The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: bulk foods

June 7, 2010

Plastic-Free plus Meat-Free = Easy

People keep asking me if going meat-free is going to make it harder to be plastic-free since so many meat-free foods come packaged in plastic.  Foods like veggie burgers, Tofurkey, seitan, tempeh, etc.  But why should it? I gave up processed foods when I gave up plastic. I see no reason for anything to change now.

My solutions…

Fresh produce from the farmers market:

Fresh bread…

Bulk bins:  Beans, lentils, split peas, all kinds of grains & nuts.

Fresh tofu from Whole Foods in my own container.

And when I want to grab something and go, I’ll just keep bringing my reusable containers. The new sushi vendor at Whole Foods didn’t want to put my veggie sushi in my LunchBots container, but I can be very persuasive when I’m hungry.

There’s no conflict between going plastic-free and meat-free. At least not where I live.… Read the rest

March 30, 2010

Gluten-Free AND Plastic-Free?

This post is not about whether we should consume gluten or not, but how those of us who want to limit our gluten intake can avoid the plastic packaging associated with many gluten-free foods.

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people with celiac disease, eating gluten causes an autoimmune response that leads to serious health problems. For others, gluten sensitivity can cause digestive problems and other symptoms. Now, I’m not a gluten-free gal, but for several months, I did try eliminating gluten from my diet to see if that would resolve some health issues. It didn’t. But it did give me an understanding of some of the challenges of trying to live both plastic-free and gluten-free.

The shelves of most grocery stores these days are filled with gluten-free alternatives. Cereals, pasta, and even cake mixes come in gluten-free versions.

But just look at all that plastic packaging. Even the boxes of cereal… Read the rest

November 4, 2009

Baking Soda: So Many Uses; So Little Money… and Plastic

I hear people bemoaning the high cost of “going green.”  And while organic food does cost more than its chemical-laden counterpart, I’m here to tell you that it’s easier to spend more for healthy food when you save money in other ways.  We can skip many of the green cleaners, deodorizers, and personal care products, most of which are fairly expensive.  To that end, baking soda is our friend. (Ha! I rhymed.)

What’s so great about baking soda?

1) It’s cheap. On Safeway.com, a 1 lb box is $1.40. But I save money and packaging by buying it from the bulk bin at my local natural foods store, filling up my own reusable cloth bag.  That way, it’s only 89¢/lb!

2) It’s simple. One of  the ways I try to protect my health and that of the planet is to buy products that contain the lowest number of different ingredients possible.  Baking soda is just about as simple as you can get.

3)  It’s non-toxic. Need I say more?… Read the rest

August 6, 2009

My Green Chicago Trip, Part 1: Hostel vs. Hotel

So, I’ve been blogging (whining) about the Blogher Conference in Chicago, but did you know I stayed a few more days to hang out and see the city? This was my vacation, and wow did I need one.

During the conference, I roomed with Micaela Preston (Mindful Momma) at the Chicago Sheraton, the same hotel where the conference was held. And while I can deal with a pillow-topped bed a few times in my life, I couldn’t afford to stay at the Sheraton for the remainder of my trip.

Instead, I moved to the Chicago Hostel, where I shared a dorm with several other women half my age!

Less luxury, for sure. But certainly more green, and in a way, more fun!

The Sheraton provides many individually-wrapped amenities. Take a look at what is provided in the bathroom. Also, a hair dryer (not shown.)

At the hostel, you get soap and a hair dryer. And the soap comes in a bulk container, so you only use as much as you need. Zero waste.

So what did I bring? Here’s a peek at the contents… Read the rest

May 21, 2009

Bulk Bins: If you had them, would you use them?

When I talk about buying in bulk, I’m not talking about huge containers of dried oregano from Costco or massive bags of chips. I am talking about this…

Rows of bins containing pasta, beans, grains, flour, sugar, chips, dried fruit, cereal, and sometimes tofu, peanut butter, olive oil, and personal care products like shampoo or soap, from which you can fill up your own reusable bags and containers, eliminating packaging waste. Last Week, Chicago blogger Jeanne from Life Less Plastic wrote about being envious of San Francisco Bay Area stores that provide so many of these bulk options.

But even here in the Bay Area, we could use more bulk options. Just this week, I wrote to a co-president at Whole Foods asking that they expand their bulk section to match some of the other bulk food stores in the region. (I asked, of course, for my own selfish reasons. Whole Foods is closer to me than Berkeley Bowl, the king of bulk in the East Bay.)

And then I got … Read the rest

January 27, 2009

Homemade Spicy German Mustard

As promised in the Egg Salad Post, I mixed up some spicy German mustard this weekend, using bulk mustard powder, bulk mustard seeds, and bulk brown sugar from Whole Foods. (Plus the last little bit of mustard powder in a plastic container, which will be included in this week’s tally.) Eventually, I’ll purchase all my spices in bulk once the pre-packaged herbs and spices are used up.

[01/28/2009: It’s come to my attention that there are different interpretations of the term “buying in bulk.” It could mean buying huge containers (plastic or otherwise) of a product. Think Costco. This is not what I mean. It also means bringing your own container to purchase non-packaged food from bulk bins. This IS what I mean. When you purchase this way, you not only save packaging waste, you’re also able to buy the exact amount you need.

We like our mustard with some heat, so I followed this recipe for Spicy German Mustard on About.com:SouthernRead the rest

December 30, 2008

Video Tour of My (Nearly) Plastic-Free Kitchen

Here are some snippets from the market research video I referred to in yesterday’s post. A quick, rough, and unscripted tour through some of the green aspects of our kitchen. Future videos, should we choose to make them, will be much more polished. But this one is fun, if only for the appearance of a couple of curious cats halfway through.

You might need to turn your sound volume up to hear it.

Read the rest

August 30, 2007

Store Report: Berkeley Bowl (a response to my letter)

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve seen me mention Berkeley Bowl quite a few times. Besides the farmers markets and CSAs, it’s the place to go in the East Bay for produce and bulk foods. A huge store, it caters to those looking for organic, local foods, as well those desiring more exotic fare. It also carries products for mainstream shoppers who just want their Lean Cuisine. I think Berkeley Bowl tries to be all things to all people (although, as you’ll see below, they deny it), and therefore, it’s sometimes great and sometimes falls short.

Berkeley Bowl’s produce department is huge. Their web site says that it’s the largest in Northern California. Unlike Rainbow Grocery, which has a decent produce department of all-organics but also encourages its customers to shop at the farmer’s markets instead, Berkeley Bowl overflows with everything from 30 kinds of locally-grown tomatoes… Read the rest

August 15, 2007

Store Report: Rainbow Grocery

I’ve mentioned Rainbow Grocery in quite a few posts, and now I’m going to explain it, so those folks who are not lucky enough to live in the SF Bay Area will know what I’m talking about. Rainbow Grocery makes me wish I still lived in San Francisco. There’s a certain familiar smell and feel that I can only describe as “crunchy” that takes me back to the early 90’s when I’d first moved to San Francisco from Maryland and everything was new and wonderful. And even though Rainbow is no longer in its former location in the Mission District, it still has the same dreadlock-sporting, tattoo-wearing, shaved head, tie-dyed, just rolled out of bed looking staff and customers that make me feel so at home. (Even though I don’t actually look like any of them anymore.)

See the “staff” are all owners of this co-op grocery store, as well as workers. So it’s like it kind of is their home, sort of.… Read the rest

June 30, 2007

Store Report: Rockridge Market Hall

The Pasta Shop in Market Hall Foods. Or as my friend calls it, Markup Hall. It’s pricy, alright. But they do have bulk pasta! All different shapes and sizes! And Market Hall is only a few short blocks from my house right near the Rockridge BART station. Unfortunately, they only offer the standard roll of plastic bags near the bulk pasta. But if you ask at the counter, they will give you paper bags. It was very crowded today, so I didn’t want to try and get into a discussion about bags. I’ll find a less busy time (if there is one) to approach the manager about putting out paper bags as an alternative to the plastic. Most customers will simply take what’s available rather than ask for something different.

At Market Hall’s Cheese Shop, I asked to have my cheese sliced to order and wrapped in paper. However, the merchant wasn’t really clear on the concept. When I got my paper-wrapped cheese home and opened up the wrapper, I … Read the rest