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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.