Five Things NEVER to Buy at the Grocery Store Again

These days it’s easy to get caught up in all the flashy products available at the supermarket. Everything has a fancy, complicated version of itself. Pick up a bottle of tomato sauce at a grocery store and count the ingredient. Now grab the tortillas and see if you can pronounce all the chemicals. Finally, look at the fancy $10 organic peanut butter, and you’ll see the point I’m trying to get to: salt and peanuts. That’s it…

These days it’s easy to get caught up in all the flashy products available at the supermarket. Everything has a fancy, complicated version of itself. Pick up a bottle of tomato sauce at a grocery store and count the ingredients. Now grab the tortillas and see if you can pronounce all the chemicals. Finally, look at the fancy $10 organic peanut butter, and you’ll see the point I’m trying to get to: salt and peanuts. That’s it.

The peanut butter example is to show that there’s no reason to buy something like this in the store when it’s so simple. The other examples illustrate all of the useless and complicated things that are in basic products. I’m here to tell you about 5 things that are ridiculously easy to make in your own kitchen. There’s no need to EVER buy any of them in the store. You’ll save money, get creative, be healthier, waste fewer containers, and most importantly be able to show off to your friends.

#1 – Peanut butter

Why God, why? WHY do we insist on buying this crap when it literally has two ingredients! You have been LIED to your whole life that peanut butter is something to buy at the store! Not only is it always sold in wasteful plastic, it’s usually loaded with extra salt, sometimes sugar, and all sorts of other chemicals. “Oh, but I buy the fancy organic peanut butter” I hear you say. Again, WHY? This can be made at home in ten minutes, for a fifth of the price. Here’s how.

1. Put peanuts in the oven for 10 minutes at 190 degrees C.
2. Put peanuts in a food processor and pulse. Scrape down the sides. Pulse.
3. Repeat until it’s peanut butter.

That’s it. Never again will you pay $10 for a jar of peanut butter containing $2 worth of peanuts.

#2 – Milk

Okay, yes, I’m vegan, but that isn’t my point here. Obviously, most of us don’t have a cow out back that we can milk for cow’s milk. I’m referring to the alternatives, like rice milk, cashew milk, almond milk, etc. This is also something that’s insanely easy to make at home. Most alternatives to cow’s milk are healthier too! You don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate the smooth taste of freshly made almond milk. Instead of buying a $5 carton of milk every week, try this:

1. Fill a large mason jar 1/3 of the way up with almonds. Fill the jar with water.
2. Wait a few hours, or overnight.
3. Drain the almonds, fill the water up again (drinkable water this time).
4. Dump water and almonds into a blender.
5. Blend.
6. Strain out the almonds with a fine strainer or nut bag, back into the mason jar.

That’s it. You can do the exact same thing with rice, any nut, oats, chia seeds, pretty much any grain. No more wasting cartons, wasting money, or torturing cows for no reason.

#3 – Tortillas

Again, two ingredients, maybe three if you’re feeling frisky. Ignore the novel on the back of your overpriced tortillas and grab some flour. You can make literally hundreds of tortillas for the price of that package, and your gut will thank you for it. Here’s how:

1. Dump a bunch of flour into a bowl. I don’t know, let’s say 300 grams.
2. Add a cup of water and stir until it’s doughy. Not too sticky. Imagine pizza dough.
3. Sprinkle some dough onto your (clean) counter.
4. Grad a golf ball-sized wad of dough and flatten it over the flour. Use a rolling pin or your hands. You’ll get better with practice. Flip it occasionally.
5. Add a LITTLE oil to a pan and get it SUPER hot.
6. Cook the tortilla on that pan for 30-60 seconds on either side.

That’s it. If you like it salty, add some salt to the dough. Or anything. Cinnamon, garlic, any seeds or grains, all can be additions. Play with it however you want. Keep the packaging of your old tortillas in the bathroom for some light reading on those especially long visits.

#4 – Oatmeal

This stuff can be SUPER expensive when you buy the fancy kind. But let’s not do that. Let’s see what’s lying around your house and make it into something you can have for breakfast for a week or more. Grab any nuts you have (peanuts, cashews, almonds), some cinnamon, rolled oats, and some honey or agave.

1. Put all the things listed above into a bowl.
2. Mix them around a bunch with your (clean) hands.
3. Spread it all out onto a baking pan and bake at 200 C for 20-25 min.
4. Lick your fingers.

That’s it. Once it cools, put it in a big container and it’ll store for weeks. Use some of that milk you made earlier for an incredibly healthy and delicious breakfast.

#5 – Guacamole

Ah yes, the caviar of the hipster. People will shell out 10 bucks for a jar of this (welcome to China). You can make it at home for $3. Go and get three avocados, half an onion, as much garlic as you can stand, a lemon and a tomato from your kitchen.

1. Chop up the ingredients above and throw them into a food processor (obviously, squeeze the lemon; don’t chop it…).
2. Press the “On” button.
3. Wait one minute.

That’s… Yeah. That’s it. You just made some delicious guac to serve with the two-ingredient tortillas you made earlier. Make both these things for less than $5 at your next potluck and you’ll be famous. Take THAT, Cindy and Martin from down the street.

So yeah. You can make all this at home, mostly with stuff you have lying around anyway. Hopefully, you found at least one of these things useful, and even more importantly, I hope that next time you’re at the supermarket and pick up a product, you’ll think twice and maybe do a quick Google search of “How to make ______ at home.” You’ll be surprised what you can do yourself!


Precious Plastic: DIY Recycling

Plastic pollution has been making the headlines a lot recently and for good reason. According to the Guardian, about one truckload of plastic waste is dumped into the ocean every minute. That adds up to at least 8 million tons of plastics in our oceans annually!

While annual plastic production is increasing from 15 million tons 50 years ago to a predicted 1,124 million tons by 2050, only 5% of it is actually recycled. Not only is this incredibly devastating to the environment, but it is also ridiculous to throw away so much useful material after just one use! So, put down that bottle of water that you’re sipping on and DON’T recycle it. At least not in the way you were taught to at school.

Precious Plastic is a project that started in 2013 with a single mission: to transform plastic waste into reusable material on a local scale. Well, it also aims to raise awareness about plastic pollution, empower communities to take plastic waste into their own hands and ultimately save the world. Here’s how it works.

Dutch designer Dave Hakkens invented a series of machines capable of breaking plastic into smaller pieces in order to compress it, melt it and transform it into something new. He put these designs online and provided blueprints as well as a YouTube tutorial that anyone can follow for free! His idea spread all over the world as communities of passionate recyclers came together to make a difference. Hence, Precious Plastic Shanghai was born.

Precious Plastic Shanghai is a social enterprise highly committed to preserving the environment by creating awareness about plastic waste in China. Since 2016, they have been providing team building, hands-on activities and consultancy services for corporate, educational institutions as well as technological and exhibition centers. Their goal is to encourage teams and individuals to take ownership of their waste and get responsible. I attended their hard-plastic workshop last Sunday to see what all the fuss was about.

The workshop started with a lesson in distinguishing between different forms of plastic. Each type can be recognized by its identification number or, if it doesn’t have one, you can guess based on the way it looks, how it bends, or even the sound it makes. But in most cases, you can identify it based on its purpose.

After becoming slightly more educated in plastic, we got some HDPE (high-density polyethylene) bottles and the fun began. We cut the gigantic bottle into smaller pieces, put on goggles and started placing the pieces into the shredding machine. If nothing else sells you on this workshop, at least come to watch plastic getting ground up in a mesmerizing and surprisingly satisfying way. It’s absolutely magical.

Once shredded, the bits of plastic are sorted by color to provide a wide selection for when you create your recycled item. The rarest of all colors are pink and purple. Fun fact: black is the hardest color to recycle because the machines that do it cannot recognize it automatically.

Precious Plastic Shanghai offers a variety of workshops, but for this specific workshop we worked with boards of plastic slightly larger than an A4 piece of paper. We chose our preferred thickness and weighed the correct amount of plastic before filling the metal forms. My group’s plastic rainbow was heavy on blue while some of the others had every color imaginable!

Since it takes a while to compress, melt and then cool, we couldn’t actually work with the boards we prepared. Instead, we got to see the process of making them and then selected from previously made boards.

These boards can be made into anything from clipboards and clocks to artful designs or even jewelry. You just draw your design and use a powerful plastic cutting tool to carve out the desired shape. The possibilities are endless!

Although we only had flat boards to work with, you can use a variety of forms to create bowls, lamp shades and furniture! Once it cools, the plastic is hard and sturdy: a great material for pretty much anything. That’s what makes plastic so precious!

You don’t have to be rich to buy the materials to crate these amazing machines. They were specifically designed to be made with basic parts that can be purchased at most hardware stores anywhere in the world. The simple instructions allow anyone to buy the parts and follow the instructions to successfully create these plastic-transforming tools. But if you’re not an engineer or simply don’t have the time and patience to figure out how to do it, there might be an easier way for you to participate.

Precious Plastic Shanghai partners with XinCheJian, the first hacker space in China. This garage/studio/creative space offers membership for anyone who wishes to come in and get inspired. There are special workshops for people who want to learn to use these specific tools. Once you’re a member and have learned to use everything on your own, you can reserve a time to use the workshop and let your creativity flow.

Learn more about Precious Plastic on their website. To join XinCheJian or to learn more about Precious Plastic Shanghai, scan the QR code to follow them on WeChat.