Bulk store granola recipe

zero waste granola

I love to play in the kitchen. Buying grains, flours, nuts, spices and other goodies by refilling my own containers helps me avoid an astounding amount of packaging waste. Bulk stores (or buying groups / co-ops, etc.) work by sourcing larger quantities of foods than any person or family would buy at one time, and splitting between many customers. This gives us the opportunity to buy only the amount we need, when we need it.

In the last couple of years, Sydney has exploded with places to shop in bulk. These stores are a nice alternative to the chain supermarket experience. No bright lights and gaudy sales stickers, hideous music and ads over the PA. Refill stores are full of friendly people who appreciate your efforts to reduce waste and give you discounts for bringing your own containers.

Here is a very simple granola recipe I make with ingredients that are easy to find at any bulk shop in Sydney. My favourite way to eat this is on warm oatmeal or overtop warm stewed apples.

A basic zero waste granola recipe

Makes about 4.5 cups of finished granola.

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes (large flakes)
  • 1/8 cup coconut oil (optional – makes the oats a bit crispier)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • Shake of salt

zero waste granola

Method to make zero waste granola

My friend Claudia is an inspiration to me for many reasons. She saves sharks, she knows everything about tofu and she taught me the secret to making great granola. You toast the oats first and separately from the other ingredients. This step helps to avoid burning the nuts and seeds, and creates perfect crunchy clusters.

  1. Toast oats on a baking sheet for 10 minutes in an oven heated to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Remove the tray from the oven and add half the coconut oil. Let it melt with the heat of the pan, then mix into the oats.
  3. In a bowl, mix together sesame seeds, pepitas, coconut flakes, honey, molasses, the balance of the coconut oil, plus a shake of salt.
  4. Work the sesame seed mixture into the toasted oats with a fork or your fingers. It doesn’t need to be perfectly even.
  5. Put the baking sheet back into the oven for another 10 minutes until the mixture is toasted as much as you like. I like them to be a light golden brown, not too dark.
  6. Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the pantry.zero waste granola recipe

One you’ve got the method down, try mixing up the ingredients. Switch up the types of nuts or seeds, add some bulk store spices like cinnamon, or mix in some puffed rice to the cooled granola. Use whatever you have on hand. There are endless variations.

How to shop for granola ingredients in bulk

I’ve found Sydney’s bulk refill shops – whether coop, chain or other – to unanimously ‘get it’ when it comes to BYO containers. Shopping at the bulk spots is a little different to the grocery store, but not more difficult. Here are some tips to make it a smooth experience.

  • Bring your own containers or bags to refill. You can reuse any container or bag, so long as it’s clean and will survive the journey home.
  • Anything heavier than a plastic bag should be tared before filling. Most bulk shops will have scales for this purpose. Weight the item and write the ‘tare weight’ on the jar or bag in grams if you’re in Australia.
  • Check if liquid items like honey and molasses are sold by weight or volume before filling.

I maintain a list (one day soon, it will be a map!) to help you find a bulk store in Sydney. I hope that one day soon, everyone has a refill shop in their own suburb.

A zero waste treat to make at home and take anywhere

zero waste snacks

Craving a Snickers or some other packaged treat? Try making these plastic free morsels instead.

All you need to make these tasty treats are medjool dates, peanuts, peanut butter and chocolate buttons. It’s hard to beat the dreamy caramel texture of a medjool. Chocolate goes on the inside, so they are like inside out chocolate bars. I like salted peanuts in this recipe, because why hold back here. 

To make, slice open the date, remove the pit, smear on some peanut butter, then add your peanuts and chocolate. No baking and no bowls or appliances to clean. You’re welcome. 

They hold together nicely on strenuous hikes, or casual strolls around the kitchen. They’re no better for you calorically than their packaged counterparts, although you could argue they are slightly less processed. I like to make a batch and store them in the freezer, ever at the ready for a weekend adventure. Everything I need to make them comes from any bulk food shop around Sydney. 

How I store bread without plastic

how to store bread without plastic

Here’s what I do to make my bread last the week.

Keeping bread fresh has as much to do with the loaf’s quality as how we store it. If you opt for sawdust supermarket bread, I can’t help, except to suggest remedial bread choosing school. I’m convinced that bread made from sourdough starter (with a cracking crust and a moist interior) not only tastes bests, but lasts longest.

I’ll carry my beautiful sourdough bread home in a reusable cloth bag, then wrap the lot in a large beeswax wrap. The one I use is a large square shape about 50cm x 50cm made with a beeswax only formula, no resin. It doesn’t need to be a sticky style of wrap. I wrap it like a burrito around the loaf.

Bread lasts on the kitchen bench for around a week this way, sliced as needed. The beeswax wraps let the bread breath a little, but not too much. This method maintains freshness without causing the bread to sweat or go mouldy.

how to store bread without plastic

I don’t store bread in the fridge – who has the space? – but I have gotten into the practice of slicing half a fresh loaf and storing in the freezer right away. For this I also use a beeswax wrap, or lately a large resealable plastic bag I acquired at a crop swap event. I’d rather use the plastic bag as long as possible instead of Redcycling it immediately. Any old plastic bag can be reused to store bread. Perhaps the title of the post should have been ‘how I store bread without new plastic’.

Bread is one of the most commonly wasted food items in Australia and around the world, but it needn’t be. If I ever end up with stale bread, I make bread pudding or chuck the crusts into the food processor to make crumbs.

What about you? How do you store your bread?

A little ode to sauerkraut (and why you should make it yourself)

zero waste sauerkraut

Sauerkraut is super. And making it at home means zero waste. 

Did you catch this food diary slash interview with Moonjuice founder and actual (not really) space cadet?

You really ought to. Go, I’ll wait.

Now let’s think about how, for most of human history, and still for many humans today, having any food at all was pretty super. Nutritious food, prepared in an accessible way and within financial reach for the masses is worth celebrating.

One of the way humans could store and preserve precious food before refrigeration was through fermentation. Cheese is fermented milk, bread is fermented wheat, and so on. It’s used everywhere, we just mostly don’t take notice.

More than just a way to preserve food

Fermentation adds good strains of bacteria back into western digestive tracts. Gut bacteria is being studied to find out more about its affect on mood and weight. One day maybe we’ll be able to map the human microbiome the way we’ve mapped the genome.

Consider that you might not actually be you, but almost a giant SCOBY, or a host. Your intestines hold a weird and wonderful mix of helpful microbes that assist in processing the food we eat. In fact everyone’s microbiome is different. It’s a symbiotic arrangement where ecosystem rules apply – disrupt things too much by destroying habitat and things might get a bit crazy. Case in point, if you ever been prescribed antibiotics, you’ve probably been told to pair the dose with plain yogurt, which has some of the same strains of bacteria that help keep your downstairs vestibule healthy.

If you’re interested in this stuff, the book Gut by medical doctor Julia Enders is an entertaining and very down to earth read, replete with funny illustrations by her sister, on the whole digestive system

Why you ought to try making your own sauerkraut

It’s soooo much cheaper that store bought:  Last I checked, store bought sauerkraut will set you back $15 – $18 a litre here in Sydney. By comparison, one head of cabbage costs $4 and made about 3 litres in my last batch, pictured in this post.

It’s actually easy: Just two ingredients: cabbage, unrefined salt and optional whole spices (I like coriander or fennel). The method is low tech: shred the cabbage, sprinkle salt on top, pound until juicy, pack in a jar, leave on the bench and wait 2 – 3 weeks. Takes a bit longer in winter, goes a bit faster in summer.

No new packaging: Whether it’s plastic or glass, we all use way too much, even when it does get recycled. Why get a new glass jar when you can reuse what you have?

The no-whey sauerkraut method I use

Sauerkraut recipes are literally everywhere because they are mostly the same. the main difference you’ll notice is that some call for whey and some only use salt to encourage the good bacteria to reproduce. After experimenting with both methods over the years, I prefer the results from with salt only – crispy and brightly flavoured. Whey ferments tend to go mushy and slimy on me.

I started with and still follow a method based on fermentation legend Sandor Kratz’s instruction. He recommends about 3 tablespoons unrefined salt for every 5 lbs (that’s about 2.5 kilos) of veg. Here’s a link if you need more detail. Side note, I highly recommend his amazing book, the Art of Fermentation.

The salt acts to encourage the growth of lactic acid bacteria strains – the good guys – that are already present on the cabbage. You’ll know if things are going well if the mixture starts to bubble after a few days. The aroma should be fairly innocuous.

Helpful tips for making zero waste sauerkraut

  • I prefer red cabbage since it’s pretty when added to dishes, and has more vitamin c.
  • A fermenting crock with stones to weigh down the contents is great, but a basic glass jar with shoulders works too.
  • Remember to keep one of the outer leaves of the head of cabbage to cover. The leaf makes it easier to push down and submerge the shredded bits into the liquid. The rule of thumb is that whatever is under the liquid line is in a safely acidic environment and stays food safe.
  • A fine whitish mould on top is fine, but colourful blues and reds in moulds are no bueno and a sign that something’s gone wrong.
  • Some recipes say to leave on the bench for a few days, some say much longer. I allow my batches to go for closer to three weeks to let the good bacteria and complex flavours develop. Test as you go to see what you prefer.
  • A kitchen scale is extremely helpful when dealing with brines and weight based measures. Mine is from the op shop.
  • Unrefined salt means sea salt or another non-iodine variety.
  • Once you have the basic recipe, have fun and experiment with different spices or chilis and add ins.

Good sense bubbling to the surface

Sauerkraut is good for you, simple and cheap to make and is a perfect way to add an extra umami kick to food. One giant batch every six months is more than enough for me, and I’m someone who puts it on everything. I add a tablespoon to grain bowls, salads, avocado toast, you name it. Super food indeed.