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5 Ways To Create A Sustainable Kitchen

Written by Avery Rose. Check out her other articles for simple and achievable low waste living tips at Starting Sustainable

happy women smiles into the distance

Writing this, we are amid a global pandemic. A time when simple trips to the grocery store have become scary and survivalist. It’s been strange (to say the least) and it’s brought to light many things. One of those things being, the importance of sustainability.

Now, I don’t mean sustainability in the greenwash-y way the word can unfortunately be used, I mean sustainability as is being self-sustaining. Being resilient to changes outside of your control and prepared to thrive in any situation given your skills and resources.

If each of us learned how to be more self-sustaining on an individual level, just think of the impact that would have on our planet! Building a self-sustaining society would mean less reliance on convenience foods (less packaging), more knowledge of food preparation and storage (less food waste), and a greater focus on buying local (stronger communities and lower carbon footprints).

It’s a testament to how small actions can lead to big outcomes and how you have the power, in your own home, to start building a more sustainable world.

So, how can you become more self-sustaining? Let’s start with a sustainable kitchen.

Given that the kitchen is the heart of the home, let’s dive into what skills you can develop – when it comes to preparing and storing food – to be less reliant on the shops and more resilient in unprecedented times like these.

Tips for a sustainable kitchen

1) Stock your pantry

A well-stocked pantry is the backbone of a sustainable kitchen. Keeping your pantry equipped with the basics not only means fewer trips to the grocery store (especially during outbreaks and emergencies) it also means more culinary freedom. With a pantry full of the basics, it’s easy to mix and match and cook up what you and the family are craving that night.

How to stock your zero waste kitchen: 

Grains and legumes:

  • Lentils (Red or Brown)
  • Rice (Basmati and Brown)
  • Oats
  • Dried chickpeas
  • Dried black beans
  • Dried kidney beans
  • Nuts

Long-lasting veggies

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes (Yukon Gold)
  • Butternut Squash
  • Onions (Red and Brown)
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Ginger

Other

  • Vegetable stock cubes
  • All-purpose flour
  • Active-Dry yeast (for baking bread)
  • Coconut milk (or cream)
  • Long-life plant-based milk
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Dried pasta

2) Invest in reusable kitchen products

If you dream of a zero waste kitchen, then investing in reusable kitchen products, like reusable lids and reusable ziplock bags, can help you reduce your plastic waste big time! With all of the brilliant reusable options available these days, there is no need for single-use (and unrecyclable) plastic.

Opting for reusable kitchen products, like eco friendly bags, will mean less burdensome trips to the grocery store – especially during emergencies.

Ways to use zero waste reusable lids:

  • Keeping leftovers fresh
  • Wrapping half-cut fruit
  • Transporting food to loved ones
  • Sealing open cans, jars and drinks
  • Insulating heated dishes
  • Covering rising bread dough

reusable stretch lids on small bowl

Use zero waste reusable ziplock bags:

  • Storing leftovers
  • Marinating meat or tofu
  • Tossing salad
  • Mixing sauces or dressings
  • Shaking breaded chicken, fish, or veggies
  • Durable up to 200C for microwaving, steaming, or cooking sous vide style
  • Taking snacks or sandwiches on-the-go

reusable ziplock bags with soup

3) Avoid food waste

Did you know that on average an Australian household will throw away 2.5 million tonnes of edible food each year – that’s nearly 300 kilograms per person! (Source: Food Bank). And why does that matter?

Well, wasted food plays a big role in harming the environment. For starters, think about your foods product life cycle. Food takes energy to grow and petrol to transport, meaning that when food is wasted all of that energy and carbon emitted is wasted too! Second, rotting food in landfills produces methane, which is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas (Source: Food Bank). Yikes!

So what can you do to help? Well, composting is the obvious answer after food has passed its prime, but avoiding food waste in the first place is something you can practice every day.

How to avoid food waste

Be a leftover queen: Leftovers aren’t just for holidays. Carefully store any leftover food from meals in clear or opaque containers. That way you don’t forget what needs to be eaten up!

Love your freezer: Made more than you can eat in a week? Saving extra leftovers in the freezer is the safest and easiest way to store food. If you have fruits that are going soft, freeze them and use them in smoothies later. If you overbought at the farmers market, freeze extra veggies like tomatoes, capsicums, or celery before they go off and use them in soup or a chilli recipe at a later date.

Keep your fridge clutter-free: We tend to waste a lot of food because we just, well, forget about it! Keep your fridge organized by shelf so you know where everything lives. Keep leftovers in see-through containers like reusable ziplock bags. Just like in the grocery store, use the FIFO or “first in first out” method by placing a new pint of berries, for example, underneath or behind the old one. That way you eat what’s going to spoil first!

reusable stretch lids demonstration

4) Make food last longer

If you have excess food, or simply want to limit your trips to the shops, make the food you have last longer. As you well know, not all foods grow at the same time so people have been creating crafty ways of storing food for generations. In fact, pickling, a type of preservation method using brine or vinegar, may have been used as far back as 2400 BC!

Sadly, with today’s convenience-driven world some of these traditions have been lost. However, advocates of the zero waste movement are now bringing them back with new flare! Want to give it a try too?

Ideas for how to make food last longer:

Learn to preserve: Pickling, drying, canning, fermenting, freezing and curing are all methods you can use to make food last longer, thus reducing waste. Pickling fresh carrots or turning excess ripe apples into applesauce can be a fun activity to do with kids on a rainy day!

Learn to ferment: While this one can technically fall under the “preserve” category above, fermented foods (like sourdough) are so delicious they deserve their own mention. Check out the show Bon Appetit’s It’s Alive with Brad Leone on Youtube. His kooky character and wild cooking show will have you in stitches learning how to ferment anything and everything.

Store food correctly: Improper food storage can lead to premature ripening and even rotting, meaning more food waste. Separating foods that produce more ethylene gas from those that don’t (or are especially sensitive to ethylene gas) is one great way to reduce food spoilage.

Foods that produce ethylene gas:

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Tomatoes
  • Cantaloupes
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Green onions

Foods that are sensitive to ethylene gas:

  • Potatoes
  • Apples
  • Leafy greens
  • Berries
  • Capsicums

fermentation in glass jar

5) Use those food scraps

When chopping up veggies, do you throw stems in the bin? What about the scraps? Don’t worry, we’ve all been guilty of that. Instead, try giving your veggie scraps new life in another dish. After all, these parts are still “good” and filled with lots of valuable nutrients.

Ideas for how to use food scraps:

Make a stock: Save up vegetable scraps (like carrot peels and onions ends) and boil them down with water and spices into containers of fresh stock. Try storing the stock in a reusable ziplock bag for later!

Make a pesto: Broccoli stems can be whipped up into a pesto with some olive oil, almonds, basil, and goat cheese.

Make croutons: Got some old, dry bread? Cube it and season it into croutons for salads.

Make a juice or smoothie: Kale and celery stems are excellent sources of nutrients. Don’t toss them away! Blend them into a juice or smoothie.

Make snack: Don’t let pumpkin seeds go to waste! Roast them with a little salt and Cajun spice to make a tasty snack, perfect for a healthy bite on-the-goo.

Make a cake: Wilting zucchini can be grated and transformed into a delicious chocolate zucchini cake.

Make hot chips: If you buy organic potatoes, toss the clean spud scraps into a pan with some oil and salt and pepper for a crispy treat. (Avoid eating non-organic spud scraps).

reusable ziplock bags with food scraps

Ready to create a sustainable kitchen?

Remember, big changes happen with small actions. Your choice to have a more sustainable kitchen is an important part of the zero waste movement.

This global pandemic has given us the space to get back to basics and appreciate the importance of living sustainably – that is, the importance of becoming more self-sustaining. Whether that means making your own vegetable stock from scraps or investing in reusable kitchen products (like eco friendly bags), hopefully this post has inspired you with one or two ideas to incorporate into your own kitchen!

Are you wanting to try some zero waste products to help your journey to a sustainable lifestyle? Use my discount code for 15% off all My Humble Earth products: AVERY
Are there any ideas you would add to this list? Comment below!

Sources:

Food Bank. (n.d.). Food Waste Facts. Retrieved from https://www.foodbank.org.au/food-waste-facts-in-australia/?state=au

Sustainability Sustainable Kitchen Ideas

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