Step 2: The Kitchen Swap
It’s time to ditch kitchen disposables and swap them for reusables that will save money and time, eliminate waste and look good as well. About 8 years ago I stopped using paper towels, zip top plastic bags and plastic wrap. This has probably saved my family around $3500 / €3100 so far, plus lots of time shopping and unnecessary waste.
Here are three ways to go zero waste with your kitchen routine.
1. Tackle your paper waste
Paper towels and napkins cannot be recycled, and they require an enormous amount of water and energy resources to produce. Consider the all of the tree farming, logging, processing at the paper mill, packaging, and shipping that it takes to get paper towels to your door.
Getting rid of paper towels and napkins is an easy win. I use cotton towels for spills and daily kitchen wipe-ups and rags for everything else. We use cloth napkins at dinner every night. For my family of five, I keep 3 rags under the sink, 10 cotton towels and 15 napkins in a basket, which is enough to never run out between wash cycles.
I get that if you’re cleaning up pet messes or meat juices you may want to have some paper towels on hand, but using cloth napkins and cotton towels instead of paper towels for every day spills is a great place to start.
You can also take old clothing like shirts and towels and cut them into ragsin lieu of paper towels for the ultimate zero-waste solution! Just stay away from microfiber towels - with every wash they release tiny plastic particles into the water stream.
2. Go for plastic-free food storage
Plastic-free food storage is just so easy there’s really no reason not to give it a go. My favorite food storage methods are:
- Use glass containers of all shapes and sizes to store leftovers.Anything from dinner leftovers, a block of cheese and a half apple can be securely stored in a glass jar. I prefer jars with a wide mouth and glass canisters with the lid attached (so the lid is always easy to find.) It doesn’t matter if your jars match - old pickle or pasta sauce jars are perfectfor storing food.
- Freeze food in glass. Freezing food in glass is absolutely possible and your jars will never break if you do it correctly: 1) make sure food is completely cool or room temp before freezing; 2) only fill jars 2/3 to 3/4 to top, especially if freezing liquids and 3) keep jars with liquid upright until frozen. Berries, veggies and other non-liquids can be filled closer to the top as they will have room to expand when thawing.
- Cover plates and bowls with beeswax wraps.When I need to cover some leftovers, I grab a beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap or aluminum foil. One beeswax wrap can last up to a year. You cover the item, press down, and the wrap stays firmly in place.
- Wrap leafy greens and fresh herbs in a damp tea towel. Leafy greens and herbs like to be wrapped, and they will last longer and stay crispier if stored this way. Just wrap them in a damp towel and store in the coldest part of the fridge. No more buying herbs for one recipe, then watching them rot in the fridge before you get a chance to use them again!
- Reusable silicone bags for on-the-go and freezing. Sometimes, a snack or meal on-the-go is a necessity, so I have a few reusable silicone bags. Silicone bags are also useful for freezing.
3. Swap out cooking gear as necessary
There are also some kitchen items that are not overnight fixes - like swapping pans and cooking utensils. There is no need to throw out something that works, unless you are concerned about plastic particulates. Rather, I suggest waiting to replacing items the end of their life when it’s really necessary. And when it is time to buy something new, I have two main rules that apply: avoid plastic and buy to last.
You can find some more of my favorite kitchen swaps here.