One of the most wasteful rooms in the house is the kitchen. A lot of things contribute to the waste that the kitchen generates – plastic packaging, cutlery and other utensils, food that has gone bad.
So in this article, we’re sharing a few tips on how to minimize kitchen waste. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way towards creating a beautiful, sustainable, zero waste kitchen!
And you’ll find that it’s not just about buying less- here you’ll find some suggestions for what to do with the food you already have!
This way, you can throw away less food, reuse more items, and replace plastic.
A sustainable life not only means you can save the environment – you might even end up saving money in the process!
Here are 5 tips on minimizing waste, for a more sustainable kitchen.
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1. Store your food without plastic
You might think that plastic is necessary to keep your food fresh, but the reality is, you really don’t need it. There are always better, more environmentally-friendly options for storing your food.
Here’s a quick list of storage ideas for some basic food items:
- Bread – wrap in a clean, dry cloth and store in a bread bin
- Lettuce and other greens – wrap in flour sacks and place in the fridge
- Potatoes and Onions – place in a basket and store in a dark cupboard
Leftovers can be kept in mason jars or other reusable containers. For other items like cheese, sandwiches, or herbs, you can store them in these reusable beeswax wraps. These will ensure that you keep your waste at a minimum, and still keep your food fresh!
One huge benefit of taking this step to reduce waste in your kitchen? You won’t have to take out the trash as much! Taking out the trash is one of the top things I really don’t miss from reducing my waste. It’s great.
2. Find ways to prolong your food
A zero waste kitchen isn’t just about using less plastic. It’s about food waste too!
There are times when you think you need to throw away food already, but they are still perfectly usable. Here are a few solutions to food waste and some ideas on how to prolong your food and avoid food waste:
- Over-ripe bananas – mash together and use to bake moist banana bread
- Stale crackers – use to make bread crumbs (for dessert or stuffing, maybe even bird food)
- Stale bread – use to make bread & butter pudding, or croutons
- Vegetable scraps – use to make vegetable stock
- Soft vegetables – use for soups or purees
- Over-ripe fruit – use to make jam, sauces, or fruit crumbles
- Over-ripe avocado – use to make guacamole
You can even use food items for other things:
- Lemon peel – can be used to make citrus cleaners
- Old tea bags – can be used as fridge deodorizers
- Over-ripe avocado – can be used as a DIY face mask
It’s also a good idea to compost unusable food scraps. Check out this composting list to find out what can be composted (and what you should trash instead). Food that gets sent to the landfill doesn’t break down, because of the lack of oxygen, but instead can off-gas dangerous chemicals.
Avoid the toxins and instead, let your food scraps go straight back into the earth to help nourish our soil and plants!
If you don’t have a compost pile, find a friend with a garden (or a pig!) or bring your scraps to a community garden.
3. Make your own condiments
Popular store-bought condiments like peanut butter, jam, or pesto come in plastic packaging – not only are they expensive (since you’re paying for the packaging!), they also contribute to unnecessary plastic waste.
But these are all super easy to make at home!
Related: Creative ways to use less plastic
There are a lot of recipes online that you can trade for those pre-made, pre-packaged condiments. Next time you’re about to buy them, see if you can make it at home instead.
4. Prepare your own meals
Preparing your own meals not only gives you more control over the quality of the food that you eat, but it also helps you minimize the need for single-use plastics (by buying fewer ready-made meals, paying for food packaging, or ordering takeout).
At-home food prep also gives you more control over the quantity of food, so there’s less food waste (especially when you combine this tip with tip #2 above!).
Cooking your own meals is an especially great option if you’re trying to eat healthier! Even if restaurants seem healthy, they’re still looking at their bottom line and trying to use the cheapest ingredients possible.
You don’t have to make that sacrifice at home!
Meal prep tips to reduce food waste
On top of all these benefits, making your own food at home can also definitely save you money, and with a little practice, it’ll save you some time too.
Here’s a quick rundown of some suggestions on making meal preps less of a chore:
- Look for recipes online that sound appetizing for you – it will inspire you to try it out and cook more!
- Make sure to follow the FIFO (first in, first out) rule in order to prevent unnecessary spoilage.
- Prepare bases in bulk, like pasta, rice, or other grains, so that you’ll always have them ready. You can buy most of these in bulk -and plastic free- too!
Related: Tips for zero waste shopping and bulk buying
- Experiment with spices and stock up your spice rack so that you can add variety and excitement to your cooking.
- Cook curries, stews, soups, or pasta sauces in bulk, and then freeze the leftovers so you’ll always have food ready.
- Grow your own herbs at home – all you need is a sunny spot and a pot, and you’ll always have fresh produce.
- Make meal-prep time you-time – see it as a time to relax and have fun. Maybe cook with your favorite TV show in the background, listen to a podcast, or have a glass of wine!
- Keep your kitchen tidy and clean – this means less stress and less clutter, and it’s more relaxing to cook in a clean and organized space.
- Reserve some time in your week to go through your fridge and cupboards to see what ingredients you still have – you can then search for recipes online for these items so you’re sure that they won’t go to waste.
- When inspiration hits you, jot down some meal ideas in your phone or a notebook!
5. Switch out your plastic items for reusable ones
From plastic straws, utensils, and cleaning equipment, plastics are used regularly in the kitchen. Here are a few zero waste kitchen swaps you can make instead to avoid these plastic items, making your kitchen a little more sustainable:
- Dishwashing brushes – plastic brushes are not only ugly, but they also tend to not last very long, meaning that before too long, it heads straight to the landfill. Use this wooden dishwashing brush instead, for a biodegradable and more attractive option!
- Toxic dishwashing liquid – a better option is this vegan dishwashing block, which is made out of 100% natural ingredients. It’s also eco-friendly, and it helps you get rid of stubborn grime and grease without drying out your hands.
- Sponge – this washable and reusable sponge is way better than using a plastic sponge. It’s made out of recycled materials, making it more eco-friendly than the normal plastic ones.
- Utensils – plastic utensils might be convenient for picnics, parties, or packed lunches, but are extremely bad for the environment. One use, and it’s stuck in our landfills and seas for centuries. These reusable bamboo utensil sets are a way better alternative, and you can reuse them for years.
- Straws – these reusable drinking straws make a huge difference in reducing your single-use plastic waste. Whether they’re bamboo or stainless steel, you only really need to buy one set so it’s a great investment if you like drinking with straws!
The one zero waste swap you should make ASAP-
Last, but not the least, is the ubiquitous plastic bag. They are really unnecessary, and they are extremely bad for the environment.
But, thankfully, ditching the disposable bags is one of the easiest things you can do when you’re working towards a zero waste kitchen!
Here’s why you should think about switching:
Around 1,500 plastic bags per year are taken home by an average American Family – the entire US is said to use an estimate of 100 billion plastic bags per year. This requires over 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture; what’s worse is that it is estimated that only 1% of plastic bags get recycled.
A lot of it ends up in our oceans, killing marine life and even entering our food chain.
One of the best swaps you can make is switching to reusable produce bags so that you’ll never have to use a single-use plastic bag again.
Not only are these bags eco-friendly, but they’re also versatile – you can pack your produce in these bags, wash them when you get home, and store them in the fridge without taking them out of the bags!
But course, if you already have these plastic items laying around, don’t just throw them out! Use them up first, and then, if possible, recycle any plastic containers or products that you have left over.
These are the five easy tips on minimizing your kitchen waste to help create a zero waste kitchen. A little goes a long way, so even if you manage to implement just a few changes, these small things add up significantly.
If everyone can do the same, these small changes will have a huge impact and we will start working towards making the world a more sustainable place.
If you like these tips, make sure to pin it for later!
By Harriet, co-founder of Zero Waste Cartel and surfer of very small waves. Join the Zero Waste Cartel in their fight against plastic and goal to plant 20,000 trees in 2019! Read more about their mission here.