In German we have a saying that, literally translated, would go roughly like this:
Eat breakfast like an emperor, have lunch like a king, and dine like a beggar.German saying
Whether you’re in the emperor’s empire or in the beggar’s corner when it comes to your breakfast routine, it’s worth thinking about how you can avoid waste at the first hurdle of the day: your morning meal.
While I’ve kinda omitted breakfast in my how-to guide to zero waste meal planning and shopping (because we’re simpletons and just have muesli and unfortunately-not-so-zero-waste cereals… more on this topic below), it’s a really easy meal to have waste free.
Disclaimer: I’m no health or nutrition expert so don’t take this as diet or health advice, it’s just a list to inspire your zero waste munchies in the morning. Oh, and as you might know, we are omnivores so please don’t be offended by me including meat.
Here are my top 12 zero waste breakfast ideas:
- Avocado on toast
- Bacon & eggs
- Bacon buttie
- Yoghurt with fresh fruit
- Home-made granola
- Toast with jam, peanut butter and/or nutella
- Breakfast smoothie
- Full English breakfast (minus the beans)
The mother of all healthy breakfasts… simple, nutritious, filling… yummy. You can get porridge or rolled oats at your trusted zero waste or bulk shops in Warwickshire, whip them up with some fresh tap water and milk from a milk delivery service (we use Milk & More).
Spice it up with some honey, fresh fruit and/or cinnamon, or top with linseed, hemp seed or nuts for added fibre, fats and protein. Make it in batches and/or the night before to save time in the morning.
I’m sure you know how to make porridge, so this is just in case you’re suffering from some momentary memory loss: 1 unit of oats, 1 unit of milk, 1 unit of water (feel free to vary the milk/water ratio but make sure it adds up to 2 units of liquid for 1 unit of oats), a little bit of salt if you wish – bring to the boil in a pan and simmer for a couple of minutes. Apparently you can also put it in the microwave (I haven’t tried this).
Kind of an extension or variation of your good old porridge – minus the cooking, plus some extra crunchy ingredients. For my daily home made muesli I use 3 tbsp of rolled oats, 1 tsp of a seed mix of linseed, hemp seed, chia seeds and sesame seeds, a handful mix of walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts (both seeds and nuts bought in bulk and mixed in a jar), and half a handful of raisins.
I then add a jar (150g) of my homemade yoghurt (post for another day…) and seasonal fruit from the market. I can honestly say this is my favourite meal of the day (I’m German, after all, so I feel like an empress chomping on my muesli) and even of all times. It makes me so happy and easily keeps me going until lunchtime.
3 Avocado on toast
…or ‘avo on toast’ as it’s commonly known amongst hipsters. Deemed a fresh, healthy and tasty superfood, it’s a favourite for brunches or even light lunches. However, I’m aware of the controversy around the environmental impact of the increased avocado consumption of the western world, so I don’t a(d)vocate this as a daily breakfast, more as a treat if you want to feel like an emperor for the day.
You can usually get avocado at your local market or greengrocer, and for the ‘toast’ component you can practically use any type of bread at your disposal; sourdough or whole meal rye work particularly well. Outrageously, I’m not linking to a recipe here. Come on, you’ve got this.
4 Bacon & eggs
This is so self explanatory, I feel embarrassed even typing these lines. Get bacon from your local butcher or your trusted supermarket’s meat counter (from experience, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s will happily accept your own containers) and eggs from your local market or butcher or health store or fishmonger (yes, indeed, in Warwick!).
Then get creative with your eggs (sunny side up for me, all the time; unless I’m feeling a little bit scrambled.)
5 Bacon buttie
Bacon. Buttie. Off you go and cure your hangover. Add whatever you fancy, but my fellow British bacon buttie fundamentalists tell me that whatever you add (tomato, ketchup, butter!?!) only makes it worse. And complicates the zero waste beauty of the simple thing. Thoughts on this in the comments, please.
6 Yoghurt with fresh fruit
This is a breakfast that really lets you go wild at your local market or greengrocer. Seasonality is the key word here… red fruits and peaches/nectarines and melons in summer, blackberries and plums in early autumn, apples and pears in winter, and the odd tropical fruit mixed in for variety (bananas, pineapple, mango, etc.).
You can get your regular fix and variety by subscribing to an organic fruit and veg box delivery scheme, or you can even go out and forage your ingredients. Make your own yoghurt – it’s really easy and will save you heaps of money and packaging.
7 Home-made granola
Another variation on the muesli to add some crunch, but also usually sugar and fat so make sure you choose a healthy recipe like this one.
Ahhhh omelette. I love it. I usually have it as a treat when on holiday or out for brunch, but it’s so easy to make so I’m wondering why we don’t have it for breakfast more often. Maybe because omelette also features in our ‘egg based meal’ category in our weekly meal planner, or gets made to use up leftovers on a Friday… I’m rambling on now, sorry, I didn’t mean to spoil your omelette.
The options are endless so pick your favourite from this recipe list – just limited by what you can get package free.
9 Toast or bread with jam, peanut butter and/or nutella
This is one where I feel really at home because in Germany this would be your traditional breakfast any day of the week. Be a breakfast emperor by upgrading your toast or bread to a tasty French croissant (if your local artisan bakery or market sells them, or try Lidl’s).
“But where do I get my jam or nutella from without packaging?” you may wonder… yes, I admit this isn’t an obvious one for the zero waste breakfast list, but we’re all good at problem solving, especially when it comes to our favourite sweet spreads, hey?
Firstly, jam or marmalade – I’m sure you know a family member, friend, neighbour, teacher, friend of a friend, acquaintance, handyman, postman’s wife, you name it… who makes jam. Thankfully it’s still a common (albeit dying?) hobby so that you’ll be able to find someone who makes it at home and is willing to share with or sell it to you. And I’m pretty sure they’ll be reusing any jars they can get their hands on, so you’re safe on the re-use side.
Secondly, peanut butter. SO EASY TO MAKE AT HOME. Google it. You will never ever need to buy it again.
Thirdly, hazelnut and cocoa spread a.k.a. N**ella. Okay, I admit this is a tricky one and one that I haven’t made myself yet, and I haven’t found one in bulk yet either. But here’s a recipe from Zero Waste Chef – from first look you should be able to get all ingredients bar the vanilla extract from Clean Kilo in Birmingham. Let us know in the comments if you’ve found another zero waste way to get your nutella fix! Thanks.
This is another all-week, all-day favourite in the bluegreen household, which is why I’ve almost missed it off the zero waste breakfast list. Like their cousin the omelette, pancakes will serve as a vessel for any topping you fancy – sweet, savoury, or pure…
2-3 eggs, flour, milk, salt, combine to a runny-ish mixture, bake in a non-stick pan with some butter, go wild with toppings. Use honey instead of maple syrup which I haven’t been able to find package free yet. Some pancake inspiration here.
11 Breakfast smoothie
Smoothies are great for breakfast on the go (so probably one in the ‘king’ court?). Again, possibilities are endless, so I suggest using seasonal fruit and veg from the market, plus some seeds and/or nuts for protein, and adding enough water or yoghurt to avoid too much sugar.
I’ve found some great zero waste smoothie ideas in this blog post, and I’ve just made a note to come up with my own smoothie recipe list based on UK seasonal fruit and veg to be a little more realistic with obtaining the ingredients package free!
12 Full English breakfast (minus the beans)
“SCAM!!!” I hear you shout. Okay I hold my hands up, only a foreigner would dare to call a bean-less breakfast a full English breakfast. Leaving aside the question whether there really is a need for zero waste baked beans (don’t kill me), you could still whip up a near-zero waste Full English breakfast using beans from a can which at least can be more easily recycled than plastic.
Everything else – bacon, sausages, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding if you must – can be obtained package free from your trusted sources. “And hash browns!?” I hear you hastily request… well, this has been a revelation for me, as I was about to tell you to just forget about them. But a quick google search revealed that they’re quite easy to make yourself, and guess what, also totally zero waste. So if you can’t live without them, you just have to get up half an hour earlier to build them into you fry-up frenzy.
Final zero waste breakfast words
Thank you very much for making it to the bottom of the list! If you’ve been such an attentive reader up until here, then you may have some question marks or doubts about the obtainability of certain auxiliary breakfast ingredients via a zero waste method… and I don’t want to leave these unmentioned:
- Breakfast drinks (coffee, tea, orange juice, milk): Find a local coffee roaster or obtain (ground) coffee beans from your local independent cafe, they should be willing to put them into your own containers. Likewise, seek out an independent tea merchant or find a branch of Whittard’s and bring in your own containers. Orange juice – make it yourself from fresh oranges (ideally only when in season in winter), or order it in reused milk bottles with your milk (e.g. from Milk & More).
- Butter, oils for bread toppings or for frying stuff: The Clean Kilo in Birmingham sells butter and oils in bulk; also check out Vom Fass who have stores around the UK, including a concession in Selfridges in Birmingham. It’s also worth having a look around your local farmers market for oil (Cotswold Gold for example will decant into your own bottle and then reuse their own). We buy butter wrapped in paper from Sainsbury’s and get oil from Clean Kilo.
- Cheese & ham: Try your supermarket’s fresh cheese counter (I’ve found that unfortunately even there most cheeses are wrapped in plastic) or if you’re lucky, you’ll have a reasonably priced cheese vendor at your local market. For ham, you may have success with your local butcher, or just use leftover meat from your Sunday roast instead like we do.
- Cereals: This family favourite hasn’t made it onto the list because we haven’t been able to find a satisfactory bulk version of it. While Clean Kilo and a stall in Coventry market stock cornflakes & co. in bulk, they really don’t taste great as they tend to go stale in the bulk containers. So until Simon manages to give up his love of Wheetabix and Rice Crispies, or some admirable eco pioneers develop vacuum containers for selling cereals in bulk, their packaging will continue to contribute to our (small) household plastic waste 😦
I hope this list of 12 zero waste breakfast ideas has been helpful and given you a nudge on how to start your day in a zero waste fashion (as I’m sure you were aware of all of these breakfast options already). The key here is that most of these are simple to make, healthy-ish, seasonal, and easy to obtain without much effort and – more importantly – without waste. Please add your favourite zero waste breakfast in the comments – whether you’re a breakfast beggar, king or emperor! Cheers, Bettina