Looking for some ways to reduce waste at home? Well you are in the right place!
In this post I will be sharing 7 of my favorite tips for reducing waste and re-using items that you already have at home, especially in the kitchen.
As I am writing this it is Earth month!
Well, I don’t know if Earth month is an official thing, but Earth Day is, and truly, I believe EVERY day should be Earth day…
So really, I guess every month should be Earth month!
In any case, because the official Earth Day is coming up, I thought I would do a couple of posts with videos about something that is very important to me…. what is known as the 4 R’s.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Respect!
You’ve probably heard of the first 3, but the 4th one – Respect – is just as important!
This is because by caring for our environment, by Reducing our waste, Reusing what we can, and Recycling what we can’t Reuse, we are showing our Respect for the Earth that we call home, as well as all the other people and living creatures that share our beautiful Planet Earth!
The topic of sustainability is something that I have been passionate about for a very long time, and something that I will definitely creating more content around. So, this post will be the first in a series of 2, possibly 3, posts and videos in which I will share with you some of my favorite ways to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Respect.
In reality, this is likely not the last time I will talk about these things, but please let me know if you like this type of content, and I will be sure to post it more often.
In this post, I’m going to start with ways to Reduce waste, and to Reuse some of the things you might already have, which in turn, is also Reducing and Recycling!
It’s all just like a big circle where everything comes back around and everything relates to each other in “The Circle of Life!”
SO, let’s get started!
Reducing Food Waste
One of the really hot topics out there right now is about reducing food waste. In fact, I just got the latest issue of “My Magazine”, which is put out by Kroger foods (not sponsored, I just shop there a lot because it’s right down the street from me!), and it talks all about the ways that they are reducing food waste.
I think it is SO awesome that they are doing this, and I hope that other large grocery chains will hop on board.
One of the things they talk about is how they donated 74 MILLION POUNDS of food to food banks in 2017. That is a crazy amount of food!
This was all food that was just about to expire, which they then froze or refrigerated and sent out in their special refrigerated food trucks.
But you don’t have to be a big grocery store to do this!
Tip #1: Donate to a Food Bank or Soup Kitchen
You can always donate non-perishable items like canned goods and packaged dry goods to your local food bank or soup kitchen. It will be much appreciated by those in need. Just make sure it’s not expired already!
Just be aware of things you have in your cupboard and if something has been there for a while and you haven’t used it, consider donating it so that you don’t end up throwing it out later.
Tip #2: Start a Compost Bin
One of my very favorite ways to reduce food waste is by composting. If you have expired food that you don’t know what to do with, try composting it! It’s so easy to do and there are a lot of different kinds of composting bins out there.
Can’t afford a bin? Use an old trash can or a bucket, or build one out of used wooden pallets!
I’ve had my compost bin for years and it has served me quite well, but I am looking to expand my garden, and so I have been thinking of building another one out of wooden pallets. I often see them with a “FREE” sign on them and hey! It’s reusing and recycling!
I always save my food scraps for composting. I just keep a small container (which is usually a mushroom container or something that I can use, wash, and recycle when I’m done with it) next to my sink where I chop my veggies and I just throw the scraps in there and then take them out to my compost bin.
I also put in lawn clippings, fall leaves, and tree trimmings, and every spring I empty it out and add the decomposed compost to my vegetable garden beds. You can also add it to flower beds or around trees.
If you don’t have a garden of your own, some cities have compost pickup services, or you might be able to donate it to a community garden.
Tip #3: Freeze Vegetable Scraps for Broth
In addition to composting, you can freeze vegetable scraps and use them to make veggie broth later on.
Just put all the scraps in a pot of boiling water, let them simmer for about 20 minutes, then strain the veggies out and put the broth in a container that you can keep in the fridge or freezer until it you are ready to use it.
This is a very simple way to reuse your vegetable scraps while adding more nutrition to your diet, and saving money by not having to buy packaged veggie broth. Furthermore, you won’t have the extra waste from that packaging!
Tip #4 Clean out your pantry and refrigerator regularly
One of the best ways to reduce food waste is by regularly cleaning out your pantry and refrigerator, doing an inventory of what you have, and make sure that you use those items up before purchasing more.
Personally, I’m pretty good about doing this with my refrigerated items, but I admit, I need to get better about doing it with my pantry! I have a pretty large pantry, and a lot of items get shoved to the back and then I forget they are there.
So, this month I am making a real effort to get my pantry cleaned out, store some of the items in re-usable containers that are clearly labeled, and to do some meal planning so that I can make sure that I use what I already have before I go out and buy more!
This also helps me get a little more creative in the kitchen, because I have to think of things to make with all this stuff that I already have!
Tip #5: Try buying dry goods and spices in bulk
When I talk about buying in bulk, I don’t mean going to Costco and buying mass quantities of stuff, although that can have its place in reducing the amount of packaging used for certain items.
What I am talking about is buying from the bulk bins that a lot of grocery stores and natural food stores have.
You would be amazed at what kinds of items you can buy from bulk bins – everything from beans, nuts, and grains, to pasta, dehydrated soups, ready-to-eat snacks, candy, spices, etc….
And it will not only reduce waste because you can purchase just the amount you need, but it is usually a lot cheaper per unit than buying the packaged version.
I especially love buying my spices this way. I am fortunate that there is a natural foods store near my house that has a huge bulk spice section, as well as a lot of other items in bulk, including my favorite vegan staple – nutritional yeast.
I recently stocked up on a lot of spices, some of which I couldn’t even find in the larger grocery store, even though they have a huge spice section.
In addition to that, most of what I bought was organic, and the cost per oz. or lb. was only half, or less than half of what it cost pre-packaged. That is an amazing savings!
Tip #6: Use and reuse your own bags
One of the most important ways to reduce waste is to limit or eliminate the use of plastic. That said, I do use plastic baggies to put my spices in but I’ll give you a tip as far as the use of plastic bags.
The use of plastic is a real problem in our society. We have become so accustomed to using plastic for EVERYTHING, and then simply throwing it away as if it didn’t matter. A lot of this plastic is making its way into the eco-system, clogging up our streams and oceans and leaching into our water supplies, and there is just plastic trash everywhere!
Now, my next post will be about recycling – what is recyclable and how to recycle it, but in this post I am focusing on REDUCING waste.
Growing up, my mom always washed the plastic produce bags from the grocery store and re-used them. When they were dry, she would just fold them up neatly and put them in a special little pocket in her purse. Then when she went shopping, she just pulled her clean bags out of her purse to put her produce in.
I have also always done this, and I have always been amazed that I have never known anyone else who does this!
I mean, why is it that we will wash our dishes and plastic containers that we have purchased, such as Tupperware, but we don’t think about washing bags or plastic food containers and re-using them?
It just doesn’t make sense to me to use something once and throw it away, when it can easily be re-used by just giving it a wash.
It’s so easy to do when you are washing the rest of your dishes. Just give them a little wash with a cloth or sponge, just like you would with your dishes, rinse them out, and let them dry.
I usually place them on a dishrack where they will drain, but there are actually little stands you can buy specifically for this purpose, that can easily live on your countertop, or be put away when you’re not using it.
Check out this one made from repurposed wood.
After letting them drain for a while, I just go back and turn them inside out with a cloth to absorb some of the extra moisture, and then I let them finish drying.
It does take a little space and a little time to let them dry, but it can have such an impact as far as reducing the amount of plastic that you use while doing your grocery shopping. This is one of the best ways to reduce waste in the form of plastic that you already have around the house!
I also do this with ziplock baggies.
The amazing thing is, that I have not purchased ziplock baggies in many, many years, but because my in-laws and other people seem to be constantly giving me leftover food, money, candy, photos, and any number of other things in ziplock baggies, I am then forced to keep washing them and re-using them.
So I always have a supply of them on hand, even though I never personally buy them!
Sometimes, they don’t last very long, and I then just recycle them, but I swear I have some baggies that I have been using for years!
When I go to buy my spices and other things in bulk, I make sure I take a supply of small baggies with me to put the spices in that I then transfer to jars when I get home. This is a lot easier than carrying around a lot of jars, but that is certainly an alternative as well.
If you do take your own jars or other containers to a store to buy in bulk, just make sure that you have them weigh the jar first before you fill it, so that you don’t end up paying for the weight of the jar. You can also mark the jars with the weight, so that you already have the weight on the jar and you won’t forget to do it!
You can also purchase or make your own cloth bags for putting bulk items in. This works especially well for dry goods like pasta, beans, and grains. I recommend paper or mesh bags for mushrooms and fruits.
But sometimes veggies can be a little more difficult. This is because cloth bags don’t keep your veggies as fresh as you would like them to be.
One solution to this is to only buy what you need for a couple of days at a time, but if you’re like me, you don’t want to be going to the grocery store 3 or 4 times a week!
Ain’t nobody got time for dat!
So, again, this is where washing and reusing the plastic bags and containers that you already have can help.
Tip #7: Prep your veggies
Another solution for reducing waste that eliminates the plastic altogether is by prepping your veggies as soon as you get home and storing them in glass containers to keep them fresh in the refrigerator.
Some veggies, such as carrots and celery, store really well in water and will actually stay much fresher and crisper than they would if they were stored in a plastic bag.
BONUS! This also makes it much easier at meal time or snack time because you can grab some carrot sticks or other veggies for a quick snack, and preparing meals becomes really easy because all your veggies are already cut up and ready to go!
Freezing them is another option
but you will want to take the extra step of blanching them before freezing. What this does is clean off any dirt or organisms, and stops enzyme action so that it retains all of its color, flavor, and vitamins. It also precooks it a bit, so that it is ready to be put right into whatever you’re cooking.
To blanch, just cut your vegetables into the desired sized pieces and cook them in salted boiling water for about 60 seconds. Test the veggies until they are the desired doneness that you want. When they are ready, strain the veggies into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Drain the veggies, pat them dry with some clean dish towels, and put them in a freezable container.
You can see how I do this in my video:
You can also cook large batches of beans, bought dry in bulk, and then put those into containers for freezing. Because my favorite salsa comes in a plastic container, I like to re-use those containers for dividing up the beans for freezing. One container is a really nice amount for using in a lot of different recipes. Just let it thaw naturally for several hours before you need them.
I usually put a label identifying what they are and the date that I prepared them. This way I know when their “expiration” date is. They generally keep up to about 6 months, but I will admit, I have let them go much longer and they were just fine!
I’ll just give you a little recap of the 7 ways to reduce waste that I mentioned:
1. Donate food that is close to expiring (but not expired!) to a food bank or soup kitchen. Clean out your cupboards and fridge regularly to make sure that you are using up food that you already have on hand before buying more. If something is close to expiring and you don’t think you’re going to use it, consider donating it to a food bank or soup kitchen.
2. Start a compost bin so that you can use it for expired foods and food scraps , as well as other yard waste. You can then use the decomposed food and plant waste to fertilize plants in your yard. If you don’t have your own garden, give your compost to someone that does or a community garden, or find a compost pickup service.
3. Freeze your food scraps for making veggie broth. This will save money and packaging, and add extra nutrition to your diet.
4. Clean out your pantry and refrigerator regularly. Do an inventory of what you have so you can use it up before buying more.
5. Buy from the bulk bins at the grocery store. This includes all kinds of dry goods and spices, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
6. Use and reuse your own bags. Cloth bags are great for all your groceries, but you can also use them for produce and bulk dry goods. You can also wash plastic bags and containers and use them again!
7. Prep your veggies as soon as you get home to keep them fresh and ready to use. You can also blanch veggies or cook beans in bulk and store them in your freezer.
So that’s it!
Those are 7 of my favorite ways to reduce waste at home and in the kitchen. I hope that you will start incorporating some of these tips and that they will just become second nature to you.
I know sometimes it is hard to remember to bring your own bags to the store, to keep your cupboards organized, and to keep up with washing bags and such, but if you try your best, it will eventually become a habit that will be so much better for the environment, and for all the living creatures on beautiful Planet Earth!
If you liked this post, please leave me a comment below and let me know what you thought. If you have any more tips for reducing waste at home, please share them with us in the comments too! The more information we all share, the more positive impact we can have!
Peace out and Happy Earth Day – every day!
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Some of the best tips from the Blue Zone include:
1. Get some moderate exercise daily
2. Eat a mostly (or all) plant-base diet
3. Practice moderation in eating
4. Minimize stress
5. Find a sense of purpose
6. Spend time with friends and loved ones
7. Be part of a community
8. Hang out with like-minded people
Congo Tofu is a deliciously creamy, VEGAN version of Moambe, or Congo Chicken. This West-African inspired dish is so tasty, it will turn any tofu skeptic into a convert!