Popcorn: A Perfect (almost) Plastic-free Snack

We all have our own preferences when it comes to the snacks we love. Popcorn is one of my favorites, satisfying my craving for salty crunchiness. It’s also a great alternative to all the snacks available on the market. You know, all those snacks packaged in plastic – potato chips, nuts, energy bars, cookies, and cakes. Besides the issue of the plastic packaging, the nutritional value of these “foods” is also questionable. I’m not a big fan of snacks on most days, so it is easy for me to REFUSE these packaged snacks. When I do feel the need for a snack, one of the foods I reach for is popcorn.

If you bring your own bag, you can purchase popcorn completely plastic-free from the bulk bags at 1,000 Items (Alf Sunf) in Assalah Square. This past weekend, I paid LE 10 for a kilo of popcorn. Make sure you buy from the bag that says “POPCORN” because corn feed for chickens is also available.

popcorn in bulk

Bring your own bag or reuse a plastic one you already have.

To pop the popcorn on my stove, I cover the bottom of a pan with about a tablespoon of cold vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter). I then pour the kernels in, just enough to make one layer.

The oil, unfortunately, comes in a plastic bottle so when I purchase oil I always buy the largest bottle possible. (Crystal Sunflower Oil, 3 Liters) This at least reduces the amount of plastic that will need to be recycled. 

oil

Plastic-Saving Tip: Buy the largest bottle available.

The ghee comes in a glass jar that can be reused or recycled, but it does have a small amount of plastic on the lid. I prefer the ghee not only because it’s less plastic, but it’s tastier too!

ghee

Less plastic and better tasting – ghee

I cover the pan and put in on medium heat. As the oil heats, I shake the pan gently every once in awhile to make sure all kernels are covered evenly in oil. I continue to do this as the kernels pop. Once the popping has stopped, I remove the pan from the stove and pour the popcorn into a large bowl, sprinkle some salt on top, and start munching. I don’t measure anything so if you need more precise instructions, read these.

popped

What is your favorite snack food? Does it come packaged in plastic? Do you make it yourself? Do you have any recipes to share?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

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Aboo Ahmad Restaurant – for plastic-free takeaway

I finally snapped a photo of our favorite place for Egyptian street food – Aboo Ahmad’s! For those of you who haven’t eaten here yet, we highly recommend it. The restaurant is located in Asalah Square between 1,000 Items and Ghazala Market.

IMG_0352

Not only do they make the tastiest foul and falafel in town, the staff is also willing to put your takeaway sandwiches in your own container or wrapped in paper.

takeaway in own container

plastic free lunch

Most people get their food in plastic bags – and Aboo Ahmad gets very busy during the lunch hour – so please remember to be patient with the staff when you request paper or for them to use your own container. They are always happy to do so, but they work on “autopilot” so your request involves a bit of an interruption. But we have now visited there enough times that the staff knows when they see us coming that they won’t be using plastic for our food!

Tips on Reducing Plastic at the Supermarket

shopping bag

Lately, I’ve been blogging mostly about how to REDUCE plastic when shopping for food at supermarkets and green grocers. Here’s a quick summary of tips:

And if all else fails,

    • BUY THE LARGEST PACKAGE AVAILABLE. Skip the individual size packages. Instead buy the largest box or bottle possible. This cuts down on the amount of plastic needed for each product.

I will continue to share tips and practical advice on shopping for food with less plastic. I will also start to discuss how we can reduce the plastic involved with household cleaning and self-care products so visit again soon!

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Buying Cheese with Less Packaging

Before I talk about plastic-free cheese, let’s take a moment to review why we should REFUSE plastic packaging, especially when it is on our food and drink, because it’s about more than just our environment. It’s about our health. Studies show that the phthalates in plastic packaging leach into food. These chemicals have been linked to health ailments ranging from asthma and allergies to early puberty and fertility issues brought on by hormone disruption. There is still debate about how much of these chemicals our body can absorb before they become dangerous toxins.

Here are a few articles if you’d like to read more:

One easy way to avoid plastic packaging on cheese is to BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINER to the deli at the supermarket. Ask the store clerk to weigh your container first and “zero” the scale before placing the cheese in your container. As usual, our deli of choice is the one at Alf Sunf (1,000 Items) in Asalah Square. They have always been very patient with our requests and willing to use the containers we bring. Every once in awhile a new clerk will start working at the deli and we have to repeat our request, sometimes explaining and assisting with the scale.

We don’t buy cheese unless we have our own container with us, but that wasn’t always the case. Most supermarkets offer cheese on a polystyrene tray wrapped in plastic. In the past, if we forgot our container, we would at least REFUSE the tray and ask only for the plastic, which at least meant a little less waste.

deli cheese

But we’re still working on replacing our reusable plastic containers with other materials so, yes, that cheese pictured above is in a plastic box. This solution may be better for the environment but not necessarily better for our health. Ideally, we’d store all our food in glass or stainless steel containers. Baby steps. Reducing the amount of plastic we use is definitely a process and not something we can accomplish overnight.

What steps are you taking to reduce the amount of plastic waste your household produces?

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Plastic-free Flour

I posted recently about food packaging and if you have had a chance to look at the trash you “throw away” you may have noticed that a lot of it is plastic packaging from food. And while some of it may be recyclable, most of it is not.

So, it’s finally time to talk about some changes we can make in our food shopping habits (other than taking our own reusable bags) that will help reduce our plastic footprints!

I love to bake. Waffles, cakes, cookies, bread, tortillas, muffins – yum! This all takes flour, of course, which is most commonly available and purchased in plastic bags. What, then, are the alternatives?

flour (1)

I often use whole-meal flour which is available in paper sacks from the company Five Star. This company packages many types of flour in paper as opposed to plastic. In the past, I would stock up on several bags of the whole-meal flour whenever I went shopping in Sharm el Sheikh because it wasn’t always available here in Dahab. In Sharm, you can find it at Carrefour and Metro Market (and maybe Ragab Sons, I can’t remember). But now you can find a variety of paper-packaged flours in Dahab at CHEF on Peace Road! They also sell a lovely variety of other flours and grains, but so far they are all packaged in plastic so, although tempted, I have not purchased any of these. 

flour (2)

Another plastic-free option for flour is bringing your own bag or container and buying flour from the bulk bags available at many stores in Asalah. This is something that we have only started to do in the last couple of months. We use one of our many cotton bags – freshly washed – and purchase plain flour and bran from the bulk bags at Alf Sunf (1,000 Items) in Asalah Square. At home, I empty the flour into a large glass container for storage. Last week, the store also had Five Star semolina flour in bulk bags!

You can either weigh the flour yourself or give the clerk your container and he will weigh and fill it for you. The clerks at Alf Sunf are used to us and our plastic-free ways by now, but other stores and clerks won’t be. So remember to ask politely and be patient. This is as new to them as it is to you!

TIP: Weigh your bag or container first, then add the flour until you have the desired amount. Our bag weighs 65 grams and we typically buy a kilo of flour. So we fill until the scale reads 1065 g. Sometimes, if a clerk is assisting, they will tare (or zero) the scale with our bag on it. This allows you to just worry about the weight of the contents (in this case, the flour) not the container.

Buying the flour in paper bags is obviously the easier way to go, and buying from the bulk bags takes a little more time and effort on our part. Are you willing to purchase flour from the bulk bags? Why or why not?