Written by: Anna Pashkova, MS, RDN, LD, ACSM-EP / Reviewed by: Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, CD, FAND
If you’ve ever been curious about finding creative ways to reduce waste in the kitchen, you’re in the right place. Many of us don’t realize just how much food we end up throwing out over time. This can translate to wasted money, energy, resources and even harmful effects on our environment. There are also many opportunities to reduce general waste in the kitchen by choosing to use reusable containers and bags and recycling whenever possible.
7 Tips to Reduce Waste in the Kitchen
#1: Grocery Shop Wisely
What you bring into the kitchen has a huge impact on the amount of potential waste that is produced. Plan ahead what and how much you want to purchase to avoid having excess food that spoils. If you aren’t sure if you’ll use certain perishable foods, like vegetables, you can always buy them frozen or canned (they have similar nutritional value!). If there are options between bulk produce versus pre-packaged, try to choose bulk to reduce potential plastic waste. It’s also helpful to make a flexible meal plan to determine what perishable foods you’ll use that week, then prep them when you get home from the grocery store to make them that much easier to enjoy throughout the week.
#2: Use Reusable Food Containers, Bags and Wrap
Use reusable containers when grocery shopping for bulk items and reusable produce bags for fruits and veggies. Same goes for grocery bags — stock up on a few to bring with you to the store (Pro Tip: Keep a few handy in your car so you don’t forget!) In the kitchen, it’s helpful to have sturdy reusable food containers available for a variety of things, including storing food. There are tons of options out there including silicone bags that can be used in place of zip-lock bags and are great for freezing foods, too! Bee’s wrap is also another awesome option for sandwiches, covering food bowls, or any food items like cheese, vegetables and baked goods. I personally love reusable glass containers because they last forever and are dishwasher safe.
#3: Use Washable Cloths and Towels
Instead of using paper towels for cleaning up spills, drying your hands and wiping surfaces, invest in some simple cleaning cloths and towels. A few companies now make reusable cloth “paper towels” that can be rolled up similar to traditional paper towels for easy use. While it does take some extra washing, saving paper towels can have a positive impact on the environment over time.
#4: Get Creative to Use Up Food
If you have leftovers that tend to end up in the garbage, find ways to incorporate them into new meals you’re cooking or add some new flavor to them. The same goes for produce that has yet to be cooked. If you have trouble keeping track of what’s in your refrigerator, it may be helpful to re-organize how you’re storing items, take a visual inventory before cooking, or keep a list of what you have in stock. Also, get creative with using up your leftover herbs since they can easily be used in many different dishes, sauces, dressings, and more. You can also use food scraps, veggies, meat and meat bones for making your own homemade stock!
#5: Freeze or Preserve Extra Food
Take advantage of the amazing benefits of having a freezer – whether that’s for leftover meals or freezing produce before it spoils. This is where those reusable freezer-safe containers can also come in handy! You can also use preservation techniques for some foods like pickling rhubarb and making dill pickles with cucumbers.
#6: Compost or Use Scraps in Garden to Reduce Waste
Composting at home is an awesome way to reduce food waste in the kitchen, especially for food scraps. If you don’t already have a compost, you can either start one or you can look into composting programs within your area. Some places offer compost drop-offs and may even provide you with a container to help. If you have a garden, some kitchen scraps such as egg shells, coffee grounds, and banana and orange peels can be used as pest deterrents or fertilizers.
#7: Recycle Packaging
While buying in bulk and using your own containers is great, you’ll undoubtedly have some packaged food items. Make sure to recycle cardboard, plastic, aluminum, glass and any other materials that can be recycled. If you don’t have recycling pick-up, you can search for drop-off locations in your area. Plastics can also be a bit confusing, so if you aren’t sure whether they’re accepted at a facility or where to recycle them, you can always do a quick online search for your area! It may take a little more work up front, but once you have a system and know the how-to, it becomes second nature.
What creative ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen do you use?