Shopping with a list and a meal plan for the week helps keep us from buying too much.
It doesn't take a lot to significantly cut down on waste in the kitchen. We've made a few changes in our habits, and, suddenly, hardly anything is going into the trash. It feels good to know we're sending very little to the landfill.
What You Need
Trader Joe's Amazing Kitchen Cloths
Trader Joe's Pop-Up sponges
1. Kill your paper towel habit with rags, cloth napkins, and a set of Amazing Kitchen Cloths from Trader Joe's. We had a ratty old towel that we cut up into (almost) uniform little squares. We use these, or a sponge from trader Joe's to clean up our mess and wipe down the counter when we're done cooking. And we use homemade napkins for messy meals.
2. The most important step in creating an (almost) waste-free kitchen is a notepad and pencil. Seriously. If you prepare yourself in advance, you can shop so that you have little to no food waste. We shop once a week, usually on Sundays. Before we go, we plan our week of meals -- mainly breakfast and lunch, as breakfast generally consists of cereal. On one side of the list, we jot down the meals we plan to have each day of the week. We check the recipes, run the ingredient list against what we already have in our cupboards and refrigerator, and then write down what we'll need for the week on the left. This cuts down on duplicate purchases, over-buying food, and impulse buys. We get what we need for the week, and end up with very little leftover at the end of the week. Actually, we aim to under-shop, if anything, knowing we can always walk to the store during the week if we need anything last minute.
3. We keep a bowl on our kitchen counter when we cook. All the odds and ends, carrot peels, and garlic skins go in there. When we're done preparing dinner we stick the bowl in the freezer and take it down to the food scrap recycling bin after dinner is over. If you don't have food scrap recycling in your area, you can easily start composting, even if you live in a small space.
4. Packaging can pose a problem. Set up a recycling area that works for you. Depending on how your city/town collects recycling you may need a number of receptacles, or you may only need one. We have one large trash can we use for collecting our plastic and metal, and a cardboard box to collect paper and cardboard packaging.
5. Glass containers! Critical. We often intentionally make a little extra for dinner so that we have enough for lunch the next day. Use glass containers and you can avoid disposable plates at work, and you can safely heat your leftovers in the microwave.
If you stick to these 5 steps, very little should be going into the trash can every week. What else do you do to cut down on waste in the kitchen?
(Images: Stephanie Kinnear)