Lately, I have been forgetting to bring my utensils. I would put them in my pouch and when it gets dirty, I would put the dirty utensils in the dishwasher and forget to put it back in my pouch. There are times when I forget my chopsticks or my straw. Also, I have lost a few utensils because it was accidentally removed from the table when I was not paying attention.
Today, I decided to make my own utensil roll. Hopefully, this will help me keep track of my utensils. Since I’m rubbish at sewing, I made my utensil holder from a napkin which I already have. This means that I didn’t have to worry about the edges of the fabric which is the hardest part and I only have to sew a couple of straight lines. I did not even bother to iron the napkin because I was lazy.
I designed the utensil roll in such a way that it becomes a placemat when it is unrolled. I arranged the utensils so that the fork and straw is on the left and everything else is on the right. When I need to put this away, I fold the top part of the napkin downwards (see top right photo) and I roll the utensils from both ends into the centre. I couldn’t find a ribbon at home so I used a hair tie instead.
I’m going to see how this goes. If it works out well, I might make a few and leave one in the car for those unplanned trips to the restaurant. It’s also a good idea to have extra for when this utensil roll is in the laundry basket.
I usually eat my meals alone so there is no incentive for me to slave all day in the kitchen unless I want to try out a particular recipe or if I am craving for something specific. This recipe takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. The sauce cooks the same time it takes to boil the pasta.
Garlic (As much as you like. I used 4 large cloves because I love things garlicky)
Tomatoes (As much as you like. I used about half a bowl of cherry tomatoes)
Dried Chilli Flakes (Optional)
Basil (Sliced or torn)
Cheese (Optional. Parmigiano Regiano, Pecorino and Mozzarella are safe options)
Put the pasta in boiling water and set the timer to 1 minute prior to when the pasta will be done. If it takes 11 minutes for the pasta to be done, boil it for 10 minutes. Remember to add salt to the boiling water. Make it taste like the ocean.
Slice or dice the garlic and put it in a pan with cold oil. Add dried chili flakes if you like a bit of heat in your pasta.
Chop the tomatoes into halves or quarters (bigger tomatoes) and add it to the pan when the garlic starts to brown. Add some pasta water to stop the garlic from burning.
Add some salt to the tomatoes and let the tomatoes liquify in low heat. If the sauce starts getting too thick, add pasta water to thin out the sauce.
Feel free to mash the tomatoes with the back of your cooking utensil.
When the timer goes off, add the basil and pasta to the sauce and let the pasta cook in the sauce for 1 minute. If the pasta feels a little tight when you try to move it in the pan, add some pasta water to loosen the sauce. Feel free to finish it off with a bit of olive oil.
Also optional, grate some cheese over the pasta but I recommend adding the cheese to your bowl instead of in the pan. I like mine without cheese.
As always, if there are leftovers, I usually pack them in glass containers and it tastes great the next day. You can eat it warm or cold and it’s delicious.
Every business should find some way to market themselves in order to get more customers or keep their existing customers. I like to send something to my clients especially during the holidays either to thank them or to remind them of me. The struggle lies in living the zero waste life and giving customers junk that ends up in the landfill.
Experience is usually the go to zero waste gift but it may not necessarily be appropriate or it can be cost prohibitive. Unless you are gifting a specific person in mind, it’s always a good idea to find something neutral. Here are some zero waste corporate gift ideas.
Zero Waste Gifts that Fit in an Envelope
With Standard Postage
Plantable Cards – Cards that you can plant in soil and grow wildflowers.
Gift Cards / Gift Certificates – Online stores are the best option or some place you know that they frequent. You don’t necessarily have to buy the card. You can always buy it online and print out the code.
Movie Tickets – Think about where your customers are. Pick a movie theatre close to their home / business.
Postcard Size Calendar
Most of these are paper products that can be recycled or composted.
Soaps (not the ones wrapped in plastic)
Kitchen / Tea Towels
Box of Baked Goodies
Cotton Tote Bag / Foldable Tote Bags – Great for printing your company logo.
Stainless Steel Water Bottles / Coffee Mug – Great for printing your company logo. I try to avoid plastic where possible.
Hand Towels – Great for embroidering your company logo.
Stainless Steel / Glass Containers – Great for engraving your company logo but I suggest filling the container with some goodies.
Bamboo Toothbrush – Especially great if you are a dentist.
Glass Straws – I think a lot of people will find it novel. If it’s glass, it is easier to see if the straw is cleaned properly. Don’t forget the pipe cleaner for the straw too.
Others Ideas that Didn’t Make the List
There is no point in giving gifts that a customer would not appreciate. Zero waste gifts may still end up in the landfill or become a dust collector at home. Here are some gift ideas that I think non-zero wasters would not appreciate.
Reusable produce bags – I’m not sure if a lot of people remember to bring their own bags to the grocery store let alone produce bags.
Fruit Basket – Maybe a small amount of fruit because do people seriously eat that much of fruit before it goes bad? It seems like most of the fruit will go to waste.
Homemade Beauty Products – Too personal because everyone has their preferences unless you are in the business of selling beauty products but soap is the exception.
Magazine Subscription – Not sure how that will remind people of your business.
Sandwich / Snack Bags – I don’t know a lot of people who pack their own lunch to work or pack sandwiches.
Mugs – There are just way too many mugs that end up in thrift stores.
Coasters – There are zero friendly options but chances are, everyone who use coasters have them already.
Cotton Napkins – Do people really use napkins at home?
Travel Chopsticks – It depends on your customer base. Surprisingly, a lot of people struggle with chopsticks.
It goes without saying that if you are looking for zero waste ideas, make sure that you keep that in mind when wrapping your gifts. Recycled / paper envelopes and cardboard boxes are easily available. Skip the plastic ribbons, shiny confetti and use twine instead.
Unpackaged goods should be cheaper because you are not paying for packaging.
There is more time for the more important things when you stop shopping.
It forces you to make healthier choices. It is easier to buy fresh fruits and vegetables without packaging over processed food.
You tend to save money because you buy less stuff, buy second hand stuff, make use of what you have or do without completely.
It forces you to become more resourceful. You will pick up new skills and learn new tricks.
No longer have to worry about taking the trash out because it takes awhile to fill up the trash cans. Also, trash cans don’t smell anymore.
During the time of the month, I never have to worry about not having sufficient supplies.
It is difficult to shop zero waste. Not all places sell in bulk or telling people that you want the item in your container can be tiresome.
In an effort to go zero waste, we had to give up snacks, packaged food and certain convenience.
Sometimes it is more expensive to buy things without packaging.
You need to plan ahead all the time. It’s difficult to make impromptu trips to the store or restaurants if you are not prepared. My handbag is more than double the size of my previous handbag because I need space for water bottle, container, reusable bags etc.
Your water bill goes up because there is a lot more washing when you avoid disposables. You run the dishwasher and the washing machine more regularly.
Saying no to freebies, free samples and gifts.
Being disappointed when people close to you insist on using single use disposables.
Bought too many tomatoes for a recipe and it was starting to get mushy. So, I turned it into basic tomato sauce.
Sliced Garlic (however much you like)
Herbs / Seasoning (whatever you like)
Slice the garlic thinly and put it in the pan with some olive oil. Turn on the stove and let the garlic infuse into the olive oil. Do it until the garlic starts to brown.
When the garlic starts to brown, add in the diced tomatoes. I chopped up the tomatoes with the skin to eliminate food waste.
Bring the tomatoes to a boil and reduce to simmer.
Add in salt, herbs and whatever seasoning you like. Sometimes it’s just salt. Sometimes I like it spicy so I add red pepper flakes. Sometimes I add dried oregano because that’s what I have. Add whatever you like. It is your tomato sauce.
Let it simmer for about 15 minutes and taste it. If it is too tangy, add a little bit of sugar until it is to your satisfaction.
If you like your tomato sauce smooth, feel free to blend it in a food processor or with a stick blender. I’m too lazy so I leave it chunky sometimes.
After 15 minutes, the sauce would have thickened a little and all the tomatoes would have liquified. Pour into glass jars and let it cool.
Tomato sauce is not just for pasta. You can use it to make so many things such as:
The general rule for shopping for clothes zero waste is to buy second hand and ideally organic. Lately, the weather has been super hot and I decided that I needed to get some short sleeved tops especially when meeting clients. I cannot remember when was the last time I bought new clothes.
Previously, I worked in the comforts of an air-conditioned office so I would wear long sleeve shirts and jackets but not anymore. I also take the view that it is unprofessional for me to meet my clients with sleeveless tops and shoes that shows your toes.
I am fascinated at how people can find amazing stuff at thrift stores because I tried and I cannot find anything. Maybe it’s just the particular store near my home. I considered buying brand new clothes and then I remembered ThredUp.
ThredUp organizes the inventory based on type, brands, price, condition etc. I found some branded tops which were in excellent condition. There was a 40% discount for first time buyers. I know I was shopping for short sleeve blouse but I couldn’t ignore the green silk top from Diane von Furstenberg for $11. Looks like this will be what I’m wearing this summer and probably next summer.
A friend gave me a bag of apricots. Since it was getting too ripe, I decided to make apricot jam with it. All you need is apricot, sugar and some lemon / lime juice. The ratio of apricot to sugar is a minimum of 3:2. This means for every 3 portions of apricot, you need 2 portions of sugar. I read somewhere there it does not qualify as jam unless 50% or more of it consist of sugar.
Cut the apricots into small chucks and remove the seed.
Put the apricot and white granulated sugar in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil.
Once it is boiling, reduce it to a simmer on medium to low heat. If you see foam, remove the foam.
Let is simmer for about 30 minutes and make sure that you stir occasionally to avoid it from burning at the bottom.
Take a spoonful of the liquid jam and set aside to cool. When it cools, test if the consistency is to your satisfaction. If so, the jam is done.
Turn off the heat and add about 1 tablespoon of lemon and mix it into the liquid jam. Pour into glass jars and let it cool.
There is no need to add water to the apricot and sugar because the apricot will liquify.
If the apricot is bruised, it is important to remove the bruised portions so you can maintain the color of the final product.
Taste the liquid from time to time to make sure it is the sweetness is to your satisfaction.
It is important to let the concoction simmer for at least 30 minutes so that it thickens into jam consistency when it cools down. I tried being lazy and let it simmer for a few minutes and when the concoction cooled down, it had a runny consistency. When that happens, transfer it to the pot and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
If the liquid gets burnt at the bottom, don’t scrape the bottom. Instead, transfer it to a new pot and continue the process.
What do you do with the roasted chicken carcass when dinner is done? What about the chicken wings that nobody wants? I usually save all the bones and freeze them until I have a container full of bones. Sometimes I freeze carrot, celery and mushroom bits too. I don’t eat as much meat as I used to so it usually takes a few months for me fill up the container with bones.
Dump all the bones and frozen vegetables in a slow cooker and cover it with water and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
Add seasoning such as salt, bay leaves, peppercorn, garlic, herbs and whatever you like.
Let it cook on low for about 24 hours.
Sieve the contents and store them in different sized glass jars.
If you use raw bones, blanche the bones first before roasting the bones. Blanching the bones will remove impurities and make the broth clearer. Roasting the bones before adding it to the slow cooker will give it better flavor.
I accept all bones. I don’t discriminate.
I prefer to cook my bone broth in a slow cooker so I don’t have to watch the fire over the stove.
Adding a tablespoon of vinegar (any type) is suppose to help breakdown the bones to extract more flavor from the bones.
You don’t need as much vegetables as you typically would use when making a stock. The broth is more concentrated than a stock.
Use the largest stockpot or slow cooker that you possibly have because the bones takes up a lot volume. You will be surprised with how little bone broth you will get from such a large stockpot but then again, the flavor is much concentrated.
When the bone broth becomes gelatinous at room temperature, you know you did it right.
It’s good to store the bone broth in different size jars because some recipes requires less or more bone broth.
When you are done, bury the discarded bones so it becomes compost.
I call this the poor man’s recipe because all you need is rice, egg and soy sauce. This recipe is made from basic items that I usually have in my kitchen.
Cook rice according to instructions. For this recipe, I prefer starchier rice but I suggest you work with what you have.
Cook an egg sunny side up. I was starving so I cooked 2 eggs. It’s important for the yolk to remain runny because the yolk is the sauce.
Season with soy sauce. Use as much as you like.
Optional: Sprinkle furikake over the top. Furikake is a dry Japanese seasoning. There are many flavors out there. I bought the Nori Komi Furikake because it was sold in glass jars.
There is a Japanese version of this but it’s slightly different. Raw egg is mixed into a bowl of steaming rice with soy sauce. As much as I love runny yolk, I am not a fan of raw eggs and that is why I cook my eggs sunny side up.
This recipe has saved me so many time when I was starving and there was barely anything in the fridge. Maybe one of these days, this recipe will save you too.