Use The Plenty Method to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

The amount of plastic the world consumes has increased dramatically since 1980 and 40% of it is used just once. (National Geographic, June 2018) The majority of this plastic comes from food packaging. The next time you are in a grocery store, take a look. Notice all the single use packaging then envision it ending up in the landfill. It’s actually somewhat horrific when you step back and really see the stark truth of this.

The Plenty Method can help you reduce your plastic footprint and food packaging in general. How does it do this? First, food is made from “scratch” ingredients that are bought in bulk whenever possible. You learn that it’s actually quite easy to make something simple and delicious out of scratch ingredients so you purchase less and less packaged food. And when you buy food in bulk, more of your money goes to buy the food, and not the packaging, so you’ll be able to buy higher quality food. Your pantry will be full of nutrient dense, whole foods that are usually organic. I call this “superstar food”. It stands on its own and doesn’t need much “do” to prepare so putting food on the table is quick and simple.

Each of these scratch ingredients has its own airtight container or other permanent location. This makes working with food so much more pleasurable. The airtight containers replace all the food stored in single use, mismatched packages that don’t seal properly, which may invite staleness and attract bugs, moths, mold, mites, and rodents. It’s much nicer to handle a substantial glass jar that opens easily than flimsy single-use packages that usually don’t close properly. You can see the food through glass jars which is visually more pleasing than a collection of opaque food packages. Your food will be clearly visible and labeled. No more “UFO”s – Unidentified Food Objects! You can say goodbye to random food clutter. The kitchen stays clean, organized, and fresh.

Together, we can stop this crazy overuse of plastic. Every little bit helps and small steps can add up to radical change. Transformation starts with awareness. Just say “no” to single use packaging, one buying decision at a time. This will make a world of difference and a different world.

Spices can be bought in bulk and stored in jars retrieved from recycle bins

How The Plenty Method Reduces Food Waste

One of The Joy of Plenty’s goals is to help reduce the amount of food the world wastes. Every day America wastes enough food to fill the Rose Bowl. Yes, that Rose Bowl—the ninety-thousand-seat football stadium in Pasadena, California.[1]You read that right; that’s every day, not every year. The Natural Resources Defense Council claims Americans lose up to 40 percent of our food from farm to fork to landfill.[2] Reducing the amount of food waste (or, waste as food) will dramatically help create planetary health since agriculture leaves a huge footprint on our planet.

While The Plenty Method can’t do anything about the food that rots in a farmer’s field or deteriorates in a warehouse, it can help you trim your household food waste. How does The Plenty Method do this? By helping you learn how to:


  • Make a focused Master Ingredients List that encourages you to purchase fewer but more versatile kinds of food. Less variety leads to less waste. Creatively transform the ingredients you already have on hand instead of buying a new single-use item that could end up as half-eaten food waste.
  • Buy food close to the source so it is fresh and lasts longer.
  • Buy longer-lasting foods instead of those that rapidly spoil.


  • Learn how to store food properly to prevent premature spoilage.
  • Store and preserve food properly, then retrieve it from storage as needed. This is a flip-flop from buying food, thinking that you will use it, but then your plans change. You forget the food; it spoils and gets tossed.
  • Store staple ingredients in clear, airtight glass containers so they are visible; no out-of-sight, out-of-mind food left to rot.
  • Learn to extend the life of food by removing oxygen by using a vacuum-packing machine and other methods.


  • View manufacturer’s expiration dates as suggestions only; tune into your senses to determine if a food is safe to eat.
  • Understand the shelf life of foods to know when to watch for subtle changes in flavor, texture, and smell that tell you to use it soon.


  • Experience more connection with your food by learning to appreciate and respect it. This awareness encourages you to tune into your food to prevent spoilage.
  • Share or exchange food with others before it spoils.


  • Use or preserve avoidable waste, such as peelings, meat bones, and overripe fruits. For example, freeze cream in ice cube trays. Use old bread for breadcrumbs, croutons, French toast, or bread pudding. Transform carrot tops into carrot-pesto. Use Parmesan cheese rinds to flavor soups, and so on.
  • Redefine what fresh means, and resurrect foods that are thought of as “bad.” For example, a cauliflower with brown spots is usually perfectly edible when you trim them off. A mealy apple is delicious when you bake it. Try putting a soggy banana in a smoothie or banana fritter.

Please consider learning The Plenty Method to reduce your household food waste. Every little bit helps! Or, as I like to say “Big is just a whole bunch of little”. One small step, one small footprint can add up to huge progress down the road. One person can make a difference and that person is you!

Half-eaten and expired condiments create alot of wasted food

[1] Jonathan Bloom, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half  of its Food (and What You Can Do About It) (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2010), xi

[2] Dana Gunders, Natural Resources Defense Council Issue Paper, August 2012,

God Save the Queen Bees

I am so thankful for the bees ‒ the fragile agents ‒ who work tirelessly on our behalf. Much of our food chain depends on pollinators, yet many people are unaware of the essential role they play in creating our food supply. Part of The Joy of Plenty’s mission is to educate people about the role pollinators play in food production and to sound the alarm about the enormous pressure all pollinators are under from overuse of agricultural pesticides.

Last week, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a report on the current state of the biosphere (please see previous post). The report estimates that up to US$577 billion of the crops the world produces are at risk without bees to pollinate them. Bees are the linchpin of our food system and overuse of agricultural pesticides are one of the reasons they are weakening.

In a perfect world, if everyone ate organic food, the need for toxic agricultural chemicals would diminish and this would greatly help the bees. The Plenty Method gives people the tools they need to increase their purchases of organic food, so they can eat well and support the pollinators, too. Over time, this will help foster a robust food chain and vibrant ecosystems, and we can do this now. In a landmark decision in May of 2018, the European Commission banned three neonicotinoid insecticides linked to bee death. This is an encouraging sign that vast numbers of people are becoming aware of the need to protect our pollinators and it’s a huge win for the bees. We can join the crescendo of voices that created that legislation and add to the momentum. Our collective buying power can create massive transformation, one buying decision at a time.

Please consider using The Plenty Method to spend your food dollars wisely and well and to help protect our food supply for future generations. As I conclude writing this, the Beatles song “With a Little Help From My Friends” repeats in my inner ears. But I’ve added a word! “I get by with a little help from my little friends.” Dear bees, what true friends you are. You are our unsung heroes! Let’s join together to give them all the help they need.

How to use an Un-recipe Recipe, Part Two

Here’s another example of an un-recipe. In case you haven’t read any of the prior posts, an un-recipe gives you enormous freedom in the kitchen. You can break free from having to use exact ingredients and exact measurements, too (baking is an exception, there is some leeway but not much). You learn to switch out and switch up ingredients in recipes and use what you have on hand. This makes the whole topic of food easier and more pleasurable. Over time, you learn which flavors go together and you will discover unique combinations you didn’t even know existed. If you want information about which flavors compliment each other, check out “The Flavor Bible” by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page.

The following un-recipe is for my favorite quick bread. I love eating this in the morning, toasted with a lot of butter. Eating something this delicious —and nourishing —makes me happy to be alive. The quality of one’s life can be measured in the number of simple little pleasures that occur throughout the day. You don’t even need a mixer to make this – just a mixing bowl, spoon, and some elbow grease.

The Very Best Quick Bread or Muffins

2 cups unsifted flour (I’ve tried this with gluten-free flour, it works as long as you add some xanthan gum)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
Sweetener: 1 cup date, coconut or cane sugar. I like to use date sugar. If you use coconut sugar, keep an eye on it because it will brown fast. Cover with foil about 15 minutes into the baking. This recipe may work with honey or agave syrup, but I have not tried it. You might need to add a bit more flour.
Spices: ½ tsp each cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger or 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie or chai spices or other combination of warm spices.
2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil (I like to use rice bran oil) OR substitute ¾ cup mayonnaise and ¼ cup water for the oil and eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla or other flavoring (I like maple, almond and hazelnut)
1 cup pumpkin or winter squash, or mashed ripe bananas, applesauce, zucchini, or other pureed fruit.
Chopped nuts and/or dates, candied ginger, chocolate chips, etc.

Combine the dry ingredients. Combine the moist ingredients then thoroughly mix the dry with the moist. Pour into greased loaf or muffin pans. You can vary the size of the loaf or muffin pans– just make sure they are filled about half way. Bake in a 350⁰ oven for 35-40 minutes or until the mixture starts to pull away from the edges of the pan and cracks appear on the surface. Cool in pan. This bread freezes well, too.

Heirloom pumpkins make fantastic pumpkin bread!

I like to make this via the “assembly line” method. You can make multiple batches of the dry ingredients and store each batch in one quart mason jars. Then all you have to do is round up the moist ingredients and whip a loaf together in just a matter of minutes. So there you go – another un-recipe recipe.

How to Use an Un-recipe recipe, Part One

When you do The Plenty Method, you discover new freedom in the kitchen via “un-recipe recipes”. You’ll have a pantry packed full of scratch ingredients, called Master Ingredients, and a nice assortment of “flavor bursts” – concentrated flavorings that up-level your cooking from good to great. The variety of foods you keep on hand is dialed back – less is more in the case of your pantry – and immense creativity and ease arises out of this simplicity.

Most recipes call for exact ingredients and measurements. This can be quite restrictive and following recipes exactly is time consuming, too. They can also lead to excessive food clutter. Recipes often call for ingredients that you may never use again, so they tend to end up as food clutter then food waste. Using un-recipes avoids this. When you read recipes that call for ingredients you don’t have on hand, you learn to make substitutions with what you do have. If you are using “The Plenty Method”, your well thought out pantry gives you many options.  A simplified yet plentiful pantry takes much of the complication out of putting food on the table.

Here is an example of an “un-recipe recipe” – my favorite salad dressing. Why is this an un-recipe? Because you can mix and match the ingredients and create many versions. Over the years many friends have asked me for this recipe and I am happy to share it with you now.

The Very Best Salad Dressing

½ cup vinegar (l like aged-sherry, champagne, white and red balsamic)
1 tablespoon sugar (I use raw cane and demerara)
I tablespoon mustard (favorites are stone ground, Dijon and spicy brown)
Pinch of salt (any kind but iodized. It tastes terrible!)
1 shallot (if you don’t have one, use about ¼ cup diced any kind of onion)
1 clove garlic
1 ½ cups oil (my favorites are olive, walnut, rice bran)

Puree the first six ingredients in a blender. Then slowly add the oil and blend some more. Store in a glass bottle. Keeps for up to two months, refrigerated.

Lately my favorite version of this is made with sherry vinegar and half olive/half walnut oil and stone ground mustard. In the past I’ve used blood orange champagne vinegar. White wine vinegars are better with neutral oils, like rice bran (please see previous post) and dark vinegars are better with olive oil.

Make your own salad dressing with the best vinegar you can afford and increase your sensory pleasure and enjoyment of life!

So look at what you have on hand and whip up a batch. Once you taste this, pre-made dressings you buy at the grocery store will utterly pale in comparison. I use the money I save by NOT buying pre-made salad dressing to buy high-quality vinegar and oils. It takes just a few minutes to whip this up and the extraordinary sensory pleasure you’ll get makes the time spent so worthwhile. So there you have it – a real “un-recipe recipe”.

Curry in a Hurry, Part Two

As mentioned in my previous post, The Plenty Method helps you whip up sumptuous meals on a moment’s notice. I call these “quick plates”. The idea is to stock a pantry with a plentiful yet simple collection of scratch ingredients called “Master Ingredients.” Then, develop a repertoire of “un-recipe recipes” that reduce the time it takes to get food on the table. This way, you’ll always have great food on hand and you’ll know what to do with it. Which makes the question “what to eat” much easier to answer and the statement “there’s nothing to eat” non-existent.

Over the years I’ve developed some short cuts to expedite time spent in the kitchen. The curry described in the previous post is more flavorful with a little garlic and ginger added. But peeling and chopping those takes precious time, time you may not want to spend. Plus, you may not always have those ingredients on hand. What to do about this dilemma? Freeze it! Here’s how:

Start by buying a couple of pounds each of garlic and/or ginger. Then, peel and coarsely chop it and drop it in a blender or a food-processor. Blend until it becomes a smooth paste then add a little  vegetable oil so that it binds together and becomes spreadable. Using a spatula,  put the mixture into ice cube trays and freeze for a day or two. Then, thaw until the cubes are loose enough to be scooped out with a small knife (I find a butter knife with a rounded edge works best). Place them on a cookie sheet and re-freeze. Then place in a plastic container with an airtight lid. I cut the cubes in half and put waxed or parchment paper in between the layers. You don’t have to thaw these out before using. Just chop them up a bit and use them as if they were fresh.

You can do this with lemon juice, whipping cream or fresh herbs. Having these “flavor cubes” on hand gives you the ability to up-level your cooking from good to great with minimal effort. Easy “un-recipes” make cooking a lot more pleasurable, too!

How to Multiply Coconut Milk, Part One

How to Multiply Coconut Milk, Part One

I began working on The Plenty Method in 2008 when I was a planning commissioner for the city of Wilsonville, Oregon. I specialized in food and water because they are so fundamental to life. Slowly, I began to worry that accessing uncontaminated/unadulterated food would become more difficult and more expensive over time. Eating well was a priority, yet a healthful diet consisting solely of organic and humanely food was already cost-prohibitive.

Now, ten years later, I’ve finished articulating The Plenty Method. I’d like to help you learn how to access – and afford – the best food on the planet. Then you can have radiant health and experience more pleasure in life, too. The following is an example of how you can multiply your food dollars when you use The Plenty Method.

Lately, there’s been a lot of mention about how livestock contributes to greenhouse gases. So I’m trying to find non-dairy alternatives for milk. Coconut milk makes a surprisingly good substitute for cow’s milk and cream. The unsweetened concentrate comes in a can and when diluted with water in a one to one ratio, it has the consistency of milk. Use less water and it’s like cream. Coconut milk is creamier and silkier than cow’s milk. When mixed with other foods, the coconut flavor becomes mild or even diminishes. So far, I’ve tried it in my favorite creamy vegetable soup and a béchamel sauce (that I poured over roasted cauliflower). It’s fabulous in hot chocolate!  Use it in curry and smoothies. Feel free to experiment, substituting it in recipes that call for milk or cream.

A 13.5 ounce can of organic coconut milk retails for around $3.59, or just shy of .27 cents per ounce.  At the local wholesale restaurant supply store (where anyone can shop, no license required) a 98 ounce can sells for $9.59, or just shy of ten cents an ounce.  When I buy it wholesale, I multiply my food dollars by almost three times. Multiplying your food dollars will make you feel quite wealthy. Having plentiful amounts of coconut milk on hand feels quite luxurious. Contributing to planetary health by reducing the use of dairy and increasing your purchases of organic food can make you feel happy, too. By the way, the “E” in The “Plenty” Method stands for “Easy-to-find-food-sources”. Our book, “The Joy of Plenty”, will show you how to find non-grocery store food sources so you can easily multiply your food dollars. And if you wonder what to do with that all that coconut milk, stay tuned for the next blog.

The Plenty Method helps you learn how to multiply your food dollars