Edible & Spreadable


What do you spread on your sandwiches?  Butter, margarine, something else or nothing at all?

I used to buy margarine without giving it a great deal of thought, however, about 18 years ago I changed to spreadable butter that I make myself.  My reasons are several:

  • Eliminate non-recyclable waste (margarine containers)
  • Health benefits (margarine is simply a chemical cocktail)
  • Easier to spread than pure butter
  • Know exactly what the ingredients are

2012-07-15 01This is the recipe.


500g butter
250ml oil
150ml water
3 tablespoons skim milk powder

2012-07-15 02Allow the butter to soften but not melt.  Beat butter using a mixer or food processor.  Combine the other ingredients in a jug and stir well to dissolve the milk powder.  Gradually add the mixture to the butter while continuing to beat.  Beat for another 1 – 2 minutes until white and creamy.  Spoon into containers and refrigerate.  This made almost 1500ml so it is really quite economical.  Actual costings would depend on the type of oil that you use.

2012-07-15 03I generally keep one container in the refrigerator and freeze the rest because we do not use a lot of butter and it will go mouldy/rancid if stored for long periods in the refrigerator.  I use Pyrex glass containers as they can be put in the freezer and I am constantly trying to minimise the amount of plastic that I use for storing food.

2012-07-15 04This mixture can be used instead of butter in cooking and baking.  The only exception I make is pastry as I prefer to use ‘real’ butter for that.

The type of oil you use is entirely up to you.  I choose to use locally grown and produced organic olive oil which I buy in bulk at the Co-op in Maleny.  Olive oil does have a distinctive flavour so you may prefer something more bland such as rice-bran oil.  I do not consider canola oil as an option as most of the commercial crop is genetically-modified and I prefer not to use foods that contain GM products.

This is not a totally zero-waste exercise but it is certainly better than all of the margarine containers that you would otherwise use.  I take my glass bottle to be refilled with oil.  The butter wrapper is used to grease baking trays or line cake tins and then goes into the compost.  I buy skim milk powder from Aldi in a 1 kg non-recyclable bag, however, I have recently discovered that I can buy this in bulk from Simply Good so will be doing that in the future.

Local Lunch


In my post, ‘Competing Priorities’ from a couple of days ago, I discussed buying organic vs local vs no packaging.

Since then I decided that even though I do buy some imported ingredients, I try to offset that by producing some of our own food and buying local food where possible.  Stephanie’s comment re the priority of the ‘100 Mile Diet’ reminded to look at the origin of what we eat.

Today’s lunch measured up pretty well on all counts I think.  I had lasagne (leftovers from the freezer) and a few bits of salad.  Here is the analysis:

Cherry tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and green bell chilli – all from our garden. – No packaging

Lasagne – made using fresh lasagne sheets, bechamel sauce, cheese and meat sauce.  To extract this further:

Lasagne sheets – eggs produced by our chickens and flour (Australian) – bought from bulk bins from local independent supplier.
Cheese – bought from the Kenilworth cheese factory (about 40km from home).
Minced beef – grass-fed from about 400km away and bought at local independent butcher.
TVP (textured vegetable protein) – bought from bulk bins from local independent supplier (unsure of country of origin)
Pasta sauce – made and bottled at home using local tomatoes and capsicums plus home-grown onions.

The meal also used powdered milk, tomato paste (bought at local Aldi supermarket), red wine (Australian – purchased at the winery when travelling), pepper, spices (bought from bulk bins from local independent supplier).  I use butter blend that I make myself using pure butter (comes in a paper wrapper which is re-used to line cake tins and then composted) and olive oil (local from about 30km away) bought in bulk from the local co-op.

I take my own re-used paper bags for everything I buy from the bulk bins.  I take containers for the meat that I buy from the butcher and mesh bags for any fruit and vegetables that I buy.  The 2.5kg block of cheese was encased in plastic and the packet that the packet from the powdered milk are the only non-recyclable waste generated from the ingredients used to prepare this meal.

Not every meal I prepare measures up quite as well in terms of local content but I plan to try to incorporate something we have produced ourselves in every lunch and dinner.

Do you ever consider waste and local content in terms of a whole meal?

Holiday Eating


One of the biggest holiday budget killers can be food, especially if you find yourself eating out.  It does not have to be high-quality restaurant dinners either.  Coffee and cake for afternoon tea or a sandwich and juice for lunch – it soon adds up.  $5 or $10 here and there can quickly add up over a couple of weeks.

After our road trip in the middle of the year to NSW and South Australia we decided that it is definitely worth it to pay a little extra for self-contained accommodation where you can cook your own evening meal as well prepare food for travel/sightseeing the following day.  A couple of nights we stayed in basic motel rooms and found that we ended up spending more by the time we had even a basic pub meal.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it has been a little trickier this time as we were travelling internationally.  However, we brought a set of the bare minimum of our picnic set.

It all packed into a small cloth bag.  The bag was the ‘packaging’ from the last set of sheets that I bought.

We brought a few bags, including these ziplock bags which have proved to be very useful.

Avoiding packaging has been a bit of a challenge but I feel that I have done the best I could under the circumstances.  The supermarkets here have bulk bins of various items so we managed to utilise the ziplock bags to buy cereal as well as nuts and dried fruit for snacks.  Bread has been my downfall but I have kept any bread bags to pack our sandwiches in for our lunches as well as finally using them for rubbish bags.  I have also bought meat on styrofoam trays covered in cling wrap from the supermarket.  It has reminded me of how much packaging I actually avoid at home by making our own bread and taking our own containers when buying meat from the butcher.

These are some of the groceries we have bought along the way.  The scrambled eggs, baked beans, chicken and pasta meals have meant that we could budget for some special meals as well.

We have eaten out a few times and really enjoyed the meals.  The Thai meal we ate in Christchurch was excellent and the food highlight of our trip so far was our meal at the Harbour Light Bistro in Nelson.

Holidays are not all about the food, although The Duke may beg to differ.  We have enjoyed being able to take a couple of tours which, although not cheap have been really interesting and good value.  I have already told you about the one to Farewell Spit and yesterday we went on the Mailboat Cruise on Queen Charlotte Sound.

Crisp, Clean Sheets

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There is nothing I like better than to slide into a bed freshly made with crisp, cotton sheets.  No matter how cold it gets I cannot bear the thought of flannelette sheets.  ‘Squiffy’ is my description for flannelette sheets.

I bought 2 new sets of bed linen from Blessed Earth yesterday.  They are organic cotton and just wonderful to sleep on.  We already have one set so when I saw that the 50% sale was happening it was a great opportunity to get some more.  I think that most of their business is online but I am spoiled as the shop is right here in Maleny.

There is no excess packaging either.  The flat sheet is folded around a piece of plain cardboard and they come in a cotton bag made from the same fabric as the sheets.  Each purchase is packed in a cotton carrier bag with ‘Blessed Earth’ printed on the side.  I will be proud to add this bag to my collection which I use for my shopping.

Here are the new sheets freshly washed and hanging on the line.

Then folded up and ready to go in the linen cupboard.

Now, with 3 sets of linen for our bed it will be quite a while before I need to buy any more.

Buy Food – Not Pretty Packaging


Today I want to share something that is one of my passions – reducing packaging.

For several years I have tried to minimise the amount of packaging that comes into our home and one way I do it is by buying dry goods from ‘bulk bins’ and re-using my own bags.  Here is all you need to get started.

2011-04-09 01The Duke and I set off this morning with 3 calico carry bags and a pile of recycled paper bags.  Most of these have been re-used many times and some are well over 5 years old.  Paper bags do have a limited life but will last well if you take care of them.  When they finally can be used no more mine find their way to the compost bin.

We buy most of our dry goods at Simply Good.  It is a locally-owned small business at Morayfield, QLD with another shop at Alderley, a suburb of Brisbane.  The Morayfield store is about 40km from us so we tend to shop about once every 3 months.  I appreciate the fact that the shop is open ‘traditional’ hours – 9am to 5pm Monday – Friday and 9am to 12pm on Saturday.  This means that their staff are not expected to work long and unreasonable hours that keep them away from their family.

I try to keep a reasonable level of stock in our pantry so today we stocked up on brown sugar, brown rice, sultanas, raisins, psyllium husk, pepitas, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, red lentils, icing sugar, rolled oats, mixed spice, bicarb soda, plain flour (white), plain flour (wholemeal) and bread flour.  Total cost $139.  This is what it looked like when we got home.

2011-04-09 02Individual bags unpacked.

2011-04-09 03So The Duke and I set to work to put it all away in the storage containers.  So it now looks like this.

2011-04-09 04Here are some of the containers that I use to store bulk quantities of various items.

2011-04-09 05One paper bag reached the end of its life today but other than that all of the calico and paper bags are now folded up and put away ready to be used again.  The only packaging that came into the house was the 2 large plastic bags which hold 5kg of flour each and one extra plastic bag.  These are re-used to hold things in the freezer.  Sadly, the plastic bag I had to get from the shop was because I had under-estimated how many bags I needed.  Grabbing a handful from m stash proved to be insufficient.  I will do better next time.