no food waste

Garden potatoes

Hi guys!  Hope your week is going well.  Today I woke up with a super hoarse voice and itchy throat, coincidentally it’s super windy today and I think it’s an allergy thing.  I feel super tired, not sleepy but just fatigued.  I never used to get allergies until the super bad years with my rheumatoid arthritis, it’s like it triggered allergies in me that way.  So odd.  I gargled with salt water and used my Neti Pot (haha) and that seems to have helped a lot.  Sometimes when I feel bad it is really easy to feel focus on feeling bad…you know what I mean?!  Like once you’re focusing on something negative it’s really easy to focus on and find more negatives.  I’m trying to break that and focus on positives.

I just planted some tomatoes in the garden (hello summer!) and I had to go out to water them.  Vin, my little garden man always, has been begging me to pull up the potatoes the last few days.  If you’ve never harvested potatoes, it’s so fun- like a treasure hunt!  Basically you wait for the above ground part of the plant to die.  Then, carefully poke around in the soil for all the little jewels- the new potatoes!  These potatoes were extra special because I planted them from spoiled potatoes.

garden garlic drying

garlic drying from my garden

Months ago, I had forgotten about a couple potatoes in the back of my cupboard and when I rediscovered them, they were super sprouted, definitely inedible.  In the past I definitely would have tossed them in the trash without a second thought.  But a great tool I’ve learned on my journey to less waste is resourcefulness. So, I cut the potatoes up into chunks- one sprout or “eye” per piece, let them sit for a day or two to scar over, and planted them.  I promptly forgot about them, but here we are, months later, with many more potatoes than I started with and a delicious side for dinner.

Plants garden

more plant friends!  Tomatoes, basil, and a ficus elastica (variegated variety).  I bring the plastic pots back to the nursery for reuse.

Thinking and ruminating on the gratitude I felt for seeing the potatoes come full circle again was more than enough to lift my mood- and it also reminded me of how, a while back, my friend @rubysunn tagged me to talk about how I eliminate food waste in the kitchen.  Repurposing food scraps is definitely my favorite way.  So many parts we usually throwaway are actually good and usable and tasty!  Here are my top tips for reducing food waste (bonus: they also saves you money!).

stop peeling veggies and fruits.  Eat the whole thing!  The peel is where the nutrients are concentrated, so throwing it away is like throwing away all that.  Obviously things like mango and pineapple should be peeled, but most don’t need to be!  Kiwis, apples, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes….leave the peel on.

fruit bowl

skin on kiwi: delicious!

use the whole thing.  Eat the greens of beets, turnips and radishes, the stems of broccoli,  kale (cut it finely and it’s a delicious crunch!), candy the citrus peels or make cleaning vinegar with them.  If you’re making a smoothie with strawberries, throw the whole berry in- greens/leaves and all!  Make herbal tea with pomegranate skin.  Save water from cooking pasta or beans for a delicious base for soups.  Save your veggie scraps and make stock (I keep adding them to a paper bag in the freezer and when I have enough I add them to THIS recipe for a delicious vegan stock).

Veggie stock

food scraps for stock

eat your leftovers.  Repurpose these guys into a new meal, eat for lunch, roll them into a wrap, make soup with them.  Just eat them.  I should do a post on transforming leftovers because I’m the leftover queen haha.  If you’re going out to eat, order an appropriate amount; or bring a container and take home leftovers.  I work in a restaurant and the amount of food I see getting thrown away from people not eating it is disgusting.

Cabbage soup

clean out the fridge soup with leftovers: the “recipe” is saved in my story highlights on instagram if you want to make this

don’t buy more than you can eat.  experiment with your shopping trips so you know what is the right amount to buy for your household.  This way you don’t buy too much and it ends up rotting in the fridge.  Meal planning can be helpful in this regard.  If there’s something you buy too much of, freeze it, pickle it, can it, make jam with it, or share with neighbors/friends!  Berries, fruit, greens, zucchini, cooked beans, tomatoes, soup and more can all be chucked into the freezer to prolong its life.  I freeze in mason jars (just don’t fill all the way and make sure they’re room temp before they go in the freezer).

regrow it!  Like these potatoes.  Some people do this with green onions, celery, pineapple, lettuces, basil and more.

rethink your standards.  It’s ok if fruit or veggies don’t look perfect or uniform!  That’s how they naturally grow.  The uniform produce you see in stores is only because of store demand- they want their apples to be perfectly shaped, similar sized, no bumps etc.  If you’ve ever grown food at home you’ll know that it doesn’t naturally look like that!  Odd shapes, colors and textures are beautiful and not an indicator of poor taste- actually I find the opposite to be true.  Embrace the imperfection and buy “ugly” produce.  THIS article says it so well:

“From measuring the millimeters of a cucumber’s curve to fearing a bird-like tomato, industry standards and consumer perceptions determine what produce is pretty enough to sell. This is a surface-level judgment that fails to consider the item’s nutritional value and the 48.1 million food-insecure people in the US who would benefit from the energy, vitamins and minerals on the inside.

In a country where nearly 40% of the food supply is never eaten and 20% never even ends up in grocery stores (primarily because it looks bad), the number of food-insecure people is unacceptable. Our hunger issue is partially an image problem. The millions of Americans who support anti-hunger initiatives believe this, too. Yet our collective efforts to end hunger are often undermined by the inefficiencies before food even reaches the consumer.”

I see this a lot with spotty bananas or sad looking pineapples being thrown away by grocers when they are actually the sweetest ones!  Also, I have to say I’m not above buying plastic wrapped food sometimes that’s on clearance- because what’s worse, plastic in the landfill or plastic + food in the landfill?  And you know they’re not separating the plastic from the food to recycle.

vin farmers market cart

that’s a day old bread in plastic- personally I feel it’s better us eat it and recycle/reuse the bag than it all go into landfill bread and all if no one buys it.

Food gratitude (my kids call this grati-food haha- we go around the table every night when we sit down to dinner and express this gratitude to pause before eating) is so important especially when many, many people in the world don’t have food security, access to clean, fresh, affordable, non toxic foods.  Don’t waste this beautiful gift!  Any food waste tips I missed?  Leave them below!  I’d love to hear (and I’m sure others would love to read too!).  Let’s inspire each other.  Ok off to make dinner now (see what I’m cooking this week HERE)!  Have a great night xx

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, bee’s wrap  or vegan work well in its place.  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.  I use stainless steel straws and glass straws instead of plastic.  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