Jen, our shop manager, has given us some amazing ideas on how to prepare a sustainable Christmas and how to create hand-made sustainable gifts. Jen is also running her own catering business, Zing Fresh, and is all about sustainable sustenance that looks beautiful. She works Monday to Wednesday, and every second Thursday at the Co-op so pop in and feel free to ask any questions of Jen.

For me, my catering ingenuity is just about spontaneity and resourcefulness. If I let myself be open to different ways of doing things then the ideas and opportunities just come flooding in.

It’s a cyclical thing whereby a need leads to an idea leads to a solution leads to another opportunity leads to an experiment leads to an amazing new range of ideas and uses.

It should really be called a recycling thing in the sense that this looping leads me to ways of using things I’d never had a use for before or to using things I love in ways I never have before. 

Hand-Made Gifts

It can be fun buying gifts “off the shelf” for people however the joy it brings hardly compares to that look on the face you get when giving somebody something that you have made with your own hands. Aside from this, ready-made products from retail shelves usually come with the obligatory enemy – packaging.

To get sustainable this Christmas, think about ways you could show your love through the thought and time commitment of making something yourself. Exercise your inner creative and at the same time save the world by conserving packaging waste and making use of what’s in your pantry. Think of the ingredients you have bought from the Co-op. Your pantry supplies have come to you from the Co-op without wasteful packaging. Take advantage of this and think – What new life/different purpose can you give them?

Gifts That Keep On Giving

Items that are somewhat practical but also beautiful are perfect ideas for this Christmas. At your Co-op we are working on a range of Christmas gifts. This week in store we have our fabulous Dukkah jars back in store. Jen has concocted three dukkah mixes for you to choose from. Priced at $14.39 (or $13 for members) pick up a few of these jars to brighten up a Christmas hamper or spoil someone special.

These jars make great gifts

If you do have some time to apply your creativity, here are some ideas to get you started.

Infused Olive Oil

infused olive oil
Fennel infused olive oil

Try infusing olive oil with favoured flavours:

  • Fresh turmeric and/or ginger (great for enhancing soups, curries, salads, stir fries etc
  • Fennel seeds & black pepper ( perfect over pork or potatoes)
  • Caraway seeds & beetroot powder ( the joy of pink tinted oil and great combined with pumpkin, goats cheese, avocado toast

There are so many ideas for raiding our pantry for plastic or other waste free gifts.

Nut Mixes 

Grab some of your favourite nuts and bake them briefly with sweet or savoury spices. Maple and star anise can work really well.

mixed spices and nuts
Mixed spices & nuts

Home-made dips

Try a different blend of pesto like coriander and cashew. Mint and pistachio. Pesto need not always be basil and pine nut! Similarly get experimental with hemp seed oil. Olive oil doesn’t have to always be the start! Try leftover pumpkin or turmeric with soy beans or chick peas to whizz up your unique flavoured dip. Just add some garlic, olive oil and tahini.


Got some Beetroot you can’t get through? Tickle your friends and family pink by blending it raw or cooked with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil & adzuki beans or cucumber, garlic and yoghurt to make interesting tones of dip.

With all those olives? Blend them with almonds parsley garlic and olive oil for a perfect picnic paste for crackers and cheese.

You can also innovate by making a pumpkin, orange & ginger humus.

pumpkin, orange & ginger houmous
pumpkin, orange & ginger houmous


You can also innovate by making a simple two-ingredients beetroot and caraway tzatziki.
Beetroot, caraway, adzuki beans and lime are also a great combination to beet those shelf humus varieties sold in plastic tubs!

beetroot and caraway tzatziki
beetroot and caraway tzatziki

Red cabbage is something that can always be found at the co op and it’s a perfect example of Such an opportunity. Check out our recipe for quick pickled cabbage with apple cider vinegar.
It’s healthy. It tastes great. The purple colour transforms into an even more beautiful colour after pickling. It is made by you. It finds a new home in a glass jar. The lucky recipient thinks of you each time they use it/enjoy it.
That’s what we’ve done, recently introducing DIY dukkah to our product range. We have blended a range of seeds, nuts and spices within a jar. All you or your lucky gift recipient does is toast and blend the mix to use in one of many ways to make their meals. Come to life.

Red Cabbage
Red Cabbage

How to avoid plastic during celebrations?

Make Your Own Bowls

The thought – I want to avoid plastic. 

The problem – I need a bowl for the dip and I don’t want to take a heavy ceramic or delicate glass bowl  to the picnic as I may break it or I’ll have to carry it all the way home again and the leftovers will spill all over everything in my bag……yada yada yada !

The solution – The opportunities are actually endless, watermelon, rock melon, honeydew melon, avocado. You can use any and all of these things in your picnic platters, Christmas tables and grazing tables.

Their colour, texture and innovative purpose brings so much to the table. The fact that it’s a low / no waste invention is just the icing on the cake. It makes an organic spread all the more natural, honest and real AND it can be composted after use. Way more than the forever haunting legacy that plastic offers.

beetroot dip in a rockmelon bowl
beetroot dip in a rockmelon bowl

Zero wastage too in that what is scooped out of the fruit in pursuit of a bowl can be used as another meal opportunity. So the scooped out innards make for great fruit salad, (use a melon baller to carve your bowl for an attractive shape to your salad or make smoothies as with the carved out melons and/ or dips such with scooped out avocado for guacamole. You’re well on your way to an eye, stomach and crowd pleasing, waste free picnic!! You’ve used your head and in so doing, you have used the whole fruit (no waste- from “peel to pip” I call it) and the fresh produce from the co op didn’t event come in any packaging to begin with!

Use Glass Jars Instead of Plastic

glass jars
glass jars

Choose Magic Ingredients to use as Crackers!

Crackers always come in plastic packaging. Think of food from nature that doesn’t come in packaging that can be used in place of crackers. Nashi and Bosc pears are nice crisp bases for sitting haloumi or other cheese. Best complimented with a fig or quince paste or spread in between. Add some fresh nut sprinkles.
You can also use the whole product as decoration to reflect the ingredients.

pears as crisp bases
Pears as crisp bases
Apple slices with pulled pork, goat cheese, rocket, chilli and hazelnut
Apple slices with pulled pork, goat cheese, rocket, chilli and hazelnut

Other Ideas

You can serve in compostable serve-ware instead of plastic.

compostable serve
Compostable serve-ware

Re-use single serve beverage bottles you have bought to make your own cocktails or juices.

Re-used glass jars for cocktails or juices
re usable glass jars for cocktails or juices

Home-Made Christmas Tree

Instead of a plastic tree, make your own or source a re-usable tree made from branches and twigs. Decorations can be made of felt, wood, fabric, ceramic instead of plastic.

Home-Made Christmas Tree
Home-Made Christmas Tree

You can also create a Christmas tree centrepiece made from driftwood collected at a local beach.

xmas tree centrepiece
Christmas tree centrepiece

This recipe is a creation by Jennifer Sargent from Zing Fresh, using only organic ingredients that are all available at your Co-op. 🙂