Homemade Crackers

One of the first changes I made in reducing my waste was to shop with reusable grocery bags. After a few shopping trips I soon realized I was bringing bags only to return home with them full of packaging waste. Soon, it seemed like the grocery bags were nothing compared to all the packaging waste I was bringing home in them. Most of the food I now purchase is either unpackaged (spices, grains, snacks, popcorn, granola, honey), comes in a returnable container (milk) or has minimal packaging (meat and cheese). One of the products I wish I could find in loose bulk is crackers. I find it hard enough to justify one layer of packaging, let alone two! Crackers are such an easy snack to make that they are one of the few pantry items I am willing to make myself. Homemade crackers also taste better, cost less and I can make them using whatever unpackaged ingredients I think are best. I use a basic recipe and vary the kind of flour, oil and toppings/flavorings I use depending on the cracker I want. My favorite version of my recipe is my Rosemary & Olive Oil Crackers. (For plain crackers, omit the rosemary.)

File_000.jpeg

Rosemary & Olive Oil Crackers

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt (set aside two pinches)

1 cup water

¼ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

Set oven racks to lower half of oven and then preheat to 450 degrees. In a bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt (minus two pinches, set aside) and 1 tablespoon dried rosemary. Add 1 cup water and ¼ cup oil. Stir until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms. Adjust with additional water or flour as needed.

Put half the dough on one large baking pan. (Note: light and dark pans retain heat differently. Dark pans will brown the bottoms faster.) Roll out to ⅛ inch or less directly on the pan. Cut into pieces using a rotary cutter (such as a pizza cutter) - rectangles, squares, triangles, whatever shape is desired--just keep them all uniform in shape and size. Brush with water and evenly sprinkle one pinch of salt over dough. Prick with a sharp tool (fork, skewer, knife, etc.) so the crackers bake flat without puffing up too much. Repeat with the second half of the dough then bake for about 15 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through. Remove crackers from the pans as they turn brown and let under-baked ones continue baking. Cool on a cooling rack until they are delightfully crunchy. Store in a jar for up to 5 days.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is usually the home's waste "hub." A continuous stream of food waste, paper towels, napkins, packaging, junk mail and other trash from around the house usually collect in the kitchen and then are sorted into curbside bins. If you begin by focusing your zero waste efforts in the kitchen, you can put a significant dent in your current waste.

STOP BUYING DISPOSABLES. Observe. Take note of what disposables you use (paper towels, paper napkins, tin foil, plastic wrap, plastic baggies, etc.). Research alternatives you could use to replace them. 

WAIT. Observe. Think of ways you can do things differently that fit your situation and your needs. 

GET REUSABLE ALTERNATIVES. Find reusable alternatives at consignment stores, rummage sales, garage sales, and local online groups (NextDoor, Facebook, etc.). Better yet, start looking in your own home or asking friends and family. The process of moving toward a zero waste kitchen takes time. When I began, I stopped buying disposables and used the time it took to use up the last paper towel I owned to figure out an alternative that worked for my situation. I used the shrinking paper towel roll as a count down for how long I had until I needed an alternative in place that worked. (My eventual solution was a basket filled with well-loved cloth hand towels and wash cloths under my sink, all of which I already owned...FREE!!)

USE IT UP. WEAR IT OUT. MAKE IT DO. More often than not, the answer is that you need less. Less gives you the natural motivation to get out of your house rather than hole up in your own bunker. (Can I connect with a neighbor by borrowing from them? Can I give a local store my business by renting and avoiding the hassle of maintaining the item myself? Can I share my extras with others who have none?)

USE TAP WATER. Get your water tested if you have concerns and install a filter specific for your tap's needs. Chill water in reusable non-plastic containers.

BUY IN BULK. Loose bulk items from the grocery store eliminates waste from entering your home. You vote with your wallet. When you buy these items you are sending a message that you like not having packaging and you want more items without packaging. 

In my home, we follow these guides...

Refuse: Disposables (paper napkins, plates, cups, paper towels), low-quality utensils and appliances (spatulas that melt, non-stick pans that flake, appliances that break after little use), food with disposable packaging

Reduce: use multi-use utensils & appliances instead of single-action gadgets (one knife instead of an herb chopper, garlic mincer, AND apple slicer), food with disposable packaging, duplicate items (bottle openers, pizza cutters, measuring cups), plan meals so food is not wasted, store food in containers that extend shelf-life

Reuse: Cloth napkins, cloth towels, cloth rags, food containers (glass jars, cloth bags, glass bottles), buy used utensils when needed, prioritize buying food with reusable/returnable packaging

Recycle: Food containers that are no longer reusable

Rot: Compost food waste & food-soaked paper products (such as pizza boxes)

The Bigger Picture of Waste

Think of all the time and money spent bringing trash into the home and sending it back out the door. Waste is more than trash. It’s wasted time, money, and resources. With a zero waste household, you can reduce or eliminate your need for a garbage container while you save time, energy and money.

Reducing waste starts with preventing garbage from entering your home in the first place.  No matter what products are available, anyone can move toward zero waste by simply REFUSING what they don’t need and REDUCING what they do. When garbage does enter our homes, we can use alternative ways to dispose of it so as little as possible goes to the landfill (or in my case, the incinerator).

Having nothing to recycle is better than recycling.

Getting Started

Go slowly. Explore alternatives your household can sustain doing. Allowing time to try practices before committing to a new product will save you money in the long run and be zero waste in itself. Going slowly will also conserve your zero waste energy so you can continue using it toward making other changes. Remember, almost everything you need to start is already available to you. It’s mostly a matter of personal preference and each person’s unique situation that will influence whether extra shopping is necessary or not. If you still feel the urge to spend right away, pause before purchasing so you can be more mindful about what you bring into your life.

What is Zero Waste?

Zero waste is just that. No waste. It's not just recycling or reusing.

The familiar old reduce, reuse, recycle” leaves out two important parts of zero waste: refuse and rot.

Zero waste is about refusing what you don't need, reducing what you do, reusing what you have, and recycling or rotting (composting) the rest.

So, it's the 5 R’s...

Refuse

Reduce

Reuse

Recycle

Rot

The order of these R’s is important. For example, if you say no to using a plastic bag at the checkout (refuse) you won't need to worry about reusing the bag before eventually recycling it.

What's one zero waste practice you do or want to do more often?