5 Tips for a Zero-Waste Romantic Dinner

Holidays generate so much trash! Don’t let love blind you to an overflowing garbage bin this Valentine’s Day.

1. Plan your menu in advance

Planning makes zero-waste success possible—and not just on Valentine’s Day. For example, let’s say I need sour cream for a dish. I merely have to stir a spoonful of cultured buttermilk into a cup of half-and-half and wait 24 hours for the cream to ferment and transform into the world’s most delicious sour cream. Dead easy but I do need a day’s notice. This kind of simple planning runs counter to our demand for instant gratification.

You may want to plan for a snack for the two of you to munch on in case your dinner prep falls behind schedule, drinks, an appetizer such as a salad, a main dish and of course, dessert. Once you have planned your menu, shop with cloth shopping bags, cloth produce and bulk bags, glass jars and any other containers you use for this purpose. With the right shopping implements, you can transform pretty much any recipe into a zero-waste version. If you have questions about zero-waste shopping, check out this post.

A recent shopping haul using my “equipment”

2. Date a (cute) vegetarian

Let me start off by saying I do eat some meat. I live with a picky eater who will never turn her nose up at meat, so I do cook it occasionally and I also make and drink bone broth. (I never eat meat in restaurants however since I don’t know how the animal was raised—actually I’m pretty sure I do know how and thus order falafel…)

In my zero-waste quest, finding unpackaged sustainably raised meat can send me over the edge. I found one local butcher shop that sells pastured, rotationally grazed organic meat from its own farm—the conscientious carnivore’s Holy Grail! But the day I went in and asked the guy working behind the counter to please put the meat in my container, he said absolutely not. (I remained uncharacteristically calm.) I’ll go back when someone else is working…

Find yourself a hot vegetarian to eat with regularly and you will reduce not only your trash but also your overall footprint as plant-based foods consume fewer resources in their production. Switching to a plant-based diet can also improve your health.

3. Set the table with real dishes

I doubt many reading this blog would serve a delicious home-cooked meal on styrofoam plates but I needed a number 3 in this list… Use real cutlery, glasses and cloth napkins while you’re at it.

My serger makes a nice rolled hem for easy DIY cloth napkins

4. Refuse the jewel cases

Choose your playlist on your favorite device before the big night and have that playing before your guest arrives. As I type this, I’m listening to Louis Armstrong on the Ella Fitzgerald station I set up on Pandora. Other artists on this station include: Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole, Etta James, Dean Martin, Astrud Gilberto and Frank Sinatra.

5. Eat by candlelight

I light my candles with matches I bought at an antiques fair last summer. You may also find books and boxes of matches at second-hand stores. After I light the candle, I toss the burnt match into my compost bucket.

As for candles, I buy beeswax. They burn slowly and contain no nasty chemicals. If you choose tapered candles, they almost completely burn up so you won’t be left with a big hunk of beeswax that may send you spiraling into a bout of zero-waste guilt if you don’t do something with it. I recently shredded a couple of spent large beeswax candles to make beeswax food wraps—finishing them sits near the top of my to-do/to-blog list.

I have bought tapered beeswax candles at the farmer’s market and also at a church. If you buy them at a church, when you restock—and your date has gone well—you can hit the confessional while you’re there 😉

beeswax shreds
Melted beeswax candles that will become beeswax food wraps

Happy Valentine’s Day!

matches and candles

6 Replies to “5 Tips for a Zero-Waste Romantic Dinner”

  1. […] recommend: • 5 Tips for a Zero-Waste Romantic Dinner by The Zero-Waste Chef • Valentines Day by Lauren Singer from Trash is for […]

  2. As always some great reminders. I grew up learning to avoid waste, but am more conscientious about it than ever, though still have a way to go.

    1. Thanks Hilda 🙂 I didn’t grow up learning how to avoid waste exactly but my dad is the most frugal man alive so I think some of that rubbed off. Before my daughter started us on the plastic-free road, I wasted all sorts of stuff (including food). Now I’m much more aware.

  3. I’m about to try the bees wax food wraps. My friend just made some and she raves about them!

    1. I’m jealous 😉 My shredded beeswax is still sitting here on the counter. I have some store-bough beeswax wraps and I love them too. They work really well and last a long time. Enjoy!

      1. Don’t be jealous lol! We all have things that we think we are going to get too and then put off! I’m frustrated right now as I’ve caught the fermenting bug from reading your posts. I had some success making a mead, and a ginger bug BUT ive let my fermented hot sauce go too long before straining and Ive got mold on it, as well as some wine. I also have a big bucket of sour cabbage heads that are doing well, however I followed an old croatian recipe and the heads were too salty. I checked in the Wild Fermentation book and Sandor said that if kraut was too salty you could replace some of the brine with water and continue on. I did that but I’m not sure if it diluted it enough and I am thinking of adding more but I am unsure. What would you suggest? There is no mold on anything, just the white scum that I skim off. The heads look fairly translucent now and our souring but I don’t really want super soggy cabbage leaves. lol 🙂

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