear plastic lining, inexplicably covering the entire inside surface of the lid - failure no. 1. Unfortunately, the first of many times we would get caught out like this.

 

I have honestly never felt so hungry in the supermarket.

 

I realised instantly that even as a fairly conscious shopper I must have been piling my fair share of plastic into my basket -  as suddenly, in my usual supermarket, I was completely without access to meat, fish, nuts, cheese, cereals and most forms of carbohydrates.

Thankfully we could still buy chocolate, shiny tin foil and cardboard to the rescue.

 

This meant a complete overhaul of shopping and eating habits. There's a little run down of how this is going below. The main challenge for me being that time and honestly a little bit of extra money have had to be spent, travelling to specific stores for specific items and forking out the extra for organic or locally sourced produce simply because it comes wrapped a little more rustically. Though I have to admit, as a busy and somewhat chronically disorganised individual, I think 3 weeks in, I'm still not achieving as well rounded and balanced a diet as I would like.

 

Things you can eat to your heart's content:

 

Fruit and Vegetables - loose ones. The big supermarkets give out plastic bags these days so skip those and just grab the veg. The first few days, straight from the shelves, into the basket and into the backpack. Perhaps not the most hygienic, so we invested in some brown paper bags and got slightly less stares at the self check out.

 

Plastic free tip No 2... Bring your own paper bags and containers. A stock of brown paper bags in your backpack will sort you out in supermarkets where they only offer plastic.

 

Pastries and Bread - baked goods, we had a feeling this would be ok, but again you need those brown bags. The supermarkets have either plastic or, and this is the weirdest one, brown bags with plastic windows. I guess we need these to monitor our bread, in case we forget what it looks like, in the interval between choosing the bread and getting home and taking the bread out of the bag. Of course, the local baker is the best place and in my experience most are sticking to good old fashioned paper bags.

 

The only problem we've had with this, is the late night, post rehearsal shop. It's actually quite hard to fuel your body enough to dance all day and if you haven't been organised you can come a cropper here. Late at night is the time when bakeries close and the supermarket have run out of loose loaves, this means an evening snack and possibly also tomorrows breakfast just got scuppered. Again, organisation is the key, always learning.

 

Eggs - the saviour of breakfast.

 

Chocolate - phew.

 

There's probably others, there must be, but at the moment, this is all I've got.

 

Good discoveries:

 

So there are lots of items which you can get your hands on with a little more research and/or negotiation.

 

Meat/Fish/Cheese - This is about bringing your own container and finding an open minded butcher/fishmonger/deli where they don't mind weighing your container and popping the grub in there, hurrah.

 

Milk - we now have a milk man. It's wonderful, we're supporting a local farm and the milk just pops up exactly when we need it.

 

Cheese, part 2 - Wax wrappers on cheese. Some cheeses come wrapped in wax, you can buy these at the supermarket and if you visit a more specialist shop you will even get options. Imagine that, getting to choose a cheese you like. As you are probably starting to realise, small victories are very exciting!

 

Nuts - loose nuts are available in some of the mega supermarkets. This is a recent tip off and quite a trip out, not at all in the usually shopping circuit, so I am yet to make this a reality. Again, I feel my diet is suffering because time is not on my side.

 

Rice - So rice and pasta, staples of our home cooking are also plastic wrapped. The only solution so far, a huge 10 kg bag of Basmati which is wrapped in heavy duty paper woven together with string. We had to accept a tiny failure here, as it had a plastic handle, but unless we were to buy a 50 kg bag we couldn't get a proper sack with no handle so we took the plunge and put the handle in the sin bin.

 

I have yet to find and cook pasta, though I admit I have eaten it, on days where I have looked so hungry a friend has offered to cook me dinner and I have closed my eyes in their kitchen. I know, this is cheating, but sometimes hunger and not wanting to be a total pain in the arse have won out.

 

Still learning...

 

So it has become very apparent that eating properly, remaining a functional human being and going plastic free isn't going to happen overnight. I feel like I keep making tiny discoveries which are taking me closer but it's taking time to really master and not to keep getting tripped up either by sneaky packaging (TINS!!!! that's the next blog) or by my own lack of organisation and seemingly insatiable hunger.

 

Thanks for reading

 

Eithne

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