A few surprising uses for eggshells

Bill Gates thinks a chicken is the best investment you can make. While he doesn’t go into too much detail on the nuts and bolts, you can imagine it’s more to do with egg production than a particularly satisfying rotisserie meal. But it’s not just the chicken or the egg that have value, the eggshell too can be useful. A great example of how a ‘waste product’ is really just another raw material.


Scratching at the surface

My partner’s brother keeps chooks in their backyard and it’s fun to watch them sunning and perching. Chickens are perhaps an under-appreciated one of design of nature – egg making machines powered by food scraps and pasture grubs. If I could, I’d keep chickens at home. In the meantime, I buy eggs laid by pasture raised chickens, or at the very least, free range chickens.

This is a long way from what I used to do, which was look for the cheapest food possible. It did me well as a uni student, where leftover cash could fund my drinking hobby, but my view on this started to course correct after reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and generally learning more about food production systems. I now buy the best quality food I can afford and pay attention to animal husbandry involved. And I drink less. #adulting

The chooks matched the house….and the (not pictured) elderly owner.

Shelling out for quality

I justify spending $6 – $10 a dozen on pastured eggs because I know they are better for me, the chooks and the environment. How the animals are raised impacts on the nutrition of their output.

Via Sustainable Table: Eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 400% more omega-3’s.

After I use an egg, I hold on to the eggshells and store them in the freezer until I plan to use them, bothering no one except my partner. He once asked why I was storing garbage in the freezer and I had to gently remind him that there is no such thing as garbage. The eggshells, apple cores, celery bits and citrus peels are all raw materials just waiting for a good way to be used.

Here are a few ways eggshells are useful long after the nutritious interior is gone.

Use eggshells in the garden 

They can go directly into your compost bin or worm farm, or perform a little extra before you put them there.

eggshells for vermicomposting

Improve the soil In the soil, eggshells act as a slow release source of calcium, which helps to raise the PH of the soil (making it less acidic). Grind finely for best effect. Apparently this helps in vermicomposting if the bedding becomes too acidic. I have also read that the grit of the eggshells helps the worms, toothless creature that they are, to grind away at the food scraps.

Start a seedling There are plenty of ways to start seedlings – this Pinterest popular solution shows that half an eggshell can replace those small plastic punnets.

What aren’t they good for? Deterring slugs! According to this blog anyway (what you really want is diatomaceous earth).

Use eggshells in the kitchen

Clean the inside of a bottle Trust Tammy from Gippsland Unwrapped to find a Zero Waste and effective solution to a sometimes tricky task – cleaning out the grit from insides of bottles.

Clean a bottle with eggshells

It’s nice to know the minimalists among us could do away with a bottle brush. Since I already have a bottle brush, I use this trick whenever the brush doesn’t fit. Just add crushed eggshells and water into the bottle, and shake it like a Polaroid picture. It’s crazy how well this works.

Calcium supplementation Milkwood’s Kirsten Bradley adds an eggshell to water kefir ferments where it slowly dissolves over several batches. Each eggshell would have about 2000 – 2500mg of calcium, so you wouldn’t want to overdo the daily dose, especially if you’re getting a lot of calcium elsewhere in your diet or have heart issues. I don’t supplement calcium, but thought it an interesting way to achieve specific supplementation without the typically bottle and seal waste.

Use eggshells in…the bathroom?

Make tooth powder I make a tooth powder using calcium carbonate powder, clay, cinnamon, and sometimes bi carb or charcoal. I used to do the bi carb and coconut oil recipe, but it seemed a waste of oil and I didn’t like the idea of spitting oil into the drain pipes. All ingredients bought as refills from either the Soap Dispensary in Vancouver when I was there last year, or one of the bulk shops in Sydney. Since we don’t have a Soap Dispensary equivalent (tragedy really) in Sydney, finding a Zero Waste source of calcium carbonate could have proved difficult. Enter the ancient texts….

I’d read that ancient Romans used to grind eggshells for toothpowder. Clever, I thought, but I didn’t take action on this until I came across Zero Waste Chef’s post on making the same and then considered my lack of bulk calcium carbonate powder options.

How to find a good egg

  • If you can, buy or trade from someone you know. From a farmers market is a close second.
  • Watch out for misleading Free Range claims. In Australian, under current regulations, the stocking density can vary from 1,500 to 10,000 hens per hectare and no meaningful outdoor access. Animal welfare experts recommend 1,500. Sometimes this is listed on the carton, sometimes not. You can bet the cheapest free range eggs at the major supermarkets are produced with the max stocking density. More detail on the Choice website, including the names of brands that comply, those that don’t, and those that have been fined for lying.

How to tell if your egg is still edible

Australian eggs are often sold on the shelf, not in a refrigerated section. Once refrigerated, keep them there, but if they are not in the fridge when you buy them, there’s no real urgency in getting them into one, unless it’s really hot out or you plan to keep them for ages and ages. This also makes them handy for taking camping.

To see if your egg is still edible (and it probably is) you can check if it floats or sinks. Don’t eat a floating egg.

So give these ideas a crack or share in the comments any other uses you have for eggshells.

Forgotten, but not lost: a bread pudding recipe

sourdough loaf

A half a round of artisan sourdough bread sat forgotten in the small fridge at work. Stored in a paper bag and left for too long, it had lost both moisture and appeal.

Stale? Very.

I don’t know whose it was, but I took it home with me anyway to save it from the bin.

A breadful waste

It’s often our default to toss food that’s past its prime. Our food prices are artificially low and it’s so easy to just buy more. With Australians wasting $8 billion of perfectly good food each year, and bread being a staple for most, it’s not a leap to imagine we’re binning a lot of perfectly good bread.

We’re long way from where we’ve come.

Humans can and did live on bread alone (the slow fermenting variety). In fact, the daily loaf was so critical to the meagre diet of the French peasantry, it was soaring wheat prices that catalyzed the French Revolution. I feel certain the French of the time would disapprove our bread wasting ways.

How do you do, pain perdu?

The French, as it happens, know a few tricks for using stale bread. One of which is pain perdu, or bread pudding – just the bread soaked in a mixture of milk and eggs and cooked. This is precisely what I did with the stale bread I found.

painperdu2

Here’s my ‘forgotten, but not lost’ bread pudding recipe:

Ingredients //

  • half a loaf of stale bread, chopped into rough chunks
  • 4 eggs (ish)
  • milk, maybe a half cup
  • 1 Tbsp sugar, rice malt syrup or other sweetener (optional)
  • sprinkle cinnamon
  • sprinkle nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • dash vanilla

Instructions // Mix everything together to soak for an hour. Bake in a 200 degree celsius oven for 30 minutes or until it starts to puff up and the inside is cooked.

Pro tip // This could easily go savoury if you omit the sweets and change the spice profile.

How I made it low waste:

  • I used food destined for the bin.
  • I seasoned with spices I’ve refilled in bulk.
  • I flavoured with vanilla I made myself.
  • I composted the egg shells.
  • I recycled the milk container.
  • I baked it in a stainless steel pan I bought secondhand for $2 at the op shop.
  • I composted the paper bag the loaf came in (if it hadn’t been a bit greasy I would have recycled it).
  • Importantly, I ate all of it.

7 tips for getting the most out of the bread you buy

  1. Buy proper sourdough. It keeps longer, freezes well, and is one of the more nutritious types.
  2. Buy your loaf unpackaged from a local bakeshop. Bring a cloth bag to carry it back home.
  3. Or try making your own sourdough bread from culture.
  4. Don’t store bread in the fridge where it’ll lose moisture.
  5. Do consider freezing half the loaf if you don’t think you’ll eat it all before it goes stale. Slice first so you can toast from frozen.
  6. If the bread’s a bit stale, make bread pudding (scroll up), or croutons, or breadcrumbs.
  7. All else fails, feed it to chickens or compost.

Easy waste-free bliss balls recipe

Need a use for the leftover nut pulp from homemade nut milk?

Whatever your reason for making your own nut milk – you’re vegan, you live Zero Waste, you’re allergic to dairy, or you just think a cold brew coffee tastes rad with a splash of nutty goodness – one thing is certain: if you strain, you’ll have leftover nut pulp.

A portable, packaging-free snack

I like to use the pulp to make packaging-free bliss balls. They’re an alternative to packaged granola/energy bars, and ideal for surfing, hiking and wandering around the city. Packed in a reusable container, they are really the perfect snack for on the go.

The benefit of using the nut pulp is that we’re using waste from one process as the input for another. It also means our bliss ball recipe is uber simple – we don’t even need nut butter, which is a common ingredient in this genre of snack.

Making these on a Thursday or Friday means they’re as ready for weekend adventures as you are. Or make some on the weekend to take to work for when 3pm rolls around.

If I’ve made nut milk and I’m not going to make these energy balls right away, I’ll chuck the nut meal in the freezer for later, Sarah Wilson styles. This saves me from avoidable steps like dehydrating the pulp.

The base of the balls is the nut meal + dates (not too many). I usually add some coconut too, and then whatever I feel like or have on hand, like: chocolate // chili powder // lemon zest // mesquite powder // walnuts // pistachios // hazelnuts // macadamia nuts // peanuts // sesame seeds // chai spice flavouring // tahini // peanut butter // cardamom // sea salt.

I can shop for all of these ingredients packaging-free at the many bulk refill stores in my city.

Easy bliss ball recipes

Here are two of my go-to combinations:

Chocolate brownie

  • nut meal from one batch of nut milk
  • dates (2 or 3)
  • coconut
  • cocoa powder
  • cinammon
  • lemon zest
  • walnuts
  • vanilla
  • salt
Donut holes

  • nut meal from one batch of nut milk
  • dates (2 or 3)
  • coconut
  • oats
  • nutmeg
  • cinnamon
  • ginger
  • vanilla
  • salt

Instructions // add everything to a food processor or high powered blender (which you likely have if you’re making nut milk) and blend until you’re happy with the consistency. It should look a bit like the texture of cookie dough. Roll into balls in whatever size works for you.

If the mix is too dry – try adding some coconut oil, lemon juice, nut milk (ha!), another date, or just water. Too wet? Add some oats or coconut to bring it all together. This isn’t baking, so you don’t need to measure so much as estimate and recalibrate as you go, which is perfect, since why bother measuring how much nut meal you have leftover. You have as much as you have, right?

I store mine in the fridge or the freezer until I’m ready to use them.

Zero waste hints

These energy balls can are only packaging-free if you store them in something reusable…like an old jam jar, or some beeswax cloth covers, or an old plastic container.

It’s also useful to consider the way the ingredients come packaged (or not). If you live in Sydney, check out my list of waste free shopping options to find a bulk whole foods store nearby.

Bonus points if you use locally grown nuts for your nut milk. Here in Australia, we are lucky that many varieties are grown in the country, if not locally. Here is a list of where nuts sold in Australia generally come from. I personally have dramatically reduced my almond intake after learning that 80% or so of the world’s supply comes from drought-stricken California. I never say never, but do treat them as a ‘once in a while’ food, not a staple, and look for Aussie grown.

Easy, healthy, cheap….impressive.

I love these because I still can’t bear to eat a Cliff bar after eating way too many on a months long road trip. Even if I could, I would still chose to make my packaging-free version instead. I haven’t done the math, but assume with me for a moment that these are way cheaper than Cliff bars too!

Making packaging free snacks involves some pre-planning, because if we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail, but it’s definitely not difficult. It’s actually fun. And people will be impressed with you.

Can you spot the ripe banana?

Spotty ripe bananas

Anyone who knows me might be surprised to hear me say this:

It’s time to stop throwing away bananas.

Not because I enjoy tossing bananas, but because I never used to touch them at all.

My mom would try to hide them in peanut butter sandwiches. Other times, they’d appear uninvited in fruit smoothies – taking over, as they are wont to do.

I was a vocal opponent, and as a result, my sister’s horse, Pilgrim, ate more bananas (and with much more gusto) than I ever did growing up.

My banana coming of age, and a realization.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the practically of bananas hard to ignore, and the flavour something I can actually tolerate….enjoy even.

They make a pretty perfect after surf snack. Frozen bananas are just about life changing.

So here I am, adult me, fully on the banana train. And I’ve come to notice that many people like to eat greeny-yellow bananas.

No biggie – do what you like.

The problem isn’t that people are choosing to eat greeny-yellow, unripe bananas, but that they are tossing their bananas when they develop spots.

When our cheerful yellow friends start to freckle, we see it as a sign of old age, and toss them prematurely. Like your sweet gran, they have plenty more love to give, if only you had a little more time for them. Ripe bananas are sweeter and easier to digest. Spotty on the outside doesn’t mean spotty on the inside!

ripe bananas
Someone is missing out on delicious banana bread!

Things to do with your ripe, spotted banana:

  • Eat // Trust me, you’ll be fine. Better than fine. I used to be anti-banana, so I feel my recommendation holds some weight.
  • Freeze // Always have frozen bananas on hand, I say. Use them in smoothies, on yogurt or chia pudding, or just sliced up. Pro tip: peel them before you freeze them.
  • Cook // The older and sweeter your bananas, the more delicious your banana bread.

If you’re a spotty banana tosser, you’re missing out. Those spots are trying to tell you that your bananas are finally old enough to stay up late and party.

Apparently you can eat banana peels too, but let’s just put one foot in front of the other for now. Instead I compost them.