I’ve mentioned before a growing push to reduce my waste, and I’ve been finding ways to make great strides in cutting back with minimal effort. That’s inspired what will be a short series on sustainable practices and tools that make life just a bit greener day by day.
It’s worth noting that if you’re looking to be sustainable, you don’t have to go out and buy something eco-friendly or reusable to replace what you already have. At the end of the day, if you already have something that does the job, keep using that thing to the ground. Or, if you really want to jump on board the green train (woo woo!), consider donating or gifting the items that you would be replacing with eco-friendly counterparts.
Today’s post will be filled with hacks to make your kitchen less wasteful! Let’s get started:
1. Unless you live somewhere without potable water, avoid prepackaged water bottles like the plague. If you don’t love the taste of tap water, invest in a Brita filter and use that bad boy to the ground. If you have a refrigerator that dispenses water, just make sure your filter is replaced frequently – every three months or so is fine.
2. The rule of thumb is to reduce, reuse, recycle – and in that order. Any packaging you already have in your kitchen should be considered for repurposing once the food is done. Marinara sauce and peanut butter jars can be washed out and reused next time you go to your bulk foods store! Speaking of…
3. Shop for package-free foods! This is a huge opportunity to cut out most of the garbage your kitchen will produce. Instead of picking up a bag of cashews or a jar of spices, go to your local bulk foods store, Sprouts, or Whole Foods and bring your (recycled) containers with you.
Pro-tip: if you have duplicate containers, bring both so your cashier can weigh the empty on at checkout, instead of having to get weights at the beginning of your shopping trip.
4. If you don’t have any jars or containers, get a reusable glass set like this one and keep a few in your car with your reusable shopping bags, so you’re never without a container when you need that last minute ingredient!
5. Speaking of package-free, reuse your old spice jars when you run out as well! Take those bad boys with you to the bulk foods store, and refill them. Alternatively, if you don’t have the spices already, here’s the matching set of label-friendly spice jars that I use every day!
6. While you’re at it, don’t bother with the plastic produce bags at the grocery store. If you really feel the need to protect your produce from your car or the grocery cart and conveyor belt, use reusable bags or produce bags like these.
7. Extend the life of your food. Bread and bagels can be sliced and frozen immediately and thawed or toasted when you’re ready to eat, and they taste just as good. Snacks, chips, and packaged cookies can be saved with something as simple as a clip. If you’re nearing the expiration date on your meat and don’t have time to cook it, freeze it and enjoy it on a later date. And I’m a firm believer that Girl Scout cookies are better frozen.
8. Speaking of, keep track of your expiration dates and proactively plan to eat your food before it goes bad. I use Fridgely, a handy app that gives you a small reminder when your groceries have a day or two left on their lifespan, and it’s worth noting that not all sell-by or eat-by dates are accurate.
9. Compost anything organic, food-based, paper, etc. instead of throwing it out! I like to keep a bowl on my kitchen counter and fill it with any green waste as I cook. At the end of the night, it can all go in a sealed bin with a paper bag, or be taken out to your green waste bin. That said, you could go the extra mile by keeping a sealed air-tight container around for your green waste and composting it yourself with a small tumbler!
10. Save your leftovers. We throw away so much food every year, so bake leftovers into your cooking plans. Keep a few leftover containers handy for single serving portions and bring them to work the next day as your lunch!
11. Store and reuse your paper bags. I use them to line my bin for recyclables, but they’re handy for compost and picnics alike.
12. Use up or donate your Ziploc bags and invest in a silicon reusable option! I use these, which are freezer and dishwasher safe and keep food just as fresh.
13. Use up or donate your plastic wrap, and use beeswax wrap instead! I wrap my half-used avocadoes, cover any opened canned food, or even cover bowls of leftovers with this. One set has lasted me well over a year now with regular use, just be sure to keep them out of the sun!
14. Do away with your single-use teas, and instead opt for loose-leaf teas and a tea strainer. That said, if your tea brand is using a compostable liner, just make sure those aren’t heading towards the landfill and keep doing what you’re doing!
15. Kill your Keurig. Seriously. The need for single pods baffles me. Just get a normal or mini coffee maker and make yourself a single serving at a time if need be. Bonus points if it comes with a permanent filter like this one does!
16. Get rid of paper towels and use kitchen rags instead! I keep cut-up towels and shirts in a box under the sink and reach for those whenever it’s time to wipe off the counters or my hands. Once they’re used to the point where I don’t want to use them again, I toss them in another box under the sink and wash them all at the end of the week.
17. Never buy single-use disinfectant wipes again! Instead, opt for rags, kitchen towels, and cleaning products. If you know you need the convenience of a soaked ready-to-go cleaning product, fill your empty box for disinfectant wipes 1/3-1/2 of the way up with your favorite bulk disinfectant, and soak flannels or rags in it. When you’re ready to use them, just pull them out, use them, and toss ‘em in the washing machine when you’re done.
18. Reuse or catch your water. Not all water can or should be reused, but drinking water, the water you used to boil eggs, or just water that wasn’t quite yet warm enough can all be reused to rinse dishes or water plants. Keep a watering can by the sink and toss used water there instead of down the drain!
There are many more ways to reduce your waste in the kitchen, so feel free to tell me what I missed! Each of these tactics may require a small investment of time or money to start, but from then on the only time spent is tossing things in the laundry or making the trip to a bulk foods store. Cook happy, and enjoy taking the trash out less frequently!
Tis is a 20-something recruiter, startup enthusiast, finance blogger, and proud feminist-slash-crazy cat lady. Find her on Twitter or check out the blog for lifehacks and musings on personal finance, professional growth, and enjoying the journey to early retirement.
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