Zero-Waste cooking seems like a myth to most people. They couldn’t possibly imagine how they could cook with zero waste.
Honestly, it felt like that to me, too.
For the past few years, I’ve worked harder than ever trying to reduce my waste in my home, and specifically, in my kitchen.
There are many reasons I could tell you why I can’t, such as not having a bulk store to shop for groceries, but the truth is that bulk stores aren’t the only way to achieve zero-waste cooking in your home.
To better share all the ways you can achieve zero-waste cooking, I’ve invited my sustainable living friend, Farah, to share all of her tips and tricks with you so that we can all be that much closer to zero-waste cooking in all of our homes!
Zero-Waste Cooking: What It is And How to Do It
How much waste do you produce in the kitchen? Probably a lot, but don’t worry, it’s not just you.
In fact, 95% of food scraps are thrown away, so you can guarantee most households carry a lot of food waste in their trash.
According to the EPA, 35.3 million tons of food waste ended up in landfills in 2018.
That’s a huge number, and we should all be looking for ways to do our part in reducing it.
Luckily, you’re on the right track by reading this post. Don’t worry, it’s not super hard and you don’t even need to have a whole garden to do it either.
Before we get into all the tips and tricks I have for you, you’re probably wondering what exactly zero-waste cooking is.
Well, it’s quite simple; zero-waste cooking means to have no waste left behind while cooking a meal. You basically have to use up every part of the food you’re making, either adding it to another dish or even composting the scraps!
The point is: no waste left behind.
Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping
The first place you can start to prevent waste is at the store.
Before you make your trip to the store, write down everything you need so you don’t accidentally buy something you already have or aren’t going to use.
It’s helpful to look through your kitchen while writing your list to make sure you don’t already have something you’ve written down.
Utilize the ‘Notes’ app on your phone so you don’t have to waste any paper to make your list either!
Zero-Waste at the store
Buying your food in bulk is an easy way to make sure you don’t end up with a bunch of plastic waste. You can find many kitchen staples in bulk at Whole Foods or any other Farmer’s Market type stores near you.
If you’re new to buying in bulk, it’s really simple. Just bring your jar or bag to the store and tare it at the register before putting the food in, that way you don’t get charged for the weight of the jar or bag.
The same idea goes for buying produce. When you’re shopping for vegetables or fruits, always opt for loose produce instead of the ones packaged in plastic.
Most grocery stores offer almost all their vegetables and fruits loose, so this should be easy. Just make sure to bring your own reusable produce bags so you don’t have to use the plastic ones that they offer at the store.
You can also find a lot of vegetables and fruits you normally eat at your local farmers’ market too.
This is a wonderful option because you know it’s fresh, locally grown, and you can buy them in bulk. An added bonus is you’re supporting an individual and their family.
An alternative to buying your vegetables is growing them on your own!
Like I said before, you don’t have to have a whole garden. Just growing one or two of the vegetables you regularly use works.
This is a great option if it’s available to you because it saves you time, money, waste, and it’s fresh!
Grow them from seed or save those food scraps and regrow them! It’s easy to regrow most vegetables, like green onions and lettuce. Just take the root part that you cut off, place it in some water, and wait for the roots to start growing.
Another great tip to keep in mind while grocery shopping is to check the expiration dates on the food you buy.
If you don’t plan on using that item soon, then it’s best to get one with a farther expiration date. This will also save you money in the long run so you don’t have to go out and buy it again.
Last thing to keep in mind while grocery shopping is to buy only what you need.
If a food item you’re going to use is on sale for buy one get one fifty percent off or something like that, but you know you don’t actually need extra of that item, don’t buy it.
Even if you think you might use it, it’s best to be safe rather than sorry, especially if you know you do this kind of thing a lot but never actually end up using all of it (I’m also guilty of having done this, but being conscious of it helps!).
Here is a more in-depth guide to zero-waste grocery shopping.
Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen
Okay, so you got all your food items completely without waste from the store. Awesome! Now let’s get into how to prevent waste in the kitchen.
First, a great tip is to keep your kitchen organized. This helps to know which food items you need to use up first before they go bad.
It’s also much easier to tell what you need and don’t need so that you don’t accidentally buy a duplicate of an item you already have.
The next thing you should do is store your food properly. You already took the effort to buy all those groceries with no waste, so you don’t want them to go bad because you didn’t store them properly.
Depending on the vegetables or fruits you have, a quick google search for properly storing that particular item will go a long way! The Spruce Eats shares how to store a bunch of different vegetables, too.
Zero-Waste While Cooking
Now let’s talk about how to keep this up while actually cooking the food.
It’s normal to peel most of your vegetables or throw out the leafy tops that you don’t normally use to cook. However, you don’t actually need to peel most vegetables anyway.
Not peeling your vegetables will reduce waste and give you some extra vitamins you don’t get from the fruit or vegetable itself. Just make sure to buy organic if that’s available to you so you can avoid pesticides.
Some parts that you have no use for can always go in your compost bin or one near you.
Making your own zero-waste foods
Unfortunately, some things are always packaged in plastic.
It’s hard to avoid, especially if you use these items a lot. Specifically, things like condiments, sauces, dips, and dressings typically always come in a plastic bottle.
A great way to avoid this is to make your own! It’s great because you won’t end up with a bunch of plastic bottles and you’ll know exactly what’s in it because you made it yourself.
An alternative to this in the case you can’t make your own is to either try to find them in a glass bottle or only buy what you need and be sure to properly recycle the plastic bottle.
Some other foods you can easily make at home include bread and crackers since these things are also normally packaged in plastic.
In the case that you cooked a meal and have some leftovers, find creative ways to repurpose it! You can add it to another meal or make something new out of it.
I like to think that cooking is also an art, and who knows? You might end up with something you really enjoy eating, but never thought of making!
This idea also works for food scraps. There are so many different and creative ways to repurpose your scraps.
For example, you can make some homemade vegetable broth out of all the scraps you use. Or If you make your own juices at home, don’t throw away the pulp! Instead, use it to make things like bread and cake.
There are so many recipes you can search for that use leftover scraps and pulp!
If you end up with glass jars from the store, don’t throw them away! Instead, repurpose them for all the things you make homemade.
Now that’s a zero-waste kitchen!
I hope you learned a lot about zero-waste cooking and reducing your waste in the kitchen. Depending on your situation, it’s not always easy, but it is possible!
Come back to these tips whenever you feel like you’re ending up with more waste than you’d like or need a refresher on what to do. Remember to always try your best and do what you can! A little goes a long way.
Consciously reducing your waste is a process and it takes time, so be patient with yourself and enjoy the journey!
Bio: Farah is very passionate about environmental issues and helping others live a more sustainable life. She spends most of her time on her blog where she educates people on how and why to live more sustainable and eco-friendly lives that’s good for the planet and you! She also loves talking about plants, natural beauty products, and different plant-based foods! Follow along with her at Farah Al Jallad.