11 (Almost) Free Stuff

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co 11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

I picked up these two discarded items from my void deck :

(top) the crockery jar pot still has its “$19.90” price sticker intact, so my guess is that it’s brand new.

(bottom) this Pyrex brand beaker is actually a carafe dismantled from a poorly maintained french press coffeemaker.  The “plunger” component is missing, all that was left was a badly stained plastic frame and this glass carafe.  After a 30-second soak in hot water, the beaker slides out from the frame easily.  Another 30-second scrubbing with baking soda, the glass beaker starts to look pretty and new again.  Open terrarium, anyone?

While it’s not every day that I can find free usable things on my walking path, here are 10 almost-free items that pop up occasionally in my kitchen:

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++ 001. FREE! BODY SCRUB – from used coffee grounds after a morning cuppa.  After I posted this idea on my FB, someone alerted me that the caffeine is great for banishing cellulite too.  Although most recipes I found online mix coffee grounds with oil to make body scrub, I am simply too lazy to wash up a greasy shower area after my home spa sessions, so I stick to just plain old coffee grounds.  If you don’t drink coffee at home, try requesting used coffee grounds from cafes, a tip some home gardeners share as they use the coffee grounds from cafes as fertilizers.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++002. FREE! CUTTING BOARD CLEANER – Most instructions like this and this ask for freshly cut lemon halves which are used to rub salt into the board.  I use only lemons that have their juice squeezed out to make lemonade.  I don’t have extremely strong arms, so there is always residual juice left in the pulp, not a lot, but somehow enough to cover the entire chopping board.  Great for freshening up boards that are starting to transfer too much garlic smell onto any food that it is in contact with.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++003. FREE! FOOD SAVERS – Reuse glass jars as tiny food savers.  See though means I know exactly what’s inside my fridge, and what I need to clear.  No food wasted.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++004. FREE! TEA LIGHT HOLDERS – Tiny glass jars are the perfect size for this project.  More glass upcycling ideas here.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++005. FREE! WRITING PAPERS – End of the school year means that the kids will be back with half used exercise books, I have been doing this with my limited book binding skill when I accumulate enough sheets.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++006. FREE! MESH PRODUCE BAGS – I asked for these from the vegetable stall holder who throws them away anyway.  Great replacement for plastic bags.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++007. FREE! TRASH BAGS. Anything that comes in a plastic bag can become a trash bag.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++008. FREE! SHOPPING BAGS – These 10kg rice bags with handles can carry up to 10kg loads of shopping items, open up the sewn rice bag like this to do the least damage to it and start reusing these tough bags!

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++009. FREE! KEEPSAKE BOX – Upcycled from fanciful mooncake boxes.

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++010. FREE! RUBBER BANDS – Why buy these anyway?

11 (Almost) Free Stuff // Mono + Co

++ 011. FREE! DESICCANT – These little sachets are in every individually sealed mooncakes.  I also found them in groundnut snacks.  I throw them inside any airtight containers that could do with a little less moisture, e,g, cookie jars, coffee grounds, tea leaves etc.

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I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

So talks are finally underway to stop giving out plastic bags for free in a bid to reduce a global plastic pollution problem.  I started grocery shopping with my own reusable bags 5 years ago, and to date, I am still unable to clear my stockpile of bags. I found this singlet bag all the way from 2012, still in perfectly good condition, as if I have just gotten it yesterday.

Besides becoming litter when disposed of in an inconsiderate manner, plastic waste is creating havoc on earth for the same reason that made them so popular: their durability makes them hard to break down and go away after we are done with their intended use.  The need for something to be lightweight and cheap to produce has created what seems to me as an over-reliance on disposal plastic products like shopping bags, takeaway beverage cups and food containers, straws, etc.  These plastic items are usually good for only one-time use but the discarded plastic waste stays around for a very long time.

Actually, it is kind of a wasteful trait to be telling my kids that humans invented and produce plastic disposable items so that we can be free from the washing task after we are done with our lunch/ coffee/ bubble tea drink, and the pile of disposable plastic waste problem is for someone else to settle.  Don’t we want to raise our kids to be thrifty and frugal?  How do we do that when we keep telling them to throw away things that have been used for barely an hour in the case of takeaway lunch or beverage?

I am no expert on plastic waste management, but I have somehow found a few nifty ways to survive without a kitchen drawer filled with plastic shopping bags for the past few years, and I think I am getting better with each shopping day.  While the bags will only be chargeable starting middle of next year, it doesn’t hurt to start saving a few more plastic bags now from choking the waterways/killing the wildlife/ending up on our dining plate.

Here are 6 tips on how I reduce my reliance on supermarket shopping bags and I hope they will be useful if you are attempting to cut out plastic bags from your shopping trips.


001. Replace waste bin liner with the newspaper

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

Like how Audrey Hepburn line hers in her kitchen, you can easily fold one following this video, or

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

do without a bin completely and fold a standing one like this.

002. Separate the wet kitchen trash from the dry ones.

It’s usually the wet trash that needs to be bagged in plastic to prevent leaks.  The dry ones can be simply wrapped in newspapers before tossing.  The amount of wet trash I produce in my kitchen usually can’t fill up a plastic shopping bag, so I reuse other packaging I have salvaged instead, see tip #003.

003. Rethink plastic shopping bags as the only trash bags at home.

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

The most common response I get from shopping without plastic bags is: “How do you bag your trash?” My answer to that will be:” Every darn packaging that comes with the things I buy!”

Like plastic bags, even these are quick to pile up since we live in a world surrounded by packaging.  The photo above shows what I can accumulate in a day: a commercial bread packaging (when I run out of time to bake my own), a plastic bag from brown rice, and a Milo powder refill sachet.  These can be my alternative trash bags but are often are too large for my wet kitchen trash, so I  send them for recycling instead.  I use smaller plastic bags from packing mushrooms, sugar, rice flour, and salt to bag my wet kitchen trash usually.

004.  Reduce waste: Start recycling

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

Sorting out the recyclables will greatly reduce the amount of “real” trash thrown away.  Starting a recycling corner to collect recyclables like paper, plastic, metal and glass containers.  Deposit them into the blue recycling bins that have been conveniently placed around the estates instead of throwing them away as rubbish.

005. Reduce waste:  the raw vegetable and fruit scraps

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

My kitchen scrap level is now super low since I make eco enzyme with raw vegetable and fruits scraps and send the rest for composting.

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

If composting or making eco enzyme is too complex at first, start with baby steps: make this citrus-infused vinegar with orange/lemon/grapefruit/pomelo peels and use it as an all-purpose cleaner.  Simply fill a container with citrus fruit peels that you would normally discard, top up with white vinegar, and wait around 3 days.  The nice smelling citrus vinegar can now be diluted for cleaning use.

006. Bring along reusable shopping bags
I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

Now that the need for shopping bag as trash bags has been eliminated, it’s time to stop accumulating these plastic bags during shopping trips.  The habit to bring at least 2 reusable shopping bags in my carryall tote, and more if it is a planned grocery shopping trip, has stucked with me for years. I mentioned here before that a cotton tote requires 327 times of usage for its carbon foot print to be on par with that from manufacturing a plastic bag.  Clearly, buying a new reusable shopping bag every shopping trip because one  forgot to bring it out is not environmentally friendly.  Having a stash of foldable shopping bag helped me a lot, since it is convenient to toss one of these neat pouches into my bag and it stays folded inside my bag until I open it up to use.


We are definitely not the first in the world to be charging for plastic bags, neighboring countries like Taiwan, Hong Kong and Malaysia have already done so.  Some shoppers who forget to bring their bag or buy more than they can fit into their bags will reuse shipping cartons discarded by the supermarkets to fill their purchase.  I wonder if the local supermarkets will allow shoppers to do the same during the initial stage until they pick up the habit to bring their reusable shopping bags.

I stopped accepting plastic shopping bags for 5 years and have not run out of trash bags yet // Mono + Co

I am currently getting most of my fresh groceries from the wet market as I try to eliminate the cellophane bags that the vegetables are wrapped in.  Let’s talk more about plastic-free shopping some day.

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Green Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0

Green Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0 // Mono + CoGreen Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0 // Mono + Co

When I first started making my own beeswax food wraps, one of the suggestions I received was to choose organic fabric for it to be food safe.  I can’t agree more, homemade products have the best reputation for quality when everything thing is made with love.  So I went in search of organic cotton in People’s Park Complex to make my FOURTH batch of food wraps.   Funny that this item was marketed to replace the use of disposable cling wrap, something that I hardly use in the kitchen previously.  However, after making these food wraps of different sizes, I realized that they are kind of useful around the house, and this is my version 4.0.  Yes, I tweak something slightly after every batch.

Green Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0 // Mono + Co

Version 3.0 saw me making natural dyes with food to dye the fabrics at home.  The latest batch that I am making is intended for wrapping cooked food, there is something uneasy about reusing the same wrap for raw ingredients like onion halves on a bread bun.  I am always running out of the bigger A4 sized wraps anyway.  So I bought $4 worth of cotton fabric that is food grade according to the textile shop owner.  People have been buying these for making tofu, milking hot soy milk and liner for steaming hot buns and dim sum dishes.  Sounds food grade enough.

Green Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0 // Mono + Co

When it comes to natural dyes, I only have luck with yellow and red/pink so far.  The last blue dye I tried making with blue butterfly pea flower faded away totally after just a wash.  This time, I tried boiling the fabric in pandan leaves to create pastel green shade.  Sadly, it was a waste of time (and gas) when I realize that the green color did not stay a bit on the fabric after one rinse.  Even the cloth I used to squeeze pandan juice to make kaya jam stained better.

Green Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0 // Mono + Co

And so it was back to just yellow and pink.  For more colors, this site has a comprehensive list of natural dyes, I simply use the ingredients I have in my kitchen and must not be too expensive since the dye is to be discarded after the project.

Green Monday : DIY Beeswax Food Wrap Ver 4.0 // Mono + Co

Here’s the variation I made to my 4th version: after the beeswax wraps have air dried, I hand sewn cloth labels to differentiate the sides so that same side always goes towards the food.  Just like commercial beeswax wraps, there will be a side with prints that will be the facing outside.

A very quick run down on how I treat and dye my fabric before turning them into turmeric yellow color beeswax food wraps:
Step 1 : Trim the fabric to sizes for beeswax wraps.
Step 2 : Handwash with mild detergent and air dry.  Cloth seller mentioned avoiding laundry detergent.
Step 3 : To make turmeric yellow dye, fill up half a small saucepan with water and add 1 tall heap teaspoon turmeric powder, stir to mix well. If you want brighter, deeper shade, add more turmeric powder.  Bring the solution to boil and add 1 heap teaspoon of salt.
Step 4 : Wet the fabric and wring dry before adding it into the yellow dye.   Boil for 5 minutes, turn off the fire and let it soak until the water cools to room temperature.
Step 5 : Remove fabric from dye solution and rinse in cool water.  Air dry and press with an iron.
Step 6 : Line a tray with parchment paper, place the fabric on top.  Sprinkle beeswax evenly and melt the beeswax in a preheated oven at 150C for 2-3 minutes.
Step 7 : Once all the beeswax has melted, take out the tray, add 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil, spread the oil and melted beeswax evenly on the fabric using a brush with short bristles.
Step 8 : If more beeswax is required, top up and send it back into the oven, but keep a watchful eye on the oven as beeswax is flammable.
Step 9 : Remove fabric from parchment paper and air dry for 1 minute.
Step 10 : Rinse the beeswax wrap with mild detergent once and air dry again before the first usage.
Step 11: (Optional) Sew a cloth label on one side of the wrap so you will know which side always goes towards the food.

For the record, my $4 fabric was made into 9 pieces of beeswax food wraps of various dimensions.

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Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

I have quite a number of wooden kitchen items at home but I have never thought of applying oil over them to moisturize and protect their surfaces.  I always thought that wooden products, being a natural material and subjected to much abuse in my kitchen, are meant to split/turn moldy/breakdown/wear and tear and eventually be replaced due to hygiene reasons.

I was so wrong.

While going through some of the methods to clean and restore my chopping boards, I stumbled upon this post that detailed how to give old wooden salad bowls from the thrift store a total makeover. Another one here.  My wooden spatulas and spoons need more than a thorough nightly air dry as maintenance.  And they have the potential to outlive me and gain vintage status if I just give them regular TLC sessions with spoon butter, which is nothing more than a mixture of beeswax and a neutral flavor oil.  The super brief ingredient list only means that I am going the DIY route instead of buying a big jar that I can’t use up.

There are many recipes out there when you search for “spoon butter recipes” and they are really similar to how I have been making my lotion bars and lip balm.  So I am going to make just enough to buff my wooden utensils and use up the leftover as hand moisturizer for the next few days. I hate leftovers that linger for months.

After eliminating mineral oil, and a number of cooking oil that turns rancid easily, I decided to turn to this recipe that uses coconut oil, something that I have been using for my homemade skin care products.  According to other sites, walnut oil and olive oil are great choices too.  Pick something food grade that you already have in your pantry instead of buying a bottle for a single purpose.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

I made a really small initial batch for testing, with just 3g beeswax pellets and 10g coconut oil, since most instructions mention “1 part beeswax/ 3 parts oil.”  I have covered almost every wooden items in my drawer except for 3 large chopping boards.  If you need more, simply increase the portion of ingredients accordingly, especially for chopping boards.  I will give my boards the royal treatment over the weekend and let it cure longer.

I made the spoon butter directly inside a small glass jar that I am storing it with, hardened wax is really messy to clean up.   I learned that the hard way after making my beeswax wrap, so I will avoid making it a separate vessel to skip the transferring and pouring steps altogether.  For this reason, use a glass jar instead of a plastic one since we will be heating it.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Place the glass jar with beeswax pellets and coconut oil in a pot of water over low heat and let it simmer.  Once the beeswax pellets melt (in my warm house, coconut oil is always in liquid state), stir to mix well.  I usually hold the bottle by its rim (wear a mitten and be careful) and swirl to mix.  Then leave the spoon butter on the kitchen counter and let it set at room temperature.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

To use, rub the spoon butter over the clean and dry wood surfaces, either with dry cloth or bare hands.  Leave them to sit over night.  The next day, wipe away any residual grease that is not absorbed by the surface with a dry cloth.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

I always thought my spatula handle feels unfinished and dry.  After treatment, the wood grains even start to look more beautiful.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

The difference before and after on my bamboo chopping board.

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Homemade Spoon Butter : A Wood Preserver // Mono & Co

Bamboo toothbrushes getting a treatment too, especially the ones with unfinished surfaces that gets moldy really easily inside the bathroom.  See the difference before (below) and after (top).  But I can’t seem to find a way to reach the part between the bristles.

Reapply whenever the wooden surfaces start to look or feel dry.  I won’t wait until they crack or split anymore.

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No Frills Shopping

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

I share frequently on my plastic-bags-free shopping style when shopping at the wet markets.  I will share today how I store the groceries after buying them packaging free.

This method of shopping somehow always piques interest as to 1) how i cope without plastic bags to line my trash bin, 2) how I store the produce without proper packaging.  Even the market stallholders are curious.  But they know a thing or two about the best way to store their stuff, so I often get useful tips from them, minus the plastic bags of course.

Like this yam, uncle told me “must remember to store inside fridge, but let it breathe.” Since I think newspaper is the best material to wrap fruits and vegetables and yet allow them breathe (most sellers bag in shiny plastic bags with a few punched holes,) I simply leave wrap in in newspaper and leave it inside the crisp drawer.  Placed this right at the bottom since I don’t want it to crush on the leafy vegetables.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Red spinach before.  Auntie merely wrap the roots with a smaller piece of newspaper to prevent the soil from making a mess in my shopping bag.  But I don’t really mind since I clean the bags often and make sure they are dry before folding them up for the next use.  It’s alway good to keep the reusable bags clean and ready.  Nothing foils a green shopping plan than fumbling around looking for clean shopping bags seconds before leaving the house.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Red spinach after.  All wrapped up with a larger piece of newspaper.  Always remember to remove the elastic bands that are used to tie the vegetables together.  Otherwise, the tension will cause the vegetables to rot fast.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

I used to buy just 1 or 2 stalks of cilantro as they don’t keep well by day 2, until the seller taught me the trick to keep them fresh and perky.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Store them inside an air-tight container and they will stay like this even after 2 weeks.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

I have since started storing the scallions this way too, these are 1 week old.  Think I buy too much or use up too slowly.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Bok Choy, bundled with elastic bands.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Removed the bands and wrapped with newspaper.  These Bok Choy stalks might look limp, but a 15 minutes soak in a basin of water with a pinch of salt is all it takes to bring the crisp back.  I do the same with spinach too, but I will always make a mental note to use up these leafy vegetables first before cooking the more hardy ones.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Long beans, tied with elastic bands again, now you know why I find elastic bands one of the few household items that I will never need to buy.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Wrapped neatly with newspaper.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Next comes the “hardier” vegetables.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Wrapped all with newspaper sheets except for broccoli, with my diy beeswax wrap.  Not sure if my observation is accurate, but the wrap somehow keeps my broccoli florets longer without turning yellowish.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

The only few items that I can’t get without plastic bag are the melon and pumkin wedges that the seller cuts up into smaller portions.  I tend to choose smaller pumkins so that I can buy them whole, but the whole sharksfin melon is too big for my family’s consumption.  Onions and tomatoes are bought without bags, and store outside the fridge in a basket with my garlic, ginger and potatoes.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

The eggs bought in an egg carton that I “borrowed” from the seller.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

I will transfer the eggs to my box at home, and bring the carton back to the seller on my next trip to market.  Almost all the egg sellers at the markets I visit welcome customers to return clean egg cartons for them to reuse, whether plastic or paper.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

I have been reusing this paper egg carton since June but didn’t bring it along to prevent it from getting damaged or torn.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

This is how I buy tofu, and the auntie taught me to rinse the tofu with water before storing inside the fridge.

No Frills Shopping // Mono + Co

Covered containers that I bring along to buy from the dry goods store where most of the items are packaging free.  This means that I can buy the minimal amount I need without overstocking.   Some planning is required though, to get the right sizing and a correct number of containers.

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Handsewn Bento Bag

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

I don’t own a sewing machine (yet), so these hemmed Tenugui/Japanese hand towels from Daiso are great for my sewing craft work.  The drawstring produce bags handsewn with the same material are really light-weight and handy for my plastic-bag-free market trips, they are also great as lunch box carriers, something useful especially for packing hot food in my non-thermal stainless steel containers as they are too hot to hold without handles.

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

Just like the my previous projects, I am using the same Tenugui with dimension measuring 87 x 35cm.  My bento bag is modified from this design that originally requires the width to measure 1/3 to the length of the fabric.  After tucking the fabric in various ways to figure out a similar sewing pattern without cutting any part of it, I managed to sew this not-that-symmetrical origami bento bag.

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

The space is generous, I tried with a 26 x 13 x 6cm box an still manage to tie a pretty bow with the ends of the bag.

Handsewn Origami Bento Bag // Mono + Co

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Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

I recently started to make a switch to soap nuts for my handwash laundry.  While I am still getting accustomed to a really low sud way of washing my delicates, it’s indeed a great way to save water just like my almost-no-suds DIY tea seed kitchen detergent.  For more heavier soiled laundry, I am falling back on traditional bar soaps made with vegetable fats.  I tried an old-school “Labour” brand of laundry bar soap a few years back.  Can’t really remember what made me stop abruptly after using up all the 5 bars that came in the pack, but they did last quite a while.

I chanced upon a multi-purpose bar soap brand for household cleaning and laundry recently.  The seller recommended that it will lather even better when placed inside a drawstring bag, and hanging the bag with the soap inside to drip dry after using will prevent the soap from “dissolving” in a soap dish that is always wet.  I think this is a fantastic idea for bar soap users.  I can’t remember losing how many bars of bar soaps in the shower to such “flooding” soap dish incidents, so I diy a pouch my shower bar soap as well.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

For even better lathering effect, I made the drawstring pouches with a cotton washcloth from Daiso.  My shower bar soap instantly turns into an exfoliating bar when I use the soap placed inside the textured bag.  One washcloth is enough to make 3 handy pouches that fit the standard size bar soaps.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

While this current laundry bar soap doesn’t feel drying to my hands, I can’t remember how my hands actually felt when I was using the Labour brand bar soap, but I remember it being much cheaper.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

Palm oil, coconut oil, canola oil, soda ash, and sodium hydroxide are listed whereas only “made with vegetable fats” is printed on Labour bar soap’s packaging.

Handsewn Bar Soap Pouch // Mono + Co

The pack comes with 4 individually shrink-wrapped bars.  Since I still have an extra pouch left,  I will be getting the Labour brand this weekend again to see if I like it better when I use it inside the pouch.

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Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Food Wrap

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I go by a simple rule that if something can be diy-ed relatively easily, then resist buying, unless leaving the ‘making’ to someone else saves me plenty of money.  Beeswax cloth food wraps definitely fall under the “can-do” category.

For the uninitiated, beeswax food wraps are the environmentally friendly solution to plastic cling wraps since it can be reused, unlike the disposable nature of the latter.  I have long given up on plastic food wraps as they never seem to “cling” once out of the dispenser.  I find old newspapers a better wrap for my leafy vegetables and see through food savers are my preferred storage containers for halved lemons, avocados and carrots.  But if you are still buying, using, and discarding rolls and rolls of plastic cling wraps, perhaps you might want to consider investing one of these reusable food wraps.  I have since made these wraps on 2 separate occasions and share some tips and thoughts on this DIY project below.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 001.  Sizes: XS and XL

The best thing about making my own wrap is that I can decide how big or small I want the wrap to be.  As big as this one that I can easily use to wrap watermelon half, or

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

as tiny as this one for 2 cherry tomatoes,

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I even have one for wrapping a bamboo spoon for a packed meal.  Neat.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 002. Methods: Oven or Iron?

These are the initial few sheets that I have made. Things went smoothly right from the very first piece, simply because the bake in the oven method is really easy.

I first line a baking tray with parchment paper, then place the cotton fabric on the paper, sprinkle beeswax pellets evenly on it and place it in a preheated oven at 150C.  It takes just 3 minutes for the beeswax pellets to melt.

Take the tray out, add 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil (I learned that the addition of oil helps to make the wrap more pliable and cling better here) and use a clean large paintbrush with short bristles (so that the beeswax is not absorbed by the bristles) to spread the wax and oil evenly on every inch of the fabric.  Do this step swiftly before the wax starts to solidify at room temperature.  If the wax solidifies before you can even spread them, pop them back into the oven for another 30 sec to 1 minute this time to melt again, but watch closely and do not leave the oven unattended since beeswax and cotton are flammable.

Once the wax has been evenly spread, remove the fabric from the parchment paper and let it dry.  Once dry, wash it once with water and mild soap before its first use.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

The only teething issue I have is how to keep the melted beeswax remaining on the cotton fabric, not on my baking tray.  Even after lining the tray with baking paper, I still ended up with beeswax staining my tray, which I have yet to clear. (Oops)

There is another iron-on method with instructions here.  But I decided not to try just in case the beeswax stains my iron and ironing board.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 003.  Do they cling well?

Yes.  Much better than plastic cling wraps.  Make these with the lightest cotton fabric, not the heavy kind for making curtains with.  The thin fabric will allow the food wrap to cling better.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I have since been testing these wraps vigorously, at home as well as on-the-go, washing, and drying in between just to see how well they can replace the plastic version.  They definitely work, and they “cling” so much better than the plastic ones.  As beeswax softens at the warmth of my hands, I managed to shape and mold the wrap closely to the contour of the food items or containers.  And once they are placed in the chiller, the shape is further set as the beeswax solidifies.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

I am so happy with the result that I customize one as a lid for my baking pan so that it becomes my “bread storage tin”.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

And made more with some fabric scraps from Ikea.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

But I still prefer plain ones, so I made more with my plain fabric and dye them with pomegranate tea and turmeric tea for a colour variety.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + CoGreen Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 004. How to care for them?

First thing first.  These wraps are not to be used for raw meat and dairy products since the wrap can only be washed with cold water and mild soap.  Keep the wrap away from heat sources as the beeswax will melt.  For the same reason, do not it use to wrap hot food.

To wash, simply run the wrap under cold water and wash with mild soap.  Wipe dry with a tea towel if reusing immediately.  Otherwise, hang to air dry, then fold the wraps and store in a drawer.  The wraps will retain the creases from the previous usage and will need a re-wax (same instructions a making a new one) when the wrap no longer clings as well as before.

Green Monday: DIY Beeswax Cloth Wrap // Mono + Co

// 005. Other tips?

++ A pair of pinking shears will help to earn extra design points.

++ Be careful if you are allergic to beeswax or pollen, you might want to get wrap made with plant based wax such as soy instead.

++ When passing food to friends wrapped in these wraps, make sure to inform them that these are reusable and non-disposable.  I am adding this tip because one ended up being trashed by an unaware friend.

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Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

Tea seed powder is what remains after the edible oil, more commonly known as Camelia oil (苦茶油), has been extracted from the tea seeds.  The defatted seeds are then crushed and milled into fine powder which contains natural saponins.  This makes the powder an effective yet natural cleaner and degreaser, perfect as a replacement for my commercial dish washing detergent, less harsh on my hands too.  You see, I love cleaning, but I don’t want my hands to look the part.

Although instruction on the package says to mix powder with water to form a paste for scrubbing dirty dishes, I kind of miss the “slippery feel” of a lathering detergent.  I also feel that I am using more powder than required for my usual load since I am not sure if the dishes are cleaned properly by just rubbing the powder paste on them.  Therefore, I attempt to boil the tea seed powder plus water mixture into a thickened solution that is easier to dispense and apply.  Although the tea seed detergent does not lather up like the commercial ones, the greasy dishes feel squeaky clean after a quick rinse.  And I mean a really quick rinse since there is no soap residue: the kind that takes forever to wash away.  With the water price hike effective this month, water bill saving is a selling point for me to switch to this homemade detergent.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have already used up two-1kg pack bought from a local organic shop, not only as detergent, but also in lots of other body care uses as shown here and here.  One important thing to note is that once the bag is opened, the powder will turn rancid fast and must be used up in three months.

Since the opened bag must be kept in a cool dry place, I choose to store the balance from an opened bag in an airtight container.  Prettier than a pouch clip on a slouching bag.  Lest you think that I diy the label on the plastic container, it is actually a label from another brand that I first bought from Taiwan.  So I have in fact used up a total of 3 kg todate.  Yes, it’s that versatile and effective.

As the tea seed powder solution will turn bad overnight, I have to make a fresh batch everyday for daily use, and discard whatever I can’t finish up.  I have since learned a great tip to make the detergent last longer without spoilage.  Revelation came somewhere between the second and third bag, and after poring over the ingredient labels of a few commercially available tea seed powder detergents : adding sea salt as a natural preservative!

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I  don’t have the exact formula or scientific recipe to the proportion of ingredients, but this is the ratio I use : 100 ml water to 1 tablespoon tea seed powder to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  I came up with this as it is easy to remember and it also happens to produce a pretty thick consistency after boiling.  If you find it too thick, add lesser tea seed powder for a more runny detergent.  Mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.

Here are the steps I use to make the detergent : first, mix everything in a pot and stir until the powder has completely dissolved.  Bring mixture to boil over medium heat while stirring.  I use a pot that I cook with, since I wash my pot with the very detergent that I am making, so there is no reason for me to use a separate pot to boil the mixture.  The powder is inedible though, so keep it away from children.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

As soon as the mixture starts to boil, the solution will slowly thicken.  Turn off heat and allow detergent to cool down completely.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

Tranfer detergent to a squeeze bottle or a pump dispenser, shake each time before use.

Green Monday : DIY Tea Seed Powder 苦茶籽粉 Detergent // Mono+Co

I have been filling up a 600ml (600ml water + 6 tablespoons tea seed powder + 3 teaspoons sea salt) squeeze bottle bought from Daiso with my homemade dishwashing detergent.  A bottle can last me for about 4-5 days of daily dishwashing.

Another chemical household product eliminated, another eco multi-purpose cleaner in my house.  More on its other usage soon, especially as a shampoo for my greasy scalp!

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