I think that it’s safe to say that reducing our environmental footprint is on everyone’s radar, and many people are wondering where to start (let’s face it, it can be overwhelming). There is no doubt there are so many areas in our lives that we can change to make a difference, but what a better place to start than in my favourite place… the kitchen. Here is our Sustainable Kitchen Guide my friends!
I’ve learned a few things in life, and one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that all or nothing thinking is absolutely paralyzing. The news that we hear about the environment and climate change can be extremely overwhelming – it’s hard to know where to begin. Like many things in life, I am a big fan of just starting somewhere … “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction” ~ Harry Truman.
The good news is that there is a way to marry style with functionality to create a more sustainable kitchen that looks beautiful, is more efficient, and makes spending time in the kitchen more enjoyable because that’s important too! We all want to make a difference. I’m so encouraged by all of the efforts that I’ve seen on so many levels to make a positive change. There are countless different ways that we can improve the sustainability in the kitchen, and I’m going to touch on a few of them here. Grab a cup of coffee this one’s a long one!
Sustainable Kitchen Guide
Plan Your Meals!
Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Investing a bit of time into prep will help save time , sanity and allows you to make better choices for you and your family. Thinking ahead with meal planning and lists helps keep you organized and sane in the kitchen (and your life) but also helps you only buy what you need so that less goes to waste. And planning it out also lets you only take one trip to the store vs multiple trips which can waste gas and precious time.
And it doesn’t have to be complicated. I know one person who creates the same 1 week meal plan over and over again for her family because it’s easy, they all love it, and it’s one less thing to think about. There are a number of different apps out there that can help take the heavy lifting out of it, or if you’re more old fashioned like I am you can use paper planners or a chalkboard in your kitchen which I love!
Making your own food at home can also save a lot in terms of packaging and food waste vs takeout or prepackaged convenience foods and gives you full control over what you and your family eat. Stay tuned for our Fraîche Start Meal Plan – I’m so excited about it and can’t want to share it with you!!!
I truly believe that a sustainable kitchen starts at the store. Choose items that are unwrapped when possible (greens, apples etc) or opt for compostable or paper packaging whenever available. Skip the water bottles completely and invest in a reusable filtering water bottle like a Brita (one Brita filter can replace up to 300 plastic water bottles – that’s 1800 bottles a year)!
Buy items packaged in glass where you can. Glass is more efficiently recycled vs plastic but in some areas you can’t recycle at curbside so you need to take it into the depot. We keep bins in our garage for things like glass, electronics, batteries and plastics that aren’t picked up at curb side and bring them to our local depot monthly. It also helps to buy local, less miles for the food to travel which is better for the environment… and you’re supporting the local economy!
Whenever I shop for kitchen gear I try to buy vintage (like my tea set below). There are so many gently used items at vintage stores and they often have so much more personality and tell a story.
The last tip I have for shopping is smart is bulk shopping. When it comes to shopping in bulk, don’t buy everything in bulk unless you need to and know you will use it up – a lot of food gets wasted when we buy in bulk. Only buy items that you know you will go through or will keep for a long time. A final note on buying in bulk, bring your own containers to fill up at a bulk store or refill store – that way you only buy what you need and you don’t have extras kicking around in a little bag that you need to store elsewhere. And of course, no packaging!
Invest in Reusable Products
With all of the innovation on the market, there is little need to use single use plastics at the grocery store. These are my favourite ways to incorporate reusable products:
- Beeswax wrap to replace conventional plastic wrap: I use the Goldilocks brand (use code FRAICHE for 15% off)
- Shopping bags – many companies are phasing out plastic shopping bags. Use reusable washable bags that you can hang to dry vs plastic shopping bags. If you order your groceries online you can also request to skip the bags. I love these French style market bags!
- Mesh produce bags or breathable cotton bags. We use these for dry produce like onions, garlic, or potatoes.
- Reusable paper towel or rags vs traditional paper towel.
- Invest in good quality takeout containers for on the go (ie: lunches)
I’m a mom of two boys and packing lunches is an eye opener to how much single use plastic you can go through if you’re not aware. Pack sandwiches in containers, or use little washable snack bags. There are so many different space saving lunch containers like this collapsible one that fits into a smaller kitchen for storage. Bake your own muffins and energy bars to put in lunches vs buying prepackaged ones, and invest in a small thermos to pack hot leftovers.
Reduce Food Waste
Food waste is a huge issue, and the good news is that there is so much that we can do to reduce food waste:
- It’s reported that approximately 1/3 of all food that is produced globally is wasted – WOW!
- 2/3 of the food that Canadians throw away could have been eaten (National Zero Waste Counsel).
- The most prominently wasted food group is vegetables, followed by fruit
- Buy frozen vegetables: then only use and take out what you need
- Use the whole plant: make pesto out of carrot tops, roast the seeds out of a squash for a snack, or Jill has a great recipe for Veggie Scrap Broth
- Reuse items that would be considered waste, like using coffee grounds for a body scrub
- Repurpose leftovers. Want to look like a hero to your kids? Make popsicles out of leftover smoothie from the morning! This Strawberry Granola Breakfast Popsicle recipe is one of my favs!
Organize Your Fridge
A well-organized fridge is such a treat to open and helps you make healthier food choices and reduce food waste. It helps save so much space which is especially important if your fridge is a compact model. I mean, it also looks so good! Use containers that you can see through: like hard plastic (acrylic) containers for storing things like apples, oranges, grapes etc that may not need a lid but are hard to organize otherwise. It’s great for easy snacking and even better when the fruit is already pre washed and ready to eat!
I love space savers that allow you to better organize your fridge and keep things accessible at the same time. One thing I’ve learned in the nutrition world is that for the most part, if it’s not easy it won’t get done. Make drinking water and eating fruits and vegetables as simple as possible so that it becomes the most convenient choice when you’re hungry.
For the foods that need it, a container with a tight seal will help keep your food fresher for longer and being able to see inside of the container will help you keep track of what you have in the fridge and what needs to be used up. We also use FIFO: first in first out. Be sure to rotate your food and place the items that need to be used first at the front and then plan your meals around these foods.
Another easy tip is to section off your fridge so that similar ingredients are in the same area. You can also use the top shelf for food that needs to be used ASAP: more visible too! The plastic containers are great for this as well where you can group like items like jams or hot sauces (my weakness). You can also add bins to your crisper drawers to compartmentalize your veggies. I also recommend placing fresh herbs in a little jar filled with a bit of water to keep them as fresh as possible.
The final thing I want to address is composting! Composting keeps food out of the landfill and lets it be used for fertilizing. You can use simple counter top compost containers and transfer them to a compost bin in your yard if you have one. Some communities even have curbside composting. Find a drop spot if you don’t have a compost in your home, or you can also purchase compostable garbage bags! I have a whole post on How to Up Your Recycling Game if you’re looking for more to read.
I hope you found these tips useful. Please feel free to share any of your own below, I know that we can all use the inspiration!
Hi Tori! Great post! I strive so hard to have a zero waste kitchen and for the most part, I am happy with the changes that I’ve implemented. I use cotton produce bags and love them. But do you have any tips on how to keep the produce crispy in your fridge. For example, I like to put my green onions in a glass of water in my fridge but the green tips get limp very fast. On my romaine will get limp in the crisper drawer. Love your blog! Happy weekend!
Tori Wesszer says
Hi Anne! You can try wrapping the produce in damp clean dish cloths to keep them crisp – it works for me! Thank you for the feedback and kind words, I appreciate it!
Supriya Kutty says
Thank you so much for this amazing post, I am completely impressed by what you have written and totally agree on with as well, Thank you so much for sharing this with us, will surely help us in long run will also share this with my friends and family as well for their future reference.
Melissa Wagner says
What do you use for a countertop compost bin? We have curbside compost in our town, but I’m looking for something cute to have on my countertop prior to logging it out to the compost bin.
Hi Melissa! We have a bin we keep on our back deck but I’ve linked a cute counter top one in the kitchen shop section!