Whether you want to be more eco-friendly, save some cash or you simply like having a little organization in your life, there are plenty of reasons to move towards a waste-free kitchen. The good news: even if it sounds a little overwhelming at first, it’s a whole lot simpler to achieve than you’d think. Here’s how to make it happen.
10 Easy Steps to Creating a No-Waste Kitchen
1. Invest in reusable containers, wraps and bags
One of the easiest ways to eliminate extra waste is to ditch the plastic wrap, single-use containers and plastic bags in favour of reusable containers, Mason jars and beeswax wraps. And, if you’re already taking tote bags or baskets with you to do your shopping, consider upping your game with produce-friendly mesh bags. It’s a pain-free start to making some pretty big changes, and it also sets you up for better long-term food storage and less waste at the grocery store.
2. Buy in bulk and buy whole
For basic goods that you use often, like oats, flour, beans and grains, head to the bulk food store and fill up your own containers. You’ll save money and even potentially extend the shelf life of some of those products by storing them in glass jars. Meanwhile, when it comes to meat, select whole chicken and fish rather than pre-cut trays, and in the produce aisle, don’t fall victim to pre-packed greens, cut beans, or other “handy” items that have already been prepared for you. When you take full items home, you can portion and use them how you wish, plus you can use the leftovers to whip up a nifty vegetable, fish or chicken stock.
3. Use a meal plan
Is there anything more dangerous than doing your grocery shopping while hungry? That’s when you tend to fill the cart with wants, rather than needs. Fill up before you shop, but also make sure to put together a meal plan and a grocery list first. That way you can avoid overbuying and tossing food that goes bad before you have a chance to use it. Plus, you’re more likely to stick to healthy choices when you plan ahead. Double win.
4. Make things from scratch
We’ve covered stocks, but there’s a whole world of basic condiments you can also whip up with things you already have in the fridge or pantry. There are tons of recipes for everyday salad dressings out there, mayo is pretty simple to throw together, while ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce always taste better when they’re made in-house. Need some more inspiration? Check out these tasty condiments that are worth making from scratch.
5. Regrow your vegetable scraps
If your veggie scraps aren’t worth transforming into a stock, why not give them a whole new life by planting them and starting your own veggie garden? If you’ve never done this before, it’s actually shocking how many things you can plant and regrow in the kitchen, while eliminating how much waste you produce. Green onion roots turn into new shoots, pepper seeds will grow into the real deal, and even celery bases get a second life if you plant them. If you’re just starting to explore your green thumb or you need some more inspiration, here are 15 vegetables you can regrow in your kitchen.
6. Get creative with food scraps and compost when necessary
If you don’t compost, now is a good time to start — it’s a smarter alternative to recycling, and if your city doesn’t have a program already in place, then it’s something you can easily start doing at home. Meanwhile, reconsider the food scraps you may currently be tossing into the bin. Broccoli stems make for a delicious slaw, veggie pulp from a juicer can be tossed into a pasta sauce, and carrot tops transform into a surprisingly delicious pesto (more creative pesto ideas here!).
7. Find a second use for your leftovers
Don’t just get creative with your food scraps — get creative with your leftovers before they go bad and you’re forced to toss them. While meal planning definitely helps eliminate unexpected leftovers, if you find yourself with extra food, don’t be discouraged. Your freezer is always your friend in terms of extending an item’s shelf life, or get inspired with some of our ideas for leftover chicken, leftover steak or leftover rice.
8. Ditch the coffee pods and tea bags
Coffee pods may be convenient and easy-to-use, but they’re also expensive and they create so much unnecessary waste. If you insist on a single-pod machine, invest in a reusable filter that gives you the further benefit of adjusting the amount of coffee per serving to individual tastes. And when it comes to tea, buy a diffuser and stock the pantry with loose-leaf tea to avoid extra staples, strings, and plastic-coated tea bags being tossed into the rubbish bin.
9. Clean your kitchen the smart way
As you’re ditching disposable kitchen-storage products, consider eliminating unnecessary one-time-use cleaning items like paper towels and sponges, too. Dish towels and clothes can be thrown into the laundry and used over and over again, which might feel like more work, but it also saves you more money in the long-run. And when it comes to cleaning products, consider making your own. A solution of vinegar, baking soda and water will clean most household items.
10. Think quality, not quantity
If you get excited by new tools and gadgets, we feel you — it’s always fun to try out a new toy in the kitchen. But, if the goal is to create a waste-free kitchen then sometimes it’s better to ask yourself if you really need an item, or if it just sounds like a cool thing to have. Cast-iron pans will produce quality food for a longer period of time than a Teflon-coated one, for example, while most pressure cookers also double as a slow cooker these days. Garlic presses are handy, but sometimes it’s quicker to just mince a clove or two yourself. Take stock of needs versus wants, and then begin living your best minimalist life from there.
If you’re looking to take your zero-waste kitchen one step further, find out where to take your used appliances and cabinets (by province) or check out the best zero-waste restaurants and food stores across Canada.