Category Archives: how to decrease your kitchen waste

Monday, September 10, 2012

Waste-Free Grocery Shopping – Tips and Suggestions To Inspire a Green Kitchen

My green kitchen didn’t happen overnight.  I made little steps toward decreasing my waste, and today I’m proud to say I have a well functioning, green, low-waste kitchen.  Trust me, I’m not perfect, and I would LOVE to be more like one of my eco-friendly blogging heros, Beth @ My Plastic Free Life, but I work within my means, do the best I can and what I feel comfortable with.  

So what does it mean to have a green kitchen?  This definition is different for everyone.  For me it’s about creating as little landfill waste as possible.  For example, you won’t find any disposable plastic in this kitchen.  I don’t use plastic lunch baggies/Ziploc, plastic freezer bags, plastic wrap, plastic bags or plastic food containers.  When I can (and when in season) I freeze fresh fruit instead of buying frozen bagged fruit, and overall, I don’t purchase many frozen food items.  Other items you won’t find in my kitchen are napkins, paper towels, foil, dish sponges, or those bleach “wipes. But as mentioned, I’m not perfect.  I do purchase dish soup, rubber gloves (due to my husband’s eczema), dishwasher soup, bagged chips, I use non-toxic plastic popsicle molds, and non-toxic plastic baby food containers (from my homemade baby food making days).  Other things I do to save money and decrease waste is make my own window cleaner from vinegar, use soap nuts as my laundry detergent, use baking powder as an abrasive cleaning scrub, and I stopped using bleach (that was a hard habit to kick).  

I notice that grocery shopping creates a lot of waste.  From plastic produce bags, to wrapped meats, plastic deli containers, to plastic grocery bags.  Over time I have found a way to create very little, to zero waste when grocery shopping.  It takes some planning, but living this way makes me feel good and balanced.  It’s something I can do within my means that helps me on my green kitchen journey. If you’ve been thinking about decreasing your kitchen waste, perhaps this post will inspire you.  Remember, it’s little steps toward that larger goal.

You can read more about the products I use and find links for these products here: How To Decease your Kitchen Waste: 101.  I’ve included some additional suggestions here: More Green Kitchen Tips 
Here’s a glimpse of my grocery shopping paraphernalia:

A nice big basket for all my produce.  I also take this to the Farmer’s Market and add in fruit and veggies as I stroll along.  So with my produce, when I get home I dump everything into a big bowl of filtered water and clean with a some hydrogen peroxide (apples, grapes, pears, lemons, squash, green beans, etc).  I use a separate bowl for leafy greens. 
Everything is clean and ready for the week.  
Carebags are my absolute favorite.  With Carebags I don’t need to use plastic produce bags.  They are super light and great quality.
For my bulk items I simply take my glass storage.  I weigh the jars, then fill them up.  So simple.  When I get home, I just put them away in the cupboard.  
I take whatever I have on land and fill with bulk foods.  I fill my glass storage with olives from the olive bar, nuts/seeds/spices, ground meat, and loose leaf greens. 
Glass storage with meats:
We have a bunch of to-go bags that hang on the back of the door that leads out to the garage.  This way, we never forget.  I have one big insulated bag I take and load up with cold items when grocery shopping.  And I like to take my big basket for produce (shown above full of produce in carebags).  
Each week before I go shopping I clean out my fridge.  I clean out each crisper, wipe down the fridge shelves and take inventory of what I have and what I need before I go shopping.  I shop for 6 days at a time (meals for Monday through Saturday) – I usually go shopping on Sunday.  I create a menu for 6 days of breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners, and from this menu I create my shopping list.  Cleaning out my fridge each week helps me save money too.  By knowing what I have I avoid double purchases.  Plus, I feel it’s really important to keep the fridge clean and organized.  
My plastic free crispers 

I hope this post has inspired you to try a few waste-free shopping tips, or at the very least, get you thinking a little bit about ways to decrease waste in your own home.  
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Sunday, April 22, 2012

How to Decrease Kitchen Waste Part II

Being green isn’t a fad, it’s a lifestyle.  It’s a set of behaviors one practices everyday – it’s an approach to living. And being green looks different for everyone.  If you’re considering adopting a more green outlook on your home and life, it’s important to remember that the journey is different for everyone, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, and change doesn’t happen overnight.  I recommend taking it slow, working within your means and comfort level.

If you’re interested in more green kitchen tips, check out part I HERE.

Today I offer you additional ideas that can be easily adopted into your green living repertoire.

#1: Keeping a Plastic-Free Crisper

This was one of the most recent things I changed in my green living quest.  I started using Carebags years ago and this solved my problem of using those plastic produce bags.  But it took a lot of willpower to refrain from purchasing pre-packaged produce (you know, the occasional bag of romaine, carrots or shredded broccoli).  The Natural Foods Coop in Sacramento does not carry any bagged produce, which I absolutely love and appreciate.  The Coop in my town does.  See here for a comprehensive list of plastic free food storage ideas.

So the first step is arming yourself with lots of non-plastic bags for produce, such as my all time favorite, Carebags.
I use this HUGE gorgeous basket to hold all my produce when I shop.
When I get home from the store, I immediately wash and dry my lettuce and spinach and then store in glass containers.  My greens stay fresh for up to 2 weeks (although we usually eat them up pretty fast).
I then wash and transfer all my produce into the crispers.  I store strawberries and mushrooms in glass containers.
I also just throw my beans and peas in the crisper (not shown).
#2: Getting The Most Out of Your Produce

I have the best neighbors!  They let me sneak into their backyards and harvest lemons anytime.  I come back to my kitchen armed with a ton of lemons (20-30) and just hate to see them go to waste.  My solution for this is juicing them.  I store them in my old baby food containers.  I pop several out at a time and defrost as needed. I also fill old jelly jars, freeze, and defrost these as needed.
And don’t throw out those broccoli stalks! Push them through your food processor (on the grater setting) and use them in salads, stir fry, soup, etc.
#3: Alternatives to Frozen Fruit Bags
We are smoothie lovers, but okay, who’s not a smoothie lover?
 In the beginning I relied heavily on bagged frozen fruit. Sometimes it makes sense, especially if the fruit is out of season (another example of working within your means).  But here are a few methods I use to decrease my frozen fruit package waste:
1.  Depending on the season, freeze fresh fruit.  Apples, strawberries, mango, bananas, etc.  Just slice and freeze on a cutting board or tray of some sort, then transfer to glass containers and store in the freezer.
2.  Puree or juice fresh fruit and veggies and store in old baby food containers or ice cube trays.
3.  My favorite method is using seasonal fresh fruit and then adding cubes of frozen nut milk.  When I make nut milk, I make an extra batch for freezing and store in my old baby food containers.  This gives you the milk and ice in one!  Just add your fresh fruit, nut milk cubes, some water and bam – smoothie!  And without plastic bag waste.
#4: Utilizing Glass Jars  
I use old glass jars for all sorts of stuff, from beans and spices, to seeds and oils.  In doing this I decrease my use of paper bags for spices and other finely ground foods that won’t fit into my Carebags.  Now, I shop in bulk, which makes this possible. I take the entire glass jar with me and fill directly from the bulk flours.  But again, not everyone has this option.
#5: Forget the Bagged Frozen Chicken
Instead of purchasing bagged frozen chicken, I take my snap glass storage (that I find at Costco super cheap) with me to the store and fill with meats; from ground to deli.  I usually purchase 8 -10 chicken breasts at time.  I bake them all at once, cool, place in glass storage, and pop them in the freezer.  I simply transfer into the fridge the day or night before to defrost.


BONUS TIP #6: Reuse What You Can
Planting season is in full swing.  Egg cartons and old toilet paper rolls make great in-door seed starters.
So there you have it friends.  A few more ways you and your family can “greenify” your home and kitchen.See more posts like this HERE.

Shared on: Whole Foods Wednesdays 

Posted by Amber at

Labels: green living, green living tips organization, how to decrease your kitchen waste.


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Sunday, October 9, 2011

How to Decrease Kitchen Waste Part I

Blogger inspiration for starting my waste-free kitchen journey: 

When you think of kitchen waste, what comes to mind? 

 I’m guessing food.  Yes food is a huge waste that adds a bulk to your garbage bag that turns against you rather quickly.  But what else?  If you live in a town that recycles, first off, hooray for you, but secondly, weekly recycling doesn’t take care of everything.  I’ve heard of some pretty picky towns where only cans, plastic bottles and cardboard is allowed. What about the bread packaging, inside the cereal plastic bag, frozen veggie plastic bags…if you eat cheese, the plastic around the cheese and don’t even get me started on PLASTIC BAGGIES.  The list goes on and on in the plastic department.  What about paper towels and napkins?  Foil?  Styrofoam?  The wrapping from your deli meat?   

These are all sources of unwanted waste.  I say unwanted because the recycle folks don’t want this stuff.  So it goes in the landfill

My kitchen waste revelation came one day a few years ago when my garbage can smelled so horrid I just couldn’t take it any more…okay, enough is enough.  We didn’t use those hefty plastic bags, we used recycled brown paper bags from our weekly grocery shopping for our garbage, so all our food waste and other gunk was exposed and oh boy it started to take on a life all its own.    

I said to myself…I know I can do better!

I started very, very slow and assessed my waste.  Food was at the top of the list so I started there and slowly worked my down the list finding alternatives and replacing old habits with environmentally frienldy behaviors.  So if you are new to the concept of decreasing kitchen waste, please see below for some very easy ideas to get you going on your journey.  


Problem: food scraps   
Solution: compost

*We made a very modest 5×5 box out of redwood in our backyard and started to pile in our uncooked kitchen waste with equal parts carbon and nitrogen.  And I read this quick, simple guide to composting.  There are so many other composting ideas, many I found in the book, but you can also research on-line and find what works best for you.  For example, we are going to start a worm bin soon for our cooked food waste!  

Problemplastic baggies
Solution: Stop buying & find eco-friendly alternatives

*Okay, let’s be real for a moment.  Plastic baggies are a hell-of-a-convenience, and if you have kids, well, they may feel like a must-have necessity.  It was difficult, but these were #2 on the list to go for me.  I stopped buying them and looked for alternatives.  

~Here are some easy replacement ideas~
a.  WasteNot Saks are the most amazing, wonderful alternative to plastic baggies.  I’ve had mine for nearly 5 years and they have held up great.  The design is fantastic and my kids can use them with ease.  
b.  SnackTAXI makes a fantastic sandwich pack.  They have not failed me yet.  I also used them for snacks, but they don’t seal all the way across like WasteNot Saks, so they are best for large items such as sandwiches.
c.  CareBags are by far my favorite thing found to replace plastic produce bags: see post here.  Here is a good post on the dangers of plastic bags.  Eye opening. 
d. Lunch Bots is by far my favorite stainless steel alternative.  My daughter and son use these daily for snacks.  These are my faves.

e.  ECOlunchbox three-in-one.  My daughter takes this for her lunch.  It’s lightweight and easy for little hands to use and maneuver. 
Problem: Alternative-milk containers 
Solution: Make your own milk alternatives

*This solution is three-fold.  First of all, milk alternatives are EXPENSIVE.  I did the math and I started saving serious money when I stopped buying packaged milks and started making my own.  Second, you have total and complete control of the ingredients when you make your own milks – awesome for you!   Third, and let’s be honest here, those milk alternative containers are not recyclable.  I shed a tear of guilt every time I had to throw away those huge cartons.  Okay, so problem solved.  Making your own nut milks is so super easy.  I make the following: almond milk, cashew milk, hemp milk and hazelnut milk.  You can find a slew of how-to videos on the internet.  And you don’t technically need an expensive high-speed blender to make these milks.  Before I purchased my vitamix, I used a Ninja Blender for years and it worked fine.  Don’t be detoured my friends!! 

Problem: paper waste   
Solution: Stop buying & find eco-friendly alternatives

*Ahhh, this was so hard at first!  I had a very unhealthy addiction to paper towels.  I would use them for everything…if I had them I would go through them like crazy.  I had zero control.  So one day I just stopped buying them and also stopped buying paper napkins.  

~Here are some easy replacement ideas~
a.  Use cloth napkins opposed to paper napkins
b.  Use a cloth for cleaning the counter top, stove and other non-dish elements in your kitchen
c.  Cut up old t-shirts and use them for dusting
d.  Purchase a sponge you can wash in the washing machine multiple times before throwing away
Problem: Foil
Solution: Alternative products

*I used foil for so many things in my kitchen.  This was difficult at first too.  I tried very hard to clean the foil and recycle it, but it didn’t always work.  And my philosophy wasn’t, “well, it’s okay to throw it away once in a while,” it was to “never again throw anymore foil away into garbage ever again.”   

~Here are some easy replacement ideas~
a.  Use a baking sheet on top of dishes that require covering in the oven.
b.  Purchase a silicone mat for non-stick baking & roasting
(I also use a silicon mat instead of parchment paper for rolling out gluten-free dough).
c.  Use glass bakeware opposed to a baking sheet that requires foil for roasting.
d.  Use parchment paper if you need to wrap something up to bake in the oven (like fish).  This unbleached parchment paper is the best! And…IT’S COMPOSTABLE!! 
Problem: Packaging from meat in the deli
Solution: Glass storage 

One day I purchased a pork shoulder from the meat deli at our Coop and I was appalled when I got home, unrolled it, and saw how much paper and plastic waste was from this single (albeit rather large) portion of meat.  My next trip to the coop I was equipped with my snap glass and Pyrex storage.  It takes some planning, but if you know what you are going to be purchasing it’s not a problem – plus I highly recommend going to the grocery store with a plan and a list.  This saves time, energy and money.   

I generally have one glass storage for sliced deli meat, one for chicken or turkey breasts and one for ground meat.  I am always surprised by how supportive the meat folks are about me bringing my own packaging.  It’s so easy…they just put the glass container on the scale, add the meat, and then subtract the weight. 

Vegetarians can incorporate this concept when purchasing cheese.  Go to your cheese deli and have them slice out what you need into your glass storage.  Then it’s home and into the fridge.  No more fussing with a half (plastic wrapped) block of cheese.
Other easy tips you can start incorporating into your daily routine.
1.  Take reusable bags to the store….every time! 
2.  If you are going out to eat out, or picking up food to go, take a glass container for your food or leftovers…or else they will hand you your food in the most awful material EVER invented.  I cringe at the site of Styrofoam.  Why it is still being used is a mystery to me.  Okay, so just be prepared – think a few steps ahead.  If you are going to Panda Express, just take your own containers.  
3.  If you are going to use plastic bags for your garbage, use these compostable garbage bags.  
4.  Take your own utensils from home or keep these in your car/bag
5.  Glass straws are so wonderful.  And kids love them.  Perfect for getting smoothies on the go.
6.  Take a travel mug if you are picking up your coffee on the go.  Also use for smoothies or other drinks that require a wasteful to-go cup, just bring your own.  Again, planning ahead makes these elements so easy to incorporate into your life.  
So, okay.  There we have it.
We feeling good!  We feeling pumped and motivated to get going!  
You can do it.  
Start small.  As a behaviorist, I completely support the process of small approximations toward a larger goal.  In fact, it’s the optimal way to create behavior change.  So please don’t feel like you have to make huge changes tomorrow.  Go at your own pace.  Have a goal in mind.  Write it down if you must, just know what you are working toward.  
Good luck friends!!
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Labels: green living, green living tips organization, how to decrease your kitchen waste.


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