Zero Waste Failures (In The Kitchen)

A sustainable lifestyle is one full of trial and error, learning and growth. Many of my kitchen endeavors have worked out well for my family, but some have not. Today I’d like to share three food related projects that I will never be doing again, and some lessons these failures helped me to remember.

The first failure I’ll mention is lilac jelly. I have many lilac bushes around my property. I knew lilac blooms were edible, so I wondered how I could utilize them. A quick online search gave recipes for lilac jelly, and I dove into the new project. After cooking and cooling, my kids and I tried the jelly on homemade bread. Try as we might, everyone hated the jelly. The texture was fine, but the taste was not something any of us appreciated. The jelly got composted shortly after being made. Let’s just say, the lilac jelly reminded me that just because something can be done doesn’t mean it should be done.

The next failure I’ll mention is homemade mustard. I found a recipe that used whole mustard seeds instead of ground; for some reason I decided to make it even though my family prefers smooth mustard. That was mistake number one, and things just went downhill from there. We made the mustard, but the texture and taste was horrible. It was so bad it made me nervous to even try another mustard recipe. Around the same time I made this mustard I found a shop near me that sells smooth yellow mustard in returnable/refillable jars. For me, that was even better than a homemade option, but it reminded me that I shouldn’t work on projects I know I won’t like. If I’m going to make something, I should make something I tend to like, for example: smooth mustard instead of whole grain mustard.

Photo by Ron Lach :

The last zero waste failure I’ll mention today is homemade cough drops. I found a recipe that looked simple and delicious. It combined local honey, organic tea, and a bit of powdered sugar for a simple throat soothing drop. Well, making the concoction was one of the messiest and most difficult jobs I’ve signed up for in a while. It was clearly going poorly from the start, but I stubbornly persisted since I didn’t want to waste the effort or ingredients I’d already invested in the project. After a while I decided to wrap the cough drops in wax paper to hopefully save the disaster of a product I had come up with. I put the drops in a jar and the jar in a cupboard. I opened the jar up a few days later to find that the drops had all liquified and pooled in the bottom of the jar as one awful gloopy mess. It was a reminder that I can’t force something to work. Next time I have a sore throat I’ll just have a cup of tea with honey and maybe a store-bought cough drop or two. I did my best, and that’s the best I can do. No guilt here.

Sometimes our attempts yield terrible results, but that doesn’t mean we should quit trying. I know that each new adventure contains the risk of failure, but it also allows for the possibility of something great. Sure, each failure is a waste of time, energy, and sometimes money, but by trying many things throughout the years I have saved infinitely more than what is lost in the small amount of failed projects. I guess what I’m trying to say is that trying is an achievement in and of itself. Being open to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing can be scary but amazing. By trying something new, you may find a new hobby, interest, or favorite food. Or you may not, but you should still be proud of yourself for trying.