Category Archives: food

Manual Coffee

I’m one of those people who loves the smell of coffee, but hates the taste (I’m more of a tea girl),  so it was no hardship to me when Grant’s coffee grinder broke.

But for those for whom coffee is the essential start to every morning, you’ll understand his panic. You’ll understand that having freshly ground beans is non-negotiable. And you’ll understand why, on the morning that the grinder broke, he opted for the next best option  – a hammer and a paper bag.

Besides creating a racket, a hammer reportedly does a mediocre job of coffee grinding.

The next morning, still intending to buy a new grinder or at least look for a second hand one, he came up with another option: the cast iron mortar and pestle. It’s heavy enough to grind beans and deep enough to stop them from popping out, it uses zero electricity, and it makes much less noise than either the hammer or the electric grinder.


Apparently the grind is not fine enough to make a satisfactory espresso, but it works perfectly in the french press which means that our fancy espresso machine is going on craigslist, our broken coffee grinder is going to the e-waste depot, and our household is suddenly lighter by two appliances.

I’m sure glad he didn’t just rush out to get a new grinder.



Filed under Around the house, DIY, food

A Sad Day for Breakfast Choices

I ride the BC Ferries quite often.  Grant’s family lives on the island, and my family has a cabin over there. Inevitably, Grant and I are too disorganized to pack some food, and we end up eating on the ferry.  It’s actually not so bad.  I appreciate the fact that you can get breakfast on a real plate and eat it with real cutlery. They also serve a pretty mean burger and clam chowder.

But here’s the thing that gets me. Despite the “real plate” options, there is a ton of packaging. The cooler is stocked with a lot of pre-packaged food – salads in clamshells, cheesecake with a plastic ramekin of berry sauce, plastic wrapped sandwiches. You have to be vigilant and strategic to avoid waste. Continue reading


Filed under food, packaging

What About The Kids?

Last week I mentioned that Grant and I visited the Glenbrook Zero Waste group in New Westminster.  What I didn’t mention was that it wasn’t all easy-peasy.  They actually had a few hard questions for us.

And one of those questions was about kids. The Glenbrook project has 14 participating families and about 50 participating people, so you do the math.  There are lots of kids.

People often infer that Grant and I wouldn’t be able to live anywhere close to zero waste if we had children.  Continue reading


Filed under food, food waste, reusable containers

It’s Contagious

It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

Take, for example, consumerism.  At the outset of the Clean Bin Project, we decided that we wanted to buy less stuff.  That lead to us taking a better look at packaging and trying to reduce that too.  Then the whole darn thing became a “zero waste” project, and the non-consumerism became more of a means to help us achieve our goal of no landfill waste.

But even stranger, is where we’ve gone since then.  It seems that once you get passionate about a single issue (for me, consumerism and waste), pretty soon you find yourself thinking about all kinds of topics that are somehow related.  Take, for example, eating local.

I originally started shopping more at the farmers market in a simple attempt to avoid food packaging.  But as I got to know the faces of our local food producers, I started to feel loyal to certain stalls, and I started to feel really good about buying fresh, local, organic food.  The packaging thing was still important, but frequenting the market instilled other values in me as well.  I love the sense of community, the knowledge that we are buying the freshest possible product, and the fact that we are directly supporting the local economy.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a fan of farmers markets before the Clean Bin Project, but I was only a casual browser.  A couple tomatoes here, a piece of fancy cheese there.  By sunday night, I’d be at the supermarket getting “regular” supplies for the rest of the week.

Our project made me realize that the markets are a real food source instead of just a lovely saturday afternoon activity.  Now I grocery shop at the farmers market, trying to buy enough (package-free) apples, broccoli, eggs, and bread to last me until the next week.  (In the winter, when it runs only every two weeks, I have to really stock up.)

And, as one thing contagiously leads to another, buying fresh food has also made me more dedicated to growing fresh food.  This year, as I gear up to plant my veggie garden, I’m already getting excited about choosing which varieties of local and organic seeds to sow.

So, although I never would have predicted it, our little project in zero waste has turned me on to local food in a big way.

What’s your latest passion?


Filed under consumerism, food

Delicious and Waste-Free Catering

You know how I feel about over packaged food.  Particularly over-packaged take out food.  It’s just plain unnecessary.

Why the heck can’t we just have a nice lunch ordered in to the office that doesn’t come wrapped in styrofoam and accompanied by plastic cutlery?

Apparently we can.

Grant and I recently did a zero-waste lunch-n-learn with a corporation here in Vancouver.  (Basically we just talk about the Clean Bin Project and people think we’re either awesome or crazy).  In keeping with the theme, the fabulous organizers went the extra step to ensure the lunch was zero waste as well.  And this is where I met Michael Kraus, the founder of One Planet Catering. Continue reading


Filed under food, food waste

School Lunch

When you were a kid, did you have a lunch program at your school?

I didn’t.  But in elementary school we did have hotdog day once a month.  You had to fill in your order for the whole year in September.  I always got the same thing; two hotdogs. The choices were mustard or no mustard; I got one of each.  You could also get a carton of milk, a yogurt, and a cookie.

The cookies were made by my mom and another mom.  The weekend before hot dog day she’d make dozens and dozens of these raisin oatmeal cookies and take them into the school.  I actually have the recipe.  The official hotdog day oatmeal cookie recipe. (Let me tell you, it’s damn good.)

I obviously didn’t think about garbage much back then, but looking back on hotdog day, we were doing pretty good on the garbage front.  The hotdogs were prepared by a couple parents in the snack room (good luck doing that these days – parents boiling wieners and getting their hands all over the buns. No hand sanitizer in sight.  Someone would be suing someone for something).  Anyway, the hotdogs were each wrapped in a napkin (yellow for mustard, white for none), slipped back into the bag the buns came in, and put into big cardboard boxes -one for each class.

Sure, there were a couple plastic bags and wiener packages, but it’s a far cry from the garbage you can get at school these days.  Just look at this photo:

Mm, hmm.  That’s a school lunch. Looks to me like the the ratio of waste to food is about 1:1. Actually, I don’t know which is more appalling, the amount of packaging or the type of “food” these poor kids have to eat.

Which brings me to the Fed Up With School Lunch blog (where I borrowed the above image from).  Over in Illinois, there is a teacher who has decided to eat school lunch for a whole year – just like the kids.

Whether she’s trying to bring attention to nutrition, highlight the evils of over-packaging, or just see how many days in a row you can drink chocolate milk (seriously), it’s pretty scary.

So far, she is choosing to remain anonymous -probably a good idea considering the wrath she’d get from the cafeteria staff and school board –  but it’ll be interesting to see if she makes it through the whole year without either a) getting caught with her camera over her food tray or  b) passing out from malnutrition.

Watch the horror unfold at


Filed under food, food waste