Food Packaging, Gran & The Taste Monster

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“It’s food Jim, but not as we know it.

I am constantly looking at how time is spent. Particularly mine, occasionally the families. A fair chunk of my time is taken up with preparing meals and washing dishes. This frequently has me checking in on what others are doing in similar circumstances to see if there are short cuts I can take.

The biggest time taker in our house is food. Aside from sorting out stuff, that is. The buying, preparing and the inevitable cleaning up that ensues from cooking and preparing food is huge.

Food in our house is prepared from scratch. The exception to this is the occasional meal for Gran which might be a packaged pizza, pie, pasta, soup or sandwich – plus a variety of cracker biscuits, sweet biscuits, chocolate biscuits and chocolates. I’ll also add in here copious quantities of favourite brands of tea bags. The Taste Monster has Gran wrapped around it’s little finger!

I feel we have failed miserably with trying to transition Gran to the types of food we eat. She just can’t do it. It’s like a daily sufferance. Initially we stood remorseless on the matter. We had seen enough to know that she responds better by eating the things we do, but it’s not sustainable for her. So rather than extend the misery,  we supplement her diet with the occasional pre-packaged, refined, anti-nutrient, tasty and ever so addictive foods that she knows and loves and is quick to embrace. She is happy and we can live with it. The hardest part is seeing how it alters her mood, memory and state of health. Trips with her to doctors appointments and purchasing lolly-shop quantities of prescription medication wears a bit thin.

Gran can’t see this association though. Just the other day I heard a radio “news” item detailing how a gluten-free diet could be potentially bad for you and doctors were suggesting people included some bread into their diet. No references given, no names mentioned. It’s trashy reporting like this that folks like my mother-in-law can relate to and understand. And they hook into it and buy the whole gig.

Back to the pre-packaged stuff….

Some insights from this: we have consciously looked at how we can reduce our general refuse and the main areas for this are toiletries and food items. We’ve done reasonably well by shopping at the local farmers market and buying bulk produce (both food and toiletry items like toilet paper). What I’ve noticed personally is how much our packaging increases with the addition of Gran’s foods of choice. It comes wrapped in plastic and could also be boxed and require other packaging inside. 

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Enter the Chicken Vegetable Pie

This is an example. On the left is a ‘home-made’ chicken and vegetable pie bought from the local supermarket. I won’t go into the produce used in making the pie – besides, its in the fine print if you really want to look. The ingredients themselves are a pandora’s box.

What I wish to point out in this post is that the pie is a meal for Gran and the vege burgers (on the right!) are a meal for my wife and I. We actually had two each per serve. The pies come in a pack of two. The vege burgers are made from bulk bought lentils and chickpeas. The plastic bags that these are supplied in are emptied and used around the house for other purposes. The cardboard box is put into the compost – once it has been used as they are usually quite sturdy boxes and great for other stuff if not damaged. Sometimes they are used as toys for the boys until they are no good – then they go to the compost!

Anyhow, back to the pie. It comes packaged on a foam base, wrapped in plastic wrap. This in itself is not the best of packaging but it’s pretty convenient for the pie company and the consumer. It also has a sticker which is printed in ink. This introduces a whole host of other chemicals and toxic by-products into the equation. Favourable? Not so much.

I’m not here to get too scientifically speech-ified on the matter, just to niggle and nudge your awareness.

I made a bulk load of vege burgers. It makes the cost of the plastics involved spread a little further. The packaging from Gran’s pie goes into the bin and the recycling. Once it goes into the bin it goes to landfill. Hidden from sight. The base that goes into the recycling bin ends up where? I actually don’t know. It just goes and I suppose I’m expected to feel good about it being recycled and for doing my bit for the state of the environment. Call me cynical but I don’t sit easy with assuming this is the case. After all, the current fiasco in WA of free-range chicken eggs not actually being from free-range chickens is a case in point. Consumers are supposed to consume and feel good about their small, environmentally aware actions.

I don’t buy it. So we reduce our packaging where we can. It’s a personal choice – and it’s achievable.

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