Bread without plastic packaging – a Plastic Free July Challenge

Bread without plastic packaging – a Plastic Free July Challenge

Bread without plastic packaging – a challenge for many

For Plastic Free July, I decided to challenge myself to reduce one of the sources of plastic in our house – bread in plastic bags.

I decided to try the following ideas:

  • Buy bread in paper bags or reusable bags,
  • Make bread at home,
  • Buy less bread than usual – choose something other than sandwiches when making lunches.

A key factor is that it has to be affordable too. We are aiming to reduce our grocery bills through careful planning and budgeting. This is one of my biggest dilemmas when shopping now – does making the environmental choice also fit in with our money saving goals?

How did I get on with my challenge?

The results of my month long experiment? It was a mix of success and failures!

I found that I could buy bread in paper, but it took more time to visit a few different places, instead of just my regular supermarket.

Plus it was more expensive than the cheap everyday bread I usually buy. Maybe that’s a good thing, as the bakery type bread was better quality.

In my view though, bread for lunchbox sandwiches doesn’t need to be gourmet or fancy. Especially not the rate that growing children eat it.

Buying bread in paper bags

Bakers Delight

Bread in a paper bag
Fresh bread from Bakers Delight

It was so easy to buy bread without plastic from Bakers Delight – you choose a loaf from the racks, they slice it and pop it in a paper bag, or you can use your own bag. Easy!

However, it was $4.50 for a loaf, which is a lot more expensive than the $1.50 sliced loaves I usually buy for lunchbox sandwiches. It is bigger and the quality was good, but I don’t think I can afford to swap to buying only these loaves.

New World Supermarket

Bread in paper bags at New World supermarket
The only bread I could find in partly paper wrappers on the shelves at New World

The Mackenzie bread I bought at New World supermarket was delicious – really dense and full of flavour. It wasn’t a hit with the kids though, and I wouldn’t use it as an everyday sandwich in their lunchboxes.

And the price…that was on a special offer, it is normally $5.20, which is not an everyday price for me.

Plus, the packaging split in the freezer – the paper part came away from the plastic part. I wrapped it up in a tea-towel and put it in a cotton bag, to stop it from going stale, and kept it in the fridge.

Bread in a paper bag and a plastic bag
Two bakery breads from New World Supermarkets

Some New World Supermarkets have a bakery instore, and bake bread daily. I saw these two loaves side by side – one in a partly paper bag, the other in a plastic bag.

The photo makes them look different sizes, they were actually pretty similar. I can’t tell why the European loaf is $4.29, and the Vienna loaf is $2.99 – maybe the recipes are very different? Maybe the plastic packaging is much cheaper than the combined paper/plastic packaging?

I need to follow up with New World, and update this post.

Countdown Supermarket

I’ll start this part by saying that Countdown is my preferred supermarket, I do most of my shopping there.

However, it was a total fail on buying bread in paper from their bakery department.

When I was in my regular store at the beginning of July, I asked the Bakery Manager if I could buy freshly baked bread packed in paper bags. He said that was fine, they do that for customers on request. I would just need to call the day before, and ask for the loaves to be set aside for me, as they do their baking in the morning. That sounded pretty easy. I checked that I could request it in my weekly online order, which I do in the evening for pick up the next day – they said ‘no problem!’.

I put in an order, and requested bread in paper bags for pick up the next morning. Unfortunately, when I collected my shopping, the loaves were in the usual plastic bags.

I tried this three times over July, and all three times, the bread was in plastic. So either the online orders are not checked until just before they are picked in the morning, or the message on my order is not getting through to the bakery department. Another thing to follow up!

Other supermarkets / bakeries

I don’t usually go to other supermarkets or bakeries, as who has time to go to multiple shops? Well, I suppose I do actually have more time, seeing as I don’t have a regular 9-5 job.

But, I really don’t want to drive around town and traipse round the three major supermarkets and various bakeries. It would cost me extra petrol and time that I could use for other things.

I want my grocery shopping to be easy and straight forward – just like everyone, I want an easy life, even with my commitment to eco living!

Making bread at home

A perfect loaf- stock photo
Results not typical – this is not a loaf of bread that I made!
Stock photo

I love baking but….

I have my fair share of baking fails! This is usually because if read a recipe and I don’t have all the ingredients, I am a bit experimental with substituting ingredients. Sometimes it works, but not all the time. Just ask my family, they are used to my experimental baking.

Using a bread-making machine

Bread-making is a bit of a science, so the ingredients and quantities usually have to be pretty much as specified in the recipe. I have tried most of the recipes in the booklet that came with my Panasonic bread-maker machine. I have had the bread-maker for about 15 years, and it is generally an excellent machine.

However, even when I have followed the recipe to the letter, I still had three failed loaves over the month! This is out of 6 loaves made in the bread-maker, so that’s not a great strike rate.

There seem to be problems with the mixing and rising stages. I have checked out some bread-maker machine troubleshooting guides online, here and here. The answers they gave seem to suggest it could be anything from not enough to too much of various ingredients, the room temperature, or the age of the yeast. I will keep persevering, and work out how to make consistently edible loaves.

Homemade bread
A bread maker failure – but the kids loved it, even though it was a bit of a brick.

Making bread by hand

I also tried making bread by hand, and found a very easy ‘no-knead’ recipe. The bread came out really well – it tastes good and is easy to slice. It looks a little rustic, but it was lovely to eat.

The recipe is from a Country Calendar Homestead Baking book that I found in a second hand shop – you can find the recipe here.

Three loaves of homemade bread
Handmade bread that actually came out well

Buy less bread

I could buy less bread, therefore reducing the amount of plastic packaging. As I am working at home now, I am happy to have leftovers from the previous nights dinner. However, my husband and son both prefer sandwiches in their lunchboxes, so I will still buy or make bread.

An aside – pizza dough is very easy

Similar but different – sometimes we have pizza for tea, and I have found that making pizza dough in the bread-maker is nearly always a success.

It is cheaper than buying a shop bought pizza base, and I have managed to find most of the ingredients without plastic packaging (or at the least, in plastic packaging that can be recycled, which I know is not the answer to all the waste problems).

A bread alternative - pizza dough is easy to make with a breadmaker
Ingredients for pizza dough

Pizza dough only takes 45 minutes to mix in my bread-maker, then you leave it to rise in a warm place. Later one, you shape it to the shape you want, put the toppings on and pop it in the oven. Homemade dough makes fantastic pizzas!

Conclusions about my ‘bread without plastic packaging’ challenge

Overall, I found that I could buy bread without plastic packaging, but I would need to spend a lot more money on it than I usually spend on a sliced cheap loaf. Or I would need to make special trips to bakeries, as I had trouble buying it in supermarkets without plastic packaging.

I will keep on asking at my usual supermarket, until I have cracked the code of having fresh bread packed in paper!

I can make bread at home, but sometimes it failed, which is a waste of time and money. The food itself was not wasted, as the chickens love the bread failures.

I will continue to experiment with different recipes, and be more precise about quantities and ingredients.

I will also take up the offers I have had of sourdough starters, as that sounds like a very successful type of homemade bread.

As always, I will keep trying to make changes to this one habit, until I have reduced the packaging waste. Aim for progress over perfection on your path towards zero waste


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