• meganalsford

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I attempted to go some carrots and in my eagerness to grow all the carrots, I overcrowded my garden and the poor little guys had no room to grow. I ended up with a whole lot of tortured carrots, all twisted and knobbly. Nothing like the perfectly straight and fat carrots at the supermarket.


Not wanting to waste the carrots I put them to good use in this salad. I left the skins on as I peeled them, there would be no carrot left. But also skins house some vitamins and fibre and texture so I rarely peel anyway. I also threw in some store bought carrots, I cut them up small to match the size of my little carrots so they would all roast at the same time.



The great thing about cutting carrots small is that it doesn't matter what they look like to start with. So this would be a good salad to cook if you buy ugly carrots from the store or farmers market. Using up misshapen, but otherwise fine, produce minimizes the food that ends up in landfill and is an easy way to help reduce food waste.


This recipe uses a few ingredients that may present challenges when you're buying them as they often come in large quantities. If you don't think you can use them up and don't want to waste food then here are some easy swaps that will still give you a delicious salad:

  • Fenugreek, used here for a subtle peppery flavour - swap for rocket or double the quantity of baby spinach (this will remove the peppery flavour)

  • Supergrain mix, used simply to add variety to the salad - swap for any grains you have on hand such as brown rice, barley, quinoa or cous cous. Cook the grains according to their own directions.

  • Sunflower seeds and pepitas, used for a tasty crunch, added variety and protein - leave out all together, use only one or the other or swap for a toasted nut of your choice.

  • Sultanas, added for sweetness - swap for currants if you have them or 1 tsp of sugar.

For the spice mix, I chose to mix my own spice from basic dry spices instead of buying a premix. This will save waste as instead of having a mix I can only get one flavour from, I can use the spices in a variety of ways to get a range of flavours. This way, I'm more likely to use the full jar before they expire.


Roasted Carrot and Grain Salad

Serves 2


Ingredients

250g carrots - unpeeled and washed

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pepitas

1 tablespoon sunflower seeds

125g McKenzie's Barley, Rice & Bulgar Superblend

1 cup baby spinach leaves

1 cup fenugreek leaves

200g canned chickpeas, drained and washed


Spice blend

1/4 teaspoon each ground coriander, ground ginger, cumin and onion powder

1/8 teaspoon each garlic powder and cinnamon


Dressing

1 tsp sumac

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

2 tsp crushed garlic

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 tablespoon sultanas


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 200oC.

  2. Mix together the spice blend until combined.

  3. Wash carrots and cut into small batons and place in a bowl, add spice mix and extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat. Spread out onto a lined oven tray and bake for 20mins. Don't wash the bowl yet, add the seeds and pepitas to the bowl and toss to coat in residual oil and spice.

  4. While the carrots are baking, cook the grain mix according to directions, drain and set aside.

  5. When timer goes off at 20mins for the carrots, sprinkle over the coated seeds and pepitas and bake for another 5 mins.

  6. To make the salad, divide spinach and fenugreek leaves into two bowls. Top with cooked grains, chickpeas and carrot and seed mix. Pour over dressing and serve while still warm.


To make the dressing:

  1. Add sultanas to boiling water and set aside for 10 minutes. When ready, drain and finely chop the sultanas.

  2. Add chopped sultanas and remaining dressing ingredients into a jar and shake to combine.

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  • meganalsford

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So it turns out comparing a home delivery meal kit to your own grocery shopping is harder than I thought. The challenges in my comparison were:

  • Packaging waste comparison of a whole jar/bag of food vs a small sachet.

  • Food waste comparison when I purchase the whole cauliflower vs receiving a cauliflower that has had the leaves already removed.


These are the groceries I purchased. The first picture are all the groceries I purchased, the next image are those in plastic and the last image are the foods I had at home already.


I really wanted the comparison to be as fair as possible and also a practical as possible. For example, I could have reduced my plastic waste even further by shopping at a bulk food store or farmers markets. But not everyone has access to these options so I stuck with my local fruit and veg shop and grocery store.


This is the left over vegetable scraps.



This is the soft plastics that we single use or only one serve per package. That's still a fair bit of soft plastic.


Here are some of my assumptions to find the amount of soft or hard plastic per recipe and how I avoided any extra food waste:

  • Grains - the Marley Spoon recipe had 125g rice, quinoa and barley. I substituted this for McKenzie's Barley, Rice & Bulgur Superblend 350g rather than buying 3 bags of grains. The Best Before date is 26/08/2022. With 3 serves in a pack - I'll easily use this before its too late. I weighed the empty bag and divided by 3.

  • Garlic cloves - I bought I whole garlic bulb. I then doubled the garlic in the recipe (I did this the original recipes too from my own stash of garlic as I have an addiction). At the end of the week I had 3 cloves left. This was quickly used up in the next dish I cooked - so no food waste aside from the garlic skins.

  • Fresh herbs - where I could I bought them without plastic wrap. I stored them in paper towel in a closed container in the fridge. I then added any spare into salads during the week and a little mint into a cocktail and used them all up - no food wasted. Any plastic wrap was counted in total in my plastic waste.

  • Dry herbs - I used a mix of buying new herbs if I didn't have any or used up my current supply. To calculate the plastic waste I purchased the Hoyts herbs that come in soft plastic. I emptied the bag and weighed it. I didn't buy any spice blends as I wouldn't be able to use up the whole jar before they expired (yes dry herbs do expire, they get less flavoursome). Instead I mixed my own based on quick recipe searches. To calculate the total dry herb plastic waste, I divided one Hoyts plastic wrap which was 4g total by 4 serves, 1g of soft plastic waste per dry herb. I wouldn't waste any dry herbs as I only used a small selection (garlic, sesame seeds, onion, cumin, coriander, oregano, chilli flakes, cinnamon, sumac) that I use on a regular basis. I still got a good flavour variety by mixing different combinations and no food waste.

  • Hummus - the tub I purchased was 200g. I used 100g in the recipe and used the remaining 100g on some toast for lunch. No food waste. I divided the weight of the tub by 2.

  • Sunflower seeds - I purchased a 200g bag of sunflower seeds, their Best Before date was 16/08/2022. I have a year to use the remaining which I'm confident I can, I'll also store them in the fridge to keep them as fresh as possible. I divided the total weight of the bag by the number of serves (10).

  • Greek yoghurt - I purchased the small 200g tub and used 100g in the recipe and put the remaining 100g into my breakfast the next day. No food wasted. I divided the tub by 2.

  • Kaffir lime leaves - the smallest container had a lot of lime leaves in it. I used what the recipe called for and froze the rest. I'll use them as I need them. I've done this before and the flavour was preserved. No food waste and I divided the empty container by number of serves, roughly 5 serves.

  • Tamarind paste - I had a jar in the fridge - no plastic waste. Any left over paste that I can't use through will be frozen until I need it. No food waste.

  • Fish sauce - I used this from a bottle I already had. No plastic waste counted.

  • Currants - I substituted for sultanas as I'll give the remaining sultanas to my little one for snacks so I don't waste any food. I purchased the small serves as they actually had less plastic. I then divided the plastic wrap by the number of serves (6).

  • Peanuts - I substituted cashews that I already had. I keep my nuts in the fridge to keep them fresh and if I still couldn't use them quickly enough, I keep them in the freezer. No food waste. I divide the bag they came in by serves (4) based on a 40g serve.

  • Sesame oil. Only a small amount of plastic around the bottle top.

  • Korean chilli paste - I used what was called for in the recipe. Used another serve in a lunch dish (cheats ramen) and froze the rest for when I need it again. No food waste. I divided the container by number of serves (10).



Results


Marley Spoon Waste

  • Food waste = 358g

  • Total soft plastic = 149g (7.7 kgs a year)

  • Hard plastic = 72g (3.7kgs a year)

Own sourcing

  • Food waste = 533g - when I took out the cauliflower leaves I got 381g so comparable.

  • Total soft plastic waste = 59.7g (3.1kgs a year)

  • Hard plastic = 17.7g (920g a year)

Verdict

Marley Spoon was great for low food waste, in fact 175g less food waste than when I purchased food myself. However, once the cauliflower leaves were removed from the equation, there wasn't a real difference. One of the biggest challenges with food waste, I believe, is buying and cooking only what you need. This is where meal kits are great as it takes the quantity guess work out. However, with a little planning and considered grocery shopping you can get to the same low level of food waste.


The plastic waste was significantly less. By choosing meal kits you could be potentially adding an extra 4.6kgs of soft plastic to landfill or to RedCycle. To be honest, I thought this would be much bigger, especially given all the little packets of plastic, the bubble wrap and the ice pack.


So I guess the question is, does the extra plastic balance the lower food waste. For me it's a big no. I can and do compost my veggie scraps so I don't waste food and the small difference just doesn't justify an extra 89g of soft plastic a week. If meal delivery kits could find a better and more sustainable way to keep food safe than bubble wrap and plastic ice bricks then I'd be on board.


What this exercise did teach me is how much soft plastics I still buy and I'm going to make more of a concerted effort to reduce this where I can.


What do you think? Did these results surprise you?


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Jump to Overall Ratings

Jump to Nutrition Review Jump to Food Waste

Jump to Paper Waste

Jump to Plastic Waste



NUTRITION REVIEW

Starting off from a nutrition perspective, I was quite impressed by the dishes. The positives are that the meals are heavy on the vegetables with each meal providing at least 3 serves of veggies. One of the benefits of home delivery kits is that you might get a greater variety of vegetables across the week than you manage on your own. Variety is key in getting a mix of nutrients and supports a healthy gut microbiome.


Biggest call out for me was the lack of information on the saturated fat and sodium content of the meals. These are two nutrients I like to keep in check as I have a family history of heart disease. This is an easy fix for companies like Marley Spoon to simply make this information available.


The other let down nutritionally was the lack of whole grains. One meal during the week had a great blend of rice, quinoa and barley, however the other meals had no whole grains. Admittedly one of the meals I chose was a low carb as I wanted to see what that was like. But the other two dishes could have been more complete with some added grains.


Energy wise, one of these meals would provide roughly 30% of your daily intake. This will change for each individual as it's an average. But overall plenty of room for a balanced breakfast and lunch with these dinners. If you're reducing your energy then they might be a bit too high. They are large meals and we spread them over 3 serves which would easily reduce the energy without you feeling hungry.


Protein was a little high in some meals but on balance was ok. Smaller portions of protein and more whole grains would be a better balance.


Fat too was a little high and mostly from dumplings and lamb mince, these are generally high in fat so no surprise. Would be better to steam the dumplings than fry or provide 5 vs 6 per serve. As for the lamb, using a leaner meat or less could have made the meal more balanced.


The overall nutrition was pretty good. A few tweaks and the meals would be excellent. This is of course a review of only 4 of their dishes and not on their whole range. If you're looking for healthy meals then you need to choose your meals carefully as some can have a lot of energy, leaving little room for other meals in the day.



FOOD WASTE

Many meal kits boast that they help with food waste and Marley Spoon is no different. They do state how much food Aussies waste but don't articulate how they help. They state that by only providing the food you need, 'nothing goes to waste'. And at the end of the week there was minimal food waste. Only 358g of scraps. You could reduce this further by:

  • Using the stems of the broccoli and Chinese cabbage (I didn't as I followed the instructions)

  • Use the carrot and herbs scraps for stock

  • Put the remaining scraps in a compost or worm farm.

What I do find interesting is that while I see minimal food waste from my end, Marley Spoon has removed a lot of the food waste before it gets to me. For example, the outer layers of the garlic and cauliflower or the end of the lemongrass. I would like to know, what they do with this waste?


I love only getting the kaffir lime leaves I need and only a quarter of a cabbage. These portions would cut down on food waste as often you can only buy big portions.


The let down for me was the amount of herb and spice waste. Every dish had left over herbs and spices. So 'nothing goes to waste' is a bit of a stretch. Often companies need to put larger portions into containers or packaging to make it cost effective. For example the same herb packets could be used for a 2 person or 4 person meal. The difference is the 2 person kit throws away half. Of course you can use these herbs in other dishes, perhaps your lunches but if you use these meal kits every week, they would pile up.


I'll be interested to see if I can keep the food waste as low as Marley Spoon when I do the meals myself.


PAPER WASTE

The meal kit comes in a big cardboard box and the individual meals are in individual paper bags. The bags, according to Marley Spoon, are manufactured in a FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) and PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification) accredited facility. And the box is made from 70% recycled paper. Both are recyclable. So good options. I know other kits don't use the individual paper bags so I'd just question if they were truly needed or is it just convenience?


What I do like about the cardboard box is that it isn't the classic polystyrene boxes of some competitors. While polystyrene is also recyclable, it's much harder to get them in the recycle process.


You know what would be cool? A circular process whereby you buy a reusable box and return it each week to be filled. Think along the lines of the old milk delivery system when they used glass bottles. Blue sky thinking no doubt, but imagine!



PLASTIC WASTE

This is really where meal kits let the whole system down. Yes pre-portioned foods can help reduce food waste. But the catch is that they often require more plastic waste. Unnecessary use of plastic is a real bugbear of mine. For example, two sweet potatoes in a plastic bag - why not just put them in the box?


Then there is the need of the big insulation bag and freezer blocks. Both are big additions to the plastic of the week. On their website, Marley Spoon states they use 85% sugarcane in their plastic but the bag I got was straight plastic? This is misleading at best. Also the freezer bags, they say you can add the liquid to the ground and it will help your garden absorb more water and while one bag might be ok, over time the sodium in this substance could make my soil too salty for plant growth. So not really a long term solution. Food safety of these boxed foods is crucial and there are certainly challenges to keeping the food fresh in a sustainable way. I hope these companies continue to invest in new processes to reduce their use of plastic.


In total my four meals left me with 149g of soft plastics (the band holding the plastic together in the picture was 2g). This doesn't sound like much but if you were to buy these kits every week for a year that would be more than 7kgs of soft plastic. Marley Spoon do suggest adding the soft plastics to RedCycle but they too can only recycle so much. The first step in sustainability is to avoid plastic in the first place or reduce its use. Recycling is a last resort.




The harder plastics equated to 72g, so not so big and not that different to a regular shop. Recycling of these containers would depend on your local council.


What will be interesting is to see if by doing my own grocery shopping if I can get the soft and hard plastics lower than a meal delivery kit.


OVERALL RATING

Nutrition - 3.5/5 - please add more whole grains and include sodium and sat fat amounts

Food waste - 4/5

Plastic waste - 0/5


I'll try these meals myself and post again with the comparison. It'll have to wait a week as I forgot to cancel my subscription :)

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