If you have followed us and have read Juncal’s article on a plastic-free bathroom, you might remember how important it is to understand where most of your trash is coming from. In my home, this is definitely the kitchen. Over the past years, I have made some swaps to make my kitchen a bit greener. Some good kitchen habits were easy to implement, others took me some time, and there is, of course, still room for improvement. I am going to share with you some of the tips and tricks that worked for me and have helped me reduce waste, use less plastic, and save money in the long run.
1. Glass storage
This is probably one of the first and easiest swaps you can do in your kitchen and you don’t even need to spend a lot of money. Keep all sorts of empty jars, wash them, and remove the stickers (you can apply a mixture of baking soda and vegetable oil to remove really sticky adhesives). Fill those jars with coffee beans, grains, cereals, and even leftovers. Replace your plastic tupperware, step by step, with glass containers to store your food. Why should you avoid plastic containers? Some foods, especially acids, fats, and oils, can corrode the containers and cause leaching, which means that toxic chemicals can migrate into your food. This does NOT necessarily mean you should throw all of your plastic containers away but rather use them for storing other things (crayons, tools, toys…) Invest in a nice set of glass storage (preferably leak-proof) that is safe for your food, better for the environment, and will last (hopefully) for a lifetime.
2. Buy in bulk
It’s great to see that all of the big (and even some smaller) supermarkets now sell at least coffee beans, grains, cereals, pasta, and flour in bulk. In some cities, you can find entire shops that only sell in bulk. It is a great way to reduce packaging and, in most cases, you can save some money, too.
3. Reusable grocery bags
I always keep a couple of reusable grocery bags and paper bags in the car or my backpack so I don’t need to rely on plastic bags in the supermarket. Paper bags can be used many times before being thrown away. In fact, you need to use them at least three times to make them more environmentally friendly than a single-use plastic bag. The best option is to use smaller cotton bags and nets, which you can reuse and wash many times.
4. Meal planning
Meal planning was something I really learnt during lockdown and I think it is a great way to reduce food waste, spend less money, eat better, and have more free time. I went to the supermarket once a week, which meant I really had to organize myself in order to not forget any essential ingredients. We usually made a plan on Sunday and picked five recipes, including family favourites, easy meals, and one or two new recipes. It’s the perfect occasion to browse through those dusty cookbooks on your shelf, and if you don’t have any, well, the Internet is your friend. It’s helpful to pick recipes that have common ingredients to prevent food waste, so have a closer look at what you already have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer and start from there. This is the area where you can save a lot of money. Don’t hesitate to make a double batch of the food you are preparing in order to have leftovers for lunch the next day.
5. Natural multi-surface cleaner
I started to make my own multi-surface cleaner a couple of years ago and I was surprised by how easy, effective, and cheap it has been. We have a great recipe in our quick DIY category on Instagram stories with soaked lemon peel. If you don’t have lemon peel on hand, you can also mix one part white vinegar with four parts water and add ten drops of tea tree essential oil (antibacterial) and a couple of drops of grapefruit seed essential oil (optional, this is only for the scent). Put it all in a spray bottle and it’s ready to use! No more sketchy chemicals needed to clean your kitchen countertops.
6. Sponges and co.
This is a tricky one for me: Although I have bought a dish brush with a wooden handle, I still use conventional dish sponges far too often. I just like their handiness and the fact that you can get into all the nooks and crannies. However, I use them to clean sinks and the toilet before they eventually bite the dust and need to be thrown away. My aim for 2020 is to try coconut scourers, tawashis, and eco sponges. Let me know what you use to wash the dishes, and I’ll try it out!
Skip those paper napkins and get a nice set of dark napkins or ask your grandma if she still keeps some around. I got some white cotton napkins, which had some yellow stains on them, so I simply dyed them. Not only will you have less waste, but your table will look more elegant and cloth napkins usually make a nice impression on guests.
8. Long-lasting cookware and utensils
Thefirst thing to do before you buy a whole set of kitchen gadgets is to understand what you really need. Remember Vera’s waffle iron? There is no point in buying a yoghurt machine if you don’t eat yoghurt or a juicer that you will use only twice a year. Secondly, buy cookware and utensils that stand the test of time. It is a bit of an investment but cast iron and stainless steel will last longer than Teflon and other non-stick surfaces, which can be harmful to your health and the environment. Opt for high-quality knives and wooden spoons. I don’t think you need a lot of kitchen equipment, but if there is one thing that is worth buying, it is a powerful food processor. Not only does it help you save time and money, but you can reduce a lot of waste by making your own hummus (you won’t go back to the store-bought version), nut milk, nut butter, and many other things.
9. Bee’s wrap
Bee’s wrap is a great alternative to cling film and very natural (it’s a piece of cloth and beeswax) and is also easy to make your own (you can find many tutorials online). Use it to cover food that goes in the fridge or to wrap up a sandwich. You can rinse it with warm water in between uses.
No need to explain that composting is a great way to reduce waste that would otherwise end up at the landfill. A lot of my friends here in France went wild for worm composting a couple of years ago. We live in an apartment and we were a bit reserved about the idea of having worms in a bin somewhere in our kitchen. Since municipal composting was not an option for our neighbours, I got interested in bokashi, a Japanese way of composting, which seems to be perfect for people who don’t have a backyard or garden. I will most certainly invest in a starter kit sooner or later and let you know all about it!