Four Ways to Work Toward a Waste-Free Kitchen

I hope this title accurately portrays the in-progressness of this mission. Every day I cook I try to get better at having ingenuity and reducing wasteful practices. I am not perfect but I am sure as hell trying.

Tip #1:  Compost

This is a surprisingly easy and inexpensive way to make use of all of the bits and pieces that get left behind while cooking. I love to shop often and get fresh fruits and veggies so this tip helped me cut my waste by a ton!

The great thing about this particular tip is most probably have the materials to makeshift a bin that works just as well as one that can be purchased. A bin can be made out of an old trash can, planks of wood, hay bales, a plastic tub, or really anything that can hold old food stuff. This site does a great job of showing the variety and ease with which one can craft a compost bin. Here’s ours:IMG_1391

See what I mean about it being easy to figure out a way to compost. We picked up this can at Ace Hardware Store for less than 20$. To make it even easier on ourselves we started using an old container that was meant to hold ice for swanky cocktail parties, and just put our scraps in until it’s full then transfer them to the large bin. Heck, my mom just built a trench right along the back of her garden and throws food in and tops it with dirt.

Your garden will thank you for the nutrients! Just remember not to add any dairy, meat, or citrus as it disrupts the balance of healthy happy bacteria.

Tip #2: Reusable produce bags

IMG_1389These are a relatively new addition to my kitchen and so far they have worked out fabulously. I love to shop in the bulk isle and bring home lots of grains and beans, but I always feel guilty when I use one or even two plastic bags to hold my stuff. I try to just go without a bag in the produce section and inevitably leave a slug trail of vegetable water behind me for the rest of my shopping trip. I purchased one large bag for veggies and such, and two smaller bags which were weaved tighter to use in the bulk section. The larger bag was about 3$ and the two smaller ones were about 5$ a piece. I would say that that’s a fabulous price for the elimination of unnecessary plastic bags.

Buying in bulk has a huge impact on the environment. Packaged foods are often a sealed plastic bag inside of a cardboard bag. These are huge culprits in the realm of environmental unfriendliness. Organic Authority quotes a study by Portland State University’s Food Industry Leadership Center which states that, “if Americans purchased all their almonds in bulk for one year, 72 million pounds of waste would be saved from a landfill.” What a difference a simple habit can make! Also, several studies into the benefits of buying in bulk have shown that products are more affordable (sometimes by as much as 80% cheaper) and stores that have bulk isles are able to receive goods more cheaply and pass on savings.

 

Tip #3 Foodgenuity

I felt very inspired by the book, “An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace,” by Tamar Adler. After being given this book as a gift I spent every spare moment diving deep into the simple yet brilliant recipes and the stories that accompany each lesson learned about the absolute sanctity of food. The title holds two meanings. First, it points to the way we must view food. A cheese rind becomes the base of a soup– a bunch of carrot leaves become a pesto. Secondly, and much later learned, it points to the way a meal can carry and drift into new days and fresh dishes.

Often, I buy a small chicken and bake it using a simple method posted here. I make soup or eat the chicken over rice with carrots. Then I make stock out of the carcass and cook everything in the nutritious liquid. It’s inexpensive and can provide several healthy meals with very little prep. I started looking more closely at what I was using and what I was wasting that can be a perfectly good meal. In some asian countries, they often only eat the bottom of the broccoli heads, while here we only eat the tops. I decided I would look more closely at these things and incorporate a more romantic view of veggies into my daily life.

A pan of roasted broccoli stems and carrots took about 20 minutes from start to finish, and I felt full and satisfied off of what might have ended up trash. Simply peel the broccoli stems and chop into rounds, and cut the carrots to a similar size. Lay out on a pan and coat with olive oil, ginger powder, salt and pepper, and bake until golden brown. I saved the carrot leaves to make pesto this afternoon with the addition of some nuts and salt and pepper.

Tip #4 Grow it yourself

This is definitely the most ambitious of the habits I am trying to undertake. My husband has a green thumb, so together we are attempting to take one step closer to being self-sufficient and environmentally conscious. I began by paying attention to my grocery shopping habits. If I never buy corn, for example, I wont attempt to grow it. But alas, I eat it all, so I turned to this fabulous garden planner from Mother Earth News. This site allows the user to essentially map out their dream garden, and be supplied with grow times, dates to begin seeds, and the particular needs of each plant for optimal growth.

I will keep everyone updated on the process of sprouting seed indoors under grown lights, and transferring them outdoors. Our project will require quite a bit of work as we just moved into our new home and the yard is not necessarily set up for large crops of veggies. My husband also is hoping to grow some medicinal herbs so we can make our own tinctures. We hope that this will reduce any waste from buying herbs and vegetables from the store, and one huge benefit is that we know exactly what went into the food we are eating. No mystery labels or strange ingredient lists for us, please!

 

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