low waste art

painting outside vin kids

painting the scene outdoors

Hello friends!  I received a question about art on my instagram regarding this, “What do you do about art supplies?  I’ve already gotten on board with switching most of our household to lower waste alternatives, but with the kids I just can’t bear to restrict their imagination just to limit waste.  Do you do art?  How do you get around this?”  

First, let me say that I love art and view it as an essential way for kids to make sense of the world.  I think for them, art is a way they can communicate thoughts, learning, patterns and observations before they can put together words, write or read.  I grew up around art (my grandma is a wonderful painter) and I always have enjoyed creating my own and viewing others art.  My approach here is two fold; try to prioritize materials that already come package free, and also to not stress if I truly need something that does come in plastic.  I like what Ariana of Paris To Go said- I’m paraphrasing and butchering here- but essentially, that if you truly need and use something, it’s not going to waste because its important to you, and necessary, and serves a purpose.  I broadly view art supplies like this too.

Vincent

However, there are some things we just don’t use, because I don’t personally think they’re necessary for kids to make art- like markers, for instance.  I try to weigh the life cycle of the product against the amount of fun, value, or essential quality it has.  For us, markers just don’t cut it.  Their life in this house was never very long- lids always being lost, pens dried out or smashed into frayed dull points.

Instead, we use colored pencils, crayons, pastels, watercolor crayons, watercolor pencils, watercolor trays (we buy refill tins similar to THESE instead of a whole new palette).  Or I buy metal watercolor tubes which generally stretch longer and are sold loose.   Most of these supplies come loose or in a recyclable paper package, and you can compost the shavings/nubs left over.  Leftover over bits of crayons can get melted down into new ones in a silicone mold.  THESE highlighter pencils work great and you don’t have to worry about the caps not being put back on and drying out.

335147A7-D2DA-4E80-9C04-D499C4C3AEF7.jpeg

Refillable fountain pens are great alternatives to ballpoint pens- and the ink comes in a glass jar.  You can also use refillable fine tip pens like these. We have lots of brushes from a lifetime of me painting.  Some are plastic.  I let the kids use real brushes because if you’ve ever tried to use “kids” brushes you know how frustrating it is when little hairs come off on your paint!  I trust my kids using real items, and they generally respect the tools more when they are real.  When brushes get very frayed, we use them to paint water on the sidewalk, which is always a fun activity, especially on a hot day- watching how fast it disappears!

I also try to focus on purchasing locally here to reduce impact that way.  If you go to a local art shop, usually they have lots of loose supplies for purchase, like natural rubber erasers, metal sharpeners, pencils, papers, and more.  If you’re local, The Paint Chip in Davis and University Art in Sacramento are both great resources.  I always buy sketchbooks/watercolor paper that are spiral bound with paper covers.  That way, all the parts can get pulled apart and recycled or reused separately.

Some things, like play dough, I make from scratch (recipe HERE).  But other things, like paint and glue, were just too difficult or a pain to make our own versions of.  They simply don’t last long enough to be on hand when inspiration strikes I’ve found.  But there are plenty of resources online to make your own.

play dough

homemade play dough.  I leave it un-colored for more open ended play.

As far as tape and glue, we just use masking tape which is compostable, or brown kraft paper tape- also compostable.  I don’t often have a use for glue BUT being honest here, somehow glue sticks from school and well meaning family often make their way into our home.  I recycle the empties through Terracycle– they also have an art supplies recycling box- it’s not cheap but for me it’s worth it.

We have a bin in the kids playroom/ library room where we store old magazines, boxes, paper used on one side, cardboard tubes, bits and bobs of ribbon, used foil/wire/twist ties, and other clean recyclables or items that might normally be trashed.  The kids then have a resource of things to draw from when they want to create something.  This also encourages more creativity and open play.  We also store such things as interesting shells, leaves, rocks, twigs, dried flowers, pine cones, acorns, really anything they pick up during walks or trips.  Old art projects also get broken down for reuse here.

Also in the line of reuse, I often offer previous days artwork back to them, simply asking “Are you finished with this or still working on it?” and many times they are excited to revisit the piece and add to it- often drawing on more detail, adding paint or other components.  Again, I feel this reinforces a deeper look at the art and more thoughtful exploration versus just paint, new sheet, move on.  Old art can also be cut up for collages or become a background for plays, puppets, or writing.

Kids art zero waste

sketching nature observations at the arboretum

If you’re looking for canvases, you can often find them at thrift stores and simply paint over them to be used again.  You can also buy loose canvas and build the frame for it.  Our local thrift store also has a craft section that delights my kids- with lots of odd supplies and materials.  Often stopping by there can provide what’s needed for a project!

Do you have any tips or tricks for less waste art that I didn’t mention?  Leave them below for me and others to learn from!

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 bathroom

Zero waste shower

shower: bulk shampoo + conditioner, bar soap, foraged eucalyptus for soothing steam

Continuing with our “zero” waste home series, lets tackle the bathroom.  After the kitchen, the second trashiest place in the house for us was definitely the bathroom.  Giant plastic wrapped packages of toilet paper, huge plastic packs of q tips, plastic containers of serums and creams and sunscreens and toothpaste and floss.  Having less in the bathroom means less to clean (and an easier time cleaning without having to move a bunch of stuff around), less money spent, and a more peaceful/calm environment.

As with the kitchen, the easiest thing to do here in examine the contents of the trash and replace disposables with reusables or recyclables.  I also simplified a lot, no need to have 10 products when just one does the trick.  Here’s what we did to lower our waste here:

zero waste bathroom

toilet paper:  definitely one of THE most common questions I get.  Yes, we still use tp lol.  I’ve just switched from our giant Costco wrapped plastic package to individually wrapped paper ones (like the ones at restaurants, hotels etc).  I buy a case at my local coop of Natural Value toilet paper and it comes in a cardboard box, is 100% recycled and unbleached, and i get a discount for buying by the case.  They are also sold individually in case you want to try it out before you commit.  We also have this bidet which I’ve been using for 6 years, personally I use it after I pee (tmi?  I have no shame) and then wipe with a reusable cloth wipe from Vin’s cloth diaper days (see a homemade baby wipe solution here if you have babies).  Some people use this after pooping too but I’m not into it.

bathroom sink zero waste toilet paper

under the sink: tp + some bulk clay for masks

kleenex/tissues:  tissues are expensive, wasteful, and not hygienic- as Arianna of Paris To Go points out, “Throw a used Kleenex into the garbage, and the virus remains viable- in fact, rhinoviruses stay infectious in landfills. Compare an embroidered cloth handkerchief to this. Which is grosser?”  I just use squares of cloth sewn or cut from old sheets, I’m sure you could thrift some or put on Etsy.

wipes reusable

reusable wipes

razor:  one of the easiest and most cost effective switches, I simply use this safety razor instead of a disposable one.  It’s NOT scary to use (same as a regular razor) and the blades are super cheap + last forever if you dry between uses.  My husband and I have shared the same one for 6 years, I actually bought it before I even knew about zero waste because I hated paying so much money for disposables.  We deposit the blades in an can and crimp it closed so it can get recycled without hurting anyone.  You can also send them back to Albatross Shaving Company to recycle if your district does not accept blades for recycling.

zero waste shaving razor safety

shaving cream, shower gel, hand soap:  we simply switched to a richly lathering, oil based bar soap.  We used the Kiss My Face unscented olive oil soap for years (comes in paper, long lasting, palm oil free, simple ingredients, widely available) but have recently switched to a locally made olive oil soap which uses their own old/unsaleable locally grown and pressed olive oil (more sustainable).  One bar lives at the sink and one bar lives in the shower and makes for a simple, cheap, and pretty swap.

deodorant:  we use an alum stone for deodorant, like this one.  Other options include DIY, or buying an option in glass, metal, or paper, like this Meow Meow Tweet Tweet baking soda free vegan deo.  I prefer the alum stone as a simple, long lasting swap that I don’t need to make or worry about buying frequently.  Easy to travel with, too.  Some of you have mentioned that you use ACV, tea tree oil, or a lemon wedges applied directly to pits with fantastic results, too.

shampoo and conditioner:  we buy in bulk from Refill Madness in Sacramento, the brand is Griffin Remedy and they are a local to us bay area company.  I buy them in upcycled kombucha bottles with upcycled plastic pumps.  I’ve also trained my hair to only need once a week washing, which reduces my consumption here, thanks to Arianna whose perfect curls are totally water only for 3 years (check out her blog for more info here)  If you don’t have access to bulk, other options include a bar shampoo or conditioner, or Plaine products who sells in refillable and returnable aluminum bottles.  I tried using the baking soda/ACV method for a few months and it absolutely ruined my hair.  Later I found that baking soda destroys hair keratin and ACV disrupts the natural pH.  Some people swear by it though.

toothbrush:  we use brush with bamboo, which is compostable except for the nylon bristles.  When it’s time to get a new brush, I use the old one for cleaning grout.  At the end of it’s life there, I pull out the bristles with a plier (landfill) and compost the handle.

Coconut oil toothpaste

toothpaste:  we DIY our own.  Check out this post for the recipe and a bunch of other low waste options to buy.

floss:  Dental Lace (silk, in refillable glass and metal, made in USA) or Noosa Basics (not refillable, but recyclable, vegan, made in AUS) both are compostable.  I also use an old rubber tipped brass gum stimulator and my old waterpik and a copper tongue scraper (I’m kind of a dental hygiene freak).

makeup:  personally this has been one of the hardest areas.  Check out this post for what I use and recycling information.

makeup zero waste

nail polish:  I don’t use it anymore, I just clip and file my nails and use a little balm for shine.  My nails have gotten so much healthier and strong this way.  Polish and remover are super toxic (even “natural” ones) and I had been struggling with knowing this but still using it for ages.  Obviously this is a personal decision though.  You can find stainless clippers and files package free at most beauty stores.

q tips:  are not good for your ears, really- I personally don’t use them, preferring instead to stick my pinky inside a thin washcloth wrung out in warm water and wipe any excess wax away.  My husband likes them, we are still using up our giant costco box of them.  If you get the paper ones, they’re compostable.  There’s also stainless steel ear cleaning tools that some people like.

tampons/pads:  my 6 year old Diva Cup is still going strong and has more than paid for itself.  I clean in between with soap and water, and boil at the end of each cycle.  It’s so convenient, easy to travel with, doesn’t leak, and is way more comfortable.  A couple months ago I got caught out when my period started and I didn’t have my cup with me.  I had to use a tampon from a restroom dispenser and I couldn’t believe how incredibly uncomfortable it was.  Reusable pads or undies are good options if you prefer that.

hair products:  I find with once a week washing, my hair issues have resolved themselves and I’ve learned to embrace my natural imperfect wavy texture, which leaves me with so much more time.  I run a teensy bit of oil through the ends (the golden elixir from Coco Kind, same one I use on my face).

body:  I’ve been using the Coco Kind oil mentioned above or coconut oil, use what’s available in bulk in your area.  I don’t like lotions because they feel tacky and don’t absorb properly into my skin, personally.  Oils give you a little glow, too.

zero waste bathroom

exfoliating and masks:  I use a washcloth, gently.  My skin hates exfoliating products anyways (it’s sensitive).  Some people use baking soda or finely milled natural grains or moss for exfoliant (like this one in glass).  Sometimes I use bulk clay with water or ACV for a mask.

water saving:  I’ve installed low flow shower heads and low flow faucet aerators, you can hardly tell a difference and it saves a lot of water.  We live in drought prone CA, so this is a must.  I also keep a metal bucket under the sink and put it under the shower while waiting for the water to warm up.  That water can be used on plants or to fill up the back of the toilet.

cleaning:  as with other areas of the house, I simply clean with castile soap, vinegar and baking soda here + natural fiber brushes (similar to this) that can be composted at the end of their life, and lint free cotton towels like these.

I think that’s it…let me know if I’ve missed something or if you need further clarification, I feel like I can’t remember all the stuff we used to use!

 

 

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

simple low waste fridge

zero Waste fridge plastic free storage

The fridge, and food storage without plastic, was the most daunting aspect of zero waste for me.  I had this hangup that my food couldn’t be fresh without plastic, especially greens.  Even after I was making my own toothpaste, buying bulk in my own jars, and eschewing plastic produce bags, those big plastic clamshells of Costco spinach and mixed greens were still in my fridge, a glaring disjoint from the rest of my life picture.

plastic bags farmers market

check out all that plastic.  Pre zero waste and 100% oblivious.

We used to do a huge $200+ Costco haul every Sunday morning.  It was an absolute ritual for us.  I had anxiety about giving it up.  I thought I would miss out, I would spend more money, I wouldn’t be able to buy as much food.  But I was wrong!  We actually save money by not shopping at Costco and other chain stores and everything in our fridge is stored easily without single use plastic bags and containers.  I actually find that I waste less (is it just me or do those clamshells of greens go bad SO fast?!?!) which is also better for the planet, and your budget.

zero Waste fridge

Mostly what saves me the $$$ is by buying local and seasonal produce, and being flexible.  For example, if something is a good price that week, like carrots, then I’ll buy a lot of those and make them many different ways- maybe even freezing carrot soup for later, too.  Or buying RIPE and “imperfect” veggies- often these can be bought at a discount and might otherwise go to waste- spotty bananas, wonky looking kiwis, bruised berries.  Also, I can’t say this enough, but cutting out the snack foods in favor of whole plant foods saves SO MUCH MONEY and is so much healthier.

VegAn zero waste fridge

Many of you have reached out asking for a storage “guide” to a plastic free fridge.  Here’s how I store my produce.  You can store in whatever you have available- personally, I already had a set of glass snaplock containers like these ones and a set of sealing Pyrex glass bowls like these, so thats what I use.  I already had lots of mason jars from canning tomatoes every fall, so I use those too.  You can find a plethora of glass jars and storage containers at thrift stores for hardly anything.  Also essential are kitchen towels to wrap produce in, I used those forever, but now I invested in these Swag Bags (been using for about a year) and they’re super convenient and I adore them.

fridge

I prefer storing leftovers in mason jars as it makes it really easy to see, and thus, to eat.  You can freeze in mason jars too- make sure they’re canning jars, and leave a good two inches of space, and make sure to cool to room or fridge temp before freezing.

plastic free fridge

To freeze excess or overripe fruit:  cut up, if necessary, and place on a baking sheet or plate (you can line with a silicone mat or parchment for easy removal) and then, once frozen solid, transfer to jars.  This a great, economical way to have your own frozen fruit.  I go berry picking in the summer and stock up the freezer for winter.  For bananas, I peel and freeze in an old large rubbermaid plastic storage container.

Fridge

Also, I shop twice a week- I find that buying less at a time as opposed to one huge haul means less waste for us.  Fresh food is just that, fresh!  Don’t expect it to last forever, eat these beauties up for best nutrition, flavor and freshness.

Zero waste fridge

plastic free produce storage:

apples:  unwashed, loose in the fridge drawer.

artichokes:  straight into the veg drawer.

asparagus:  trim 1/4 inch off the bottom of the stems and place in a jar with an inch or so of water and place in the fridge.  Add water as needed.

avocados:  leave on the counter until ripe, then place in fridge to prolong life once they become soft.  store cut halves cut side down in a snug glass snapback container or on a plate with something heavy on top to keep it pushed down and “sealed”.

bananas:  out on the counter and away from other produce.  I wipe them down with my vinegar/water all purpose spray to discourage fruit flies.

beets:  remove the leaves and stems as they will continue to draw water and flavor from the beet if left on.  Save the leaves to sauté later, they are delicious.  Store all together or separately- usually I place the beets in a bowl and then place the leaves on top, then put the lid on.  If your beets are small enough to fit, you can store in a mason jar.  Or steam or pickle them before storing to use throughout the week.  Heres a post I did all about beets!

bell pepper:  straight into the veg drawer, loose.  Leftover cut halves can be stored in a mason jar or other sealable container.

bread: store in a paper or cloth bag on the counter.  For longer term storage, slice and freeze in a paper or cloth bag.  Stale bread makes perfect breadcrumbs- break into pieces and bake if necessary to dry more completely, then pulse in a food processor.  Store the crumbs in a jar in the fridge for a month.

broccoli:  store either: wrapped in a damp kitchen towel, in a swag bag, or cut up and in mason jars or a container with a lid.

brussels sprouts:  in a cloth bag in the veg drawer, or sometimes I trim and halve, then store in a jar or container for easy cooking in the week.  If you buy on a stalk, they can live in the fridge for a long time on a shelf or in the drawer.

cabbage:  can go straight into the veggie drawer, even after its been cut.  or wrap in a damp towel.

carrots:  store in water, in a big jar or bowl.

cauliflower:  cut it up and store in jars or a container with a lid; or, put it into the drawer whole or wrap with a damp kitchen towel.

celery:  store in a swag bag or wrapped in a damp towel, or trim off the bottom and store like carrots with water.

cherries:  on the counter is best, for longer storage keep in a ventilated mesh bag or colander in the fridge shelf.

chiles:  loose in the fridge in a ventilated bowl.  Extras can be frozen or fermented into hot sauce.

chiles hot peppers

cilantro:  store in a damp towel or a swag bag.

citrus: if soft, store in fridge to reduce risk of molding.  If hard, leave on counter.  Store cut lemon/lime halves cut side down on a plate or in a mason jar.

cucumber:  unwashed, in the veg drawer or in a damp towel or swag bag.

eggplant:  if using in the next few days, the counter is fine.  otherwise, straight into the veg drawer.

fennel:  trim off the fronds and place either straight into the fridge drawer if you will use it in the next few days, or in a container or wrapped in a damp towel for longer storage.

garlic + onions:  keep on the counter, in a breathable basket.  fresh spring garlic goes in the fridge, loose.  Cut onions can be stored in a jar in the fridge to prevent smell and lee them fresh without Saran Wrap.

fresh ginger + turmeric:  loose in the veg or fruit drawer of the fridge.

grapes:  unwashed, in a bowl or cloth bag on a fridge shelf.

green beans:  in a cloth bag or wrapped in a damp kitchen towel or swag bag.

greens:  I store these in a large Pyrex bowl with a lid, in my salad spinner, or in a swag bag.  Sometimes I cut up kale for easy cooking during the week.  You can always freeze, too, for smoothies if you end up with too many greens or wilty ones.

hardy herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, the like):  keep very well in a mason jar.

kiwi:  on the counter.

leeks:  trim the tough tops, reserve for making stock (keep in the freezer).  Then, either straight into the drawer or wrapped loosely with a damp kitchen towel.

melons:  on the counter until ripe, then move to fridge as needed.  Cut melons can be placed cut side down on a plate or covered with a wax wrap.

mushrooms:  loose in a cloth bag on a fridge shelf.

parsley:  trim 1/2 inch off the stems, remove any twist ties or rubber bands, and place in water in a jar like you would flowers.  Store in the door of the fridge.

peaches, plums, nectarines:  on the counter.  to extend storage, refrigerate after ripe or cut and freeze/make jam if you have excess or overripe fruit.

peas:  keep well in a mason jar or other sealed container.

persimmon:  on the counter.

pineapple:  on the counter till ripe, then cut and store in jars in the fridge; or, twist off the stem and place upside down on a plate in the fridge.

pomegranates:  on the counter, or deseed and keep in a jar in the fridge for easy use.

potatoes + sweet potatoes:  store in a ventilated container (like a basket) under the counter or in a dark, cool spot.  Away from onions.

radishes:  store in water in a mason jar for crispiest results.

strawberries:  store in a mason jar or other sealable container.  freeze bruised ones or make fresh chia jam.

squash (winter):  store in a cool, dark place (I store it under the counter).  Sometimes I peel and cube it and then store in a mason jar for easy cooking in the week.

tomatoes:  on the counter.

zucchini:  in a swag bag, wrapped in a damp cloth, or sometimes I leave them out on the counter if I’m using in the next day or two.  Sometimes I spiralize them and store in containers or jars for a quick meal with sauce.

Zoodles zucchini