A family's quest to reduce their plastic usage

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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.