Creating a Zero Waste Kitchen: Everything You Need to Get Started

June 17, 2021

Creating a Zero Waste Kitchen: Everything You Need to Get Started

In this article:

  • The benefits of zero waste cooking
  • Sustainable kitchen tools and alternatives
  • Tasty and easy zero waste foods

The Benefits of Zero Waste Cooking

Have you ever stopped to consider the extensive selection of the big box grocery stores these days? Okay, it is pretty impressive that you can get a TV, kayak, and a rotisserie chicken all in the same store. But during any given season, the produce section is somehow stocked with the same variety as they had months ago. Not only that, but every piece of fruit looks like it came off of a poster, not a flaw or bump to be seen. Cash crops coming in from all over the globe have infiltrated the grocery stores and when a fruit or veggie goes out of season in one region, it's ready to be supplied in the next. Think about the journey of the salmon fillets that are somehow constantly available at your New York grocery store. They are caught in northwestern America (hopefully sustainably caught), processed, shipped across the country, and refrigerated until a lucky buyer appears. Then, after we bring them home, we prepare them, eat our favorite parts, and toss out the skins. Every item in your fridge or pantry has a long journey before it makes it to your plate, so every part of it should be appreciated and enjoyed!

  • “Zero waste cooking” makes use of the entire ingredient, which helps to stretch your dollar!
  • “Zero waste products” are products in which every bit is utilized or are products that make use of "byproducts" and eliminate waste.
  • Oftentimes, diversifying your diet and eating new ingredients or new parts of ingredients can help to strengthen your gut microbiome by introducing new bacteria and nutrients.
  • When a byproduct can't be consumed directly, composting food waste can return nutrients to the soil and help your garden to thrive.
  • You'll discover new ways to prepare your favorite ingredients and discover their full potential and flavors!

Sustainable Kitchen Tools and Alternatives

Building a zero waste kitchen starts with some easy and effective swaps. When it comes to food prep, the kitchen tools you already have should do the trick. The only new gadget you might consider adding is a compost bin. Instead of being mixed in with plastic bags, old receipts, and styrofoam takeout containers, compost bins are a great way to collect all of your compostable food scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds to enrich next season's garden.

Here are some of our favorite zero waste sustainable swaps:

  • Glass jars go a long way! Refill them with your favorite products from local farmers and artisans: soaps, olive oil, cleaning products, freshly made nut butters, or even use them for food storage containers. A classic Mason jar can be used to pickle or can excess produce that's at risk of expiration. This helps to create less waste and diverts more single-use plastics from going to landfills.
  • Beeswax food wraps eliminate rolls of shrink wrap and produce bags while keeping your food fresher, longer! Flexible, silicone, ziplock bags are easy to smoosh into a lunch box, rinse, and reuse too!
  • Reusing cloth napkins means no more paper towels cluttering up your pantry or contributing to deforestation. Recycle and repurpose old t-shirts for a low waste, DIY, cheap solution for messy spills.

This one is a given - bring your own shopping bags to your weekly grocery shopping or to the farmers market as you stock up on veggies for these zero waste ingredients!

 

Tasty and Easy Zero Waste Foods

Making your own zero waste recipes doesn't require fancy new foods, just a wider perspective. Consider adding stems, leaves, roots, seeds, ends, and even peels to blend, mash, and blanch into new recipes! Here are some of our favorites:

  • Radish leaves, carrot tops, and even wilted herbs make a great zero waste pesto! Do a quick google search before you begin blitzing to make sure the greens are edible and tasty. You’d be surprised to learn how many stems and leaves of fruits and veggies are nutritious and delicious! Just add olive oil, lemon, and garlic and you can't go wrong.
  • Use carrot peels, potato skins, celery stalks, and broccoli stems to make a vegetable broth! If you're preparing chicken breasts, consider setting any skins, bones, and fat aside to make a wonderful chicken broth and pantry staple. Beef bones can be turned into a collagen-filled soup base for pho!
  • Dehydrate, dehydrate, dehydrate! Eyes bigger than your stomach? If you're having trouble getting through the rest of that pineapple, bushel of apples, or the last brown banana, consider dehydrating it for a healthy and sweet snack.
  • Need to top up on protein but don't want to contribute to the meat farming industry? Try a sustainable collagen supplement. High-quality collagen supplements make use of pesticide-free cow and fish skins that would otherwise be discarded and wasted. Amandean's premium collagen supplements are sustainably sourced, GMO-free, and even offset plastic production with every order.
  • Juice it! Kale somehow seems to multiply. You don't have to have a salad every night, consider juicing it with your favorite in-season fruits to get all the nutrients with the yummy flavors of fruit.
  • Have an old mulberry, crab apple, or flavorless pear tree in your backyard with fruit that ends up rotting away? Gather them up and play with the power of fermentation. Homemade booze is sure to make you a winner, but you can also contact a local cider house or brewery to see if they'd like to use that free fruit to make a delicious and boozy new product.
  • Speaking of fermentation, not only is it a great way to add zest, flavor, and probiotics to your diet, it's delicious. Ferment your fruits or veggies for a few days, then keep them in an airtight jar in your fridge to make them last weeks longer. They get better with age!
  • Citrus peels make for a wonderful zest and tea. They can also be dehydrated for an aromatic, potpourri satchel to add fragrance to your dresser drawers.
  • Hello, fruit leather. Fruits that are right on the cusp of going bad are filled with healthy, artificial and flavor-free sugars. Pureed and baked into fruit leather, they make a great, organic alternative to fruit snacks for you or the kiddos.

Sustainability doesn't have to be and shouldn't be expensive or complicated. Making the most out of the products you already have in your hands is the most sustainable option on the menu. Try slowing down your shopping and choosing brands that align with your personal values and don't forget to be creative! We're all penny pinchers and tree huggers when it comes to making delicious and nutritious foods.

Summary Points

  • “Zero waste cooking” makes use of the entire ingredient, which helps to stretch your dollar
  • When a byproduct can't be consumed directly, composting food waste can return nutrients to the soil and help your garden to thrive
  • Compost bins are a great way to collect all of your compostable food scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds to enrich next season's garden
  • Ferment your fruits or veggies for a few days, then keep them in an airtight jar in your fridge to make them last weeks longer
  • Try slowing down your shopping and choosing brands that align with your personal values and don't forget to be creative




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