How To Get to a No Waste Kitchen

A funny thing happens when you become intimately aware of the origins of your food. Especially if you yourself, or somebody you know grew or raised the food on your plate.

You begin to respect it, to be more grateful for it, and you want to get the most out of it. Wasting any seems like such a terrible tragedy.

kitchen counter with pitcher installed and berkey filter

What is a Zero Waste Kitchen?

​​A zero waste kitchen is a kitchen where very little or no food waste is produced.

To achieve this, careful meal planning and food storage is critical to prevent spoilage and minimize food waste. In addition, using all edible parts of fruits and vegetables, such as peelings and pulp, can help to reduce waste.

Composting is also an important part of a zero waste kitchen, as it allows for the recycling of food scraps into nutrient-rich soil.

By following these practices, it is possible to create a zero waste kitchen that helps to protect the environment and conserve resources.

How to Create a Zero Waste Kitchen in 15 Steps

According to the EPA, the average American family generates about 20 pounds of kitchen waste every month. Most of this waste ends up in landfills, where it emits methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

In 15 easy steps, I will show you how to create a zero waste kitchen. From sorting your food scraps to composting and recycling, I will outline everything you need to do to make your kitchen more sustainable. Let’s get started!1. Use Reusable Silicone or Cloth Bags

One way to create a zero waste kitchen is to use reusable silicone or cloth bags instead of disposable plastic bags.

These bags can be used for storing food, transporting groceries, and even packing lunch. Not only are they better for the environment, but they’re also more durable and cost-effective in the long run.

2. Ditch Plastic

Plastic wrap, sandwich bags, and single-use water bottles are all unnecessary sources of waste. Instead, opt for reusable alternatives like beeswax wraps, Mason jars, and metal water bottles.

You’ll save money in the long run, and you’ll feel good knowing that you’re doing your part to reduce your environmental impact.

3. Buy in Bulk

When it comes to kitchenware, there are a few key items that are essential for any cook: pots and pans, dishes, utensils, and storage containers. Of course, there are all the food items you need to fill your kitchen with, too.

While you can find all of these items in any store, the best way to create a zero waste kitchen is to buy them in bulk. Buying in bulk helps to reduce packaging waste, and it also saves money in the long run.

Plus, when you have all of your kitchenware in one place, it’s easier to keep track of what you have and ensure that nothing goes to waste.

There are a few things to keep in mind when buying in bulk for your kitchen. First, make sure to choose items that are high quality and durable.

Second, consider how you will store the items; for example, investing in some good quality shelving will help you keep everything organized.

Finally, make sure to measure your space before you buy so that you don’t end up with more than you can use.

4. Prep Your Meals

One way to reduce the amount of waste your household produces is to prep your meals in advance. By taking the time to plan out your meals and shop for ingredients accordingly, you can avoid throwing away unused food.

Meal prepping can also help you save money and eat healthier, as you are less likely to make impulsively unhealthy choices when you have a meal already prepared.

There are a few different ways to approach meal prepping. One popular method is to cook all of your meals for the week on one day, so that you can simply reheat them as needed throughout the week. This can be especially helpful if you have a busy schedule.

Another approach is to prepare individual ingredients in advance, such as chopping vegetables or cooking meat. This can give you a head start on meal preparation on days when you don’t have as much time.

5. Use Up Leftovers

If you’re like most people, you probably have a few items lurking in your fridge or pantry that you’re not quite sure what to do with.

Before you reach for the garbage can, take a moment to consider how you can use up those leftovers and create a zero waste kitchen.

Even something as simple as a half-used lemon can be put to good use. Add it to a pitcher of water for a refreshing drink, or use it to scrub your sink clean. There are endless possibilities for using up leftovers, so get creative and see what you can come up with.

6. Find Smart Uses for Food Scraps

One way to cut down on food waste is to get creative with your leftovers. Instead of throwing out those last few bits of vegetables, turn them into soup or a stir fry. Use up overripe fruit in smoothies or baking.

And don’t forget about the scraps! Those peels and ends can be used to make vegetable broth or added to the compost bin.

7. Compost is King

…and while we’re on the subject of compost…

One of the best ways to reduce waste in the kitchen is to start composting. Composting is simply the process of breaking down organic matter, such as food scraps, into a rich, soil-like substance that can be used to fertilize plants.

Not only does composting help to cut down on landfill waste, but it also provides a nutrient-rich amendment for your garden. And unlike synthetic fertilizers, compost will not harm the environment or your plants.

There are many different ways to compost, but the most important thing is to include a mix of green and brown materials.

Green materials, such as vegetable scraps and coffee grounds, are high in nitrogen and help to break down the brown materials, which are high in carbon. A good ratio to aim for is two parts green material to one part brown material.

Once you have your compost bin set up, all you need to do is add your kitchen scraps and let nature do its work.

8. Satisfy Your Coffee or Tea Craving in a More Sustainable Way

If you’re a coffee or tea lover, there are plenty of sustainable ways to satisfy your craving without creating unnecessary waste.

One way is to invest in a reusable coffee or tea mug to take with you when you purchase your beverage of choice. Another sustainable option is to buy loose-leaf tea or whole beans and grind them yourself at home using a reusable coffee grinder.

Finally, consider making your own cold brew coffee or iced tea using sustainable materials like recycled glass jars or mason jars.

9. Consider Zero Waste Kitchen Cleaning Products

One way to reduce your kitchen’s waste output is to switch to zero waste cleaning products. These products are made from natural ingredients and can be easily composted or reused. In addition, they are often more effective than traditional cleaning products, making them a great choice for eco-conscious consumers.

Plus, by switching to zero waste cleaning products, you’ll be taking a small step toward reducing your environmental impact.

10. Buy Local

One of the best ways to reduce your kitchen waste is to buy local produce. Shopping at your local farmers market not only helps to reduce packaging waste, but it also supports local businesses and farmers.

Plus, being fresher is always better! Another way to cut down on kitchen waste is to make your own pantry staples, like bread, jam, and granola.

Not only will you save money in the long run, but you’ll also get to control the ingredients and avoid all that excess packaging.

11. Invest in Long Lasting Pots and Pans

One way to reduce the amount of waste you produce is to invest in long-lasting pots and pans. Stainless steel or cast iron pots and pans can last for decades with proper care, so you won’t have to replace them nearly as often as you would if you used disposable or lower-quality cookware.

Furthermore, by choosing durable pots and pans, you’ll save money in the long run since you won’t have to keep buying new ones every few years. Additionally, high-quality pots and pans often improve the quality of your cooking, so it’s a win-win situation!

12. Use Wooden Utensils

There are many benefits to using wooden utensils instead of disposable or plastic ones. For one, wooden utensils are more durable and will last longer with proper care. They are also better for the environment since they can be reused over and over again.

Wooden utensils are also biodegradable, so they won’t end up in landfills like disposable plastic utensils.

Another benefit of using wooden utensils is that they don’t absorb flavors or odors from food like plastic can. This means that your food will taste better and won’t be tainted by previous meals.

13. Buy Refurbished or Used Appliances

Buying refurbished or used appliances is a great way to reduce your kitchen’s waste output.

While new appliances are often packaged in large amounts of plastic and other disposable materials, used appliances can be bought with little to no packaging.

In addition, choosing refurbished or used appliances helps to extend the life of these products, which reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills each year.

Of course, it’s important to make sure that any used appliance you purchase is in good working condition and has been properly cleaned.

14. Use Cloth Napkins and Avoid Single-Use Products

One way to reduce waste is to avoid single-use products. For example, instead of using paper towels, invest in a few sets of cloth napkins. You can also ditch the paper coffee filters in favor of a reusable metal one.

15. The Freezer is Your Friend!

The freezer is your friend when it comes to reducing food waste. Planning ahead and knowing what you have in your freezer can help you make the most of the food you have and reduce trips to the grocery store.

By freezing items like bread, meat, and fruits and vegetables, you can extend their shelf life and prevent them from going bad. In addition, frozen foods can be a great way to meal prep for busy weeknights. Simply thaw out what you need and cook it up quickly.

ants on food scraps

Uses for Food Scraps

We try to make the most of everything around here, and that includes kitchen scraps. You can regrow some of the veggies and fruits from kitchen scraps, but let me show you what I usually do with our leftovers:

Egg shells– composted; dried and kept to sprinkle around tomato and pepper plants; dried, crumbled, and fed to chickens for calcium.

Tea bags – composted

Coffee grounds & filter– composted; coffee grounds dried and saved to sprinkle around tomatoes and blueberries.

Overripe bananas– frozen for smoothies; used in banana bread.

Banana peels- composted (don’t feed to chickens)

Potato peels- composted (don’t feed raw potato or raw potato peels to chickens)

Onion skins and tips- frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Garlic skins and tips-frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Carrot peels– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Celery tips– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens; composted.

Avocado peels and pits– composted (though the pit will take forever to break down, or it will sprout and grow!)

Leftovers- we feed almost all of our leftovers to our chickens, with the exception of anything with a lot of cheese, and sweets. What can’t be fed to the chickens or composted is tossed out for the wildlife.

Bones– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then fed to dogs/cats.

Citrus peels– saved for making a citrus scented all-purpose cleaner by soaking the peels in a jar of white vinegar for about two weeks, infusing the citrus scent into the vinegar. Dilute half and half with water, and use in a spray bottle for a great disinfectant.

Sour milk- allowed to curdle and then fed to the chickens. (There are a ton of other really great suggestions for how to use sour (raw) milk at Healthy Home Economist.)

Syrup from canned fruit– fed to the chickens.

Juice leftover from cooking a whole chicken or a roast- saved for broth or gravy.

Wilted/slimy lettuce– fed to chickens; composted.

Fruit peels and cores– fed to chickens; composted; used to make jelly.

Fat drippings– cooled, hardened and used for emergency candles! (Okay, not all the time, but it’s fun to know it can be done.)

Nut shells– composted (except for Black Walnut shells)

Chicken neck and organs– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens (yes, chickens will eat chicken); or you can learn how to compost meat

Fish heads and organs– frozen and saved to make broth/stock, then strained from stock and fed to chickens.

Moldy cheese– that goes to the wildlife. Can’t be composted, or fed to the chickens.

Wilted herbs– fed to chickens; compost.

Stale bread– frozen to make breadcrumbs at my convenience (also good for croutons)

I think that pretty much covers everything that would otherwise be thrown in the trash. I’m sure there are better ways to make use of some of these scraps, but this is just what I do on a daily basis.

I have two bowls on my counter- one for chicken food, and one for the compost.

When I clean the plates from the table after each meal, I scrape the leftovers into the chicken feed bowl (unless it’s a lot of food leftover, in which case I’ll put it in a sealable container and save it to reheat later).

At the end of each day, we take those bowls out and toss them where they need to go. It’s nothing fancy, but it works.

A Zero Waste Kitchen is Well Within Reach

So that’s what I do, now it’s your turn to share. I want to hear your best tips for a no waste kitchen!

48 thoughts on “How To Get to a No Waste Kitchen”

  1. One more thing- I always composted tea bags, but just found out that a lot of the bags actually have plastic fibers in them, so if you want to compost them you might switch to loose tea or find out which ones don’t have plastic.

  2. I love all these ideas. I’m going to try saving scraps for stock again and reuse my citrus peels. We compost all year- we live in Alaska so it freezes in the winter but we mix it all up once it thaws and it does fine. I have a worm bin in my boiler room, too – just a 2x3ft plastic bin with holes drilled in the bottom and set on top of another lid- makes great worm castings for plants/gardening and it’s so easy. I wish I could bury fish bones in the garden or put out food in the woods for wildlife but we have the occasional bear strolling through in the summer and that would attract them. I don’t put meat, fish or dairy in the compost and I’ve only been bothered on rate occasions by a hungry moose in the winter.

  3. What a great post….
    Citrus peels….once i am done with infusing them in vinegar i blend them in magic bullet, add some liquide soap and a bit of plain winegar. Use this to clean Kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks and toilets….Just sprinkle a bit of baking soda, pour Orange mix on top scrub and rinse with hot water….smells great and de-cloggs plumbing too. I make apple cider from apple Peels. As per card and dogs…..their hair is saved until spring then places outside for the birds to build nests

  4. Chop up the banana peels into small bits and the chickens will gobble them up! Plus the peels I compost seem to take longer to break down. Our chickens even eat plantain skins if we chop them into parts they can eat

  5. That’s one useful post and a lot of people wrote interesting tips. Here are mine: Don’t use chemical drain cleaners or bleach. Avoid all harsh chemicals that may deteriorate the rubber components or other parts of the disposal. Throw away potato peelings instead of using your garbage disposal. Ground-up potatoes form a starchy paste that clings to parts and may clog your unit or the drain. Coffee grounds and eggshells are also hazardous to your disposal. The small, granular consistency creates a sludge that quickly builds up inside the unit and your drainpipe. Don’t put overly fibrous materials and bones in the disposal.

  6. I chop up and freeze raw spinach, mustard, swiss chard and beet greens all the time. I vacuum seal and cook all sorts of things with them all winter.

  7. Hi there! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you
    if that would be ok. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look foreard to new posts.

  8. Once I was telling my elderly Aunt Crystal how I always saved or set out any food scraps. She said, well you got that honest, my Daddy always told us “it’s a sin to burn food”. She told that when they were growing up, any garbage went to a burn pile, but her daddy always had them run food scraps out to the woods because “a possum or a rabbit might be looking for something to eat”. This would have been in the 1930s. It warmed my heart to hear this story, and made me feel a special connection to my granddaddy, who died in 1945, long before I was born. Now, ion the rare occasion DH might look at me sideways when I give him a plate of scraps to toss in the yard, I just say, “well it’s a sin to burn food.”

  9. * I save the string from tea bags to tie up my plants when they are drooping.
    *I saved empty jars to pour grease into.
    *I make a tomato fertilizer out of egg shells and boiled water.
    *I save all bags and re-use them (unless there is meat or dairy).
    *I save my rinse water to throw on plants outside.
    *I save my grocery store bags to line the trash can in the kitchen.
    *I save meat scraps, chicken bones, vegetable scraps to make dog food.
    *I save the meat juices and put it in a jar. Refrig. Scrape off the top layer of grease and then freeze the broth for soup.

    I hate to throw things away! 🙂

  10. Great ideas! If you cook your stock for 12-24 hours, even chicken bones are soft enough to give to dogs. Just make sure the bones are “mushy” before you give them to the animals.

  11. Bread pudding!

    Also, I save the little slivers of soap and either put them in an old nylon (to dry and later to use as a washcloth with soap in it) or put them in an old liquid soap container, add water, shake and use like the store bought stuff.

    Love your idea for the citrus peel infused vinegar! I’m going to give it a try. Thanks!

  12. I always remove the stems from spinach, ends of tomatoes, etc. and I’d like to know if it’s alright to put them in a freezer bag and save them to make a vegetable soup stock?

      • Raw spinach freezes fine! I have even thrown a whole bag in the freezer once when we had to go out of town unexpectedly. I just opened it up and sauteed it from frozen, and I couldn’t tell much difference between that and sauteed fresh spinach. Great for us, since I’m the only one who likes spinach! It can also be tossed into soups, sauces, stews, or smoothies frozen.

  13. Love this list!

    My mom puts her banana peels around the base of her roses (covered with some soil, of course) to compost directly. She says they love the nutrients from the peels.

    Coffee grounds can also be mixed into a body scrub – wouldn’t want to use it too often so it doesn’t gum up the drain, of course, but still a fun splurge and you could probably even put it in pretty jars for friends if you let them know to use it quickly.

    Coffee and tea could also be used for dying material and fibers prior to composting. You would presumably get lighter colors than if you used the full strength brew (I’m speculating here as I’m only just learning about natural dyes – haven’t gotten to try them yet as my fiber is still packed from the move).

  14. why not give chickens cheese? with little bits of cheese you can play chicken pong. Toss a piece here they all go. toss one there, they go there. I would think it would be a good source of protein.
    We’ve tried banana peels but they just wont touch them.

  15. Thank you! Now I won’t feel like I’m possibly harming my dog by giving her the bones after stock making. 🙂 We don’t have the space for a compost bin, but we save our egg shells and coffee grinds and filters and just throw them into the garden. They break right down. My husband tills every spring and fall and we never have to put anything on it. We’ve also buried fish bones out there when we have them, too. Love hearing everyone’s comments. I’m pleased to find that we already do most of them and yet, have found a few more to incorporate.

  16. I also do all the same things that you do with our kitchen scraps, except leftover chicken scraps (not the bones) go to the outside dogs and cats; I can’t bring myself to give the chickens back chicken LOL. Not that I think if cooked it would be bad for them, it’s just the thought. One thing I have recently added to our farm is a worm composter. I think it’s all a wonderful circle of life. The castings and tea from the worms fertilize the garden, plus my husband and son use them to fish with, the food from the garden feeds us, and the scraps are separated between the outside dogs and cats, chickens and worm compost. Egg shells are ground and split between the dogs, cats and chickens. The worm composter also gets cardboard from toilet paper and paper towel rolls. In the winter time I make what I call a warm gruel for the outside dogs and cats. I boil the vegetable scraps that are allotted for the chickens and meat scraps and grease allotted for the dogs and cats and make gravy from the broth. I add dry dog food to this and rice or oatmeal. They all REALLY love this!! Including the chickens, they go crazy for it but for them its only a snack to supplement their regular food and scratch. So far this winter my girls have not slowed down at all on their egg production.

  17. I was raised in the city and still live in one. Have never had chickens or any animals other than pets. I enjoy your posts, it seems like a foreign life. I’m not so sure how I well I would do in your place. I buy tea bags and put the paper they were wrapped in into my compost as well. We have a 50 gal metal trash can with holes drilled all over it. We’ve been composting for a year now and I’m amazed that the can is still only half full. Oh, it’s been higher lots of times, but as everything decomposes, the space it takes up is smaller. Hoping to have enough compost for my very small garden this year.

  18. I grind wheat and make all my own bread and cannot bear any waste of bread/crusts so I cube up the bread crusts and keep in a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. When I have 2 gallon bags of diced bread I make a huge batch of dressing (stuffing). I dry the bread crumbs and add homemade chicken stock, celery, onion and seasoning. It will usually make 3 side dishes for our family(8). Never waste bread crusts again!

  19. Oh, I just thought of one more.

    5) Save your butter wrappers for greasing cookie sheets and baking pans with the little bit of butter that is left on them.

  20. GREAT list, Kendra! Here are a few more that you may like, as well, that our family has enjoyed.

    1) Let your orange peels dry out and keep them for fire starters, the orange oil burns a long time while the fire is getting going.

    2) Freeze your fish heads and left over fish parts, then when you are planting your tomatoes in the spring, drop some in the hole before you plant. It makes a slow release fertilizer.

    3) Instead of giving your chickens the fruit syrup from canned fruit, make popsicles for the kids! This has been a big hit with the littles.:)

    4) After baking a chicken, save that yummy seasoned fat in a jar in the fridge for a butter/ oil substitute when sautéing.

  21. We do most of that too, but thanks for the tips on freezing the onion, garlic and carrot skins/peels!! Awesome, never thought of that, duh, lol. 🙂

  22. About feeding chickens chickens: Cows are herbivores, chickens are omnivores. Cows don’t naturally eat any meat other than the placenta as far as I know. Chickens sometimes eat each other alive when kept in horrible conditions, bored and crowded.

    Ive heard you can shine leather with banana peels but have never tried.

  23. Kendra, you do know that mad cow disease started because cows were being fed cow meat? I am really disturbed that you are feeding chicken bits of chicken.

    • Sophie,

      LOL… every person I know who has chickens feeds them leftover chicken. I would think that as long as the chicken you are feeding them is cooked (and must be uncontaminated if you ate it and didn’t get sick) it’s fine. To each his own, but I have no worries about mad chicken disease.

  24. I love reading posts like this. Right now, a lot of my scraps go into the garden. I thought about raising worms but I don’t have the space for that right now. In the summer I take my coffee grounds and disperse it among my tom’s too. How would they work around a wild black raspberry bush, do you think?

  25. I keep a few empty soup cans around, so I can pour off my meat fat/grease into them. I stockpile them in the frig till it’s time to make more laundry bar soap. We’re hoping to get some chickens this year and get our garden started again. So then we can get more out of our compost and scrap bin. We just moved into our new homestead a few months ago. Basically starting from scratch here in central Ohio.

  26. We always had a “scrap pail” under the sink that all food waste would go into for the barn animals. Mostly cats, dogs & chickens. Now I would love to be able to do the same. Living in town we don’t have chickens (and our lifestyle is not really condusive to to having chickens as we tend to travel a lot) but I would love to get to a point in our lives (and location) where a small flock would be possible.

    I need to look into composting again as well. We do have a small garden and we could easily compost, but haven’t done it in the past.

    Thanks for the tip on the onion and garlic skins and scraps. I wouldn’t have thought to use the skins in the stock. I will be doing this from now on!

  27. Right now I don’t have much going on, but I do have a bin in the freezer for stock making, and one for banana peels, fruit scraps, and egg shells to use once I get my compost pile started. In process of cleaning out the backyard and getting a spot that is accessible, not overgrown, and has a path clear of fire ant beds to be able to start my pile. Have lots of “brown” from cleaning up the yard, working hard to balance out the “green” to get a good pile started.

  28. I also put my citrus peels in my tea pot on my woodstove. I leave the top off the pot for humidity and the citrus peel fills the house with a nice fresh scent. If I’m canning or making something that requires cinnamon stick, cloves, etc. I throw them in the teapot. (I became tired of tying cheese cloth, I now put them in a tea ball.)

  29. I think you pretty much have it covered :). I never thought to freeze onion ends and skins. I’ll bet you could put all veggie scraps (except potatoes) in 1 bag or container to freeze. Oh, that would make wonderful broth! I’ve just gave them straight to the chickens or rabbits. I guess I’ve been missing a valuable and delicious step . Thank you!! The only 2 things I do that you don’t have on your list is strain bacon grease and keep it in a small container in the freezer to use in dried beans and greens. (my hubby’s an old Cajun boy). I also bake all my own breads and rolls. End crust are ground or crushed, put in a quart jar and saved for cooking. Wheat, rye, sourdough mixed together. It’s so much better than anything you can buy. My husband will catch me doing or studying something I’ve read on one of your blogs and all I have to say is “Kendra said” and he just smiles.

    • LOL… that’s so funny, Julie 🙂 Yep, whenever I’m chopping veggies and have scraps (same can be done with parsnips; don’t toss in turnip skins though, they’re very bitter) I toss the peels, skins, and tips into a 1 gallon freezer bag. I also throw chicken necks and organs into the same bag. Then, when the bag is full (or when I have several bags full) I’m ready to throw it all into a pot and make stock. I keep a freezer bag of scraps with chicken parts, and one with beef bones and trimmings to make a chicken stock, and a beef stock. I’ll do the same with fish heads for fish stock 😉 Great tips you’ve added! If we ever have leftover stale bread, I’ll freeze it for future breadcrumbs 🙂

  30. I have a question… You said that after you make stock from your bones that you then feed them to the dogs. I have always heard that you should never give dogs cooked bones. Thoughts? Have you ever had a problem with this? Thanks!

  31. I was going to say, make sure it’s beef or pork bones you are giving to the dogs! I’ve never had a problem feeding mine cooked bones, either. I like to put ham bones into crock pot ham & beans before I give them to the dogs, too.

    It’s funny, I was raised this way (I’m lucky), so whenever I saw people throwing away food I always thought it was strange. Took a while to get my DH used to doing it this way, but now we all have the hang of it. 🙂

  32. We have an outside compost bin and an indoor vermicompost. The worm bin I got for free from my son’s classroom a few years ago, score! I had to pick out some wrappers when I first got it, but now it is thriving and we’re thinking we need another bin for the overflow of worms. I wish we had chickens too! I’m not thrilled with an outside compost, the deer and elk get into it. I put a board over it, but the stinkers push it off. It’s also too close to the house, but with the way this property is laid out, there isn’t a further place to put one really. (I do not purposely feed wildlife, it’s against the law here, and with good reason. (Birds are okay to feed though.))


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