For years a lot of plastic packaging in our household came from a range of dairy products. In addition to the staples of milk, cheese and butter there were pots of yoghurts, crème fraiche, soured cream, double cream, cream cheese, soya milk, goats milk products, dips, individually wrapped cheeses for school lunches, spreadable Lurpak and margarine for baking. There was a vague sense of a lot of packaging and things going past their best-by-date, but I’m not sure it ever fully surfaced into my consciousness as wasteful. My focus was on catering for everyone’s tastes and preferences and having everything available, all of the time. It all sounds a bit mad to me now.
I now put the emphasis on non-plastic packaging and local availability and that’s it. Milk is delivered by the milk man and unpackaged cheese is bought straight from a local cheesemaker or the farmers market – and boy, is it delicious! I also learned how to make non-dairy milk such as oat and almond milk which is easy and inexpensive.
When Waitrose recently stopped wrapping their butter in paper, it forced me to go out looking for an alternative. I realised that there are three local producers of butter wrapped in paper. I keep the butter in the fridge and portion it into a lovely Cornish butter dish on the counter which keeps the butter just the right side of soft for easy spreading on toast and sandwiches. I would prefer to buy butter unpackaged as I have learned (from a reader commenting below) that the paper butter is wrapped in is usually impregnated with microcrystalline wax or other petroleum products. The same is true for the packaging of an excellent Breton cream cheese I buy and have many excellent uses for, such as spreading on toast, making dips, adding to soups, making carbonara sauce and more. The pots look like they are just cardboard with a little silver foil to cover the cheese. It is still better than a plastic tub, but it is just as well to know that things that look like cardboard, like Tetra Pak for example, are not all that innocent.
You can buy little glass jars of clotted cream in some farm shops, but again, you have plastic inside the lid and the glued on labels are printed in polymer colours and ‘gold’. A dairy shop near me that also does milk refills in glass bottles will take orders for cream in glass jars. It means phoning ahead and picking up. It makes double cream a rare and special commodity in our household but maybe that’s ok!
For those eating a lot yoghurt, making your own is probably a really good discipline. You can buy yoghurt making kits and build it into your daily routine. There is a recipe for yoghurt and for making crème fraiche in the comments from readers below. But if none of this appeals to you and you have no sources of unpackaged food where you live, then consider cutting down on the number of products you use and simplify so you can save on plastic packaging and avoid food waste.