A family's quest to reduce their plastic usage

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To the Market – Western Style

In pursuing my goal of reducing plastic (and waste in general) I have needed to look beyond my local supermarket.  Having said that, I am also well known for saying that I rarely “leave the shire” and will avoid doing so whenever possible. What can I say… I just hate traffic! So with this in mind, I had to work out a way to shop smart.

Our closest supermarket is Coles and on convenience I can’t really beat it. Their aisles are increasingly full of plastic however. Thankfully I have learnt a few tricks that has helped reduce my reliance on plastic even in here.

  1. Bring your own bag. Ok this is a given, but it had to be said as it really makes a huge difference. In addition to this, resisting the need to contain your fruit and vegetables in individual plastic bags will also cut down on your plastic.
  2. Get to know the self serve Pick and Mix section.  Most supermarkets have them nowadays. Those areas where you can fill a bag with nuts, or dried fruit etc, weigh and print out a price ticket to be scanned at the checkout. These are a great way to avoid packaging and keep away from plastic. I am able to buy my dried beans, chickpeas, sesame seeds, cous cous, dried fruits and nuts from here. I just grab a couple of the brown paper mushroom bags  and use those instead of the plastic zip lock bags provided in this area. simple!
  3. Use the Deli counter. If you are needing cold meats, fish and chicken, you can always get them from the deli counter rather than in the meat section.  Bring your own containers and ask the staff to fill them rather than wrapping your items in plastic. Again a simple and easy thing to do.

When I can’t get what I need from my supermarket, I head to the market. For me, the easiest, largest and most regular market is the Queen Vic Market.


Queen Vic Market.

Most Melbournians will know how great this market is, even if it is a little touristy. I always knew you could get great fresh produce, meat, fish and clothes etc., but once I looked a little closer, I found many more little treasures. By buying in bulk, I only need to head into the market (and therefore out of the shire) once every 3 or so weeks.

The Queen Vic Organic Food Section

Please don’t be offended when I say that I don’t really buy into the whole healthier you by eating organic food thing. There just seems to be too little evidence that it is that much better for you. However… environmentally it is far far better. Unfortunately as we just can’t afford to eat organically I rarely went into this section of the market. That has changed now however with the knowledge of what I can get plastic free. There is so much more in this section than just organic fruits and veg.

The Queen Vic Organic Food Stall has bulk containers of various items such as tea, dessicated coconut, flour and sugar. Other products can also be bought here in cardboard packaging. From here I buy my tea (e.g. english breakfast, peppermint, chamomile), desiccated coconut and skim milk powder all of which are normally sold in plastic. Again by bringing your own containers it cuts down on packaging even further. They also sell rolled oats here though at $6 a kg, I am trying to find a cheaper alternative.

Deli Section

I used to wander through this section and think how wonderful it was but always thought I would only use it for special occasions. Not any more. I will let you in on my two favourite stalls.

The Traditional Pasta Shop

This place is amazing! While I make my own spaghetti and fettucine, I have failed too many times to try and make good gnocchi ever again. This is where I now get it. Bring your own container and you can get all the pasta you need!

Curds and Whey

For the best tasting butter and cheese, you can’t beat Curds and Whey. They are happy to fill my container with butter and basic cheddars that the kids just love and at a  price comparable to the supermarket. I suppose the only down side is that as the kids love this cheese far more than the cheapest supermarket brand, they go through it that much faster.


Meat, Poultry and Fish Section

You will always get a great price here. Buying in bulk also means I only shop for meat etc once a month. While the cheapest prices are on the weekend and nearing the end of the day when stalls are trying to get rid of as much stock, I tend to head to the market mid week to avoid the crowds. Another plus is that you are more likely to find free parking in the surrounding streets thus avoiding the hefty parking prices of the market car park. Again by bringing my own containers,  the stall holders just weigh and fill these. There are a couple of pluses for this:

  1. It is super quick to pop them into the freezer once home. Before I used to divide all the meats up myself at home which I thought was a bit of a pain.
  2. You are not left with a lot of smelly and bloody plastic bags.

By going mid week when the stalls are less busy they are happy to do this for you. I doubt they would be so happy to do this on the weekend however.

Fruit, Vegetables, Herbs and Spices

I love the colours and smells of this area. The fruit and vegetables are spread out over two different areas it seems so you will have plenty of choice. As the freshness ranges greatly you will also need to keep your eyes peeled. Even though I get Aussie Farmers Direct to deliver our fruit and vegetables on a weekly basis, there are a few things like mushrooms and herbs that always arrive in plastic containers. I can pick these up easily at the market while I’m there. Sweet!

Spices are also easy to pick up here too. Green Valley Spices (Stalls 36-40, B Shed) are a great way to avoid packaging. Like the tea at the Organic Food Stall,  it is a self serve system. Bring your own bags or containers and you will never need to buy packaged spices again.

Odd bits and bobs in Melbourne’s West

Other items such as coco powder, rolled oats, bamboo tooth brushes etc I buy at our local health food store Replenish. Another local shop, Back to Basics refills shampoos, conditioners, washing up liquids to name a few.

So by using the supermarket wisely and shopping at the market I have not only been able to remove a lot of plastic out of our shop but as I am buying in bulk every 3 or so weeks, I have been able to cut down on the amount of supermarket trips with toddlers too! It’s a win win situation. If anyone has any other plastic saving ideas for the supermarket, I’d love to hear about them. cheers!


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In terms of what we consume on a weekly basis, I’d like to think that our Aussie family consisting of hubby and I and two young kids was similar to other Aussie families out there who go through litres and litres of milk each week. It is therefore another one of our guaranteed waste creators. Well…..no more!


Since taking on this challenge,  I now see our local supermarkets through fresh eyes. No longer do I see aisles of products cleverly marketed to tempt me. All I see now is plastic and waste…..I mean it’s everywhere and particularly so down the dairy aisle. Anything larger than a litre of milk comes in a plastic bottle – that’s just how it is right?   The one litre cardboard cartons may be slightly better, however the plastic lining throws them back into the waste pile again.

It seems strange then that despite Victoria having a large dairy industry there doesn’t seem to be many that sell milk in glass bottles. The Flavour Crusader blog provides a helpful list of small dairies making organic, unhomogenised and in some cases glass bottled milk products however availability becomes an issue.

Elgaar milk is what we are currently buying.

Organic Jersey Milk

What’s good about this milk:

  1.  It tastes delicious – having the old school cream on top (it’s pasturised but unhomogenised) just makes it seem better for you. I’ve tried finding scientific research on the benefits of unhomogenised milk but have yet to find any. Regardless of this, it just makes me feel better to drink something that hasn’t  been too tampered with.
  2. Reusable glass bottles – They come in glass bottles which we return to the store for a small reward. Thankfully our local health store sells it so it has become a Thursday ritual that the boys and I walk down to the “Milk Shop” to return our bottles and pick up our new milk. You can find your nearest stockist here.
  3. They really seem to care for their cows. Calves are allowed to ween naturally.


What’s not so great about this milk:

  1. It’s expensive! The glass bottles only come in a 750ml size so I order 5 to last us the week. After our money back for returning the bottles (60c per bottle), our milk bill comes in at over $18! This clearly is breaking our rule not to spend more than we used to (which was roughly $4).
  2. It comes from Tasmania: Don’t get me wrong, I love Tasmania and Tasmanians, but to think I am getting my milk from that far away when I have a large dairy industry seemingly on my doorstep seems strange.
  3. Weekly delivery: The milk is brought over on the car ferry from Tasmania once a week to make all it’s deliveries. This causes two problems. Firstly, you can’t just pop down and pick up another bottle if you run out. Our small health store may buy a few extra over their standing orders but once they’re gone it’s another week before they will get more. Secondly, the delivery van returns to Tassie on the evening ferry that same day no matter what so if for some reason they are prevented from delivering all their orders before the day is out…well you just don’t get your milk.


La Latteria  is the next milk I am going to try.

With it’s milk sourced from a dairy farm on the outskirts of Melbourne and sold in returnable glass bottles, I either need to make the commitment to travel to Carlton each week to get our milk (which isn’t too much given it’s only a few blocks from uni) or convince my local health food store to stock it. The only downside to this milk that I can see that I am can not find anything about whether their calves are weened naturally. I will need to do some research on this.


Hopefully as more people look for plastic free alternatives, more Victorian dairies will answer the call. I will keep you updated as I learn more.





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Yummy Homemade Chocolate Frozen Yoghurt

Chocolate Frozen YoghurtChocolate ice cream is such a treat! This was my next little test to create a waste free version of this household favourite. One of the main ingredients in normal ice-cream is….well….cream. In inner west Melbourne, local farms have long gone so unless you are prepared to pay an extortionate amount for organic cream, you will have to settle for cream in plastic bottles.

I couldn’t accept the possibility of not eating ice-cream at home again. There had to be an alternative! Thankfully the answer was already in my fridge…. yoghurt!  I have come up with a recipe that mixes ingredients from Nigella Lawson’s No Churn ice-cream and this recipe from All recipes. The chocolate, coco and cornstarch can be bought in cardboard or paper packaging, while vanilla essence comes in a glass bottle. I hope you enjoy it. Photos coming soon.


1 serve of homemade condensed milk

1 Tablespoon of cornstarch

1 block of milk or dark chocolate

3 Tablespoons of coco powder

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

1 1/2 cups of homemade yoghurt



1. In a heavy bottom pot, slowly melt the block of chocolate and condensed milk over a low heat.

2. Slowly mix the coco powder, and cornstarch into the chocolate mixture until well combined.

3. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla essence and yoghurt until well combined.

4. Place in refrigerator to chill.

5. Once chilled, place in ice-cream maker and let it work its magic.


This will give you a gorgeously rich chocolate frozen yoghurt that I argue equals any store bought chocolate ice-cream out there. At first I was against buying an expensive ice-cream maker, but I was so surprised at how cheaply they can be bought 2nd hand I quickly changed my mind. Eventually  I picked one up for the princely sum of $11.40. I can now happily report our ice-cream drought has ended.


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Slow Cooker Yoghurt

homemade yoghurt


My family could live on yoghurt. It’s our breakfast alternative, afternoon tea, dinner accompaniment, dessert and late night snack. We go through 2 litres a week and would go through more if I bought it.  Not only does all that yoghurt amount to a lot of packaging, but also potentially a lot of sugar and other unknowns. Time to try making homemade yoghurt.

There are a lot of recipes out there for homemade yoghurt but I eventually settled for this one using a slow cooker. This is definitely an overnight job!

What you need

  • slow cooker
  • small bowl
  • blanket or large towel
  • large Bowl
  • colander or sieve
  • muslin cloth


  • 2 litres of full cream milk
  • 1/2 cup of natural yoghurt

Basic Instructions

  1. Turn your slow cooker onto low and pour your milk in. Cover with a lid and leave it alone for 2 hours or until it reaches between 170⁰ – 180⁰ F (77 – 82 C).
  2. Turn your slow cooker off. Take you 1/2 cup of yoghurt out of the fridge and place in the small bowl. Leave the slow cooker alone and the yoghurt out of the fridge for 3 hours.
  3. After 3 hours, remove 2 cups of milk and place in the small bowl with your yoghurt. Gently stir to combine. Return milky yoghurty mixture to the slow cooker and replace the lid.  Cover your slow cooker with the blanket so it is fully insulated.
  4. Leave for 8 hours.
  5. After 8 hours, place the muslin cloth in your sieve over the large bowl. Ladle your yoghurt into the cloth covered sieve cover and place in the fridge for as long as you are happy with the thickness.
  6. At this point you can add flavourings and sweeteners but your basic yoghurt is ready! Remember to save 1/2 cup of this yoghurt to use as your next starter culture.



Firstly you will have to play around with this depending on your slow cooker. My first couple of batches had 3 problems:

Quite watery – I realised that on the times I had forgotten to leave the yoghurt out to bring it to room temperature, my yoghurt had turned out more watery. Making sure you starter culture is a room temperature is crucial!

 It tasted grainy – Eventually I’ve learnt that my slow cooker is bringing my milk up to the required temperature too quickly. This seems to make it grainy. What I now do is place something between the lid and the pot so that the lid is slightly edgar. It takes a little longer to get to the right temperature but the result is smooth yoghurt.

Yoghurt skin – the kids didn’t like the yoghurt skin through their yoghurt understandably. I now use a fork after the 3 hour cool down stage and carerfully skim the skin off the top of the milk before adding the milky/yoghurty mixture.


If you have other issues with your homemade yoghurt, I found this website really useful.

I now double this recipe using half to for our weekly yoghurt and half for homemade yoghurt icecream. In terms of waste, I do use cardboard cartons of milk because of expense, however I make all my milk cartons into boxes so thankfully I haven’t thrown one out yet. Here is a great website with other ways to use your cardboard cartons.


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Homemade Condensed Milk

1171089_1419960074938857_486035536_sIn an attempt to satisfy the sweet tooths in the family,  I was going to try Nigella Lawson’s Breakfast bar recipe which uses condensed milk. In my search of a waste free version of Nigella’s recipe, I had to find a condensed milk alternative to canned versions in stores.  There are  versions such as Just as Delish’s version which requires a bit of time….but time is not something I have in abundance. So when I found  this recipe by  Elizabeth LaBau I just had to try it!


1 cup of instant skim milk powder

2/3 cup of sugar

1/3 to 1/2 cup of boiling water

1/4 cup of melter butter



1. Place the 1/3 cup of boiling water, melted butter, milk powder and sugar in a blender in that order. I found my blender just didn’t mix the ingredients properly if I put the dry ingredients in first.

2. Blend until smooth. You may need to scrape down the sides

And that’s it!. If your condensed milk is too think, then you can add a little more boiling water until you get the consistency you need. Elizabeth states on her site that this can be stored in “an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days” though given how fast it takes to make it, I’ve never needed to do this.


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My project book This is my first every post and I must say I am a little nervous! In some ways I hope people don’t see my posts because…well….I don’t consider myself a great writer…..nor do I believe I have any great pearls of wisdom. So why write a blog you might ask?

Firstly, this blog is about my attempts to reduce my family’s waste. My family consists of my husband and I and our two boisterous toddlers aged one and three. I’d like to think we are a pretty average young family living in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. My husband works long hours while I look after our kids, study part time at university and sell the odd handmade gift at markets and online when I can.  All in all we have a busy but happy little life. It’s just a shame about all the rubbish!

I started making a list of everything that firstly contained plastic, and everything that contained throw away packaging. I was appalled. This became my initial list to slowly work away at but it is by no means complete. My husband is fully supportive but has some simple rules;

  1. My quest isn’t going to send us broke and
  2. It isn’t going to involve massive changes to the way we do things.

My list


So the challenge is on!

My reason for blogging is simple. As I am acutely aware that the whole online world can read this, it makes me determined to do a good job. Researching things in greater detail is also an aim. I really don’t like taking people’s word on things (sorry), I prefer to read scientific findings first hand when I get the chance so hopefully this blog will help people wanting more in depth information. Secondly, this blog is intended to store information on everything that causes waste in our house. From cleaning and personal hygiene products, to meals and treats and a little craft thrown in as well. Rather than going to a whole swathe of different sites each time I need a recipe, I will consolidate them here making it easier for me and hopefully you too.

I hope you can join me on my little quest. cheers