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How to Make (Scrappy) Apple Cider Vinegar from Scratch

I love knowing how stuff works. Even though I can buy apple cider vinegar  from bulk stores locally, I want to know how to make my own. Not because I’m a glutton for punishment who wants to make everything from scratch ‘just because’. I think its important to understand where our food comes from and how its made. Making actual food out of “waste” food appeals to my love of avoiding waste. Plus of course, my inner chemist likes to play with her food.

Once I know how to make something, then I decide whether it’s worth the effort involved to keep on doing it, and how easy/affordable it is to buy. I don’t have time to make everything. I buy my pasta, and laundry powder. I make pesto and crackers and peanut butter.

Apple scraps/cider vinegar is such an easy and low effort thing to make that there’s just no reason not to.

Apple cider vinegar is made from the apple pulp left from making cider, which uses whole apples. Apple scraps vinegar is pretty much the same thing, but only uses the cores and skin of apples rather than the whole thing. The end product is pretty much the same.

Unless you’re making cider, I wouldn’t recommend using whole apples to make apple cider/scraps vinegar. It works just as well with the cores and peels, and you can use those apples for something else delicious. Making apple cider/scraps vinegar from the waste bits is much more satisfying!

I’ve made apple scraps vinegar a couple of ways, and I’ve included both methods below. One uses the cores and peels only, and the second uses the leftover pulp from juicing apples.

Frozen apple cores ready to go, and a previous batch of finished apple scraps vinegar.

 Apple Scrap Vinegar from Apple Scraps

Although I’ve given you quantities, they don’t really matter all that much. More apples will work more quickly, and make a darker vinegar than less, but don’t sweat it if you have different amounts. Try and see!

A couple of pointers before we start:

  • If you don’t eat a lot of apples, pop the cores (and peels, if you like to peel your apples) in a jar in the freezer, and wait until you fill the jar.
  • The sugar is to kick-start the fermenting process so don’t leave it out! 1 tbsp is adequate but I find it works faster with 2 tbsp. Honey should also work if you’d like a more natural alternative to sugar but I haven’t tried it.

Ingredients:

Apple peels and/or cores from 6-8 large apples (around 300g)
1.5 litres water (rainwater or filtered water if possible)
2 tbsp sugar

Method:

Part 1:

Pop the apple cores and peels in a clean glass jar with a wide neck, add the water and sugar and stir. Cover with a clean tea towel. The secret now is to keep stirring, whenever you remember. Any time you walk into the kitchen, give your jar a stir. First thing in the morning, last thing at night – stir!

You want to stir to keep it aerated, and to stop any mold growing on the surface. Fermentation works because the good bacteria/yeast/microorganisms win against the bad ones, so we need to keep conditions favourable for the good guys! With most ferments the aim is to exclude oxygen, but not this time. To make cider, the oxygen is excluded, but to make vinegar it is not.

Keep stirring your jar over a few days and start to notice how it changes. It may start to smell like cider, or like vinegar, or both. Bubbles will appear on the surface and maybe froth or scum. All of this is good! Once any trace of alcohol smell has gone, there are less bubbles,  and the apple pieces begin to settle and the vinegar will be ready for the next step.

Part 2:

Strain the contents of your jar into another clean jar (or a bottle) using a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Squeeze out the liquid from the pulp. (If you taste the pulp, you will find that it is completely flavourless.)

Now there are two options.

Option 1: Put a lid on your jar, and leave on the kitchen counter for a few days, opening the lid every day to release any pressure. If there’s any fermentation still happening, the pressure could build up and the jar might explode in your kitchen cupboard, so this is a safe option.

Option 2: If you can’t keep an eye on your vinegar, or you want a break, pop the bottle in the fridge to slow down the fermentation. I’d recommend loosening the lid so any gas can escape. It will ferment very, very slowly. When you’re ready, bring it back to room temperature to continue the fermentation.

Straining the spent apples from the vinegar. Cheesecloth is the best option but muslin or a fine sieve will also work – you’ll just end up with slightly more sediment in the vinegar.

After a week, taste your vinegar. If you find it sweet, leave on the counter to continue fermenting. Once you’re happy with the way it tastes, secure the lid and store in a dark cupboard.

Apple Cider Vinegar from Apple Juice Pulp

This is a great way to use up pulp from juicers. Unlike the first recipe, this contains all the fibre and flesh of the apples, but with the water (juice) squeezed out. This means it looks totally different – but it produces the same result.

Ingredients:

Leftover juice pulp of 6 apples (around 300g)
1.5 litres water (rainwater or filtered water if possible)
2 tbsp sugar

The apple pulp from juicing 6 small apples. Don’t worry about the brown colour, it is simply the apples oxidising.

Method:

Pop the apple pulp in a large 2 litre jar, and add the water and sugar. The pulp will expand and absorb all of the water, and will look totally crazy and you’ll be sure you’ve done it wrong. In fact, I currently don’t have photos of this because when I tried it, I was sure it was going to fail! If it looks wrong, it’s right!

Stir. As above, stir, stir, stir. When not stirring, keep covered with a tea towel. Because the pulp is so fine, it is hard to see bubbles developing, but you will notice the smell changing to cider and then vinegar. Keep stirring. After 4-5 days (longer if the room is cold) you will notice the pulp start to rise and clear liquid will be visable at the bottom of the jar. Keep stirring to push the pulp down. Because the pulp floats, it may get pushed up out of the jar if you don’t stir.

Once the pulp is consistently floating, strain the contents of the jar into another clean jar using cheesecloth (or an old tea towel).

Leave the jar on the counter with the lid loosely fastened until content with the taste, secure the lid and store in a dark cupboard.

A note about colour:

The colour will vary with each batch made, dependent on how many apples you use and how brown they are. I tend to find that using apple pulp makes a darker vinegar than using apple scraps; and that fresh apple scraps make a lighter colour vinegar than frozen apple scraps. Rather than use the colour as a guide, go by taste. You’ll be eating it, after all!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever made apple scraps vinegar? Have you ever made cider? Do you have any tips to add? Did you struggle, and what went wrong? Are there any other pantry staples that you currently buy that you’d like to make? Are there any that you make already that you’d like to share? Have you ever tried any other fermentation? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Plastic Free {Bicarb Free} DIY Deodorant – for Sensitive Skin

I love my homemade deodorant. I first tried it back in 2012 when I was still a little skeptical about DIY concoctions (if I’m honest, I thought they were just for hippies). What made me convert?

The fact it actually worked.

That’s all we want from a deodorant, really. Sure, we don’t want chemicals and excess packaging – but it has to work, right?! There are plenty of natural deodorants on the market, but most are very expensive, don’t smell great and don’t actually work against body odour very effectively, either.

Plus very few have completely plastic-free packaging.

The deodorant I’ve been using since 2012 is a super simple recipe, and all the ingredients are edible (except the essential oil). There’s no heating or melting involved, just a little mixing, which suits my laziness when it comes to these things.

The ingredients are 1 tbsp bicarb, 4 tbsp cornflour (or arrowroot / tapioca flour) and 2-3 tbsp coconut oil. The coconut oil depends on the ambient temperature – you’ll need less in summer and more in winter. You want a paste. Mix in a jar and add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. To apply, get a small amount on your fingertips and rub in. (You can find the recipe here.)

This recipe has been serving me well for 4 years, but bicarb can be a skin irritant for some. It’s fine for me, but my husband reacts to it. I tried changing the ratio from 1:4 to 1:6 and even 1:8 bicarb:flour (note – the more you dilute it, the less effective it is) but the issue was the same. His skin became red, inflamed and sore and it took a few months for it to settle back down again.

Ever since then I’ve said I’ll experiment with a DIY non-bicarb deodorant. I don’t move very fast it seems!

But the good news is I have finally kept my word and made a bicarb free deodorant. Not only that, but I (and my husband) have tested it and can confirm that a) it works (hurrah!) and b) there have been no adverse skin reactions. Phew! I can also buy all the ingredients completely packaging-free.

For anyone else out there who struggles with super sensitive skin and cannot use bicarb deodorants, this recipe is for you. Give it a go.

It’s not quite as simple as just mixing some ingredients in a jar but it’s really not that much harder, promise. There’s some melting involved. Nothing complex – I like to keep things as simple as I can!

Final product: bicarb free DIY deodorant.

Bicarb free DIY deodorant.

TIP: I would also add: it’s not quite as effective as the bicarb version I use, and it works best applied to clean skin. Whilst the bicarb one can mask smells if reapplied, this one won’t!

Bicarb Free DIY Deodorant: Recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 tbsp grated beeswax
1 tbsp shea butter
4 tbsp coconut oil
4 tsp white kaolin clay
8 drops tea tree essential oil
8 drops cedarwood essential oil
10 drops lemon myrtle essential oil

A note about the ingredients:

Beeswax: beeswax is solid at room temperature (it melts at 62°C) so helps make the mix firmer. I used beeswax as it’s really local (my neighbour who lives 4 doors away produced this). The only other solid subsititue I can think of would be cacao butter so maybe next time I’ll give this a go as it would be a great alternative for vegans.

Shea butter: shea butter melts at 38°C so is more solid than coconut oil. It’s very moisturising and is thought be anti-inflammatory – which is good news for sensitive skin.

Coconut oil: this is a soft oil that melts at 25°C. It helps keep the deodorant soft so it can be rubbed into the skin. Coconut oil is also thought to have anti-bacterial properties.

Kaolin clay: kaolin clay is a white clay (bentonite clay has similar properties) that replaces bicarb and does a similar job. It absorbs liquid and neutralises bad smells. Clumping kitty litter is actually made of bentonite clay! There are other types of clay available but these are more expensive. I’ve heard that green clay is the most absorbant of them all so at some stage I’d like to try this… it’s in the queue ; )

Essential oils: I’m lucky enough to be able to buy refills (packaging free) so I have some flexibility with my choice. I chose tea tree oil as it is anti-bacterial and cedarwood as it is anti-inflammatory. Both also have strong smells and are often used in commercial natural deodorant recipes. I find both scents quite overpowering and not hugely pleasant so I used lemon myrtle (which I love!) to mask them. Lemon myrtle is an Australian bush scent with the most amazing smell! If you have limited choice, go for a single oil and choose one that you can use elsewhere. Tree tree oil is affordable, available in larger sizes (meaning less packaging overall) and great for cleaning too. (When choosing essential oils, it is important to read up on the properties, particularly if you are pregnant.)

Ingredients for making bicarb-free deodorant (for sensitive skin).

Ingredients for making bicarb-free deodorant (for sensitive skin).

Method:

Heat some water in a pan on the stove, and place a glass bowl over the pan. You don’t want to heat the oils directly as you’ll damage them. Add the beeswax to the bowl and stir until melted (I used a metal spoon as it’s easier to clean than wood).

Add the coconut oil and continue to melt, stirring occasionally. Once both are melted, add the shea butter and remove the bowl from the heat.

The shea butter should melt with the heat of the other two ingredients. You can place back on the heat if it needs some help but be careful of overheating shea butter as it can turn grainy. Stir to aid the melting process and to combine.

Add the clay 1 tsp at a time and whisk to incorporate. Once all 4 tsp have been added, leave to cool, whisking occasionally. It will begin to thicken after only a few minutes (less if your room is cold). Once you notice the thickening and there is no head radiating from the mix, add your essential oils to the mix and whisk in. If you add them when it’s still hot, you will lose all their beneficial properties!

Final product: bicarb free DIY deodorant.

Final product: bicarb free DIY deodorant.

Pour into a shallow jar with a wide neck or a tin, and leave to set. It will set into a paste that feels tacky and is easy to scoop with your fingers. (If you live in a very cold climate and find it too hard, you may like to add more coconut oil or less beeswax next time to get the right consistency, but it will soften with the warmth of your skin.)

Store with the lid on in a dark place. To apply, take a small amount with your fingertips and rub into your skin. will keep for ages.

Now tell me…are you going to make it?! If yes, I want to hear what you think! If not, why not? Have you ever tried making DIY deodorant before? What ingredients did you use and what success did you have (or not have)? What about other DIY skincare products – are you a fan or do you tend to put them in the “too-hard” basket? What are your simplest solutions to bathroom essentials? I love hearing your thoughts so please leave me a comment below!

Plastic Free Zero Waste Natural Sun Cream

I’m a fan of sun hats. I’m a fan of long sleeves. I’m a fan of staying in the shade. When it comes to facing the sun, I’d much rather do any (all) of these than apply sunscreen.

I can’t bear the thought of all those chemicals in store-bought sunscreen being absorbed through my skin, and for the longest time, I’ve played Russian roulette with the sun. I didn’t apply sunscreen, and I tried to avoid getting burned. This means all of the above, and trying to dodge the sun between 10am and 4pm.

The truth is, that’s not always possible – when the weather is beautiful, I want to be outside!

Living in Australia with its fierce sun and hole in the ozone layer is very different to living in rainy England… and it means if I do get caught out and I’m not wearing sunscreen, I get burned.

Getting sunburned is not clever. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they are 70, and skin cancer accounts for 80% of newly diagnosed cancers every year. After being caught out and sunburned one too many times, I realised that I needed to embrace using sunscreen.

I still advocate the hat, the long sleeves and the shade, but in the times when that isn’t enough, sunscreen is better than sunburn. Chemicals aren’t good for us, but sunburn is definitely not either!

I wondered, is there a way to protect ourselves from the sun without all the chemicals… or the packaging?

Chemical Blockers versus Physical Blockers

There is a huge difference between the regular “conventional” sunscreens, which use physical and chemical blockers (and are a cocktail of synthetic chemicals), and the “natural” alternatives, which use only physical blockers.

The physical blockers used in sun cream are zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Zinc oxide blocks both UVA rays (these are the deep-penetrating rays that cause skin cancer) and UVB rays (these are the ones that cause redness and sunburn, and are the ones that SPFs are rated against). Titanium oxide is a good UVB sunblock but is not as effective as zinc oxide in blocking UVA rays.

Conventional sunscreens may also use zinc or titanium oxide as a physical blocker, but use chemical blockers too. Most chemical blockers only protect against UVB rays. These chemicals don’t sound natural or healthy, and in many cases, they’re not. Some chemicals in sunscreen are hormone disruptors, for example.

We’re not just exposing ourselves to these chemicals either – these sunscreens wash off and the chemicals enter our waterways and the ocean.

Treading My Own Path Zero Waste Plastic Free Sunscreen Alex Blajan

Hats are an awesome physical blocker for sun protection – but even the widest brimmed hat can’t cover everything!

Sunscreen and Nano Particles

Traditionally zinc oxide creams were very thick and created a white barrier on the skin, meaning they were hard to apply (and looked a bit silly).  By making the zinc particles smaller, newer creams have come onto the market which absorb more easily and don’t leave white residue. These creams contain smaller zinc nanoparticles (classed as particles smaller than 100nm or 0.1 micron) and microfine particles (usually ranging from 0.1 micron to 2.5microns (100nm – 2500nm).

The concern with these is that they can be absorbed through the skin, and the smaller the particles, the more easily they are absorbed.

Suncreams containing zinc oxide usually state that they are “nano” or “non-nano”. Studies show that zinc oxide particles between 4nm and 20nm have the potential to be absorbed into the skin, and will be absorbed through damaged skin.

Anything smaller than 4nm will definitely be absorbed, and anything bigger than 45nm will not be absorbed. (You can read this study here.)

Conventional sunscreens use nano particles sized between 5 – 20nm – small enough to be absorbed through the skin. Non nano zinc oxide particles are larger than this and fall outside the absorption range, although some nano particles may still be present.

Most eco and natural brands use non-nano particles in their sunscreen.

Can I Buy Zero Waste Sunscreen?

Because sunscreen is heavily regulated and each batch requires testing, most small producers shy away from making their own. This makes it hard to find locally produced sunscreens that avoid the excess packaging. There is an American brand called Avasol who make a natural, non nano sunscreen packaged only in cardboard, with an SPF of 30. This is the best zero waste alternative I’ve come across. I don’t use it myself but I have friends who do.

Avasol Plastic-Free Sunscreen

Avasol sunscreen is an American brand that comes packaged in a cardboard tube.

What About DIY Alternatives (and how do I know the SPF)?

Yes, it is possible to make your own, but there are two things you need to know.

  1. You will not be able to calculate the SPF. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor: it is a  measure of the effectiveness of sunscreen against UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the more protection against sunburn the sunscreen offers. The number (SPF 20, SPF 30 etc) means how many times longer a person can stay out in the sun without getting burned relative to how long they can stay out with no sunscreen assuming 2mg per cm² is applied. Sunscreen is tested in vivo by volunteers who apply sunscreen to their skin and see how long it takes to burn (ouch). In vitro tests use a spectrometer. It is not a case of adding up the SPFs of various ingredients. The only way to find out how long homemade sunscreen will protect you for is to test it yourself.
  2. You will need to use a physical barrier – either zinc oxide or titanium oxide – for it to work effectively. Many plant oils have low SPFs (coconut oil and olive oil have a natural SPF of up to 7, and other plant oils have SPF properties) and applying these to the skin may help you avoid burning if you have olive skin, don’t burn and only expose skin to sun outside of the 10am – 4pm (and you live outside of Australia). Combining ingredients does not increase the overall SPF, and there is no magical high SPF plant oil. Also, their effectiveness against UVA rays (the ones that cause DNA damage and cancer) are unknown.

Zero Waste Plastic Free Sunscreen: My Recipe

Zero Waste Plastic Free Sun Cream Sunscreen in Jar
My solution to the issues of chemicals, packaging and sourcing products locally was to make my own. I’ve been able to source all of these ingredients without packaging, but I realise that this may not be possible for everyone. If you can’t find ingredients sold without packaging in stores, find out if there are any local skincare producers or soap makers close to you who may be able to sell you some ingredients without packaging (that’s what I do).

You can also try switching up some of the ingredients if you have other options available to you. Whilst some ingredients can be subbed, zinc oxide is a non-negotiable – that’s what makes it sunscreen! If you need to buy ingredients in packaging, look for one that is recyclable, and remember – one container of zinc oxide will create many containers of zero waste sunscreen.

Important: this sunscreen has worked for me, and I am sharing my personal experiences. Do a small patch test when using for the first time. Avoid going in the sun at peak times and wear a hat and long sleeves. Sunscreen is a last resort, not an excuse to lay in the sun for 8 hours!

Zero Waste Plastic Free Sunscreen Ingredients Treading My Own Path Plastic Free July

Ingredients for zero waste plastic free natural DIY sunscreen.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup almond oil (or olive oil)
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup beeswax
2 tbsp (27g) shea butter
2 tbsp non-nano zinc oxide powder
1 tsp vitamin E oil

OPTIONAL: 20 drops of essential oil (check this list first as some essential oils are phototoxic and can assist burning!)

More info on the ingredients:

Almond oil – I used sweet almond oil as that is what I use as my standard moisturizer. It is a great oil for the skin. However, it’s also far more expensive than olive oil (and according to in vitro tests, has a lower SPF of 4.7 versus the olive oil SPF of 7.5) so next time, I’ll be using olive oil.

Coconut oil – this oil is solid at less than 25°C and helps the lotion hold its form. It is very moisturising and has a natural SPF of around 7 – two properties that make it a great oil to include in sunscreen.

Beeswax – beeswax helps make this into a lotion at room temperature. This means no need to store in the fridge – handy if you want to take your sunscreen with you! It also helps make the sunscreen waterproof. Even if we’re not going in the water,the sun makes us sweat and we don’t want the sunscreen to wash off.

Shea Butter – is highly moisturising and good for dry and aging skin. It is a solid at room temperature but melts on contact with the skin, making it a good base for lotions. Look for shea butter that has been naturally processed rather than refined with hexane (a solvent).

Zinc Oxide Powder – this is the active ingredient. Zinc oxide is a physical blocker that works by reflecting / scattering UV light. It is non-irritating and suitable for sensitive skin. Zinc oxide sunscreens leave a white tinge on the skin – the bigger the zinc particles, the whiter this will be. The zinc oxide powder I used was 0.3 – 0.85 microns.

Vitamin E – this vitamin is often found in skincare products and is believed to have antioxidant and skin-healing properties, although evidence is limited and studies are ongoing. It helps prolong the shelf life of the other oils in the lotion. I used it because I have it, but you could do without.

Method:

Overheating oils can damage their properties, so I tend to melt mine one by one, starting with the most heat-resistant and working down to the least.

  • Place a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water (a double burner) and add the beeswax. Stir until melted, and add the coconut oil. (If your coconut oil is solid, the beeswax may solidify again on contact, but continue to heat and it will melt.)
  • Turn the heat off, and add the almond oil (or olive oil), using a whisk to combine. Once this is mixed in, remove the bowl from the heat.
  • Add the shea butter to the bowl and stir to combine. Once it has melted, whisk the mixture. Continue to whisk until you notice the mix beginning to cool, lose transparency and change to a golden colour.
  • Once the bowl feels cool and the mixture looks golden and opaque, add the zinc oxide powder using a whisk to combine.
  • Add the vitamin E and essential oils, if you are using.
  • Pour into a clean and dry glass jar, and seal with a lid.
Melting beeswax in a double boiler

Melting the beeswax over a double boiler (a glass bowl on top of a saucepan with water in it – the water is heated and that is what warms the oils)

Melting oils in a double boiler

Melting the shea butter. (The beeswax, coconut oil and almond oil have already been added.) The oils look golden and transparent. Once they begin to cool, they lose the transparency and begin to look opaque.

Melted oils before adding zinc oxide powder

Once removed from the heat, the oils will cool and lose their transparency. Keep whisking to keep everything combined.

Zero Waste Plastic Free Sunscreen Mixing Zinc Powder into Oils

Once it’s cloudy and does not feel hot, add the zinc oxide powder. Stir in with a spoon and then whisk to combine. The powder will mix but will not dissolve so there will be some white specks.

Melted oils before after adding zinc oxide powder

Cream after adding the zinc oxide powder and whisking.

Zero waste plastic free sunscreen Whisking ingredients together

Now add the vitamin E and any essential oils, and whisk to distribute thoroughly. Pout into a clean glass jar and leave to cool completely.

Rubbing Non Nano Zinc Oxide Sunscreen into the Skin

When applying to the skin, it appears white. The more it’s rubbed in, the less white it appears. I like the white sheen that remains as it helps me see where I’ve applied the cream and which bits I’ve missed!

Zero Waste Plastic Free Sun Cream Sunscreen in Jar

Zero waste plastic free sunscreen: the finished product.

Zero Waste Plastic Free Sun Cream Sunscreen on a teaspoon Plastic Free July

You can see from the spoon that the consistency is fairly thick. Changing the oil and wax combinations will change the consistency.

If you think this seems a bit complex (and I’d love to simplify it at some stage) then there is an even simpler solution. Simply mix some zinc oxide powder into your regular moisturiser. Job done ; )

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you made sunscreen? Do you have a recipe you’d recommend, or any great ingredients you think should be included? Have you had any recipe fails, or do have any important “do-nots” to share? Are you unsure about making your own? Have you found any great zero waste or plastic free sunscreens available for purchase that you’d like to share? Have you tried Avasol and what did you think? Anything else that you’d like to add? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!

DIY Sourdough Starter + Zero Waste Crackers

Making a sourdough starter from scratch is one of the easiest things you can do, and it doesn’t need any special ingredients. Literally all that is required is flour, water, a bowl, a spoon, and a little bit of patience. Even if you’re not sure you want to start baking sourdough every week (although I assure you, once you start, you won’t want to stop!) the sourdough starter can be used to make sourdough crackers.

Crackers are far quicker and simpler to make than sourdough bread, but equally delicious… plus crackers are one of those things that are impossible to find zero waste or plastic-free in my experience. Homemade, simple, delicious, waste-free… what’s not to love?!

To make a sourdough starter from scratch, we utilize the natural yeasts and lactic acid bacteria present on the flour. Another term for it is wild fermentation – how cool does that sound?! That’s how people made bread and other fermented products for thousands of years, before commercial yeasts were available. They harnessed the power of nature.

If we’re going to use the natural yeasts and bacteria present on the flour, then I recommend buying the best flour that you can find. Once your sourdough culture is established you can relax a little, although I’d always recommend buying the best ingredients that you can afford. If your tap water is chlorinated, fill a bottle and leave at room temperature or in a sunny place for a few hours to let the chlorine gas dissipate – you don’t want to kill the starter before it’s started!

How to Start your Sourdough Starter

Mix together 50g flour with 50g water in a bowl (1 gram of water is the same as 1 ml water). You can use more but don’t use too much less as it will be much harder to work with. However much you use, you want the flour:water ratio to be 1:1.

At this point it will look like a dough, and it will smell like wet flour. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave on the side at room temperature (if you’re home is cold or it is winter, a warmer place will help get it going faster). Stir every few hours. If a skin forms on top, simply stir it in.

It may not seem like much is happening at the start, but if you pay attention to the smell you will notice that it starts to smell less like flour and has developed a sour smell. This is a sign that it is working. Hurrah! Look out for bubbles forming in the dough. In the beginning there will only be a couple, but it’s another sign that your starter is beginning to do its thing.

After a couple of days of stirring, you will need to feed your starter. Even if you’re only noticing a couple of bubbles, the starter will dry out over time, and as it sticks to the side of the bowl and hardens the volume tends to decrease, so feeding helps refresh it. Take another bowl, add 10g of your starter to it, and then add 50g flour and 50g water to this (you can use other volumes, but the ratio should be 1:5:5 starter:flour:water). Stir thoroughly, and cover with the tea towel.

Leave the remaining leftover starter in the original bowl, cover with a plate and store in the fridge. This will be used for making the sourdough crackers later.

Keep stirring the new starter every few hours (this doesn’t need to be exact, just whenever you remember). You should notice that the bubbles are becoming more frequent (you may not see a lot, but more than you saw at the start). Depending on how active your starter is getting, you can either feed again in 24 hours, or leave for a couple of days.

To feed, repeat as before. Take 10g of your active starter and add to a new bowl with 50g flour and 50g water, and stir well. Any leftover starter can be poured into that bowl sitting in the fridge with the original starter.

Each time you feed, you should notice your starter getting a little more active. You’ll want to feed it at least 5 times, once a day (timing is not that important) before it’s ready – and by ready, I mean active.

Sourdough Starter from Scratch Treading My Own Path

The four stages of starting your own sourdough starter from scratch. Stage 1: mix flour with water. Stage 2: cover with a tea towel or gauze – you want air to get in, but nothing nasty! You will need to stir every few hours. Stage 3: you will notice bubbles begin to appear. Your starter will begin to dry out a little. Stir the drier parts in, but as it gets drier you’ll need to feed it. That means taking a small part of this and mixing with fresh water and fresh flour (save the discard to make crackers). Step 4: after a week and a few feeds, your starter should be bubbling away quite happily.

Maintaining Your Sourdough Starter

Once your sourdough starter is ready, you can either store on the kitchen counter, or in the fridge. Store in a jar with a loose-fitting lid, or with a fabric circle secured with an elastic band. You want air to get in, but no creepy-crawlies. If you keep it on the kitchen counter you’ll need to feed it every day. If you keep it in the fridge you can feed every 1-3 weeks (once a week is best, but it will be fine if you feed it every three or so). I keep mine in the fridge.

When you want to feed your starter,  allow to return to room temperature if it has been in the fridge. Keep the ratio the same 1:5:5. Keep the discard in the fridge until you are ready to make crackers.

Zero Waste Sourdough Crackers

Sourdough Crackers Treading My Own Path

Homemade sourdough crackers – simple to make, zero waste, plastic-free and no nasty additives. What’s not to love?!

Once you’ve made your sourdough starter you should have a bowl of discarded starter sitting in your fridge, waiting to be made into crackers. I have to thank the Zero Waste Chef for this idea, as previously when I had excess sourdough starter I’d throw it away. It felt so wrong, but that’s what all the recipes tell you to do. Turns out, they are all wrong! Throw nothing away, and make crackers instead. Thanks Anne-Marie!

This recipe is a combination of the one by the Zero Waste Chef, and also some notes I have from a Plastic Free July workshop back in 2012 which has no references except a comment that the writer was called Katie.

Ingredients:

215g discarded sourdough starter
3 tbsp olive oil (30g)
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp bicarb soda

Extra olive oil and salt to top.

I found that when I made a starter from scratch, feeding every day for 5 days left me with 215g starter. But you change change the quantities of flour to starter, they don’t need to be exact – just remember it’s approximately twice the starter to flour. You want to make a dough, so if it is too sticky add more flour.

The moisture in the starter also varies depending on how fresh it is. If you need to add more flour, do so!

Method:

Mix the olive oil with the starter and stir until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the starter / oil mix and combine first with a spoon, and then with your hands. If it is still sticky, add flour in small quantities until you have a dough. Knead to ensure it is smooth.

Place in a glass bowl, cover with a tea towel or a plate (or both!) and leave to rest at room temperature for 8 hours (or overnight). This allows the dough to sour and develop flavour.

After 8 hours, divide the dough into 4. One at a time, roll the ball out onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper using a rolling pin (yes, my zero waste kitchen contains baking paper. I re-use each piece several times. You can read more here). The reason for the paper? After waiting 8 hours, I don’t want to take the risk that my crackers will stick to the metal tray and burn.

Roll the dough out to between 3 – 5mm thickness, trying to ensure it is even. Trim the edges, and cut into rectangles with  sharp knife.

Brush with olive oil, and then sprinkle salt on the top.

Bake in an oven at 150°C (350°F) for 8 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 8 minutes. You will find that the crackers on the edge cook a lot faster than those in the middle, so if you want to remove those sooner you’ll avoid them over-cooking. You want them to look golden but not too brown.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

TIPS:

  • 8 hours in the ideal, but this recipe is really flexible. You can make the crackers after only leaving the dough for 30 minutes (but longer is better). If you forget and leave them longer, you will still have good crackers.
  • The dough can be frozen or refrigerated if you want to make a big batch of dough and keep some for later.
  • I would guess they would last a week, but I’ve never been able to find out as they all get eaten long before! They don’t lose their crunch after storing so they are definitely something that can be made ahead.
Sourdough Zero Waste Crackers FINAL

Zero Waste Sourdough Crackers

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Do you make your own sourdough, and have I tempted you to give it a go? Do you already make your own crackers? Do you have any recipes and tips you’d like to share? What toppings and flavours do you think would work best? Please tell me your thought in the comments below!

My Chemical-Free, Natural (and edible) Skincare Regime

My husband remembers the time, way back in our very early days of dating, when we took a holiday together and almost half of my luggage consisted of toiletries. I would like to tell you he remembers this fondly, but rather he shakes his head at the memory and tells me he was thinking: “who is this girl?!” Such was his despair (although I didn’t know it at the time) that it’s probably a miracle our relationship made it beyond the holiday…

The skincare and body products I use today are such a far cry from back then that now I find it hard to believe myself. In those days, I bought into plenty of the marketing ploys. I figured expensive products were better for me. I reasoned that beautiful celebrities endorsing a product was a reason for me to buy it. I trusted the assistants that told me I needed several different products to do the same job. What this really meant: I gave big multinational pharmaceutical companies my money (far too much of my money) in order to purchase (mostly) unnecessary products with questionable ingredients. I consumed a lot of wasteful packaging, and my bathroom was always cluttered. I was locked into a cycle of buying and stockpiling products.

Today, I’ve reduced what I use to the essentials. I’ve simplified. Mostly I use ingredients, and I can find almost all of them at the grocery store, and at bulk stores. I tend not to buy pre-made products: nothing I use has more than a handful of ingredients that I mix together as I need. There’s no pressure. Ingredients are rarely on sale or marketed cleverly in an attempt to make me buy more, so I do not buy more than I need.

My Chemical-Free (Edible) Skincare Routine: Then vs Now

When I talk about chemicals, I’m referring to man-made, synthetic and petroleum-derived products. For me, chemical-free means natural and safe. Not everything that occurs in nature is safe, of course. My rule is: if it’s edible, then I use it. If it’s not, then I don’t.

Skincare: Face

THEN: Back in my pre- plastic-free and pre- zero-waste days, I used eye cream, a day moisturiser and night moisturiser, usually purchased from one of those fancy counters in the shopping malls. I used cleanser and toner. Occasionally I would be persuaded to buy some other nonsense product by the sales assistant like skin brightener, or serum, or whatever they were trying to plug that month. I often had random packets of “free sample” cluttering my space that I rarely used. I used a face scrub to exfoliate, usually purchased from a chemist or supermarket. I purchased lip gloss, but rarely used it.

NOW: I replaced all of the moisturizers with a single product: oil. Moisturisers are made with oil, water and emulsifier to bind them together, whereas oil is just that – one ingredient. Water-based products like moisturisers need preservatives to stop them going bad, whereas oils are fairly stable and do not. Almond oil is my staple. If I’m away from home, or I have run out of almond oil, I will use olive oil or coconut oil.

To clean, I use bar soap. I don’t make my own, I buy from a local lady who specialises in natural skincare. It’s made from a blend of coconut oil and olive oil and doesn’t dry my skin out. I don’t use a product to exfoliate, I use a flannel. It works much better, I find.

Bulk Soap Chopped Into Bars Zero Waste Natural Beauty Treading My Own Path

I buy soap in 2kg blocks because this way it is packaging free and I can cut the bars myself to a size I like. All you need is a knife: soap is very easy to cut.

Bodycare:

THEN: I used store-bought deodorant, body moisturiser or lotion, a razor with refillable blades and shaving foam. I used handwash to wash my hands, and shower gel to wash in the shower. I had a separate hand & nail moisturiser. I used store-bought toothpaste to clean my teeth.

NOW: I make my own deodorant using bicarb, corn flour, coconut oil and essential oil (you can find the recipe I use here). I never had much luck with store-bought chemical-free brands but this stuff actually works! (Added bonus: I can buy all the products packaging-free.)

I no longer have a separate body lotion or hand lotion and use almond oil. Ditto with the shaving foam. I use an epilator mostly which is used on dry skin, but if I use a razor blade then I use almond oil. I use a body brush to exfoliate rather than products with “exfoliating properties” (usually plastic microbeads).

Dry Body Brush

A body brush replaces the need for exfoliating products. This one is made of FSC wood with natural bristles. I’ve had it for almost four years and it still looks (almost) like new.

I use bar soap (the same as I use to wash my face) to wash my hands and body.

I make my own toothpaste using very similar ingredients to those in the deodorant (you can find the recipe I use here, and it has been approved by my dentist). When I first made it I used peppermint essential oil, as I do with the toothpaste, but I’d get confused which container was which, and I didn’t enjoy smelling like toothpaste, so now I use a different one.

DIY Homemade Toothpaste Zero Waste Plastic Free Treading My Own Path

I used to make toothpaste with glycerine, but now I use coconut oil as I couldn’t find glyerin in bottles without a plastic lid, and I already use coconut oil for many other things. This kilo of bicarb has lasted a couple of years, but I can now buy in bulk so won’t need the box – or to buy a kilo at once! The essential oil bottles I get refilled.

Hair Care:

THEN: I used Herbal Essences shampoo and Herbal Essences conditioner (the one in the yellow bottle). They changed the packaging and then tried to discontinue the product at one point, and I remember trawling all of the discount chemist stores in a mild panic trying to stock up on these two products. I used a hair serum that was a salon-owned brand only available in the UK and only at the salons, so getting it was a real pain. When I moved to Australia I purchased 6 bottles to bring with me, and when my sister came to visit she brought some with her too (this was all pre-Plastic Free July 2012). My haircare routine caused me so much stress, but I was terrified that my curly hair would be unmanageable without these products. I did use Frizz-Ease serum on special occasions, too. I guess you’d say their marketing campaigns were very effective on me!

NOW: I wash my hair with rye flour, and I use white vinegar as a conditioner. It makes my hair soft, shiny and manageable, without the need to apply any other products. I have used bicarb soda in the past but I prefer rye flour – it’s plant-based (bicarb is mined), has a gentler pH, is easier to make a paste in my hand, and makes my hair shinier than bicarb. If rye flour is not available, I switch to bicarb. I prefer white vinegar to rinse my hair over apple cider vinegar. The smell dissipates far more quickly, and my hair feels and looks better. White vinegar has a lower pH than apple cider vinegar (meaning it is more acidic) so I dilute white vinegar with water more than I would dilute apple cider vinegar with water before using.

Rye Flour Shampoo Zero Waste Treading My Own Path

I buy rye flour from the bulk store, and I sieve with a tea strainer before using in my hair to remove any big flakes. I also find towel drying my hair removes excess flour. When it’s dry, I give my hair a good shake to remove any flour that might remain.

I don’t use any hair serums or gels. I find the vinegar does a good job on its own. If my hair was particularly frizzy I would just rub a little almond oil in my hands and run my hands through my hair.

A summary of all the ingredients I use now:

Skincare Regime Zero Waste Bathroom Products Treading My Own Path

Some of the products I use in the bathroom. From left to right: a jar of rye flour (for shampoo), white vinegar (refilled using an empty wine bottle), homemade deodorant and almond oil. Below left: a bar of soap. Below right: a towelling pocket I use when the soap is too small to pick up. I pop the scraps in here and use as a flannel to ensure none of the soap is wasted.

The products I use in my bathroom are: rye flour, sodium bicarbonate, white vinegar, corn flour, essential oil, coconut oil, almond oil and bar soap. Just a handful of ingredients (8, in fact) that do the jobs of a much bigger handful (or small suitcase-full) of products, all with many ingredients of their own. Most ingredients I use live in the kitchen, where they are also utilized, and my first stop when I run out of something in the bathroom is always my own pantry.

And the benefits? I could tell you about not using chemicals, about supporting the local economy rather than the big multinational pharmaceuticals, about stepping off the consumer treadmill and no longer being sucked into the marketing campaigns. I could talk about no longer buying more than I need, and the reduction in clutter in my bathroom. I’m going to tell you the most surprising benefit of all: simplicity and freedom. When I first gave up plastic and began looking for alternatives, I thought I’d have to learn how to make my own shampoo and moisturiser. I thought it would be difficult, and time-consuming. Rethinking what I was using, and why, and then looking for suitable alternatives made me realise it was only as complicated as I made it. Ditching all the products that were unnecessary, and choosing the simplest options for what remained was all I needed to do.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a natural and chemical free skincare routine? Can you eat your beauty products? Do you make any of your own products and would you like to share the recipe(s)? Have you had any dismal DIY fails or bad experiences along the way and want to share the lessons you learned?! Do you find it hard to let go of those store-bought products? Is there a particular product you struggle with replacing? Tell us your experiences and please leave a comment below!

A Recipe: Plant-Based Banana Chocolate Muffins (Gluten-Free)

These muffins may look plain on the outside, but there’s a decadent rich chocolatey centre hiding inconspicuously inside each one. Because chocolate makes everything better, don’t you think?!

They’re great for people with allergies, being vegan and dairy-free, paleo-friendly and gluten-free. They are also full of nutritional goodness; rather than flour and dairy they’re packed with bananas, almonds and flax seeds. Bananas are packed with potassium, magnesium and manganese, and B vitamins including B6 and folate. Almonds are a great source of magnesium, calcium and zinc (as well as many other minerals) and are also high in vitamin E. Flax seeds are super high in omega-3s, B vitamins and minerals including magnesium and selenium.

Did I mention that they’re super tasty too?

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Recipe: Chocolate Surprise Banana Muffins

Makes 10 muffins.

Ingredients

3 bananas (about 300g)
1/4 cup nut milk (I use cashew nut milk – you can make it yourself; it’s super simple)
2 tbsp maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener)
50g macadamia oil (or other high quality flavourless oil)
175g ground almonds
30g ground flax seeds
1.5 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp chia seeds

For the chocolate filling:
30g macadamia oil
20g cacao powder
20g maple syrup

What To Do

Preheat your oven to 170ºC.

Blend bananas, maple syrup, cashew nut milk and oil together until smooth. Add the ground almonds, ground flaxseeds and baking powder and mix well.

Put the 1 tbsp chia seeds in a bowl and add 3 tbsp water, stirring well. Leave for 10 minutes or so until the chia has formed a gel.

Separate 1/4 of the cake mixure and place in a separate bowl. If you want to be accurate, use scales. Otherwise guesswork is fine! Stir the chia gel into the larger cake mix portion.

To the 1/4 mixture in the separate bowl add 20g cacao powder, 20g maple syrup and 30g oil and stir until combined.

Put a heaped dessertspoon of cake mix into 10 muffin cases. You should be left with a small amount of cake mix. Using a teaspoon, make a well in the centre of each muffin.

Divide the chocolate mix between the 10 muffins, carefully filling the well in the centre using a teaspoon.

Top each muffin with a thin layer of the remaining cake mix, using a spoon to seal the gaps. You shouldn’t be able to see any of the chocolate mix.
pic12premuffin1 premuffin2 premuffin3 premuffin4 premuffin6Place in a pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

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Tips:

  • I used chia seeds to help bind them together as these muffins don’t contain egg. Flax seeds and bananas are also great binders though, so if you can’t find chia seeds just leave this step out.
  • If you think the assembly sounds like too much hassle, don’t stress. Just fill the cake cases with half of the plain mix, add a spoonful of the chocolate one and then top with remaining plain mix. They might not look quite so neat but they’ll still taste amazing!

Make Your Own: Plastic-free, Sugar-free Muesli

I used to be a huge lover of breakfast cereals. I’d hoard them. I actually had a cupboard dedicated to breakfast cereal. I liked to have a minimum of 5 different choices in my cupboard, and I remember once having 11 different types on the go. I’m not the only one either, it seems. In 2011 Australians spent $1.17 billion on breakfast cereal, and consumed almost 8 kilos per person!

My tastes changed over time of course – as a kid I loved Frosties (I cringe at that thought now), as a teenager my staple cereal was Fruit ‘n’ Fibre, and as an adult I fell for those luxury muesli lines with the beautiful packaging.

But then I began to fall out of love with cereals. Firstly there was the media reports revealing how cereals are way too high in salt and sugar. Low fat cereals are particularly high in sugar, and a UK study found cornflakes that contained as much salt as ready-salted crisps. Next was the constant bombardment of adverts and marketing. Oh we’ve made this new product. Oh we’ve made that new product. Oh we’ve made a chocolate version! A cereal bar version! A chocolate cereal bar version! I started getting cereal company fatigue. And then there was the packaging. Boxes that would appear enormous until I opened them to find the contents only half-filled the bag inside. Or packets that would declare “contain 20 servings”, only for me to discover that their interpretation of a serving was 4 teaspoons, and for my portions, the box contained nearer to four servings. Which actually made cereal a rather expensive habit.

And the final straw? Plastic. When I gave up buying anything in plastic, only a couple of options remained. Some super fancy muesli sold in glass jars for exorbitant prices, or plain oats in cardboard. The love affair was over.

But recently, I’ve started craving cereal again, and so I’ve started making my own using the ingredients I get from the bulk-bin stores. It’s super easy and there are limitless possibilities. This recipe is my current base.

I wanted to keep it sugar-free so it doesn’t contain any dried fruit. If one morning I fancy something sweet I add some fresh fruit, or blend a banana with some (cashew) milk and sprinkle the muesli on top.

Or I add a teaspoon of bee pollen or a tablespoon of cacao nibs. You can always add the sugar in, but you can’t take it out!

Recipe: plastic-free, sugar-free muesli

Ingredients:

3 cups coconut flakes
2 cups oats
1/2 cup brazil nuts
1/2 cup peanuts
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds/pepitas
80ml macadamia oil (or other high quality, flavourless oil)

Method:

[I soak my almonds and pumpkin seeds overnight to activate them and make them more digestible, and then dry them out before chopping and adding to the mix. If you can’t be bothered with this step or are short of time, just skip it.]

Roughly chop the brazil nuts, peanuts and almonds. Combine in a bowl with the coconut flakes and oats. Stir in the oil and mix well until everything is well coated.

Line a baking tin with baking paper. Spread the mixture evenly over the paper and bake at 100ºC for 30 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool.

Store in a glass jar. It will keep for a few weeks, but I think it is better to make small batches and more often to keep it fresh.

Enjoy!

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mueslijar

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This delicious breakfast was made using half a banana blended with half a cup of cashew nut milk to form the base, and topped with half a cup of muesli. I like doing things by halves, it seems!

Oven-Roasted Chickpea Recipe – a plastic free alternative to potato chips?

When we gave up buying food that came packaged in plastic, one of the hardest things for my boyfriend to give up was potato chips. He’d wander down the crisps aisle forlornly, rustling each packet and declaring I’m pretty sure this one is plastic-free! It feels like paper! See?

Sadly though, potato chips do not come in paper. They are all wrapped in plastic, even though the plastic is often cunningly disguised as paper, or foil (you can do the scrunch test to figure out if something is wrapped in plastic or foil. Scrunch it up; if it springs back into its un-scrunched position, it’s plastic).

Because of this we’ve had to find alternatives. I’ve not tried making my own from real potatoes yet, although I haven’t ruled it out for the future.

We found a bulk bin store that sells sweet potato chips, but they are very expensive and not something we buy often.

I’ve recently experimented with making kale chips (not as weird as they sound, although yes, they are made with kale), which are actually quite tasty, but you need a lot of kale for not that many chips, which makes them another costly option, and you can’t fit that many in the oven at once, so it’s quite a laborious process.

Our staple replacement is popcorn, made with popping corn kernels bought at the bulk bin store. It’s cheap, super easy/quick to make, and satisfying. Of course it tastes nothing like potato chips (it tastes like popcorn, obviously) but it meets that need for a savoury, salty snack that can be delivered by the handful.

Popcorn may be the current favourite, but there is now a new contender on the block – roasted chickpeas. I got the inspiration for this from a couple of places. I’ve seen them for sale in the bulk food stores, and if you’ve ever eaten Bombay mix or similar Indian-style snacks you’ve probably had them yourself.

Secondly, I always buy dry chickpeas and cook my own, usually 1kg at a time, as they freeze amazingly well and I try to avoid cans where possible to save waste. This always seems like a great idea, but when I’m storing the resulting 3kg of cooked chickpeas I’m thinking of novel ways to try to use them up so I don’t feel quite so intimidated every time I open the freezer door.

I’m not going to tell you that they taste like potatoes. Of course they don’t. I am going to tell you that if you want a salty, crunchy alternative that you can munch away by the handful, plastic-free, then roasted chickpeas are seriously worth considering.

They’re cheap and simple to make. Have them plain, or flavour them. I’m still experimenting with what flavours I like best, so I’ve given you a couple of ideas to get started.

chickpeasfinal

Recipe – Roasted Chickpeas

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chickpeas (380g approx)
2 tbsp macadamia oil
Spice mix: 3/4 tsp turmeric, 3/4 tsp ground cumin, 1 1/2 tsp paprika (or omit altogether for plain chickpeas)
Salt and pepper

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180°C.

Rinse chickpeas and spread onto a clean dry tea towel to remove excess water. Remove any loose skins and discard.

Put into bowl, add oil, spices (if using) and salt and pepper, and mix well until all the chickpeas are coated.

Line a roasting tin with greaseproof paper and empty chickpeas into tin, spreading out as much as possible. Place in oven and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and to ensure they cook evenly.

Remove and allow to cool completely. They will continue to harden as they cool (don’t be alarmed if they still feel soft when you take them out of the oven). Store in a glass jar if not eating immediately.

Chickpeas2 Spicemix1 Chickpeaspices1 chickpeas3 roastedchickpeas roastedchickpeas2 Enjoy! If you have a go at making them, I’d love to hear what you think in the comments!

How to make your own baking powder

I started making my own baking powder when I heard that some baking powders contain aluminium. I didn’t want to be eating that. Also, baking powder contains gluten in the form of wheaten cornflour. Some of my family members are coeliac and I like to bake for them, so I need a gluten-free baking powder. That is also aluminium free. And ideally doesn’t come in plastic.

Turns out, baking powder is the easiest thing to make in the world. You need just two ingredients, cream of tartar and bicarbonate of soda.  The ratio is 2:1 so 2 teaspoons of cream of tartar needs 1 teaspoon of bicarb.

Mix them together and voila! You have super easy baking powder. Store in a jar in the cupboard until needed.

Some recipes also add 1 part cornstarch too, which means cornflour, but as cornflour is actually made of wheat and not corn (bizarrely) I don’t add this. I have seen a gluten-free cornflour available that is actually made with corn so at some point I might try it, but I think it works fine without.

What else do you need to know? It has a slight tendency to clump because it hasn’t got caking agents added. This isn’t a problem of course, just give the mix a good stir before you use it.

The other great thing is that you can make small batches as you need it, so it doesn’t sit in the cupboard slowly going out of date. No matter how much baking I do, I’ve never been able to use up an entire container of baking powder before I exceed the expiry date, so this suits me much better.

A (dentist-approved) homemade toothpaste recipe

Yesterday I finally had a long-overdue visit to the dentist. I haven’t been to the dentist in two years. Whilst you may not think that two years is a terribly long time to avoid the dentist, I must admit that the last time I went the dentist told me that I needed a filling*, and I never bothered to get one.

*To be fair, the dentist seemed quite vague (I think he was a recent graduate), definitely told me it was to be on the safe side, and from what I could see from the x-rays (knowing absolutely nothing about dentistry of course) there was no urgency. So I saved the £120 or so it was going to cost me and cancelled the follow-up appointment.

Moving continents didn’t help either, and then I was further delayed because I rang a few dentists to find out filling prices and all the dentists were really mean. Really really mean. One was outraged that I hadn’t had a filling and told me I would probably need root-canal surgery by now, and another told me that I’d have to have a scale and polish before the dentist would even see me, as their dentists wouldn’t dream of looking into dirty mouths. (For readers who live in Perth, yep, that dentist was in Claremont).

I finally had a recommendation from someone for a dentist whose receptionist was actually nice over the phone, and so I braced myself for the inevitable expense and booked. I also thought that this would be a good opportunity to get some professional advice about my homemade toothpaste… and find out if it was actually working.

Turns out that the dentist I visited is the Nicest Dentist Ever. She didn’t seem phased that I had been told I probably needed a filling and hadn’t bothered to get one. I told her that I made my own toothpaste and we discussed all the nasties in conventional products as well as the fact that I don’t buy products in plastic. I told her what I used to make the toothpaste (recipe below) and she said it contained all the key elements that commercial toothpastes had and would be absolutely fine to use. She was so nice I even admitted that I don’t floss very often.

So she looked at all my teeth, and took some x-rays. She said the brushing and toothpaste was working fine, all the fronts and tops of my teeth were in great condition. I have the green light to continue with my homemade toothpaste!

Unfortunately I still need the filling.

In fact, I need three.

All of the decay is where the teeth touch each other at the sides. Turns out flossing is probably a useful thing to be doing after all.

So, said the dentist. What would I like to do? Obviously I’ll be wanting to keep things plastic-free. She assumed I wouldn’t like the amalgam (silver coloured fillings) because they contain mercury. She also doubted I would like the composite (white) fillings because they are made from resin – or plastic. When I said I didn’t know much about them, she said if I looked them up she was pretty sure I wouldn’t want them either.

I didn’t actually know there were other options. Apparently there is also porcelain, which uses a small amount of resin to bind it but far less than the composite filling, or gold.

Now I’m no gangsta and I’m not sure gold fillings are quite the look I’m after. Porcelain sounds great… except they’re $800 each. Composite fillings are just over $200.

In the end, I chose the composite ones. Plastic or not, I just don’t think I can justify the extra expense.

Appointment is next Tuesday.

In the meantime, it’s great to know that my homemade toothpaste now has dentist approval!

Homemade Toothpaste Recipe – dentist approved!

I’ve posted my original toothpaste recipe here (and also the reasons I make my own in the first place) but this is the one I’ve been using more recently that I’ve tweaked slightly.

Sodium bicarbonate. This is the abrasive that cleans the teeth. It has quite a salty taste that can take a bit of getting used to. It also neutralises stains and odours.

Glycerin. This acts as the lubricant and binder. In the past I’ve also tried coconut oil. I’ve read that glycerin can coat the teeth and form a barrier that prevents re-mineralisation, and some natural toothpaste users prefer coconut oil. However, because sodium bicarbonate can be quite abrasive the glycerin can help protect the teeth. The dentist thought glycerin was better suited than coconut oil.

Peppermint oil. I add this to give the toothpaste the fresh minty taste that psychologically we associate with toothpaste.

Clove oil. I started adding this recently because clove oil has great anti-microbial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. You often see clove oil in natural toothpastes and the dentist told me that she still uses it for some of her procedures.

And that’s it! I no longer add extra salt as I found the taste too salty, and the dentist said that with the bicarb it’s not neccessary to have another abrasive.

Method:

Mix 8 tbsp sodium bicarbonate with 6 tbsp glycerin. Add 10 – 15 drops of peppermint oil and 1 drop of clove oil. That’s it!

Store in a jar.

A couple of final things. The dentist also said that what can be more important that the abrasive in the toothpaste you use is the type of brush. Often toothbrushes are more abrasive than the toothpaste. She recommended using a soft toothbrush, particularly if you are worried that your toothpaste is too harsh.

The last thing to bear in mind is that not everything works for everybody all of the time. There are people who only drink fizzy drinks and eat daily Mars bars and have great teeth, and there are others who only eat salad and have mouths full of cavities. This toothpaste contains all you need in a toothpaste to keep teeth and gums healthy, and it is working for me. It should work for you too, but be mindful of what’s going on in your mouth, and if you suspect things are awry, maybe consult your dentist?!