By the time June had rolled around during my Year of Reducing Plastic, I had started to build some real ‘muscle’ regarding saying ‘no’ to plastic. But–if I am honest with myself–I hadn’t really given up anything difficult. All I had done so far was replace things that I used with more eco-friendly versions: changing my shampoo to Lush shampoo bars, replacing my cleaners with apple cider vinegar, and even changing my laundry detergent to soap nuts.
This was going to be my first challenge where I actually got rid of something without replacing it with something else–the delicious convenience store bentos. I mean, I had already failed once at giving these up back in February! If I am going to be honest with myself–and all of you readers out there–one of the things I unexpectedly miss from Japan is the delicious and balanced bento meals from the convenience stores. They embodied pretty much everything I need in my life: convenient, reasonably balanced, inexpensive, and delicious. So how can I give them up?
I really dislike cooking at home, so these were usually my go-to meal for work lunches. To make matters worse, there was a Lawson’s right on the way to work, so it was easy for to just walk in to grab one on my way there. But….well, the time had come to say goodbye. In June, I challenged myself to stop buying all prepackaged food and to start making food at home more often. In order to make the transition easier for myself, I went with a friend to Costco at the end of May. This helped me in a couple of ways.
First of all, I really hate cooking so any effort spent on cooking feels like a waste of time (to me). As such, I am perfectly fine eating vegetables raw or even just steamed without any additional preparation. Costco came to my rescue! They have a massive five pound bag of frozen broccoli that is really cheap! BOOM. Veggies done.
Secondly, I have a really big sweet tooth but needed to stop buying candy bars with wrappers. Costco’s got my back too: frozen fruit. I replaced my candy bars with frozen fruits (blueberries, strawberries, and mango were the options available at the time). Thirdly, I find giant packs of chicken breasts there. Since I pretty much only eat chicken breast at home, this was perfect for me to get my protein in.
The last bit of food shopping that I had to do was to find a place to get some eggs that were in a carton that wasn’t plastic. I had no luck finding a non plastic option, but I did fine a place that sold them as singles, so I just reused one of my previous plastic egg cartons. Finally, I made a conscious decision to ride my bike to work on the opposite side of the street so I wouldn’t be tempted to go into the Lawson’s and get their delicious and convenient bento boxes.
So now I am completely prepped for June success by the end of May! Right? Right?!?! Unfortunately, I lasted about a week before I needed something with processed sugar and a bento for lunch. This was actually the first time (okay, fine….the second time….but the first challenge!) during this plastic-reducing change that I actually really struggled to stay on track. I really love sweet stuff so I really had to come up with a solution as soon as possible. In the end, I decided that any time I needed something sweet, I had to go to a cafe and get a slice of cake.
Getting rid of processed food took me a long time to get used to when I lived in Japan and things got much worse once I got to Korea. This is still something I struggle with daily here because it is so hard to avoid here. In the end, I decided to do what I can and not restrict myself from eating those things but rather, to buy one each week. Then I make it a goal to see how long I can last without eating it.
From that experience, I learned that it is okay to be imperfect; it is better to make the effort I can and to gradually reduce so the effort sticks for the long run. Smaller changes mean that I can make the differences last over time.