I often hear people talk about a zero waste kitchen. For most of us (unless we grow a majority of the food we eat in our own backyard) this is something that’s quite difficult to achieve.
For quite a few years, I have actively looked at where I can waste less and be smarter with how I shop for groceries and store my food. In the current global pandemic (it’s July 2020 as I write this), I’ve found it’s much harder to access food markets and some of the places I used to buy bigger bulk items from, but I’m still doing my best to reduce the amount of plastic bags and packaging that comes into my home.
Here are my top 5 favourite tips of how to reduce waste and plastic in your kitchen!
- Bring your own shopping bags. Goes without saying that bringing our own bags to the shops (not just the grocery store!) is a great first step. I always have a few canvas bags in the car, but I also keep a small fold up bag in my handbag and another one in my gym bag. That way I always have a bag with me for groceries and other shopping so I can say ‘no thank you‘ to any unnecessary plastic.
- Reusable produce bags. I bought similar bags to these ones about 4 years ago and I use them every single week. If they get dirty, I just wash them in hot soapy water, they dry very quickly. If you don’t want to pay money to buy something similar, it’s super easy to make your own produce bags using old t-shirts, pillowcases or pretty much any type of fabric you have laying around your house.
- Bees wax wraps and reusable silicone bags. I have found that bees wax wraps are great for that half of an avocado, onion, tomato or other thing you need to wrap up and use later. I have bought most of my bees wax wraps at local markets over the years, but you can of course buy them online or even google how to make your own. I wash mine out in lukewarm or cold water and sometimes it’s good to use a sponge or gentle scrubber to get any stubborn food stains off. Instead of ziplock bags, I bought reusable silicone bags a few months ago and absolutely love them! They store things really well in both the fridge and the freezer and wash our really easily with warm soapy water. They have also worked really well as sandwich bags on a few hikes.
- Food storage containers and glass jars. As an avid meal-prepper, I have a bunch of different types and sizes of food storage containers on hand. Glass jars from your old pasta sauce or mustard can easily be washed out and used for storing salad dressings, soup and a bunch of other things.
Over the past few years I have gradually started replacing my plastic food storage containers with glass tub versions. You can pick these up online or at your nearest well Kmart or similar. I do still use my old plastic containers for storing food in, I just make sure to not reheat the plastic tubs in the microwave, but rather put the leftovers on a plate for reheating. It makes me a bit sad when people throw all their perfectly good storage containers in the trash just because they happen to be made of plastic. Reducing your plastic waste is a great intention, but where do you think most of those plastic tubs you threw out actually end up? In landfill waste. So rather than throwing things out and creating more short term waste, use the items responsibly until they break and then replace them!
- Wash out and reuse ziplock type plastic bags. A very simple hack that saves both money and plastic waste. If I use ziplock bags (which is rare), I make sure to wash them out with hot soapy water, let them dry out and then use them again. If you buy frozen berries or fruit, they often come in sturdy resealable bags which you can easily wash out and use again. For any plastic bags that are torn and can’t be washed and reused, I make sure to recycle them.
I think zero waste is a great intention, but for most of us it’s very hard to achieve it. Rather than thinking we have to be perfect or not try at all, I welcome you to join me and do your best to reduce the waste that’s generated from your kitchen and household. I believe in progress over perfection and hopefully that’s something that can help you too!