zero waste kitchen

zero waste kitchen

Our biggest source of trash used to be kitchen waste- food scraps, plastic food packaging, ziplock baggies, saran wrap, straws, aluminum foil, paper towels, sponges, and cleaning products.  Over time, what used to be the trashiest place in our house has turned into an efficient, simplified, easy to cook and clean area.  I can breathe when I look in the fridge and cabinets and everything is easy to see and use.  Here’s what I do to keep it that way.

zero waste cupboard

– I don’t buy single use items, and instead I found reusable solutions.  Instead of paper towels, I use rags.  I got rid of plastic wrap- there’s no need for it anyway.  I bought a mismatched set of colorful cloth napkins at World Market instead of paper napkins.  Instead of sandwich baggies, we started using a stainless steel lunchbox for Carmelas lunch and a bigger one for our own.  Or I simply wrap in a kitchen towel.  We stopped using garbage bags since most of the wet items were compostable.  Many of the single use items we were using, we really didn’t miss at all- on the contrary, I felt free letting go of them and the way it automatically de cluttered the kitchen.

Under the sink zero waste

under the sink from left to right: recycling crate, stainless steel compost bucket, dishwasher detergent with metal scoop.

– I buy in bulk instead of in packaging, at Davis Food Co-op and once every few months I make a day trip to Rainbow Grocery for harder to find items.  I bring my own jars and bags to the store and use those to buy grains, beans, nuts, peanut butter, vinegar, and more in the bulk section.  If you eat meat or cheese, you can take your clean jars to the deli counter, too.  The deli bar is a great source for olives and pickles, especially if you’re entertaining.  If you don’t have bulk access in your area, talk to the stores you have and encourage them to bring on even a few bulk options.  You have the power as a consumer!  (post on reducing impact without a bulk store)

zero waste kitchen

– I go to the farmer’s market to avoid produce twist ties and stickers, and to find veggies like cauliflower sans packaging.  find a market near you here.

zero waste food groceries

– I wash dishes with compostable wooden scrubbies, a knit cloth, and a stainless steel scourer instead of the plastic sponges and brushes I was using before.  For soap, I buy in bulk from Refill Madness, but liquid castile soap works well too, and I’ll be experimenting with this french block soap for dishes too (update 3/29/2018:  I’ve since switched to the french block soap for dishes and it’s fantastic.  Lathers nicely, cuts grease, smells fantastic and looks beautiful on the counter.  Food 52 shipped it to me with zero plastic packaging, too- all recycled paper).   As a rule, I generally prefer to avoid liquids when possible for soap and detergent as they involve more plastic for transport and use.  For dishwashers, opt for bulk powder or powder in a cardboard box.  I save the water from washing dishes to water outdoor plants.

dishes kitchen plastic free

– We started composting (check out this post for more info) and also reducing the amount of food waste by buying less at a time, and eating/using every part of the plant (beet and celery leaves, potato peels, freezing peelings to make veg stock with, adding coffee grounds to houseplants).

veggie scrap stock

veggie scraps ready to roast with miso, kombu + fresh onion for broth

– I preserve food in season to enjoy it out of season without the packaging: pickling, fermenting, and canning are all very simple once you learn how and are a great way to preserve.  I visit u-pick farms for cheap berries (and a fantastic family day) in the summer to stock up the freezer for winter without the plastic.  I can over 100 quarts of tomatoes every year with my mom to get us through the winter without cans of tomatoes.  You can freeze, too, if canning intimidates you.  But it’s so easy.  We just follow the directions that come with the pressure cooker!

home canned tomatoes

– I make a select few items that I can’t find in bulk.  It has to be easy, though- I don’t have time to make complicated stuff and I don’t like feeling overwhelmed.  Some examples of DIY staples here: coconut yogurt, sauerkraut, hot sauce.  Next up, mustard.

– If I cannot find items in bulk and I can’t/don’t want to make it myself, I go to the source: ice cream in my own jar at Good Scoop, bread from Village Bakery, chips from a taqueria, corn tortillas wrapped in a napkin from a restaurant I work at.

bulk ice cream

bulk vanilla coconut locally made ice cream

– I store food leftovers directly in glass jars and containers in the fridge.  No leaching of plastic, easy to see what’s in there, aesthetically pleasing, and can go straight from the bulk shop into my jar into my fridge.  No need to buy separate storage containers, canning jars do it all and are freezer safe too.  In depth guide to plastic free fridge storage here.

zero Waste fridge

– We eat all our leftovers- I freeze, repurpose, or reuse all of it.

– I’ve simplified appliances, gadgets, tools, pots and pans AND our cooking.  I only kept what we needed and used regularly.  Everything else- multiple sets of things, one trick ponies, things that only saw the light of day once a year, panini press, toaster that I hated cleaning, kitchen aid mixer that I had unrealistic expectations of my baking skills/time available attached to – got donated to friends or our community via Freecycle.

What are your biggest struggles with kitchen waste?  Leave questions/comments below!

xx Amanda

15 thoughts on “zero waste kitchen”

  1. You are an inspiration! I love this! I have cut back significantly on my plastic and waste but bags for veggies has been an issue. I need to go to farmer’s market more or bring reusable bags/just don’t use a bag for those things! I want to work towards minimalism and as waste-free as much as possible. Thanks for sharing and can’t wait for more tips! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much!! Baby steps and you will be there in no time. Can’t wait to share more, thanks for reading and being open to change xx

  2. Great post! 🙂 really like your kitchen. I can’t say I face challenges with our kitchen anymore. Even as a child, I disliked a lot of extra things and so naturally when I was an adult, I transitioned into having even less. My parents are the same way. I’d say about 99% of our meals are cooked at home.

    I started canning and soaping with my mom when I was perhaps eight years old. I’m now 47 and still doing all of those things. We do have a garden, and so I look forward to planting and harvesting season each year. We also have honeybees. Food scraps are used as compost. Raw food scraps are sometimes ground into a pulp and made into crackers or cookies.

    We use glass in our house also. I spin, weave, knit and sew and so our shopping bags/food baggies are created out of cloth. I started sewing when I was five or six years old. The dishtowels are knitted from cotton yarn. I haven’t found a more absorbent dishcloth yet and my goodness is they sturdy. I wanted a kitchen that wasn’t dependent on electronics and so the kitchen appliances I use often are non-electric. My favorite is my granite mortar and pestle, which gets used almost daily.

    I must say there is a certain freedom in reducing clutter, although some of my friends think I’m a bit off especially when they take a peek into our cabinets/refrigerator. It’s all plant-based the little processing (crackers, cookies, and breads) are created by myself.

    1. Wow! That is lovely. I’ve been looking for a big mortar and pestle to hopefully take the place of my food processor. I agree, life without clutter is freedom. Thank you so much for sharing your life with me xx

  3. You are doing so many fantastic things! Our biggest waste are veggie scraps – as two vegetarians we have loads – and we have no way of composing at the moment as our local authority has not come up with a way to offer composting to blocks of flats, although they do provide this for houses. I think it will come and then we can really reduce our waste.

  4. Thank you for your oh so complete posts (and sorry for my imprecise english) ! I also loved the one about how you store your stuff in your fridge. I was struggling avoiding plastic and keeping my veggies fresh in the meantime. Also, in France we call the soap you use for your dishes “Savon de Marseille”. Marseille is a lovely city in the south of France. I use it also for the dishes, it works really well. Sometimes it leaves stains on dishes so I put some vinegar on the sponge and then gone ! You can also make a liquid to wash your clothes with (don’t know how to say haha), remove stains on your clothes and even a toothpaste out of it ! Plus it lasts soooo long !
    I would love to make my own coconut yoghurt, but I’m afraid it would be super expensive (student budget !). How much does it cost you ?
    Thanks and cheers from France !

    1. Hi! Thank you so much for reading and your kind words. That is wonderful that you can use the soap for so many things, thank you for sharing all that with me! I’l have to try mine on stains, too. I hope to visit France some day! It’s quite cheap for me to make coconut yogurt, but prices may be different in France. I can buy bulk shredded coconut very inexpensively, it costs less than $2 US to make a quart (approx 1 liter) of yogurt, double the price if I use a fresh mature coconut instead of dried. Here the store bought coco yogurt is so expensive, some is even $25 US for a pint size (approx 1/2 liter).

  5. Love this, and all your posts! I’m intrigued by using bar soap for dishes – how long did the soap last you?

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