my plastic fast (3): groceries without plastic, or a setback


having looked over all of the single use plastic that i typically use, i found that i do pretty well with grocery shopping but could do better. i’m particularly worried about those products that form a major part of my diet that i cannot buy without packaging, like tofu

where do we use single use plastic in the kitchen?

because we hardly ever eat packaged food at my house, we avoid one of the major sources of single use plastic. eating vegetarian also helps. but what about other single use packaging, like produce bags?

about a year ago, we also made the switch to reusable, cotton mesh bags which we use to buy produce. at first, i was a bit skeptical about how these bags would work; but it turns out that i like them much better than the thin plastic bags in the produce section. for one, they are easier to open! the real benefit, however, is that because they breathe, one can keep produce in these bags in the fridge without all of the fruits and vegetables getting slimy. it does take a bit of advance planning to have these bags at hand, though. for this reason, it’s a good idea to have a couple of these bags in a coat pocket or backpack to allow opportunistic produce shopping of the “now that i’m walking past the store i remember i need” variety

looking in our fridge and around the kitchen, it turns out that our single use plastic includes salad greens packaged in plastic boxes, grains in plastic packaging, yogurt containers, and lots of plastic tofu containers. the first three are not so difficult to deal with: if i am organized enough, i can buy salad greens at a greengrocer who sells them in bulk or just buy whole heads of lettuce. it might take some searching about, but most of the grains we use are also available in bulk here and there. and yogurt–well, i can reuse the container or make my own

but soy products, that’s a problem

did i mention that i cook vegetarian food at home? that means lots of tofu, tempeh, and other soy products. stanley got it into his mind to make our own soy milk. it is a fun, but a bit labor intensive process, and i’m not sure that we do it regularly enough to keep up. and although we have a tofu press my thought on making my own tofu has been


you gotta be kidding

really. to make enough tofu for a week, we would need to make lots of soy milk and have a much larger tofu press than the one cube of tofu one that showed up in a package


cute, but not going to feed me for a week

so that leaves me with a question: if i want to remove one of the major sources of single use plastic, how can i keep from buying packaged tempeh and tofu?

with this in mind, i tracked down a local tofu factory–yes, there is one not that far from me, in east cambridge, called chang shing tofu. it is open on saturdays, so it was worth a trip. i thought that if i showed up with my own containers, i could probably buy tofu directly from the factory without the packaging

how naive

we drove to a side street in east cambridge and looked for an entrance to the factory. at first, not sure where to go in the building, i entered a bit cautiously. adding to my confusion, an alarm went off when i entered. soon a man who worked at the factory showed me the factory’s offerings–a wide variety of tou hua (soy puddings), tofu of different firmnesses, tou kan (pressed, dried tofu), and other soy products. there was only one catch: the items for sale were all packaged in plastic

stanley tried to ask whether we could buy the tofu using our own containers, but the man working the side door retail only wanted to know how many of each packaged item we wanted. it looked like good tofu, so we bought three large packages of tofu, two packages of tou kan, and one tub of  tou hua

maybe i can use this as a planter or something?
maybe i can use this as a planter or something?

i felt defeated when we took our soy products to the car, even more so when i cut open the packages to prepare a large batch of baked tofu to eat during the week. i’m not sure why i had the fantasy of a place where i could buy freshly made tofu using my own containers. i’d still like to find such a place if there is one. otherwise, my fast from single use plastic would also remove one of my main sources of protein

on another note, as i left chang shing tofu, i noticed a sign next to large tubs of okara: “no plastic bags for okara.” does that mean that chang shing sells the okara to people who have containers to take it away? if so, i might have a source for making tempeh at home…

anyway, not finding a source for soy products sans plastic has been a real setback. i’m wondering how the fast will go. counting down, there are only 10 more days to ash wednesday

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