In case you haven't heard, I'm a HUGE fan of Julia from Simply Living Well. Julia is from Chicago and hosts one of my favourite Instagram accounts @simply.living.well - Julia is the queen of living a simple, slow, and sustainable life both in her home and with her children.
We've been fortunate enough to get ideas from Julia for some zero waste snacks, just in time for Zero Waste Week. Check them out below! And if you'd like to find out more about Julia, you can visit her website here or follow her on Instagram here.
Written by @simply.living.well
Grocery shopping presents a significant opportunity for reducing waste. There are rolls of plastic bags waiting to be used in the produce and bulk shopping aisles and most items come in some form of disposable packaging, whether it be berry cartons, yogurt cups, or single-use plastic wrappers. Everything is packaged for convenience, it seems – even vegetables can be found chopped, pre-washed, and sealed in plastic bags or shrink-wrapped containers.
Over the years, I’ve picked up a few best practices for avoiding shopping-related waste. For example, we try our best to shop the periphery of the grocery store, where we buy real, whole foods our grandparents would have recognised. When it comes to fruits and veggies, we buy them loose, either by placing them directly in our cart or in our own reusable cloth bags. When possible (but not during the COVID-19 outbreak!), we also shop the bulk aisles, where we use our own cloth bags to load up on dried fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, and spices. When stores allow it, we even use our own containers to purchase cheese, bread, meat, and olives.
When it comes to shopping for snacks, waste might feel inevitable, especially if you’re in the habit of reaching for bags of pretzels and chips, boxes of cookies and crackers, and individually-wrapped granola bars. But snacking doesn’t have to mean buying heavily processed and packaged foods. In fact, one of the things I appreciate most about zero-waste is that it lends itself to eating simply and healthfully, with emphasis on real, whole foods. In our home, we tend to snack on produce, foods we can purchase from bulk bins or simple homemade treats that can be prepared on the spot or in advance.
Below are some of my family’s favourite low-waste snacks. Most of them are appropriate for work, at home, at the office, or on the go. For simple, waste-free storage, I use mason jars, silicone bags, or lightweight stainless storage containers. I also keep a zero-waste kit in the car or on a hook by the door to ensure we’re prepared and have reusables, even when we’re in a hurry. As most zero-wasters will tell you, being prepared is the best way to avoid waste. In our home, a typical zero-waste kit includes a reusable water bottle, cloth napkins, a fork and spoon, a metal straw, and a silicone bag or stainless steel tiffin can.
Fresh fruits and veggies. Seasonal fruit makes a healthy and convenient snack, especially when it’s been washed and cut in advance. A whole, uncut watermelon isn’t something you’ll grab in a pinch, but if it’s been pre-cut and stowed away in a container, it’ll get eaten in a jiff.
Apple or banana slices topped with nut butter. For a more decadent snack, you can drizzle the nut butter with honey and sprinkle it with chocolate chips.
Ants on a log. Remember these old-fashioned snacks? Just cut celery in 3-inch pieces, cover it with nut butter, and top with raisins.
Bulk popcorn. Homemade popcorn is the best! It requires no special equipment – just a pot with a lid – and you can season it in a variety of ways: with coconut oil, olive oil, nutritional yeast, grated parmesan, sea salt, herbal salt, ground cumin, ground curry, ground turmeric, or ground cinnamon.
Crudité with homemade hummus or guacamole. Make hummus from a can or a simple guacamole and serve with carrots, celery, cucumbers, and peppers.
Dried fruit. If you have a dehydrator, you can dry fruits when they’re in season; otherwise, head to the bulk bins. Our favourites are apple rings, banana chips, cherries, dates, figs, mangoes, pineapples, and raisins.
Trail mix. You can usually find a variety of different trail mixes in the bulk aisles or make your own by combining your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and chocolates.
Granola. You can make your own or buy one of the varieties in the bulk aisle. It can be eaten plain or as a topping for yogurt or with nut milk as cereal.
Hard-boiled eggs. I usually boil a half dozen on Sundays and give them to my children for a quick snack throughout the week. They travel well, too, especially in lightweight stainless steel containers.
Smoothies. If berries are in season (or if you froze them in the summer), smoothies are an easy zero-waste snack. My favourite recipe includes 1 cup of frozen strawberries, the juice of two oranges, and one frozen banana. You can also add nut butter, nut milk, or an avocado for protein and healthy fats.
Salty bulk food snacks. There are endless options for pre-made salty bulk snacks, including plantain chips, pretzels, wasabi peas, rice crackers, and sesame sticks.
Bliss Balls. There are literally hundreds of variations of bliss balls floating around the internet. Whether they’re simple or complicated, they almost always share two ingredients in common: nut butter and dates. I put those two ingredients in the blender, blitz them until they have a dough-like consistency, and then roll them into balls. I make them weekly and use them as a substitute for plastic-wrapped protein bars.
Roasted chickpeas. Crunchy chickpeas can be prepared ahead of time and stored for up to a few days in an airtight container. To make them, simply drain, rinse, and towel dry 1 cup of chickpeas, toss them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a reusable silicone baking mat), toss them with 1/2 tsp maple syrup, 1/2 tsp of olive oil, and 1 tsp of paprika, a few pinches of sea salt, and spread in a single layer, and bake at 200°C for 20 minutes.
Kale chips. You can make your own kale chips from a bunch of fresh kale. Just remove the stems, tear the leaves into bite-size pieces, wash and dry the leaves thoroughly, and toss and massage them with 1 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp smoked paprika, and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Spread the kale onto a baking sheet and bake for ten minutes on 150°C. Rotate the pan and bake for another 12-15 minutes, or until the kale starts to firm up. Allow to cool for a few minutes and eat immediately.
Muffins. Most baked goods can be prepared in batches and frozen for up to a few months at a time. Banana bread muffins are a favourite in our house, especially since they allow us to put past-peak, spotted bananas to good use. (We use these nifty silicone baking cups too).