Food preparation for Zero Waste

Food preparation for Zero Waste

The zero waste lifestyle does take more effort than the standard consumerist one, mostly because of how organised you have to be. 

For me, its preparing food which takes the longest, but luckily I LOVE to cook. I’m always looking for ways to reclaim time and make the whole process smoother.

I’ve got my food waste to zero through these 5 steps. Heck, they’re not rocket science! They’re pretty much common sense, but they have made a huge difference to me, and reduced my food waste considerably.

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Food preservation for Zero Waste

Food preservation for Zero Waste

Imagine this: you purchased far too many peppers or you grew your own spinach, and it grew FAR better than you anticipated and you’re inundated, time on the food rot clock is ticking! What the heck are you going to do with all this food to ensure it isn’t wasted?

Luckily, it’s easy enough to preserve food for a later date, and you don’t necessarily need fancy equipment to do so.

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Snoop around a Zero Waste Kitchen

The beautiful Charlotte (said by Anna) 

The beautiful Charlotte (said by Anna) 

I LOVE cooking from scratch, which means I spend a lot of me evenings in the kitchen.

My kitchen, unsurprisingly, is part of an actual house, which is on one of the main roads in Birmingham. I live near the park and access to the town centre is easy – it's a decent location.

As mentioned before, I live in Birmingham, which is in the top 10 of the worst UK cities for recycling, Since taking on the zero waste lifestyle, I've learnt to focus on what I can do to improve this, rather than blaming waste produced on the city I live in.

So, how has my kitchen changed, since I adopted the zero waste lifestyle?

Zero wasters can seem like aliens from the outside, but as with anything, you can adapt to it in time. Here's what I do to eradicate kitchen waste all together...

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I compost the waste

Luckily, my rented property has a compost heap. In true zero waste style, we didn’t buy a caddie for this, we just switch between containers with lids and put the contents into the compost bin as necessary.

Before I was living with my partner, I'd freeze the compost in a designated bowl as I was worried about it getting in my previous housemate's way – this meant it didn’t smell and wasn’t visible on the counter like it now is.

Freezing compost is a good way to get around the issue of not having a compost heap in your garden. The frozen compost can be put into a wipe clean bag and taken to a market, community centre or allotment and put onto their compost heap (just ask first!).

Another option for composting when you don’t have the proper bin is to blend it. Sounds weird, I know, but this makes it into a state which you can put straight onto your garden plants or flowers, without having obvious vegetable peelings showing.

Working on reducing food waste in general is a great way to have less compost to deal with in the first place.

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I have a super fancy kitchen gadget

I saved up and asked for cash for my birthday last year. I purchased a Thermomix last summer and it's wonderful.

I never want people to feel like we are influencing them into purchasing products in order to live the zero waste life, but if you can afford to, and would like to, I personally think the Thermomix is a very worthwhile purchase.

Why? Because I can grind spices, coffee beans and grains to powders. I can make jams, peanut butter and tomato ketchup. I can chop onions, grated carrots or make vegetable stock. I can prep bread, cakes and other bakes, whilst being certain what I make is gluten and dairy free. I can cook a full, three-course meal, and the Thermomix will ensure the food is cooking at a regulated heat.

This is all in one gadget which is easy to use and has a super long warranty. It may not work for your lifestyle, but for mine (I work full time, and run the blog in my spare time) this is a dream.

I am certainly not saying you have to have one of these to be zero waste – I didn’t for the first seven months of my journey. Anna doesn’t have one and gets on just fine. If you think it could work for you, take a look at their website.

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Tupperware boxes (not foil, clingfilm or plastic bags...)

I'm never too far from a Tupperware box. I usually have a couple in my bag, for my lunch and food waste, with multiple in my fridge and freezer. Without these, a zero waste life would be near impossible. I’ve inherited some from my Mum and Grandparents. Before I fully committed to the zero waste lifestyle I purchased glass Tupperware. I'd recommend them to anyone as two years on they are still going strong (one did break but that's just because I’m clumsy).

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I have less in the fridge

To keep down the waste I buy only what I need. I typically go to the markets twice a week.

There's no packaging in my fridge, which means everything is as fresh as possible. I buy way more fresh fruits and veggies than I used to. I wash these and put them in the fridge with any cut foods put into boxes, along with soft fruits and vegetables like mushrooms.

I have heaps more in the freezer

If I end up with more fruit and veg than I can eat before it goes off, I will freeze it. I also freeze meals including things like homemade beany burgers, so I can use these when I need a quick and simple dinner.

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We store dry food up like a squirrel

Nuts, seeds, flours, spices, lentils, rice and other dried goods are stored in old coffee jars.

Bristol and London are the closest cities to me which have decent waste free shops where I can put the foods straight into the jars. I can buy certain things like nuts and seeds from The Nut Centre in the Bullring markets.  If I've run out of some foods, I often have to buy them from supermarkets and select products in recyclable packaging.

This will change when The Clean Kilo arrives, and I can get there in 15 minutes!

Jarred and canned foods

I buy foods in glass jars and cans. I do still recycle. I know that this can be a wasteful process in terms of resources used during recycling, but I still choose to buy some of these items, often due to convenience.

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Milks

My dairy milk comes delivered to my door twice a week, which is ordered through Milk & More.

I also make nut milks. Almond milk works really well, but you can use any nut you like or oats if you prefer. 

Fresh eggs, cheeses and meats

I'm a 'reducatarian' meaning I try and limit the amount of meat I eat each week.

I have researched veganism a lot, and, call this an excuse if you wish, but I have intolerances which would make veganism difficult. It's therefore not the best decision for me right now. I know zero waste living would be easier without eating meat as the industry is awful at producing waste.

However, when I buy these products, I try my best to limit the waste they are sold to me in. 

I take my own egg boxes back to be refilled with fresh eggs each week at the market. When I buy meats and cheeses I take a large Tupperware box, which they're placed straight into.

I'd love to know about your kitchens? Do you have similar storage habits to me?

Zero Waste Kitchens

Whether you spend a lot of time cooking from scratch or are more of a convenience eater, kitchens can quickly become one of the most wasteful areas of the home.

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This article doesn’t cover how to reduce food waste and shopping without plastic, as these are on other articles on our blog. It does, however, cover all the other products within the kitchen which I have changed since I started my journey towards a zero waste life.

Kitchen paper

The problem

Kitchen paper is often wrapped in plastic wrap, and when used for mopping up grease and dirt, it's thrown into the rubbish ending up on the landfill.

The solution

Use more tea towels. Buy more from a charity shop, or cut up old linen or cotton bed sheets. We go through fresh tea towels quickly for cleaning up what I would've used a paper towel for before.

If you know you won’t be able to stop using paper towels or are worried about increasing your water consumption through washing more tea towels, opt for an environmentally friendly paper option. Who Gives a Crap sell sustainable paper products from kitchen paper to toilet roll. All the packaging is recyclable and the used paper towels can be put straight onto the compost heap.

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Greaseproof paper, cling film and tin foil

The problem

These products are either non-recyclable, or hardly ever recycled, due to the fact that they would need the food scraps washed off them before recycling. Certain councils also refuse to take this waste from kerbside recycle points.

The solution

Greaseproof paper/baking paper – I purchased some silicone baking mats a year ago and they've served me well so far. I have really old baking trays, which I am weary of putting food straight onto, so these baking mats are a good solution. Now I've become more conscious of plastics (even if it's a purchase to be used for a long while) I think I would've opted for a cast iron baking tray.

Clingfilm – A good old Tupperware can do just as good (or better!) than the wasteful Clingfilm can. If you think Tupperware will be too bulky, take a look at beeswax wraps, or soya wraps if you avoid animal products. They can be used to wrap sandwiches and products you might keep in the fridge.

Tin foil – Likewise with cling film, opt for Tupperware, or reusable wraps were possible. If using tin foil for cooking, try and use a casserole dish with a lid or hunt around charity shops for one. If you’re cooking something like sausages, you could use the silicone mats or a cast iron baking tray.

Washing up liquid and detergent

The problem

Chemicals! They’re not good for us,and they are certainly not good for the marine life who end up surrounded by this polluted water.

The solution

Ecover does a range of differently scented washing up liquids and detergents with none of the harsh chemicals in them. I'm then able to refill my bottles at the health food shop Indigo, in Moseley, Birmingham. I've found that they work best with a full sink of very hot water and a stiff scrubbing brush/pad.

I've also used castile soap and baking soda, which I now only use for really stubborn stains rather than every day washing up.

Scrubbing brush or pad

The problem

They're often hard or impossible to recycle and will be thrown into the landfill.

The solution

Make your own – Washing up scourers can be made out of plastic wrap found around certain foods or crotched from old yarn.

Buy a compostable brush – I purchased one of these two months ago and am still using the same brush head. It's a wooden base with plant fiber bristles, so it will fully bio-degrade at the end of its life.

 

Infuse vinegar to make a surface cleaner! Soak orange peel in white vinegar for 2 weeks or so...

Infuse vinegar to make a surface cleaner! Soak orange peel in white vinegar for 2 weeks or so...

Compost the peels and pour the infused vinegar into a spray bottle.

Compost the peels and pour the infused vinegar into a spray bottle.

Surface cleaner

The problem

Surface cleaner has the issue as the washing up liquid and detergent; so many chemicals! I don’t like using things around my kitchen which are too harsh, as there are perfectly good and less abrasive, natural cleaners.

The solution

Baking soda – If there are stubborn stains on the kitchen hob, for instance, I would use a small brush (an old toothbrush works well) and scrub some baking soda and a little water into the stain, leave for a few minutes, and tah-da! The stain will be easy to remove.

I use this as an all surface cleaner (including mopping the floor) by dissolving one tbsp. of baking soda in some hot water and using a cloth to wipe down the surfaces. Honestly, it makes them sparkle!

White vinegar – I’ve filled an old spray bottle with white vinegar which I spray onto surfaces, leave for about a minute and wipe off. You can infuse your vinegar with spices or orange peels to prevent your house smelling like the local chippy.

All of these surface cleaning techniques can also be used to clean the bathroom and they'll save you money too. Bonus!

The desire to always buy MORE!

The problem

Anna and I still fall for this niggly feeling every now and again.

That urge to buy what we want, rather than what we need.

I'm blessed to be getting to the point where there is hardly anything in my kitchen (and house for that matter) that I need.

Every now and then, I still listen to that feeling to buy what I want, which means I might end up with useless kitchen gadgets built with planned obsolesce ending up on a landfill.

The solution

Make do with what you’ve got – This includes ingredients and kitchen gadgets. I’m always googling kitchen alternatives if I haven’t got the exact product that is needed. Some things are really easy to substitute and if I need a certain kitchen gadget, I can usually find a way around it.  

We do still buy things though.

Typically, if we see something we want (say, a new kitchen appliance) we'd put a date in our diary for about a month ahead and see if we still want that product, or whether it was just an impulse. If we thought about it loads, and really think it could make a positive impact on us, we'll buy it. And if the item can be found on a second-hand website- even better! At least it's had one life already.

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