Packaged food

Packaged food

I’m most surprised by how much packaging we use, especially with food. We compost almost all food waste and paper. We recycle everything else, but the small amount of trash we generate is plastic from packaged foods that cannot be recycled. Not in this area, anyway.

Trash for the week....granola wrapper, cereal liner, dental floss case, bacon packaging

We bought our last box of cereal. From now on, we plan on eating only cereal we can buy in bulk–consisting of various granola blends, muesli, and oatmeal. I’m making more muffins from scratch and trying different bran and hot cereals sold in cardboard boxes. Products like Quaker Oats oatmeal come in a cardboard container but the outer top, made of plastic, cannot be recycled. Matthew said to me, “I sure am going to miss Total Cinnamon Crunch cereal, but this is what voting with your wallet means.” If only cereal came without the plastic lining, OR the bag was compostable…
Challenge: more creative breakfasts.

I’ve switched the brand of prunes I eat from those sold in a plastic non-recyclable bag to those sold in a cardboard container. It’s a different brand and the taste isn’t the same. Like the cereal though, we aren’t giving up the things we like to eat, we’re simply switching brands that come in recyclable material. I’m also making a lot more food myself.

The bottom half we cut up and stuff in the compost, the top can be recycled.

We’ve stopped buying anything individually wrapped. When we’re shopping at the grocery now, I find we’re looking at the packaging as well as the ingredients list and often putting things back. We aren’t buying the quick steamable veggies in the frozen food section anymore. We buy them fresh and I take the 10 minutes to steam them myself.

We don’t buy the quick, frozen meals for busy days anymore when I don’t have anything cooked either. I cook at least two crock pot meals a week (which I chronicle in my G.I. Crockpot blog) so there’s less likely a chance I need something quick to throw on for dinner.  I make more food for Matt’s lunch instead of buying  convenient, individual items and send food to work with him in reusable containers.

Making black bean soup

My cousin  assures me the small grocery stores in south Georgia are wonderful for buying cuts of meat from the butcher. I’ve stopped buying frozen fish already but meat is next. I’ll get it fresh from the butcher/fish department. The Johnson Family stores fresh meat and fish in glass containers when buying. We’ve been looking for them, but have only found plastic containers so far.

For me, this has been the biggest challenge yet. Cutting out the plastic must be done but how to do it…..It seems absolutely everything is sold in shiny, colorful packaging. Thus far, Matt and I have decided bulk is about the same price as buying food in stores (outside of the commissary). But because we get such a good deal at the commissary, it seems bulk is a few dollars more expensive. A few dollars  add up quickly. Why should we have to make the decision between helping the environment and not going broke? Shouldn’t buying in bulk always be less expensive? Doesn’t that just make sense?

Any ideas?

Related articles:
Eat Fresh Foods (No Canned) to Reduce BPA exposure (
Sugar is Decidedly Not Healthy…But is it Toxic? (
How would you reform the food system? (
Day One: Shopping, Chopping and Cooking (


19 responses to “Packaged food

  1. Awesome post, and I have the solution for you! It’s called TerraCycle ( They eliminate the idea of waste by recycling those hard to recycle items. I am interning there and will be posting some journals of my experience on my blog soon. Be sure to check both out!

    • Aha! My husband told me there was such a thing on Earth 911 to recyle your trash and candy wrappers, but I could only find local recycling or where to send off tops and Styrofoam egg cartons. Terracycle must be what he saw on the weather channel and was trying to explain.
      Tops are my biggest problem because there is no number on them, which means they can’t be recycled, right? I didn’t see anything on the terracycle site for tops in particular. Does your company take milk, vitamin and detergent tops? I will be looking on your blog for updates about the internship. I like how you just photo copy your journal entries in!
      Thank you soooo much for the information. It was extremely helpful.

  2. You can start a petition on the base to get the commissary to stock items with more eco-conscious packaging! Bravo on a job well done. Packaging drives me crazy. There was a time when I used to unwrap and leave all packaging I didn’t need in the shop. It lightened my load for transporting on my bicycle.

  3. I love the idea of leaving the packaging behind at the store! That’s a good one. This packaging thing drives me nuts. I could easily eliminate packaging if I was just shopping for myself. Pretty much everything in the bulk aisle works for me. But I have three other people in the house who aren’t quite as hard core as I am yet. We’re buying some cereals in compostable packaging now and that’s good (although I hear these dont exactly break down rapidly). The sandwich bread bags are driving me loco. I could live without sandwiches but I’m not sure what the kids would eat at school if I wiped this out… I love how Bea Johnson at takes her own packaging to the store and fills them with meat and cheese from the counter, and puts the week’s bread in a pillowcase. You could try that. I wish I had more ideas and fewer gripes! But you’re not alone…

  4. Where are you finding this cereal in compostable packaging?
    Sandwich bags……to tell you the truth, I wash mine out and reuse them. I hang them on the line in the sun to kill any bacteria while they dry. I haven’t bought any new ones since 2008! They freakin’ last forever! No, they aren’t shiny and new, but they’re clean. I’ll have to do a post on that one. No one would believe me. 🙂
    I found canvas sandwich bags (and lunchbags) at this tiny store in the Farmer’s Market called Green Alternatives. I didn’t buy those but I got another kind and I think they are from the same company, under ECO BAGS,
    “Our friend” Bea wraps hers up in a cloth. She has a foreign name for it. It’s similar looking to what the Three Little Pigs carried on the end of the stick when they left home. Know what I’m talking about?

    Thanks for the encouragement.! 🙂

    • Hi Jennifer, I just read here about you washing out the sandwich bags. I do that too, unless they have something really icky in them where even a washing wouldn’t remove the bacteria. We’ve frozen corn, sliced apples, and chopped green peppers, and tomatoes, and then, when I use the product, I always rinse out the freezer bags, and wash them, and then, like you, hang them on the clothes line. I have a stash that I re-use. But I wanted to mention that I also reuse the cereal bags. Mine are a different sort of plastic, but I shake out the cereal dust, and then, reuse them for coating chicken with flour, or I put sandwiches in them, slip saucers of whatever in them and fold over, and stick in fridge–just to keep the item fresh. I also use toilet paper plastic (when you buy like 12 rolls) as trashcan liners.

  5. You can always get creative and make something with those tops! I’m thinking about milk top mobiles.

    • Any ideas for beer bottle caps? Course, I could make a mobile out of that too. We’ve looked and looked on line for ideas about those, only to find “cover a table with them and then cover it with glass.” There has to be something else out there….

  6. Ahhh….paint them and make jewelry?

  7. I like this type of thinking! My man wants to hammer them out and see what they’ll look like.

  8. Wow, there are a lot of resourceful people here. Makes me feel down right lazy. I take my own containers to the store. Even when it’s already packaged I take the item out and put it in my own. The first few times the store hassled me. I keep the wrappers so everything gets scanned. I finally wrote to complain to the store owners and the hassling stopped. I even got a free recycled canvass bag out of the deal.

    • Woman, are you kidding? You’ve taken a stand at the store. I’m impressed. Are you sure you don’t live in Europe? 🙂
      Keep up the good work! And kudos for getting a canvas bag out of the deal. I just think that’s awesome!

  9. My sister made magnets for everyone for Christmas. Super easy. Cut out pictures in old magazines. Glue to bottle cap, fill with resin, let sit for 24 hours and add a peel and stick magnet to back. We all fought over them. The flea markets make jewerly out of them here too and charge around $5 each.

  10. Wow! The Christmas presents sound like a great idea. I wonder how difficult it is to find teeny, tiny pictures! I’m going to start looking! 🙂
    Great idea Felise! Thanks. 🙂

  11. Very much enjoying all your articles they are all very true and wonderful content. I need to get you over our granola recipe where you can make delicious and nutritious granola super affordably and save that granola wrapper from needing to be recycled. Taking food a step further we have found that bulk foods without the packaging and wrappers are the way to go to truly eliminate waste and the high costs of all this advertisement that we don’t need or use. Our household has reduced waste by 50% simply by making so many of these healthy pre-packaged foods ourselves and we end up getting double what we would in the store when you remove the packaging and advertisement. Keep up the great work and be sure to come back and say hello! We all are enjoying your writing and need more just like you to keep things progressing forward. Once we get more people doing what we are doing prices will go down on the better stuff and the awareness will rise with the masses. Hopefully in the not so distant future pesticides will be eliminated all together. I can’t think of why we need toxic chemicals in our diet ever and hopefully the world will understand that we must all refuse this together to make it safer for us all.
    Wishing you great LOVE, HEALTH & ABUNDANT HAPPINESS Today and Always!
    P.S. Tell your Husband we so very much appreciate his service and are very
    PROUD to have such AMAZING service men out there keeping us safe.

    • Oh, thank you for such kind comments for my husband. He’ll appreciate that. I’ll show him when he gets home! 🙂
      It thrills me to know there are so many of us out there. We can make a difference!
      I’d stopped buying Bobsredmill just becasue of the packaging, but I had no idea they also came in super, huge bags. And I’d never heard of the buying clubs! I will most certainly look into that! I will also look for that granola recipe under your recipe lists. We’d finished the last of a box given to us, and I told my husband a couple weeks ago, I wanted to start making my own. It doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to do!
      Oh, I’m just so excited that I’ll be able to buy Bobsredmill again! They have such GOOD products!! Looking forward to your posts and sharing ideas with you!! Thanks for writing!

  12. You should consider They have weekly sales and provide a great deal of large bags of many bulk items. Although they are still printed on they do have larger sizes for less which produce less waste. They also only use 3 colors on their printed material and have for years to keep the needless expense of advertising out of the cost of your goods. We pool together with our friends and family and buy the largest sizes and split them up this way we get the lowest costs on the product and share the expense of shipping getting some great items without breaking the bank. Our food stretches much further this way. You can get involved with an existing buying group or begin one where you are. It really saves a lot and keeps the healthy foods we all love on our plate. They have amazing array of whole grains, beans and so much more. Another great thing we do is add whole grains to our meets and chicken to stretch the meals it makes for wonderful creations, gets our whole grains in and adds an additional meal to the week. Take care. Only good stuff. Your new friend in health,

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