Easy Ways to Save Money and Reduce Waste in the Kitchen — Eco Kitchen Tips
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I don’t know about you, but spending most of my time at home during the pandemic kept me focused on the kitchen. This wouldn’t be remarkable on its own – many people cook multiple meals a day – but it is a marked departure from what one study called the “decline” of cooking: A 2018 study published in Cultural Sociology found that People living in the United States and France spent about 15 to 20 minutes less cooking per day in 2010 than they did in 1985. Main reasons? Smaller households and an increase in food. A lot can change in a few years – 2020 saw a lot of people back in the kitchen, be it cooking, renovating, baking, waxing, or persuading a sourdough starter to do its thing.
If you are more comfortable in the kitchen – or if you’ve already been a pro and trying increasingly complex dishes – there are many ways you can revise your cooking habits to become more environmentally conscious. Here are 10 simple changes you can make into your daily life for a more sustainable kitchen.
1. Use the whole plant when you cook.
Did you know broccoli stalks are a great pesto? Surely you’ve heard of chefs who use parmesan cheese to make the soup so much tastier. The world is your oyster when it comes to using all an ingredient can offer you! Lots of vegetable stalks can actually be used for different recipes, and IKEA even released a cookbook called ScrapsBook, which has lots of zero-waste recipes. Download it for free here and get ready to make bacon out of banana peel (really!).
2. Or use your opportunities and goals to create your own little garden.
Do you remember the pandemic early on, when everyone grew their own spring onions from plant ends? You can do this with plenty of fruits and vegetables, from herbs to garlic to avocados. (The last one will take a while, but won’t the payout be oh so satisfying?)
3. Anything that you don’t reuse will always be composted.
Composting conditions and feeds the soil and reduces kitchen waste and landfill. There are several ways to easily compost in your home. If you have a garden or yard, setting up an outdoor compost heap is easy, but those who live in a small space may want to check if there is a shared compost heap in your neighborhood. You can also buy a compost bin online or keep a compost bag in your freezer to avoid odors. You can also try bokashi-style composting, which uses a microbial inoculated bokashi bran to break down food waste.
4th Invest in reusable versions of your single-use plastics.
Are you running out of plastic sandwich bags? Don’t just improve your brand. From Ziploc bags made of food-safe silicone to saran wrap alternatives with a beeswax coating, there are many ways to swap out the disposable items for everyday use in your kitchen if you run out of the conventional versions. And don’t underestimate the ability to use a washable kitchen towel or a reusable Swedish tea towel instead of paper towels. These simple barter deals not only reduce your waste, but also reduce your spending on these everyday items.
5. Buy your staples in bulk – and bring your jars to the grocery store.
Not every store can do this, but if your local grocer has a wall of bulk bins or canisters it can be useful to bring mason jars and other food containers. Bulky purchases are both economical and environmentally friendly: According to Green Foot Mama, you reduce your packaging waste, reduce transport pollution and use less plastic bags. Here’s an easy way to be comfortable buying in bulk – and if your plastic containers are still in tip-top shape, you don’t have to buy new ones. The main goal of sustainability is to use less and use things up completely. So you don’t have to feel compelled to shop for fancy new glasses since you’ve seen them on Instagram if your current merchandise does.
6th The freezer is your friend!
So you have eaten too much or your fruit is going bad. Do not fret! Your freezer is here to save you from wasting extras. If you see your veggies or fruit getting older, put them in the freezer until you’re ready to use – spinach that you saved before it wilted is great for making smoothies. Make sure to optimize the functions of your freezer and freeze food ASAP, not just when you are thinking of it.
7th Reuse cooking water as plant food.
Whether you’re cooking vegetables, eggs, or pasta, you can use the leftover water to keep your plants hydrated. This way you can reuse a pot of water and give your plants extra nutrients from phosphorus, nitrogen and calcium boiling in the water.
How many times have you tossed a novel ingredient in your shopping cart to ignore the back of your fridge until it went bad simply because you never figured out what to do with it? Before you go shopping, it helps to have a loose plan of what you might be cooking that week. I usually have a general list of things I usually buy that match my eating habits and cravings – and an added bonus is that shopping lists usually help you save money in the long run, too.
9. Support local markets.
If you can, visit the farmers market before heading to the grocery store and try to fill up there with produce, eggs, and other basics. Supporting the local farmers market is a great way to buy locally grown food. Not only do they buy delicious food that is in season, but they also support local farmers and ingredients. Ask the vendors what they recommend or what foods are in season to familiarize yourself with natural harvesting patterns. That way, you’ll get plenty of cooking tips and inspiration, and sleep peacefully knowing that your food doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to get to your table. Many farmers markets take advantage of SNAP benefits if this applies to you.
10. Dispose of used oil carefully.
Pouring used oil or grease into the sink can seem very convenient, but doing so can lead to major clogging and a high plumbing bill. Make sure to let the oil cool before scraping it from your pan and into the trash, or dispose of it with a coffee filter or cheesecloth if you can reuse it.
Yasmin Güleç is a freelance reporter for culture, nightlife, politics and nutrition. She was born in Istanbul, Turkey and lives in New York. She claims to be Anthony Bourdain’s biggest fan and has worked for CNN, National Geographic and Annie Leibovitz Photo Studio.