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How to Make DIY Coconut Milk from Scratch (A Recipe)

DIY coconut milk is one of the things I tried very early on in my plastic-free journey. I started making it in 2013, got tired of making it a few months after that and decided not to bother cooking coconut milk dishes.

Then my local bulk store started selling coconut milk powder, and that was my go-to.

Hence the recipe never made it onto my blog. But I decided I wanted to retry making coconut yoghurt (the recipe for coconut yoghurt did make it onto the blog, although it’s been tweaked since then) without using the tins. My zero waste journey has rather progressed since 2013, after all!

Plus whilst the coconut milk powder is pretty good, it’s not the same as coconut cream. And it is something we can DIY.

The coconut milk we buy in cans is made from the flesh and juice of young coconuts. Most of us don’t have access to young coconuts to make our own, but we can make something almost as good using dried (mature) coconut and water. I prefer to use shredded coconut (I look for the untoasted, unsweetened version). Desiccated coconut will work too.

You’ll need a blender. (Only attempt to use coconut flakes if you have a top-of-the-range blender.)

In Australia, canned coconut milk is coconut and water. Canned coconut cream is just coconut with less water. Literally. Check the back of the cans next time you’re in the store. Coconut cream is 80% coconut, 20% water; coconut milk is 60% coconut, 40% water. If you do buy cans, choose the coconut cream (it’s usually the same price) and add your own water from the tap. No need to import extra water from overseas.

In the UK, coconut milk is around 50% water. Coconut cream in the UK is often really thick – it’s not that high in coconut either (less than 70%), it’s just full of gums and stabilizers to thicken it.

Did I mention those cans are usually lined with plastic, too?

Get yourself some shredded or desiccated coconut, and try making your own.

Ingredients:

  • 300g shredded coconut
  • 1 litre boiling water (and then another litre)

The amounts don’t really matter, more coconut will give you more cream. If you don’t have access to a bulk store and the bagged coconut is 200g, use that – it will be fine.

First Press: Coconut Cream

Boil the water in a kettle, pour over the coconut, and leave to stand for 30 minutes. (If your blender has a glass or metal jug, you can do this step in your blender; if not you may prefer to use a glass bowl or saucepan instead.)

Blend the coconut and hot water until combined.

Strain the mix into a glass jug using cheesecloth or a clean tea towel to separate the pulp. Squeeze the cloth to ensure all the moisture is removed – you will want to allow the mix to cool slightly before you do this (or wear gloves!). Once you’ve strained every drop out of the pulp, pour the coconut milk into a glass jar, screw on the lid, and set aside.

Second Press: Coconut Milk

Now place the coconut pulp back into the blender, and add another litre of boiling water. Leave to sit for 5 minutes, and repeat the process. The second batch will be thinner.

(If you want to squeeze every drop of goodness out of your shredded or desiccated coconut, you can repeat with a third litre of water.)

Place the jars in the fridge.

Once in the fridge, the solids will separate from the liquid. The first jar will have a thick, solid coconut cream layer. The second jar will have a much thinner coconut cream layer. (The third jar, if you did a third press, probably won’t have any coconut cream).

If you’d like to use the coconut cream, you can scoop off using a spoon. Alternatively, if you prefer coconut milk, you can warm the jar and shake to recombine, or empty the entire jar contents into a pan and gently warm the cream with the liquid to recombine when you’re ready to use.

The second batch is great for adding to smoothies instead of water, for cooking grains (quinoa, white rice or millet will absorb the coconut flavour), or adding to soups or dahl. It’s not as rich as coconut milk, but there is definitely some coconut flavour.

Coconut cream and coconut milk keep for up to a week in the fridge, an can be frozen.

You’ll also be left with a bowlful of pulp. This tastes a little like desiccated coconut, but with less flavour (you squeezed that out)! You can freeze this, or dry it out in the oven on a low heat for an hour or so. (Don’t put it in the pantry as is, because it contains moisture and will go mouldy.) Alternatively it will keep in the fridge in a container for a few days.

Add the pulp to porridge, smoothies or even curries to add some flavour and fibre. You can also bake with it: you can sub a small amount of desiccated coconut (up to half) for leftover pulp in baking recipes, or use in veggie burgers/patties. There are plenty of options!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you DIY coconut milk? Do you DIY any other milk, and if so how do you like to use up the leftover pulp? I’ll share my leftover pulp recipes another day, but if you have any great ones you’d like to share, I’d love to hear in the comments! Anything else to add? Let me know in the space below!

A First-Timer’s Guide to Shopping at Bulk Stores

Bulk stores make shopping plastic-free and zero waste so much easier. They allow us to avoid unnecessary packaging, and buy only what we need (no unnecessary food waste). But they operate quite differently to regular stores and supermarkets, and if you haven’t shopped at one before, the idea can be a little intimidating.

If you’re new to living plastic-free and zero waste, and find the idea of shopping at bulk stores a little nerve-wracking, I’ve put together a guide to help you out. No two bulk stores are exactly the same, but the principles are.

I believe that we should be embracing these types of shops where we can, and there’s no need to be intimidated!

Shopping at Bulk Stores – Before You Leave Home

The first thing I’d recommend you take is a shopping list. Go through your pantry and decide what you need before you get there. Browsing in a store you’ve never been in before can be a little overwhelming, and it’s easy to spend more money than you intend on ingredients that you didn’t really need.

Second, think about how you intend to buy your groceries. If you want to avoid packaging you might want to bring glass jars, containers or reusable produce bags. However not all bulk stores are set up the same.

For a first shop, I’d recommend taking reusable produce bags rather than jars or containers. (If you don’t have reusable produce bags and want to invest in some, you can find my online zero waste stores guide here.)

I shop at the Source Bulk Foods (and there are 50 of these stores across Australia and New Zealand) and these stores are set up for customers to bring their own containers. I can take a bag full of empty glass jars, the team will weigh them for me and record the weight on the jars, and then I can fill them up. When I get to the till the weight of the jar will be subtracted from the total, meaning I only pay for the weight of the actual products I buy.

Not all bulk stores offer this service. Maybe they don’t have the technology, maybe they don’t have the staff training, or maybe they just don’t want to. In these stores, using glass jars will be an expensive exercise as you’ll end up paying for the weight of the jar as well as the product. Reusable produce bags are the best alternative.

If you really want to use containers, consider ringing ahead and asking if they will be able to tare the weight, and how it works.

Shopping at Bulk Stores – Once You Arrive

Shopping at a bulk store is a very different experience to shopping at a supermarket. It’s extremely likely that the staff are as passionate about reducing waste as you are, and they will be more than happy to help. If you’re unsure in any way, I’d recommend going straight to a staff member and explaining that you’re new to this way of shopping, and asking how their store works and if there’s anything you need to know.

Ask them about different containers, and if they have preferences. Ask what other customers do. Start the conversation!

Some bulk stores might allow you to weigh your own containers. Some might ask that you write the code number of the product down (many people using their own jars do this by writing the numbers in their mobile phone as they go) to present at the till.

Some might print their own labels which just need scanning at the till. Ask to find out how your store works.

Shopping at Bulk Stores – Other Things to Consider

If we are used to supermarkets, we are much more used to unit prices (such as x price for a jar of peanut butter) rather than price per kilo. Even though supermarkets will list these prices, we don’t tend to pay much attention. This can be confusing at the start when shopping at bulk stores, because we often don’t have much idea how much things weigh. For example, chocolate coated nuts are quite heavy, so they might not sound expensive per kilo but a bag full can be more expensive than expected! On the other hand, items like tea can seem very expensive per kilo, but a full jar will not weigh much and be more affordable than the price suggests.

If you’re on a budget, for the first few shops I’d recommend getting a receipt, and tracking how much things cost, and making adjustments next time. I learned the hard way that big jars full of chocolates hurt my pocket!

Most things sold at bulk stores are sold by weight, but occasionally products are sold per unit (priced “each”) and some liquids will be sold by volume. The price label will always tell you how you will be charged. If a liquid is sold by volume, you will need to know the volume of the container rather than the weight (such as knowing the jar is 500ml or a litre).

If you do make a mistake, the store will help you sort it as best they can. They deal with a lot of containers and will have a good idea of the weight (if you forgot to weigh it) or the volume (if it doesn’t say on the container).

Whilst I’m shopping, I like to take note of the other ingredients that I see. If I see something interesting, I’ll head home and read up on how to prepare or cook it, and look up some recipes. If I decide I’d like to try it, I add to my list for next time. This works better for me than buying random ingredients that then sit in the cupboard untouched.

We’re often used to heading to the supermarket every week, but bulk stores can be approached a little differently. If you live far from a bulk store, getting super organised can mean you only need to head there every few weeks – the products they sell have a long shelf life, so there is no need to head in weekly. On the other hand, if you prefer to pop in every few days rather than stockpile, that works too.

Whichever you prefer, bulk stores offer more freedom than supermarkets to choose how you’d like to shop. They’re also friendly places, selling real food, and owned by real people rather than faceless corporations. What’s not to love?!

Now I’d love to hear from you! What practices does your local bulk store use? Are there any quirks that you’d like to share? Any other tips on bulk shopping?  If you’re new to the idea, any questions we haven’t covered? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

From Near-O to Zero: How I Got Rid of My Bin

We are moving out of our flat this week, and our rubbish bin won’t be coming with us. We won’t be replacing it either. The reason? We simply don’t create enough rubbish to fill it.

I realised a few months ago that I was spending more time taking things out of the rubbish bin than putting things in it. The odd tissue. Sweepings from the kitchen floor. Onion peelings and spent corn-on-the-cobs (we had an incident with the bokashi bin where we ran out of bran, and it grew moldy and very smelly, and my husband was afraid to take the lid off. With reason – it stank).

All of these things could go in the worm farm, but it was almost a reflex to empty the dustpan or drop things into the bin. (Hence then having to take them back out.) There was also the odd non-recycable thing of course, but not enough to justify keeping a bin in our fairly small kitchen.

As a test, we moved the bin outside onto the balcony to see if we missed it.

We didn’t.

This is a long way to come since 2012, when I first heard of Plastic Free July and began my plastic-free living adventure. Back then I thought I was being a responsible consumer by purchasing eco-friendly washing-up liquid in a recyclable plastic bottle (and then recycling it), and taking my own bags to the shops. I thought that filling my recycling bin up to the brim every week was a good thing.

Little did I realise that this was just the beginning of what I could be doing.

I’d never heard of zero waste back then, or even being plastic-free, yet something about the idea of giving up plastic for a month stirred my consciousness….and my conscience! Deep down, I knew that plastic was a problem. I knew there was too much of it in our environment; I knew a lot of it was completely unnecessary; I knew it was a waste of resources.

Yet somehow I’d never made the connection that I was part of the problem. I was directly contributing to these issues by the way I shopped and the packaging I bought; I was also supporting this system and saying “this is okay”.

I was part of the problem, and I could be part of the solution. I could do things a different way. I could ditch the disposables, reuse what I had and refuse new plastic altogether. I decided then, in June 2012, that I wasn’t just giving up plastic for a month.

I was giving up plastic forever.

With no real idea of what to do, but with complete conviction in my heart that this was the right path to be following, and all the enthusiasm and determination that comes with embracing a new challenge, I set out changing my habits.

First up, I started switching my packaging to paper, card and glass. Most fruits and vegetables were easy to find loose, and those that only came in plastic, I simply didn’t buy. I found pasta in cardboard, chocolate in foil and paper, and toiletries in glass bottles.

Not having a car, I carried my shopping home. I noticed how heavy my shopping had become now I wasn’t buying plastic. I also noticed how bulky the glass jars were, and the cardboard boxes. I became aware of packaging – how much of it I was using – for the first time. When everything was in plastic, I hadn’t noticed. It was so light and stealthy!

Around the same time, about two months in to my plastic-free living adventure, I discovered glass isn’t even recyclable in the state we lived in. It has to be trucked to the next state, some 1500km away. Not all glass collected from recycling bins is trucked there either; some is sent to landfill as it is more cost-effective. Some glass was crushed and used as road base – not quite the virtuous cycle we’re sold!

This discovery totally shattered my presumption that glass was a responsible alternative to plastic. It felt just as wasteful as using plastic. I decided that no packaging at all was the best option, and began to work towards that.

Bulk Produce in Glass Jars

I reconnected with Farmers Markets, and tracked down the local bulk stores to buy my groceries without packaging. I found soap and liquid cleaning products in bulk. I took my own containers to local delis and to my delight, found that they were accepted everywhere I went.

One ingredient or product at a time, I worked on finding a packaging free solution.

It wasn’t a quick process; it took me 18 months to eliminate most of the packaging from my home. I didn’t tackle everything at once – as things ran out I’d look to replace them.

Some things were stubbornly difficult to find, and so I learned to make my own, find an alternative…or simply go without. We looked beyond food and toiletries to other areas of the house, borrowing rather than buying, or shopping second-hand if we really needed something.

It’s surprising, but the less you have, the less you realise you need.

The hardest thing for me was figuring out what to do with all the food waste. Eating lots of vegetables and making lots of things from scratch left us with lots of compostable waste…but no compost bin. Living in an upstairs flat, there wasn’t anywhere to set up a compost bin, and we don’t have any local collection points. Without a car it wasn’t practical to drop it off anywhere.

We have two worm farms but they can’t eat everything that we produce. Eventually, after a couple of false starts, we finally embraced using a bokashi bin for all the food scraps that can’t go in the worm farm – onion peels, lemon skins, spent corn cobs and avocado skins, for example – and this reduced our throwaway food waste to zero.

As the contents of our bin dwindled more and more, I became more and more determined to eliminate the final bits and pieces – however small! We have a junk mail sticker on our mail box but the odd thing sneaks through – I became militant in returning to sender. No free plastic pens required here! We check the fruit and veg we buy doesn’t have plastic stickers on it before we get it home.

If we’re offered any packaging, we decline; if we’re given it, we hand it straight back. We refuse receipts. All little things, but little things add up.

Looking into Empty Bin again Lindsay Miles Looking Into Empty Bin Zero Waste Treading My Own Path

I’m not the first person to give up my rubbish bin (I’m pretty sure that was Bea Johnson, who started her zero waste journey way back in 2008). The great thing is, I know I won’t be the last, either.

Choosing a lifestyle that’s healthier, with food that’s fresh, natural and seasonal, that embraces community and supports local, that teaches new skills and encourages creativity, and that doesn’t harm the planet… what’s not to love? No wonder the zero waste movement is growing every day.

For me, getting rid of my bin means I’ve reached the tipping point. We are creating so little rubbish that it no longer makes sense to keep a container in the house specifically for storing it. Despite giving the bin up, I am sure I will still create waste in the future. I’m not perfect. I have things in my house that I purchased long before I began to think about what would happen to them at the end of their lives; things that aren’t recyclable, or compostable. Clothes that aren’t biodegradable. I choose to keep them until they are used up, life expired, but eventually I will need to dispose of them.

I intend to choose differently next time around. After all, we can’t worry abut or dwell on the choices we made in the past; but we can concentrate on making better choices in the future.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you embarked on a zero waste journey of your own? Are you planning on getting rid of your bin, or do you have another goal in mind? What have been your biggest challenges and greatest successes? Are you yet to try the plastic-free or zero waste path, and is the new year tempting you to give it a go? If not, what is holding you back?! What compromises have you had to make along the way? Please tell me your thoughts in the comments below!