I don’t know exactly where fruit flies come from, they just seem to show up unannounced, out of nowhere. Even if eventually they die out in the winter, spending the Summer having to deal with them can take its toll on anyone. It certainly took on me, so I decided to look into ways to get rid of them when I opened a recycling bin I hadn’t opened in a few weeks and it was filled with these bastards.
I found this home-made recipe, with easy ingredients I always have at home and, a couple days later, I’m glad to say that it actually works.
What you need:
2 tbs cider vinegar;
1 tbs sugar;
A few drops of dish soap;
How to make it:
Mix the cider vinegar, the sugar, and the dish soap. Add the water and mix again.
Pour this mixture into one big container, or divide it into smaller containers, and place them wherever you have fruit flies (living room, bathroom, etc).
Leave it like that for a couple of days and soon enough you’ll start seeing the fruit flies at the bottom. They are attracted to it by the smell of the cider vinegar, but get trapped in by the dish soap.
This will more likely be the last weekly grocery shopping that I post here. Every week I buy more or less the same things, so I figured I might as well publish my groceries here when there’s some product I couldn’t avoid buying in spite of its package, or if there’s a substantial alteration worth mentioning.
Honey, yoghurts, milk, and olive oil.
Milk comes in a recyclable carton, everything else comes in a glass jar, which will be reused or recycled.
Breadcrumbs, tagliatelli, and oats.
All in paper/cardboard, which will also be recycled. Even the pasta, which has no plastic inside, like those I bought last week.
It’s one of the few things I still have to buy wrapped in plastic because I can’t find any alternatives around here.
I’m truly happy about my groceries in general, considering that I buy everything at my local supermarket. Even with the toilet paper, which is recyclable, and it’s the only plastic wrapped item in weeks.
Here are this week’s groceries. I think they are a zero-waste success, considering my options.
Yoghurt, cream and butter.
These yoghurt glass jars are very handy so I decided to buy them when I don’t feel like making yoghurts at home; the cream is for cooking and desserts, and the packaging will be recycled. The butter comes wrapped in paper, I keep it to use it as lieu of parchment paper.
Tuna and cocoa.
I found powdered cocoa in a paper box with a paper bag inside. A lot more expensive than the one I used to buy but I don’t use it that often and I guess this one probably tastes better. The tuna cans are recycled, as usual.
Sugar and cornstarch.
All in paper. The cornstarch comes with a paper bag inside, too.
I need pasta to make chicken soup, but the one I use comes only in plastic, so I opted for this alphabet pasta, should still be good. The fusilli is the pasta I use the most. Surprise, surprise, it all comes in a paper box with no other package inside! A find! It’s a Belgian brand and it’s called Soubry.
I think this week was pretty good, still no plastic and nothing to throw away!
Last week I finally took my first trip to a bulk shop. I live in a small town in Belgium, Dessel, and Prana Bio Bulk is located in Heusden-Zolder, about 30km away. Since my regular shampoo had finished that day and I had a free afternoon, I figured it was just the right time to pay them a quick visit.
The store looks pretty neat and welcoming, that was the first impression I’ve got. It’s not too big, but it still has a lot of bulk options: the shampoo and regular soap bars I travelled there for, soap nuts, Aleppo soap and all kinds of washing liquids, grains, nuts, dried fruit, pasta, many types of sugar and flour, cookies, loose leaf tea, coffee, olive oil, cereals, and chocolate. It’s a zero-waste oasis in a world filled with packaging.
They also have products wrapped in zero-waste packaging, in glass and paper, and even a chocolate bar that comes wrapped in a package which looks like plastic but is in fact made of some sort of plant. There are bamboo toothbrushes and dishes available as well, reusable cups, toothpaste and deodorant, and organic fruit and veggies.
I went on a budget, so I brought home mostly things I needed at the moment: bars of shampoo (which smell delicious, I’ll have a review here soon), a bamboo toothbrush as a replacement for when mine needs to go into the compost bin, and chocolate. I hadn’t eaten chocolate in such a long time, as it always comes wrapped in aluminium foil, and the one I got was delicious!
The lady that helped me that day was very friendly, the store has a cosy environment to it. The only thing I need to point out is in regard to their tare method. You place your jar on top of a scale and a label is automatically printed. I glued the respective labels to my jars and was expecting to take the same jars with me the next time I’d drive there but, as soon as I washed them, the ink on the label came off (I’d guess they use eco-friendly ink, hence the quick fading), but the label stayed glued to the jar. I had to remove it with hot water and a scrub. Not that it makes the experience less rewarding, but it would be nice to make the tare of the jars completely waste-free as well.
I felt a bit overwhelmed, in a good sense, excitingly trying to take everything in, as I had never been in a shop like this before. It felt again like ten-year-old me choosing books to read from my school library. In there, everything was an option I could take home, something that doesn’t happen for me in any other store or supermarket nowadays.
I’ll probably be driving back there again in a few months. It is, as far as I know, the closest place to get shampoo and tea completely package-free. Oh, who am I fooling? Obviously, it is the chocolate. 😉
If you are looking for some tasty granola bars, this recipe is for you. They’re not a light and healthy recipe, though! They’re just delicious, which is good enough for me.
What you need:
Nuts and seeds of choice (I used some cashews, almonds and cocoa nibs I had at home);
A tin of condensed milk (see home-made recipe here).
How to make it:
Chop the nuts into small bits – or don’t!;
Add them to the oats;
Mix in the condensed milk;
Bake them at 130ºC for about 45 minutes.
Chop them into small squares once they’ve cooled down a bit.
These are very simple to make. As I said above, they are not light because of the condensed milk but, because of the condensed milk, they are pretty delicious. It’s great when you need something sweet, or as a quick snack. They last for a while, although I’m sure you won’t be able to test how long they last, you’ll eat them way before they have a chance to go bad.
Many Portuguese recipes use condensed milk, it’s something I always like to have around the house for a quick dessert but, not only does it come in a metal tin, it can become a bit expensive here in Belgium.
A few months ago I decided to buy a kitchen robot, similar to the Thermomix/Bimby, but a lot cheaper, because I don’t really like cooking all that much. It was a good investment for me as the machine I bought makes almost everything: it’s a blender, a chopper, a steam cooker, allows me to make cakes, bread dough, milk, yoghurt, soup, and many other meals in one place.
While looking for recipes for this machine, I stumbled upon a recipe for condensed milk and I decided to give it a try. In the end, the flavour isn’t exactly like the store-bought, but the consistency is the same and, when mixed with other ingredients, it substitutes the store-bought condensed milk with no problem at all.
Here are two recipes for condensed milk, one with the aid of a kitchen robot, the other if you don’t own one.
With A Kitchen Robot
What you need:
250ml milk (I used regular skim milk, but you can try to make it with vegetal milk);
250gr white sugar;
25gr Maizena/corn flour;
~5gr vanilla sugar.
How to make it:
Put the white sugar and vanilla sugar in the robot and set 1min/vel.9.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook at 90ºC/vel.3/60min. While it’s cooking, remove the transparent measuring cup from the lid, but make sure you use some light cover to avoid any spillage, while still allowing the steam to come off. I used a fabric bowl cover.
After that cook at 100ºC/vel.3/10min, still with no measuring cup and using a light cover.
Now you just need to put it in jars, allow it to cool and keep it in the fridge once it’s cool, for up to three weeks.
This recipe makes about 350ml of condensed milk.
Whithout A Kitchen Robot
What you need:
One glass and a half of milk;
1/3 of the glass of powdered sugar;
2 tbs of butter;
1 tbs of vanilla sugar.
How to make it:
In a pan add the milk and the powdered and vanilla sugar. Heat it up on the stove, always stirring until the sugar dissolves.
As soon as it boils remove it from the stove and leave it in the fridge for 10 minutes.
Take it to the stove to cook again, add the two spoons of butter once it boils and then stir it for about 2 minutes.
Put it in a jar and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour before using, so that it can acquire the right consistency. Double the recipe if you need more.
I’ve used this to make granola bars and they taste great! Recipe here.
Now you can stop buying condensed milk at the store, and it’s one less metal tin going to the garbage! Enjoy it!
For years and years, I’ve used disposable cotton swabs and store-bought makeup remover to get rid of the little makeup I use. A long time ago, however, way before I started going zero waste, it truly hit me how wasteful that can be, so I tried to come up with a solution for that.
I first remembered that, when I was looking for wet bags for my reusable pads, some of those were sold as a kit along with breast pads, and breast pads look a lot like round cotton swabs! I promptly bought a bunch of soft breast pads and I’ve been using them to remove my makeup ever since. I even use them in place of regular cotton to clean wounds, I then wash them quickly with a bit of soap, throw them in with my laundry, and every stain has come off so far.
But there are many alternatives to this, really. I know of a brand that sells small towels that you only need to dip in water in order to wash your face, with no other products added. Some people use any towel they have at hand for the same purpose. Since I had already bought the breast pads, now I only needed a solution to replace the makeup remover. I found it in coconut oil.
In order to have a completely waste-free makeup removal, all you need is a fabric alternative for the cotton swabs and a jar with coconut oil and warm water to dip them in before cleaning your face with it. If necessary, you can even add a bit of Castile soap, to make sure even the most difficult of makeups comes off.
This way you will save resources, money, and your skin from the harm of chemical products. Cheap, easy, zero waste.
A few years ago I came across the simplest and most delicious recipe for bread ever. I used to bake it every few days, until I realised that one I was eating way too much bread and two I was wasting way too much energy to make the aforementioned bread. It’s not that I usually eat a lot of bread, but this one is so good that it only lasted me a couple of days at most.
Even though the ingredients make for a very cheap bread, having to use my oven every few days just for one loaf (my oven is really small), ended up making it more expensive than buying bread at the supermarket. Still, once in a while, a new loaf is made and I have a delicious breakfast. And lunch. And afternoon snack. You get it.
Okay, first things first: is Bambooee necessary? No. Am I happy with it? Yes.
Let me explain you why.
In a way, Bambooee was responsible for my zero waste pursuit. It all started with it, and here I am now writing a blog about my zero waste experience. Hadn’t it been for my research to find reusable kitchen roll, I might still be buying a packet of my adored crisps every week. Bloody Bambooee. Just kidding.
I actually started looking for alternatives to kitchen roll when I realised I was using up too much of it. I wasn’t even composting at the time, so everything ended up in the waste bin. I used to take two sheets of kitchen roll each time I had lunch at work; at home, I always had a sheet of kitchen roll next to the sofa and on the table, because I eat in both places. I looked at the kitchen roll placed on top of the table and something shifted in me. That was not right. It was wasteful, I was throwing away paper, and throwing away money in the process. So, already owning a lot of reusable products, I figured that I might find a replacement for this as well.
Now, I know what you are thinking: Carina, have you ever heard of fabric napkins? Why, yes, thank you! I didn’t want fabric napkins then, though; I wanted something that resembled kitchen roll more, something as absorbent as that is.
After a quick online search, I bumped into the Bambooee site. They advertised a reusable kitchen roll, made of bamboo sheets, which you can wash up to a hundred times. It seemed good enough. Actually, they even sell Swiffer-alike wipes for the floor, which was great because I have to give my floor a quick wipe almost every day due to all the hair that ends up there. I decided then to order a kitchen roll and a pack of floor wipes. It wasn’t exactly cheap (about €25 with shipping included), but I figured it was worth the investment since I was going to save paper and money if I kept using these rather than the disposable ones.
First of all, I purchased this via LuckyVitamin, a site with a lot of organic and environment-friendly articles, so I was astonished by the way they shipped my products: inside a huge box, much bigger than necessary, filled with plastic pillows to protect… a kitchen roll and floor wipes. Which, obviously, do not break.
Passed the initial shock regarding the packaging, I waited until I had run out of kitchen roll and floor wipes to try it out.
Now, Bambooee works exactly as it is advertised: it’s sturdy, soft and easily washable. The only downside to it is that, once you wash it, it loses its shape; it shrinks a little and it becomes crumpled, so although I keep reusing it the way I was using up regular kitchen roll, I wouldn’t feel very comfortable offering these as alternatives for paper napkins when I invite friends over, as they don’t look really new after washing, even though I, personally, use them as napkins on a daily basis. I love using them to soak up the grease from fried food, something I wouldn’t advise using fabric napkins for, as grease stains are hard to remove. With Bambooee I just throw it in with the regular wash and it’s taken care of. For dinner with friends, I bought a set of fabric napkins, which will still look good after washing, just as long as I take good care of them.
I am, however, really pleased with the floor wipes. They also shrink a bit after washing, but it’s really not a problem at all when it comes to their performance. They’re meant for the floor, anyway. They do pick up hair and dust a lot better than fabric wipes, I even use them to dust the furniture. Then, I remove all the hair that gets stuck to it into the compost and I also throw them in the washing machine with the rest of my clothes.
I think I could use Bambooee kitchen roll for the floor as well, since the material is the same, but the wipes also have a surface to scrub – I can wet them and use them to mop the floor – and I rather not use the ones I wipe the floor with to wipe my mouth. The floor wipes are easily distinguishable from the kitchen roll ones, so I can just wash them all in one go without having to worry about which were used for what.
When they are no longer good to use, I can simply throw them into my compost bucket; since they’re made from bamboo and not from trees, they’re sustainable as well, bamboo grows pretty quickly.
All in all, I’m still happy with the purchase, I find them quite handy, but I can’t really say it is an essential item if you already have fabric napkins and rags to use around the house.
I recently travelled to Poland to visit a friend. I stayed in Gdansk, where my friend is studying medicine, for four days. Before leaving Belgium, I made sure I had all means necessary to keep living zero waste even on vacation. My small luggage contained a kit on-the-go, with a cup, bees wrap, reusable napkins, two small fabric bags, and a metal bowl and spoon for eventual ice cream.
I had all intentions of using this to avoid as much waste as possible but, as soon as I got there, my intentions went down the drain.
Basically, I felt a bit self-conscious about taking out the napkins, even though we were always given disposable paper napkins everywhere, and even though my friend already knows I’m zero waste. I guess I just didn’t want to make a fuss, or have people looking at me weirdly for refusing paper napkins, which surprised me, since I usually take these steps pretty easily here at home, without any kind of embarrassment.
On the first day, we went to a very cosy place where they served hummus with a delicious bread. The fork they gave us was made of wood – to throw away – and the napkins were, as usual, disposable paper napkins. On all restaurants we went after, all things were reusable – glasses, dishes, cutlery – except for the napkins, which I continued to use and throw away. All of the garbage I made in those days was pretty much paper napkins.
I did buy a yoghurt in a glass jar that I made sure my friend can reuse, metal lid and all, something I can’t even find here. So, I hope that can make up for something, and that I can readjust my efforts and behaviour on my next trip.
I guess it takes time to make the switch when you already have so much to assimilate, when you are meeting new places and new people too. I did end up talking about zero waste with the group my friend and I had dinner with on Friday evening, because of a drink that came with a plastic straw, and it’s always nice to see people interested in it. Maybe there’s even a slight chance that I can pass this on to more people, and the more waste I refuse, the more this will end up happening. A good reminder for the next vacation I take.