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The kitchen is a large part of practicing zero waste. I feel that this is where the majority of waste in my home comes from. There are many ways to start your zero waste journey, some include spending money and some do not. The best thing to do is to pick what is best for your family and start there. Zero waste is a process and there is no need to be in a rush. Trying to change everything at once is one of the reasons people are turned away from this lifestyle, and simply cutting out disposable products is one of the best ways start to cutting back waste and saving money. You may not care to do all of these things, and that is okay. You can pick which ones you want to try and master those first.
Here are the options for a zero waste kitchen:
1. Unpaper towel
Unpaper towel is a term to describe not buying paper towels and simply using dish cloths in their place. Getting rid of paper towels is a small change, but it has a great impact. Think of how many paper towels that you use a week. How many of those messes could have been wiped up with a dish cloth as easily as a paper towel?
2. Avoid buying paper plates.
Paper plates are along the same line as paper towels. We have our plates that we use each week which are ceramic and then we have what we call “party plates”. They are made of plastic, BUT they are reusable. We’ve had them for two years now, and we use them when we host larger groups. After using them they are washed and put back in the cabinet for the next gathering. I LOVE them. The thrift store is also an awesome place to pick up extra plates.
3. Avoid buying plastic utensils.
Walmart has plenty of options on silverware sets, some are even under $20. Amazon has some as well. Having extra sets of silverware cuts out the need for plastic utensils when hosting larger groups. Again, thrift stores and even yard sales are perfect for finding extras.
4. Avoid buying paper napkins.
You can make your own cloth napkins from flour sack towels, fat quarters, or any other 100% cotton fabric. Walmart is usually the cheapest place to get any of those.
5. Avoid aluminum foil and wax paper.
6. Avoid plastic wrap.
I have no need for plastic wrap, I only use containers that have lids. Other people may not be the same. A great swap for plastic wrap is beeswax wrap. It’s also super easy to make your own.
7.Avoid plastic baggies.
8. Avoid prepackaged food.
Prepared food is more expensive and typically packaged in lots of plastic. You are paying for something that you could easily be prepped at home. I know some people have very busy schedules, but you could set time aside once a week to prepare the same things, i.e. lunchables, sliced apples, salads, etc. Do not feel bad though if the only way to buy what you need is in plastic. There are types of food that only come in plastic.
9.Avoid single use straws.
10. Meal Plan.
Taking 20 minutes per week to make a meal plan can help cut out confusion along with saving time and money. You never have to guess what you are going to eat because you have already planned it, and there shouldn’t be any last minute shopping because you bought everything you needed after making the meal plan. Meal planning can also help avoid food waste.
Canning is something my grandmother did every year. If she didn’t have enough veggies in her garden she went to the farmers market and bought fresh veggies from there. There are MANY resources on learning how to can from books to Youtube videos, and you can make so many things. You might even be able to ask a family member to teach you. Bonus: I find a lot of mason jars at thrift stores.
12. Buy from the farmers market.
The farmers market may or may not be cheaper than the grocery store. It depends on your area but you would be getting locally grown produce, and to me that is very important. Another positive about the farmers market is that you can avoid plastic packaging.
13. Buy whole foods.
Regarding back to avoid prepackaged food, buying whole foods is a much healthier option. I rarely buy processed foods but I’m not perfect. Most of the time I make my own desserts and snacks so I’m not tempted to buy the ones from the grocery store. I have also noticed with less processed foods in the house the less snacking we do during the day and we eat more at meal times.
14. Cooking from scratch.
When you come up with a meal plan cooking from scratch is much easier. You are prepared and have all of the ingredients you need. Cooking from scratch also requires whole foods therefore helping you on your way to less waste and a healthier diet. Pinterest has recipes for anything you can think of.
15. Eat meat less.
There aren’t many zero waste options for meat unless you slaughter your own animals or find a butcher willing to put the meat in a container you bring to the store. Meat is very expensive and by simply having 1-2 vegetarian nights a week you can save money and have less waste. By no means am I asking you to become vegetarian. You need to do what is good for you and your family. We eat mostly vegetarian breakfast and dinners but I make my husbands lunch with meat because I know that is what he enjoys.
16. Purchase meat in bulk.
Even though you may be eating less meat, you can still purchase meat in bulk. I try to buy chicken for my husbands lunch in bulk. He prefers chicken thighs and sometimes grocery stores have really good sales on their large packs. During these sales I usually buy two packs and then divide the thighs up when I get home.
17. Buy staples in bulk.
Buying in bulk can be cheaper and cut down on waste especially if you do not have a grocery store close with loose bulk options. You can buy beans, flour, sugar, rice, spices, etc. It’s possible to get the majority of your pantry staples in bulk. You can research grocery stores in your area with loose bulk options. Near me I have a Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Earth Fare. I highly recommend Sprouts if you have one close.
18. Make and freeze your own foods.
I love having chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. Instead of buying the premade frozen pancakes I can make my own and freeze them. This turns out being much cheaper especially if you make them from scratch.
19. Ditch the sponge and plastic brush.
A bamboo brush a good option. Some are made from recycled plastics. Using real loufa is an option. Did you know real loufa comes from a plant that you can grow?! Another option is to try crocheting your own scrubbie!
20. Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware.
Stainless steel is great for pots and pans. They are durable and distribute heat evenly. The only downside is that they are not non-stick. I have found that a low temp along with enough oil will keep food from sticking. Cast iron is also very durable and it is non-stick. Caring for cast iron isn’t as complicated as you may think.
21. Wooden utensils.
Wooden utensils are compostable and last much longer than plastic utensils when cared for properly. Plastic utensils will break down over time.
22. Glass or metal containers.
If you already have plastic containers just keep using them until they need to be replaced, but when you are ready to replace them try buying glass or metal containers that can be recycled when needed.
23. Save veggie scraps for making broth.
As you are chopping up certain vegetables you can keep the scraps to make vegetable broth later. Just throw the scraps in a freezer safe container until you have enough to throw in the crock pot for broth. I personally do not do this. I just compost all of my veggie scraps.
24. Freeze fruits/veggies that are about to go bad
If you have fruit or vegetables that are about to go bad and you can’t cook or eat them right away you can freeze them. Frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies and again, vegetables can be saved for broth.
25. Use natural soaps and cleaners.
Dr. Bronner’s is a great organic soap brand and it is multi-functional. You can buy natural cleaners or make your own. Here is the list of natural cleaners I use in my home.
Understanding what can be recycled in your area is very important. Old appliances, glass, and assorted items can be recycled when taken to the proper place. If you’re lucky you have weekly recycling pick up. If so, try looking online to find what all can be recycled.
What veggie scraps you aren’t saving for broth can be composted, along with fruit scraps. I have a container I keep on the counter to throw scraps in, when it’s full I empty it into our outdoor compost bin.
28. Change your coffee/tea routine.
Tea and coffee can be very wasteful at times, but it is extremely easy to have a zero waste coffee/tea routine.
29. Repurpose glass jars for bulk storage.
I use to buy spaghetti and alfredo sauce that came in glass jars, and I would save the jars for all sorts of purposes. I now make my sauces from scratch, but I still have so many leftover jars. If you don’t want to use those kinds of jars, my favorite place to find canisters is TJ Max or Amazon. They have great prices and a good selection! Also, large mason jars make great storage and they are aesthetically pleasing.
30. Reuse containers as plant pots.
I really enjoy being creative with recycling containers. Small containers are great for starting seeds and larger containers are great for painting and using for indoor plants. You could also use containers for storage.