Reducing Kitchen and Food Waste
This is a hot topic in which most of us will keep learning new ways to be sustainable, and unlearning ways we had gotten used to over time. It’s going to take years for us to do all that we can to protect our mother nature, but we can certainly take small steps in the right direction.
One way to declutter and revitalize your home and your life is to start with your kitchen! For us food lovers, the kitchen is a place where we get carried away by our creativity (or frustration… not judging haha), a place that produces the most delicious of meals- but it is also our household’s largest producer of waste!
There are many ways we can be kind to our earth by taking a more sustainable approach to the structure of how we shop, store food, eat, and deal with scraps & leftovers. These tips will help you do all that, and as an added bonus, these strategies will be kind to your budget as well!
So here’s my top 4 tips for a sustainable kitchen: Reduce, Reflect, Repurpose, & Reinvent!
Most places now charge for purchasing plastic bags, and that may be a few cents at once, it can really add up financially, but also has no life beyond that one purchase. Plastic bags often end up in our oceans, perpetuating marine pollution. Here’s a few easy tips to start with:
- Using canvas grocery bags prevents the accumulation of plastic bags in your home and in landfills. In case you make a spontaneous grocery trip when you’re already out, it’s always good to keep one or two reusable bags in your car, backpack or purse!
- Skip the plastic baggies for some foods such as fruits and veg with a tough skin or aren’t as delicate: like mangoes, oranges, melons, squash, & celery
- Store foods in glass containers or mason jars for packing lunch, leftovers, or storing sauces and spices! They are microwave and dishwasher safe, and last much longer than plastic containers.
- Ask for no plastic straws at restaurants and with take-outs, and keep reusable straws along with their pipe cleaners handy.
- Getting a stainless steel water bottle is also a great way to stop buying numerous and expensive plastic water bottles, and always carrying it with you will also promote the healthy habit of drinking water throughout your day!
Reflect on your Shopping Strategy
Life is unexpected, and stir-fry night might change to ordering pizza night, leaving ingredients you intended to use to be forgotten!
That, or you grocery shopped on an empty stomach as if a zombie apocalypse is upon us… (guilty!)
I’ve previously shared some tips on what to buy from the grocery store, but here’s a different story… this is about how to approach your choice of ingredients.
There’s a couple ways you can go about shopping strategically – either shopping only when you know what you’re making and buying those ingredients, or doing one big, yet well-planned, grocery haul.
If you do mini shopping trips to the grocery store:
- That will inherently keeping a clean and not overly-stuffed fridge which will prevent food from being pushed to the back and left to go to wasteland.
If you do one shopping run a week:
- Place food that spoils more quickly in clear sight so you don’t forget about them!
- Make sure you buy a variety of ingredients in which some will need to be used sooner than others. Like if you buy lettuce (which needs to be used fresh, and can’t be cooked when it’s wilted) in comparison to cabbage (which is versatile, and keeps much longer).
- If you know you’re going to be away or if you don’t have time to cook that much that week, you can buy more root veggies, unripe fruit, and stock up more on canned (like beans) or frozen ingredients (like veg & meats).
Repurpose the Scraps
There is so much we remove from our food when we prep it that we really don’t need to get rid of! Get creative finding ways to repurpose parts of food that you wouldn’t normally use. For example:
- Peeling the skin off of carrots and potatoes isn’t really necessary – you just need to wash it well (more fibre, yay!)
- Broccoli stalks and cauliflower that we normally cut off can be used for salads, soups, or pesto! (fun fact: my brother and I used to fight on who gets to eat those stalks – we peeled them and ate them raw!)
- Herb stalks (barsley, basil, etc..) don’t need to be discarded either – chop them finely and use them earlier in your cooking so that they cook longer (like in soups and pasta sauces)
- Kale stalks may be tough, but they can be made delicious by sauteing, grilling or roasting. My fave is to add garlic, lemon, olive oil, and salt/pepper… good as ever!
And if you can’t think of anything, save them in a bag in the fridge, and make a veg-ful stock at home!
Leftovers can be SO useful. In fact, I do it on purpose. I make bigger batches of certain parts of a meal and use it in different ways the following days. I’m one of those people who doesn’t like to eat leftovers as is more than once… so I learned to get creative.
If you get bored of eating the same meal the next day, try to prepare last night’s dinner into an all new dish for lunch! Almost any ingredient or meal can be reinvented– it makes cooking more fun and cuts the waste!
Here’s some ideas reinventing your leftovers:
Roasted Chicken, Potato, Carrots & Celery
- turn it into a chicken soup, OR
- chicken pita wraps with hummus
Sashimi (Rice & Fish)
- turn it into a poke bowl with added veggies, OR
- fried rice with an egg & veg
Beef Bolognese Sauce
- turn into a chili, OR
- stuffed roasted eggplant
Grilled Tofu & Peppers
- turn it into a frittata with added spinach & feta, OR
- breakfast burrito by crumbling the tofu & sauteeing with spices
I can totally go on and on about all these amazing ideas, but I want to help you get thinking that way too. So enter your email below to get your own recipe booklet of how to use “Leftovers in 3 Different Ways”.
There’s a total of 12 recipes, along with the grocery lists. It’s structured in a way for you to make the “base recipe” that will then transform into 3 complete meals.
Your. Mind. Will. Be. Blown.
And You’re welcome 😉
Making small, but effective changes in your day to day cooking and kitchen can make a huge difference in making life easier and the planet happier!
Your turn… share below your go-to tips on how you reduce food and other waste!
This blog was written with the help of UBC nutrition student, Miguelle.