7 Tips for a Zero-Waste Kitchen

2015-01-11 shopping

my refrigerator

I love my (nearly) zero-waste kitchen routine. I eat a delicious, healthy diet and have simplified my shopping habits. But it did take me a couple of years to (nearly) perfect this routine and I may never achieve complete zero-waste. (Remember calculus class? You merely approach zero.)

When I shop at the bulk store, for example, I still indirectly generate a small amount of waste. The food arrives at the store in paper or (gulp) plastic packaging after all. Also, I refuse to give up butter and the paper does go in the trash. So, until I buy a farm and produce all my food myself, I will create some waste somewhere. Then again, if I live on a farm outside the city, I’ll have to drive everywhere and burn more fossil fuels…So, I suppose as a precursor to these tips, I should add—above all—don’t strive for perfection. That and cook everything yourself. “Cook everything yourself” is my number one rule of life.

1. Shop with reusable containers and bags

Before I go shopping, I figure out what I need and accordingly organize my:

  • Glass jars for bulk items like flour, seeds, nuts, spices, tea, honey, coconut oil and so on
  • Metal containers, such as Lunchbots or tiffins for meat and fish (Life Without Plastic sells all sorts of them)
  • Cloth shopping bags and homemade cloth produce bags for produce and bulk foods like pasta or cat food

Different stores deal with containers in different ways. Some set scales out in the bulk section for you to weigh the empty containers and mark the tares on them. You don’t want to pay for the weight of a heavy glass jar when you buy bulk tea at $39 a pound (I know). At other stores, customer service will weigh the jars for you. At yet other stores, your request will completely baffle the staff.

Gathering my jar-, container- and bag-filled bags adds a few minutes to my routine but it also saves time in the long run. I have nothing to throw out after we eat everything, which saves me a trip to the curb. Plus, food in glass just looks nice.

jars cropped 2

2. Hit the bulk aisle

I live close to three stores with decent bulk sections, which makes zero-waste shopping easy. I’ve heard from a few people in the UK that bulk bins aren’t very common there. If you can’t buy from bulk bins, and need lots of, say, flour, buying large amounts of it reduces your packaging to product ratio. Maybe you can share with a neighbor who digs the zero-waste idea.

3. Buy fewer ingredients

I buy lots of baking soda. I use it for baking, washing pots and pans, cleaning, washing my hair and making deodorant. I make several dairy staples from milk plus one other ingredient. If you run out of something, you may find a fix in your kitchen cupboards. For example, you can make baking powder out of cream of tartar (4 parts) and baking soda (1 part). Before I cultured buttermilk, I often “made” it with milk and fresh lemon juice (1 scant cup milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice). If you want to go zero-waste, buy less stuff.

4. Think twice before you by another gadget

My kids think I’m strange because, for one, I refuse to own a microwave. I don’t have room for a bunch of appliances in my kitchen. And I probably don’t need what I don’t already have. Besides, there’s always Google. My daughter MK last year bought a cherry pitter that looked like it would break in about 2 minutes. While she returned it to the store, I found instructions online for a DIY cherry pitter that works like magic!

3 Cherry pitter

5. Ditch the disposables

My mom wonders how I run a kitchen without paper towels or plastic wrap. Having had two kids, I have enough too-small cotton t-shirts to make rags that will last me the rest of my life. As for plastic wrap, plates on bowls work. I also have a few Abeego Wraps, beeswax coated cloths that cling to dishes. (In the fridge pic at the very top, you’ll see one on the middle shelf, to the right). I sewed napkins on my serger about six or seven years ago and we still use them. I take a mug with me every time I go work at my favorite cafe, Philz.

6. Recycle as a last resort

When plastics are recycled, they are actually downcycled—meaning even when reincarnated as toothbrushes, shopping bags or more plastic bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill eventually, unlike glass or metal, which can be recycled over and over without any degradation in quality.

You may have heard of America Recycles Day, a day designated to encourage us to put plastic water bottles into the recycling bin. Who dreamed it up? Industry. You can check out the sponsors here. One, the American Chemistry Council, a trade association, keeps attempting to convince me in my Twitter feed that BPA is wonderful (it’s not). So Big Soda makes a big mess and encourages us to clean it up, which doesn’t actually work. Better to cut off the trash at its source and refuse all this plastic junk.

7. Compost differs from waste

For me, zero waste means zero trash and zero recycling (because you buy so little in packaging). I exempt compost from the category of waste. That doesn’t mean I buy more food than I can eat or throw edible food on the compost heap. In fact, even my vegetable scraps don’t make it to the heap until after I’ve made broth out of them. Occasionally I find the odd furry lemon or a puddle of what-had-been-parsley in the back of the fridge. The good news is that compost can save the world! It sucks carbon out of the air and not only that, a half-inch layer of this black gold can still increase yields six years after its application, as Michael Pollan explains in this wonderful video. The video lasts about half an hour, but is well worth the time.compost

This post contains an affiliate links to Life Without Plastic, a small business I support and feel good about promoting

173 Comment

  1. […] via 7 Tips for a Zero-Waste Kitchen | The Zero-Waste Chef. […]

    1. Thank you for sharing!

  2. You remind me h0w much better I can d0! Great piece.

    1. Thanks for that Annie and for sharing on Facebook 🙂 It’s always a work in progress. I need to work on my water consumption next.

  3. First of all–and once again!–I look at your kitchen and see stuff I use, too! Like, I’ve got that same brand of eggs sitting in my fridge–small world (of Whole Foods shoppers?) 😉 Thanks for all these practical tips!!! I’ve never heard of Abeego but I’m going to check them out. We haven’t used plastic wrap since I read Mark Schapiro’s “Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products” and threw out a whole bunch of plastics. And I hear you on the whole compost thing. (As you know!) I think a little nod to Ben F. is in order here: “Waste Not…Want Not”. But you knew that, right? 🙂 !

    1. Yes that carton is from Whole Foods. The farmer’s market didn’t have any eggs and these are truly free-range apparently. Beginning next week, I’ll get my eggs from a farm that my community now owns! Delivered directly to the community kitchen where I’ll pick them up! And I know those chickens are happy and treated well. Abeego Wraps work really well. It’s a Canadian company and I think it’s trying to expand to the US market. I have some beeswax to make my own but it sounds messy, so that has fallen near the bottom of my to-do list. Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve added it to my wish list. We’re such guinea pigs with all of the chemicals we’re exposed to. Speaking of Ben F, I want to read the Walter Isaacson biography of him. Supposed to be good.

      1. And don’t feel bad about the store-bought eggs–we’ve got five ducks in the backyard and I *still* have to buy at Whole Foods! 🙂

      2. Lol. I DO feel bad! But I think those hens are treated well and that’s what I worry about most. Oh but the egg lady at the market will take the empty carton when I’m finished with these, so zero-waste 🙂

      3. jo says:

        Thanks for this inspirational post. Although our egg farmer at the farmers market will take the cartons from us, he says he’s just going to throw them out due to health codes that require him to do so. Kinda makes sense- the cardboard only seems sanitary when its fresh and full of non-compromised eggs. I wouldn’t want to inherit a carton where an egg had broken and seeped into the cardboard . So now our cartons go into the recycling bin.

      4. Thanks for the comment 🙂 So one of the vendors at my farmer’s market won’t take back the cartons and she said the same thing as your farmer—health codes. Another farmer does take them back. I know she reuses these because each time she hands me a carton of eggs, it’s in a random branded carton with her company sticker slapped onto the top. I don’t know if she’s breaking any rules or not. I hope not. I was surprised that she takes them.

  4. Oh good, you answered a question I’ve been meaning to ask you – is compost waste?! Would you consider feeding kitchen scraps to domestic animals (goats, sheep) the same way?

    1. Oh, I think it’s fabulous to feed goats compost. My daughter worked at a goat dairy in high school and she said the goats loved to eat vegetable and fruit peels. That helps create a closed system. I don’t consider compost waste unless you buy too much food and let it rot before you eat it and so you compost it. I think the five or six or seven Rs are refuse, reduce, reuse, repair, recycle, rot and rethink.

      1. I dream of feeding my own goats my veggie scraps one day, but until then the neighbor’s goats enjoy the yummies! Good point about the food not being wasted unless we’ve bought too much and it rots. I like your list of Rs! 🙂

      2. Lucky goats and neighbor 🙂 I can’t take credit for the Rs. I have read them or something like them in other blogs. But I agree, it’s a good list to go by, with an emphasis on refusing/reducing.

  5. Hey Annemarie – a great post, thanks for that! Nice having many good tips assembled in one place. Cheers – Tobi

    1. Thanks so much Tobi. I’m glad you found it useful 🙂

  6. Ah, the beauty of food in unlabelled glass jars… I’m trying to reduce kitchen waste, unfortunately I haven’t actually managed to find a bulk bin here. It is easy to stop using plastic wrap, but I have to say I am curious about the Abeego. Great post!

    1. Thank you! I agree, food looks so appetizing in glass. I basically covet jars. With the big splash that unpackaged store in Berlin made on social media recently, I predict we’ll see more stores like it, hopefully one where you live 🙂 I have three Abeego Wraps in different sizes and they work well. The beeswax on the cloth clings to containers or to the wrap itself. You can make them also. One day I’ll try… Thanks for checking out my post!

  7. Thank you for sharing. In the past year, we’ve been able to considerably reduce the amount of waste we produce but we are nowhere near to where we want to be, which is zero waste. These tips are very helpful and inspirational!

    1. I’m glad you find them useful. I feel zero-waste is a work in progress, kind of like the laundry—you soon have more to do. I’ve got the kitchen down, but I can always improve. For one, I need to reduce my water consumption. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  8. 'Becca says: Reply

    I have to ask about the note that is visible, but not legible, at the back of your top refrigerator shelf….

    1. Heehee. You’re very observant. My daughter put that in there two or three years ago. It says “Don’t put tomatoes in the fridge!” 🙂

  9. Love these practical and doable tips! Thanks!

    1. Thank you. I like practical and doable 🙂

  10. Thanks for this. Something I’ve been edging toward myself, however your fridge looks far less cluttered than mine! Thanks for sharing.

    1. A couple of people had asked me what the inside of my fridge looked like so I thought I would post a pic. Thank you for checking it out 🙂

  11. Some fantastic tips, your freezer is you best friend also to cut down on waste.

    1. Thank you. Yes, the freezer sure comes in handy. I keep vegetable scraps and bones in there until I have accumulated enough for veggie or chicken broth. In the summer I had lots of cherries from the spring and in the fall I had jars and jars of roasted tomatoes. I just used up the last jar of those yesterday. Thanks for pointing that out.

  12. Reblogged this on Mommy Emu and commented:
    Looking for ways to zero the waste in your kitchen? Zero waste chief has some fantastic ideas.

    1. Thank you so much for the reblog! I really appreciate it.

  13. Great post !
    I love your photographs of jars and your clever cherry pitter.

    1. Thank you so much 🙂 That cherry pitter convinced me that I can make most of the things I need/want.

      1. and it is a work of art !

  14. You are so inspirational. I dont know if I’ll ever reach your level, but your posts keep me thinking and striving.

    1. Thank you so much!

  15. Reblogged this on Hamptons Brine and commented:
    Great read!

    1. Thank you for the reblog!

  16. […] had begun this blog entry before reading this post by Zero Waste Chef, which provides 7 wonderful tips for how to eliminate waste in your kitchen. […]

  17. Hi! Happy New Year! It’s encouraging to know that it took you a wee while to get where you are with zero waste. We are probably 80% there.

    1. Happy new year to you too! It definitely took a while to get my routine down and I’m not perfect. I think all the fermenting really took me to the next level. Sounds like you’re doing a great job. Isn’t it great how we minimalist types have found each other online? I wouldn’t have known where to start otherwise.

      1. Yes agree! I plan to book into one of your webinars soon – just have to make sure I get the time right. I’m wanting to do the fermented vegetables in March.

      2. Oh great! It would be VERY early the next day for you, I think (right?). I look forward to meeting you in a video chat!

  18. Great work Annemarie – an achievement in creative problem solving. I agree we don’t need to go zero waste, just minimise as much as possible – If everyone reduced their waste by 90% what a difference that would make!

    1. Thank you, Veronique. Ninety percent would be wonderful and I think that’s easier to achieve than most people realize. Most of our trash had come from food packaging, so cutting out the processed stuff makes a huge difference.

  19. Your kitchen looks pretty much like mine, although I have far less ferments in the fridge! I don’t have a microwave either, don’t trust them ; ) My main kitchen waste these days is jar lids…we buy milk in returnable bottles but get stuck with the lids…

    1. Offline, people have scoffed at my disdain for microwaves and TVs but online I feel like a normal person 🙂 I don’t like the whole microwave lifestyle—fast, convenient but of questionable quality. The only “food” you cook it it is packaged, processed junk. I have a similar problem with milk. One of the vendors wants the glass bottles back with the lids on but I think that’s just to protect the opening of the bottle from chipping. I hope they reuse the lids but I doubt they do. I need a cow or goat…

      1. I know exactly what you mean! I have friends who live a similar lifestyle to me, and sometimes I forget that I am in the minority. I forget that people watch TV and buy too much stuff and use disposable everything all of the time! Then I’ll go somewhere new and see it and my heart sinks…

        I wish I had enough space or chickens! A first floor balcony made of concrete isn’t going to cut it! I went to a chicken-keeping workshop last week though – might as well start learning for when the times comes : )

      2. I know. It comes as a shock to go back out into “normal” society. I went with my daughter to a potluck at one of her after-school activities and I couldn’t believe the food I saw there—all processed, sugary crap swathed in plastic packaging, and this was in an affluent area, hardly a food desert where people have no choice.

        I want chickens too. Good idea to learn all you can now. Can you have them in your new place later in the year?

      3. Not sure. Official council rules say no, but I know plenty of people in the suburb who have them. Thing is, the grounds are communal for the 7 properties and there is only one patch of lawn, so I’d need to get the other people to agree. And only 2 out of 7 have been sold! Fingers crossed…

      4. I hope you can get the other 5 to agree. Maybe you can tell them you’ll make them an omelette once a year :p

      5. The only thing that might hold them back is that the only available space is very close to the other two buildings (not mine). I don’t really know about smells and pests and things…guess I’ll have to get some advice…

      6. Well, good luck. I hope it works out.

      7. Frances says:

        I’ve commented before about microwaves…I’m not convinced they are necessary but it’s also not necessarily true that they’re only useful for processed junk. Mine saves my family’s nutrition: I make my own prepared meals which are quick to reheat in there (and don’t dry out); vegetables steam beautifully with far less water or power than doing it on the stove; the one at work lets me have a hot lunch easily (straight from the freezer to my bag then a zap when I’m ready to eat); I can bake apples in just a few minutes (again, saving power); I can defrost or partially defrost when I’ve failed to be organized…I know I can do that in a bowl of hot water but the microwave makes far quicker work of, say, a jar of stock — and again, uses no water. Melts butter or chocolate like a charm, infuses oil in 30 seconds without an extra pot I have to wash (there’s that water again…). Plus it’s the perfect cat-proof spot for stashing defrosting meat or proofing bread.

        In my kitchen anyway the microwave earns its shelf space. I live in a big city on a small river in a semi-arid climate, and I pay about as much for wind power as I’m willing to. If using technology thoughtfully to save water and power and time is a “microwave lifestyle” bring it on!

  20. freakenvegan says: Reply

    Thanks for the tips! I’m trying to turn my entire house zero waste and with such great words of encouragement from my own mother (‘Its too hard to get rid of waste.’) I’ll need a person with tips like you!

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you find them helpful. I’ve run into some skeptics but when they see the results and what’s possible, they often become intrigued and make changes. That’s not to say that everyone I know has adopted all of these tips, but some of my friends and coworkers now buy milk in returnable bottles, make sauerkraut, pack school lunches in reusable containers or use cloth produce bags at the store. A woman I work with threw a zero-to-landfill birthday party for her five year old! She said it took just a bit of extra planning. So, you may win your mother over 🙂

  21. Jean says: Reply

    I suppose storing some dried/non fridge food in clean empty yogurt plastic containers, is a no-no?

    1. Well, I wrote about tips not rules. If you store food in yogurt containers, you keep that plastic out of landfill where it will one day wind up even if it does first get recycled once or twice. I wouldn’t say no-no. Reusing trumps recycling. And it’s not wet food you’re storing (so less worry about BPA, BPS and whatnot).

  22. Karen says: Reply

    Great tips and ideas. Just posted to our Twitter and our Facebook page for City of Sunnyvale! I’ll talk to you soon about Earth Day!

    1. Thank you so much Karen! I look forward to talking to you.

  23. Excellent tips! Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much 🙂

  24. Thanks for being so inspiring! We also have not had a microwave for years (and life goes on 🙂 and a couple of years ago we got rid of the dryer and started hanging all the laundry to dry… it is nice to not be surrounded by all these huge, clunky appliances.

    1. Thank you for the kind words 🙂 Yes, life does indeed go on without a microwave. I love that you don’t have a dryer. I usually hang my clothes to dry too. When my drying rack breaks, I don’t have to call a repairman 🙂 I agree, the fewer appliances, the better. I actually dream of one day not having a refrigerator. Right now, it mostly stores dairy and ferments. Some veggies stay fresh longer in there too. I do buy some meat though. I could learn how to salt and dry meat…Well, for now I can still dream…

  25. […] Source: zerowastechef.com […]

  26. Reblogged this on zerowaste4u.

    1. Thanks so much!

  27. Reblogged this on Fundstücke aus dem Internet and commented:
    Anregungen für eine plastikfreie Küche

    1. Thank you for the reblog 🙂

  28. Reblogged this on Transition Tales and commented:
    Love what you’re doing!

    1. Thank you so much!

  29. Reblogged this on GreenWit and commented:
    Excellent!

    1. Thank you for the reblog!

  30. Lisa says: Reply

    Reblogged this on lisahartlieb and commented:
    Soon.

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog 🙂

  31. Matthew says: Reply

    Re: #7 I found that a small, home made worm bin handles all my food scraps. For folks who do not generate a lot of food scraps or yard waste, a small worm bin might be better than a compost pile. The worm castings and worm tea you get, though small in quantity, is a high quality fertility booster.

    1. Great! How did you make your worm bin and where did you get your worms?

  32. Mars says: Reply

    it is sad that it costs more to be (or approach being) zero waste than it is to be wasteful:

    Organic produce packaged in plastic is often cheaper than non- packaged.

    Same thing for grass-fed meats (which I eat on occasion )- much cheaper ifrozen n plastic than you can get fresh without the plastic.

    Some of us have to stretch our dollars as far as possible, even though I do try to opt for the least packaged options.

    Bulk bins are great to reduce packaging, but sadly the food is often much less fresh (read -less nutritious., especially on things like nuts. ). Still, I try to time purchases with new arrivals.

    Other tips to be zero waste can include :

    how best to prep/store produce (and where in your fridge is best for what item).

    Shopping in season and freezing/ canning/ dehydrating.

    Having a home garden. (For all that great compost)

    Shopping goodwill type stores fand garage sales or clothing, appliances, furniture and MASON JARS., etc.

    Happy “Waste-Not”ing!

    1. I do buy expensive produce, dairy and meat (we don’t eat a lot of meat though), but overall, I probably spend less on food than a lot of people. I don’t waste a thing: I freeze bones and vegetable scraps for broths, make scrap vinegar out of fruit peels and ferment all sorts of things, all of which are easy things to do and not that time consuming. But if I had to watch my pennies on every little thing, the packaged stuff does sometimes cost less. I live near a fantastic bulk store with good prices, so I’m lucky. But I hear you, you can feel penalized for trying to make a more sustainable choice.

      I love all your tips. As I said, I do a lot of fermenting, which preserves food, saves money, tastes incredibly delicious and is so healthy. I love glass jars and have found a few at garage sales. It’s possible I have on occasion taken some out of my neighbors’ recycling bins but there is no proof of this 😉

      Happy not-wasting to you too 🙂

  33. Moran says: Reply

    Hi! I really loved the post, and it reminded me of my Jerusalem kitchen. my waste was almost exclusively compost, which would go directly to my potted plants. I was fortunate to live next to the market, where I could buy bulk cereals, legumes and vegetables with my own reused packaging.
    However, I’ve been living for two years now in Germany, and apart from buying vegetables in the market (either much more costly than the supermarket, or brought from crazy distance as in S. Africa or Ecuador (!)), I’m having a hard time finding anything without a plastic package – especially rice, lentils etc. even most of the bio-shops here sell only pre-packed products.
    Maybe you have German readers that can help me with tips – I live in Leipzig 🙂

    1. Your Jerusalem kitchen sounds ideal. I do have several German readers and zero-waste seems to be popular there, judging from their pictures of delicious food and cool upcycled projects (I can’t speak German but the pictures speak for themselves). That Original Unverpakt store in Berlin certainly has been getting a ton of press: http://original-unverpackt.de/ Maybe one will open in Leipzig (???). I hope so!

      1. Moran says:

        Wonderful, you unlocked the search word I was looking for – Unverpackt. now I found a number of articles discussing this trend and shops which promise to start offering this soon.
        In Jaffa there was even a store which would sell bio-degradable cleaning fluids on a refill basis.. a decade ago. what a shame it’s not that common here. Berlin is magical – one can find absolutely anything there 🙂

      2. Yay! So glad I could help! I’m planning an upcoming post on some household cleaner I’m brewing right now (it takes a couple of weeks to steep). I’ll be so happy if the stuff works. Happy bulk hunting 🙂

  34. Mars says: Reply

    Another tip:

    Take a photo of your trash every time you take it out (hopefully there is not much and not often). By doing this you will have a timeline of your progress.

    1. Thanks, that’s a great idea. In 2011, my daughter did Beth Terry’s show-your-plastic challenge for several months, and that got us started. Seeing all the plastic trash spread out was a real eye opener.

  35. ryan95 says: Reply

    A tip for your butter, buy delicious jersey cow heavy cream and make your own butter just by whipping past whipped cream to butter and buttermilk using a mixer or food processor.

    1. I LOVE jersey milk. It so creamy and sweet, it’s almost like drinking melted ice cream. I haven’t seen any heavy jersey cream around here though. I will have to do some investigating. Thank you!

  36. Sylvia says: Reply

    If you like butter, try to make your own “shaked butter” from heavy whipping cream. (any pasteurized store brand will do) It can be bought in glass. Let the cream reach room temperature before fill a mason jar about a quarter full (not more you will need space to shake it). Screw on the lid tight and with slow but wide motions (about one shake a second) like you would throw a baseball, shake the cream. first you get the whipped cream, than the color will turn light yellow and liquid and cream will separate. Now only a few more shakes until you hear a clear “thud” that’s your butter hitting the jar. The liquid around it is pure buttermilk. Separate the liquid and squeeze your butter gently to get all buttermilk out. Submerge the butter in ice cold water to wash out the rest of the buttermilk and discard the water. Add salt to butter to your taste and squeeze some more. Use the saved buttermilk for cooking or baking the same day. It goes bad very fast. The butter keeps fresh for a few days in the fridge or longer in the freezer. The butter will be so fluffy and creamy you will never want store bought again. In our household we devour it the same day. The family would make up any excuses to put it on everything.

    1. Thank you! Butter is on my to-do list and I’ll just have to try this. I remember making it when I was little. I can and do buy heavy cream in glass here (even raw!).

  37. ryansimmons95 says: Reply

    It you want a solution to your butter tastes that doesn’t involve paper, then try getting some amazing jersey cow heavy cream and whip it with a mixer. Go past whipped cream until it is butter and buttermilk. The best butter ever!

  38. Elese says: Reply

    Butter paper is just waxed paper which can be composted. It may take longer in a home compost pile, but it is definitely no problem for curb-side green bins, if that’s available at your place.

    1. Thanks, Elese! I hadn’t thought to compost it. I live in an intentional community and someone else does the turning and the upkeep of the compost pile. He’s VERY strict about what you can put in there. I used to add hair to it but he caught me one day and said no hair (now I just throw it in my yard on the the leaves piling up under a big tree). I will try to sneak in the paper—he doesn’t read my blog I don’t think. If that tactic doesn’t work, I’ll try composting it in my yard. I should probably start my own private pile for contraband like this 😉

    2. Mars says: Reply

      Composting the butter paper is a great thought. However it is most certainly petro- chemical wax, not beeswax, so I would put it in a compost pile that you will never put on your edibles (veggies, fruit, flowers, etc). , but use it for non-edible landscaping.

      But I really like the idea of making my own butter now (thanks for tips!)

      1. Thanks, you’re probably right about the chemicals on the paper. I really need a cow…

  39. I noticed your Abeego in the fridge. My friend Toni makes those 🙂

    1. Cool! I love those. I voted for Toni in a young entrepreneur contest last year. She was neck and neck with an artisan cheese. You’re also Canadian? I’m from Ontario but live in California now.

      1. Yes! I live in the same city as Toni and we also used to work together in a health food store here. It must be so awesome living in California, nice weather and lots do see and do I imagine 🙂

      2. Nice 🙂 The weather here is incredible! My daughter is back in Ontario now at university and she keeps texting me pictures of snowbanks. I text her back pictures of cacti and succulents ;p She loves being back in the olde country though.

  40. I noticed a few no-nos on the composting bin that don’t apply to vermicomposting. The red wiggles worms in our home worm composting system have worked their way through mango pits, avocado pits, and corn cobs in only a few weeks. I have been surprised. When we are disposing of ‘food scraps’ we have a hierarchy – first us (making broth etc.), then the dogs, then the chickens, then the worms, then the compost bin nd finally the trash if it just won’t be usable by any other the other systems.
    I like the article, and it’s always nice to hear how someone else is doing – and not to feel so isolated in striving to live more sustainably.
    Thanks!

    1. Well the thing is I live in an intentional community and someone else takes care of the compost. He’s a bit strict about we can put in. He caught me adding hair once and said no hair. I can’t put grape stems either. Dry stuff like that, I just now toss in my leaf-filled yard. When I had a compost bin at my house, I put everything in it. My sister is the same, she even put her daughter’s dead hamster in there one year. It makes sense that mango pits, avocado pits and corn cobs break down. The pits had always broken down before the dawn of landfills. I love your food scrap hierarchy. Sounds like you have it down.

      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I know what you mean about feeling isolated. Online, I’ve found so many like-minded people, I feel normal! 😉

  41. Anne Marie, my daughter (who happened to paint the composting sign above) just sent me the link to your blog. Great work and so inspiring! I don’t see you often at the community, so it’s lovely to see what you have been doing since being at the simple living meet-ups years ago!

    1. Thanks, Trish. How are you? I’m a bit of a hermit lately, especially in winter. I wish I had stayed in touch with Beth, our hostess. Did you by any chance? I didn’t realize your daughter painted the sign. Did she used to live here too? I’m glad she found my blog and sent it to you. Thanks for checking it out. I hope to see you around the community 🙂

  42. […] habe ich „7 Tips for a Zero Waste Kitchen“ auf Zero Waste Chef gelesen.  Ich bin seit etwa 1 ½ Jahren dabei, […]

  43. Steph says: Reply

    thanks for sharing! I’m from Windsor Ontario and find it difficult to live sustainably. bulk bins won’t let me bring jars and our milk comes in bags. I didn’t know about the pineapple tops and avocado pits. I also put hair in my compost bin. Very interesting!! Glad I’m not alone. People think I’m weird for trying to reduce my garbage and plastic use.

    1. My daughter goes to university in Guelph and she’s bummed that Bulk Barn won’t allow her to take her own containers. She started us on the plastic-free road but finds it more difficult up there. You’re not alone at all. I’ve “met” so many people online doing the same sorts of things. The plastic problem is out of control. And to think we didn’t even have the stuff 100 years ago or so! Good for you to do something about it.

  44. Robyn Daniel says: Reply

    Thanks for more ideas……off to make yet another sourdough starter 🙂
    PS…….make sure to use the butter wrapper to grease your baking trays before you discard it.

    1. Yum! Sourdough is wonderful for so many reasons. My daughter stashes the butter wrappers in the freezer to use for greasing pans. I have to remember to do that. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  45. Reblogged this on bornOrganicBella and commented:
    Love this!

    1. Thanks so much for the reblog. Glad you liked the post 🙂

  46. […] compramos o que não vamos consumir, tem muita gente que precisa dessa comida “extra”. Zero Waste Chef tem 7 dicas para uma cozinha lixo […]

  47. Etta says: Reply

    I am so happy I found your blog! I have been wanting to switch over to all glass for awhile because I am realizing how much plastic we throw away daily. I also looked into how long it takes plastic to degrade in landfills and it takes beyond hundreds of years. Hoping we can slowly transition!

    1. Thanks so much Etta. It took us a while to transition and I have to say the new routines are much more enjoyable and the food tastes better. Oh and we are healthier! I am happy you found my blog too. Thanks for reading 🙂

  48. These tips are amazing! Love your blog.

    1. Thank you so much!

  49. Gina says: Reply

    Re: butter wrappers and egg cartons

    We made a small incinerator/fire pit and we burn them. Ashes go in the flower bed. Just a thought. Also, check with your compost guy, but I bet if you tore or cut up your cartons, you can compost them. Compost piles love shredded paper products. Of course you may not want the ink chemicals if you’re really strict.

    1. Thanks for the idea, Gina. I hadn’t thought to burn them. I do now have a rogue compost pile in my yard and started putting the wrappers in there a couple of weeks ago. They are breaking down. I’m still able to return the egg cartons for now to the one vendor at the farmer’s market but if I have cardboard, I’ll put it in there too. I’m not that strict right now because my compost is only for non-food plants.

  50. Awesome post! What’s the science behind what does and does not go into your compost bin?

    1. Thanks Danielle 🙂 When I wrote this post, I had been composting in our community compost bin and that’s where this pic came from. I now have my own rogue compost bin in my yard. I put everything in it! I add corn cobs and even bones (though we don’t eat a lot of meat). I add a think layer of brown matter (mostly dry leaves) after I add my food scraps. It is working well and smells great. I hope to write a post about my pile soon (I started the draft recently…).

      1. Danielle says:

        I look forward to reading it, thank you!

  51. Reblogged this on Bric@bacs and commented:
    Excellent article d’Anne-Marie Bonneau (zerowastechef.com) : quelques trucs pour une cuisine presque sans déchets!

    J’en retiens deux principales leçons:
    – La planification est centrale : se faire une liste et s’y tenir, préparer ses contenants pour l’achat en vrac, etc. Lorsque l’on a pas accès au vrac, on peut acheter en plus grande quantité permet de limiter les emballages.
    – Lâcher prise sur la perfection! Il y aura toujours un minimum de génération de déchets (même si on achète tout en vrac par exemple, la boutique qui reçoit les produits a également des emballages à gérer (et si on a une ferme, cela implique généralement la consommation d’essence pour le déplacement en voiture 😉 ))

    Bonne lecture!

    1. Merci pour le reblog 🙂

      1. meliecote says:

        Ça fait plaisir! Te conseils sont vraiment concrets et utiles, c’est inspirant 🙂

  52. […] – I keep myself from acquire new kitchen tool, use only what I already had. I want a multifunctional kitchen robot which I still considering if I really need it for my modest cooking activities. I like the way Anne-Marie Bonneau invents her tool in this post. […]

  53. Very useful tips, thank you so much for sharing! I’m into all the zero-waste philosophy three months now and I still adapt to the changes to this new lifestyle. Your tips will definitely come in handy to me, thank again!

    1. Thank you Rachael. I’m glad you found the post useful 🙂

  54. […] – I keep myself from acquire new kitchen tool, use only what I already had. I want a multifunctional kitchen robot which I still considering if I really need it for my modest cooking activities. I like the way Anne-Marie Bonneau invents her tool in this post. […]

  55. Gill Robinson says: Reply

    I don’t throw butter paper away, I use it like greaseproof either round or on top of cakes in the oven

    1. That’s a great idea Gill. I actually started adding them to my compost pile. They are breaking down out there!

  56. AliCo says: Reply

    Thank you for the tips! However, there is no such thing as “pure” recycled materials. In every recycling process there will be impurities. Recycled plastic will have a lower quality but as will recycled glass or metal compared to virgin materials.

  57. Briana says: Reply

    Just curious why not avocado pits in the compost?

    1. I think because they take a long time to break down. I have started a rogue compost pile in my yard and I add them to it. They will break down eventually. The person in charge of the compost pile pictured in this post is very strict about what can go in.

      1. Nickitree says:

        I read that you can dry avocado stones then grate them and add to smoothies, soups etc.

      2. I have heard that too but haven’t tried it. I read your comment right before I ate an avocado and so set the stone aside. Thanks for the idea 🙂

  58. Hi just chanced upon your blog and it’s great….I am not zero waste yet…am 90% preservatives in food as I make nearly everything from scratch at home. Like you not butter yet..:)

    1. Thanks so much. That makes my day 🙂 Butter is the final frontier.

  59. Rob says: Reply

    Hi, I liked your post, intrigued about making your own products such as baking powder. Can you recommend any good books about going zero waste?

    1. Thanks Rob 🙂 I happen to be working on a post today about book recommendations on food and waste. I love Beth Terry’s book Plastic Free. Her website is great too: myplasticfreelife.com. We got started with all of this when my daughter found Beth’s blog. I haven’t read Bea Johnson’s book yet, Zero Waste Home, but that sounds good too. I loved the documentary No Impact Man a few years ago and Colin Beaven has written a book with the same title.

  60. Some really helpful tips about minimising food wastage in the house! Its actually crazy how much money we can save by doing little things around the kitchen 🙂

    1. Thanks Clarissa 🙂 I buy expensive ingredients but overall I spend less than I did a few years ago. I use absolutely everything and don’t follow recipes very strictly any more. I try to just look at what I have on hand and decide from there what to cook.

  61. Running a kitchen without paper towels or plastic wrap is not a tough task. I am doing the same thing at home. There are always some T-shirt which could be made for rags. Thank you for sharing such a great post! Greetings!

    1. I agree Betsy. It’s pretty easy. Actually all of the stuff I do is pretty easy. Some of it takes a bit of extra planning but not much and in the end I think it’s more efficient. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  62. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for checking out my post 🙂

  63. […] Source: 7 Tips for a Zero-Waste Kitchen […]

  64. […] 7 Tips for a Zero-Waste Kitchen […]

  65. Annika says: Reply

    Hi! I just found your blog and it’s very interesting.
    The link at the end for the Michael Pollan video unfortunately leads nowhere.
    Could you share the title or any other information you have of it so Google can find it for me? Thank you!

    1. Thanks for letting me know Annika. The conference was called Food for Tomorrow. Here’s a link that works: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSjHN8zefak

      1. Annika says:

        Thank you!

  66. Great tips. Unfortunately we are way behind in the uk and taking your own container just does not happen here. I would love to but shops just don’t allow for it, great shame…

    1. Occasionally I meet with resistance when I take my own container 🙁 It’s frustrating. The idea of bringing your own has caught on though, so (hopefully) it’s just a matter of time before this is considered normal (again).

      1. Equality 333 says:

        Yep were packaging mad in the UK. One shop in my town does pack your own, one spices etc. I’ll work on them 🙂

    2. Oh and thank you. Glad you liked the tips 🙂

      1. Annika says:

        In Germany, where supermarkets offering unpackaged foods are starting up, you’d have a hard time too. There’s mainly a food safety concern. I don’t know how those bulk/unpacked supermarkets get around it.
        Is that not an issue in the States? The liability of the shop in case you get sick because your containers weren’t safe?

    3. Phillipa Gilfillan says: Reply

      I go to a local butcher and a fish van and they both happily put produce in my glass containers – worcestershire UK – You just need to ask and educate!

  67. Equality I’ve just started going to a proper butchers and they happily put my meat in my containers as does a fish van that comes to the farm shop regularly. Lidl also seem to be doing more unpackaged veg and nuts and Wholefoods markets to nuts and seeds and other staples which can go into your own containers. I’m in the Midlands, UK.

    1. Yay! That’s great news, Phillipa. Thank you for sharing it.

  68. So many great tips and ideas! I am a beginner at all this. Just decided to start minimizing the food waste at home and all the other waste at all, and then came the idea for trying zero waste. Your tips are really helpful and I’m definitely trying this all in my kitchen. Thank you for the inspiration! Jewel from http://rubbishcollectionclapham.co.uk/ 🙂

    1. Thank you Jewel. I’m glad you found the tips helpful. Happy waste reduction 🙂

  69. Catherine says: Reply

    Prior to finding ZW (through Bea Johnson, and what I believe was called the Empty Bin in UK), I found veganism so while I have no dairy, meat, eggs, honey or butter to manage, I do dream of a fresh tofu/ZW option. I strongly encourage a whole food/plant based diet in conjunction with ZW. What you don’t consume, you can make into broth and finally toss into the compost bin with no concerns about separating out animal-based items. On the country wide level, veganism is really the best solution for water/land/air pollution, as well as saving so many from horrible lives culminating in terrifying deaths, all for a cake, burger, a shake…just something to consider while making lifestyle changes to improve your carbon footprint/health/etc.

    1. Veganism (and vegetarianism to a lesser degree) certainly make zero-waste easier. Buying beans, lentils, nuts and other bulk items (if you have access to bulk bins…) and fresh produce is easy enough to do without producing waste. None of this is very difficult. It just requires adopting and adjusting to some new habits.

      1. Catherine says:

        Your pin came up and when I saw your carrots pictured I was reminded of mine slowly getting rubbery in their mesh bag…how do you store yours (it doesn’t look like you have a very fancy fridge with the modern humidity controls)? Thanks!

  70. The kitchen can generate a lot of waste for many homes. I like your tip about using glass containers since they are reusable for airtight food and spice storage. I know that many people like to use glass when they remodel their kitchens because it is water resistant while being recyclable as well. I’ll keep our tips in mind to help make my kitchen practices more economically and ecologically friendly.

    1. Great Alex! Glass is not only practical but beautiful too 🙂

  71. This is a great post, I’ll be sharing on my FB page! Like you, I strive to have zero waste in my kitchen but living out here offers challenges that I didn’t have when I lived in the big city. We make the rounds when we travel from our small town of course but those rounds are few & far between. So I settle for repurposing (or composting) before finally recycling. Love the glass jars in the fridge, and as a bonus it’s seldom that leftovers stored in glass are forgotten until they turn into a science fair experiment. I buy my flour in 25-lb paper bags and shred the bag for the required ‘browns’ for the compost when done. Like you I use a plate atop bowls in the fridge – I saw my grandmother do that when I was a child & it came back to me when I started making my push to remove plastic from our home. But when plastic does come into our home (and it DOES) I’ll repurpose it before throwing it away (it’s not recyclable in our area). Large family-sized bags of toilet paper are removed carefully opened so that plastic bag can be used to line our small bathroom-sized waste basket. Since I’ve not mastered tortillas, the zippered plastic tortilla bag is used to section out my homemade bread for the freezer. I make my homemade yogurt in single-serve 1/2-pint canning jars. Sometimes it just takes stopping & thinking a bit. Thanks for sharing this post!

    ~Taylor-Made Homestead~
    Texas.

    1. Wow, you are very resourceful! I think storing food in jars in the fridge is probably one of the best tips for preventing food waste. You can actually see what’s in there! And then you’re much more apt to eat it. I agree, all of this just requires a bit of thinking and planning. Thanks for reading the post and for sharing on Facebook 🙂

  72. Sharon says: Reply

    Hi, I’m trying to get rid of most of the plastic in my kitchen (containers, utensils etc) but I’m not sure how to replace rubber (plastic) spatula/scraper. I use these all the time – what do other people do?

    1. Hi Sharon. Hmmm, that’s a tough one. I have silicone spatulas that I bought before I went plastic-free and I’m still using them. This bamboo scraper looks nice from Life Without Plastic: http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/store/bamboo-scraping-spatula.html They are sold out at the moment but it’s something to keep in mind. ~ Anne Marie

  73. Carol says: Reply

    I am slowly getting rid of plastic containers but find glass jars take up much more space. The plastic tubs stack on top of each other. My freezer now has less room for left overs because of all the glass jars. Any ideas?

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hi Carol. If you can find jars of a uniform size, that can help. I like wide-mouth short, 16-ounce ones. They fit in my freezer best. I beg people for their glass peanut butter jars. Wide-mouth mason jars are good too because you can stack them. But be careful opening the freezer when you have glass stacked in there and don’t overpack them. One could fall out onto your foot (ouch) or the floor and break. ~ Anne Marie

  74. How to clean plastic container which are greasy so that I can recycle them, eg margerine, oil containers? I know you don’t buy plastic, but maybe you have some ideas.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Baking soda is your friend when you want to remove grease. It works like magic. Just sprinkle some on and then scrub away with a damp sponge. That should do the trick.

  75. A lot of stuff can be not wasted through a different method: people when buy at mall avoid “ugly” products, eg
    if a yogurt has 4 parts and one splits,
    an onion/potato bag that opens and some items fall out-just weigh those who fell so that you pay for the weight on container,
    a plastic container that obviously was hit and not because of spoilage, eg popcorn/peanuts container-popcorn doesn’t spoil,
    even you may risk some containers of products that spoil especially if the risk is small (almond milk) . I think 99% of such distorted containers are because they were hit in the process from factory to shelves, not because of spoilage
    a creamer/yogurt whose cap fell down but still has the thin plastic cap
    In general, to buy all these products that are shoved away by customers. Nothing is really wrong with these products.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Yup, there’s nothing wrong with these products but a lot of food goes to waste because people demand perfect. We have to get over our obsession with perfect looks, whether it’s food or people!

  76. Heather Jarvis says: Reply

    I’m impressed with all that you do to create less waste. I need to work on that myself. I saw in the comments that you wanted chickens, but can’t have them. We have chickens, 2 ducks for pest control, and about dozen Japanese quail (domesticated). I really enjoy the quail. They are very quiet, but make a lot of cute soothing calls.
    We origionally got the quail because my son suffers from severe hayfever year round. The quail eggs help with that, better than anything his allergist has prescribed. Anyway, back to your situation, most cities that have restrictions about keeping chickens do not have rules about quail. They can be easily kept on a balcony or even in a house if needed. They are quieter than most of the wild birds in the neighborhoods, so they are easy to keep without annoying your neighbors. 5 to 6 quail eggs equals a chicken egg. They taste is similar, slightly richer. They don’t need much room, although mine are pretty spoiled with a 5′ by 10′ dog kennel. Look them up if you are interested. If you do get any, I highly recommend getting a pair of quail egg scissors (amazon has them) Thanks again for your post, and good luck to you.

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