My Top Kitchen Switches for Minimal Waste

1. Compost!

This is was one of the most helpful and easy switches for me. It's super important to still focus on reducing food waste. Just because you're composting doesn't mean you shouldn't feel bad about letting food spoil. It takes time to get in the habit of buying only what you need and making it a priority to eat up as much as you can before it spoils. But when things happen or when you have food scraps, coffee grounds, and eggshells, compost is your friend. If you're like me and trying to be a backyard, urban farmer (lol) or like to garden, compost in your backyard and feed those sweet nutrients to your little plants. If you don't have space to garden or don't have a green thumb, find a friend who will gladly take your compost. I currently have several friends who bring their compost to my house when they come. This is the kitchen compost bin I have. It has ventilation that prevents it from stinking (unless you wait way too long to empty it) and it's a great size for us. I find that I empty it about every other week. I keep it under our sink now and pull it out when I'm cooking so that I can easily put scraps in as I cook. If you want to be even more zero waste, just find an old ice cream bin or similar container to store your scraps. The only issue is that without good ventilation it can get stinky and can be more susceptible to fruit flies. 

2. Farmer's Markets

It's hard to explain how and why farmer's markets fill me with so much happiness. I went almost every week last summer, even when I didn't need anything. I just love being at our local market, surrounded by locally grown produce and flowers. I go in the rain, sunshine, or chilly mornings. Bring your own bags and commit to using them. There are still plenty things at farmers markets with packing and waste, but it's a lot easier to find waste-free options. Commit to stands that allow you to shop in line with your values. My goal for this season of farmers markets is to find the stands that I like best (with the best prices) and develop relationships with the farmers. At our farmer's market, there is a bakery every Saturday and Sunday that has the most delicious things and lets me bring a cloth bread bag. It's amazing. 

3. Produce bags and glass jars. 

These are essential for me. Most grocery stores are okay with produce being uncontained, but it gets disorganized and embarrassing quickly when you're trying to brussel sprouts without plastic bags and you don't have reusable produce bags. I bought a couple different kinds when I first started going minimal waste. I have three of these, three from whole foods, and five of these. I also purchased a couple cases of mason jars when I first started. A more zero waste option is to use only recycled or secondhand jars. I think that's the more honorable way to go, but I just really prefer the consistency of having the same set of containers. It's superficial, but oh well. Check out my post on shopping in the bulk section with my jars and produce bags here. 

4. DIY Cleaning Products

This has been an awesome adjustment. I purchased a set of two amber spray bottles from amazon. Then I buy essential oils and also vinegar from the bulk section at my coop using one of my own jars or reused bottles. I just fill the bottles half full with vinegar and half full will distilled water, add 10-15 drops of essential oils (I use a Thieves/Good Samaritan blend for its anitbacterial and antimicrobial qualities). Then shake it up and spray. For a stronger formula when there's sickness going around or for cleaning bathrooms, I follow this recipe. The added vodka is great at killing germs. 

5. Eat More Produce

To be honest, this has probably been the biggest shift and has helped the most in cutting down my waste. When I first started, I realized that so much of our food was producing waste just from the packaging. That included produce because I would often by a plastic bag of onions instead of a few single onions for example. As I started thinking more critically about how I was shopping, I found myself prioritizing fresh veggies and occasionally fruits, then beans, rice, and pasta from the bulk section at my coop. This has brought us to a place where most of our food is unpackage (except for the pesky stickers on everything) and has cut down a lot of our waste. But here's a real-life thing: I buy organic broccoli florets from Costco right now because they come in a 3.5lb bag for $6. If I buy broccoli at my coop I can easily spend $4 on one head of organic broccoli. It's important to be realistic with yourself and your budget. You can commit to being zero waste and eating organic all the time, but you better make sure your budget allows for it. Right now, our budget does not, so I find ways to save a little and cut down on waste as much as I can. Do what you can, within your means and remember that if you make zero waste your ultimate good you will find that you're never enough. Have grace with yourself. Take time to be intentional and persistent. Don't let your limited means or your old habits strip you of your optimism. The journey matters just as much as the destination when it comes to healthy living and minimal waste.