There is such potential for waste in the kitchen! I am certainly not perfect, but I really try to keep it to a minimum. Here are some of my tricks and tips:
Don’t buy in bulk except for items that you know, for sure, you and your family make good use of it. Toilet paper I buy in bulk. Paper towels (which, per Colleen’s suggestion below, I almost completely eliminated years ago), I buy one roll at a time, and I always buy the “select a size” towels, so I can pull of just a small amount.
Use substitutions in the kitchen. For reasons I won’t go into, I ended up with a cheap jar of “meat flavored” spaghetti sauce in my pantry. The likelihood of every serving this plain on pasta was almost nil. However, one day I was making my good spaghetti sauce recipe, which calls for lots of jars of tomatoes. I used the meat-flavored sauce as one of my jars, and it was perfect mixed with so many other ingredients.
Use a recipe website to find uses for lost and forgotten things in your pantry. I had hominy, used in Mexican cooking, in my pantry. I’m sure I was inspired when I purchased it last year. I went to my favorite recipe site, typed in hominy as my ingredient, and made a great soup with it. As a bonus, the recipe happened to use another orphan from my pantry – a double success!
I put badly damaged fruit or veggies in the back yard to feed the wild animals that visit. Trust me, they’re coming to my yard anyway – we call our back fence the animal highway; feeding them isn’t an invitation, but it does help me get rid of watermelon rinds and the three bites of apple that my daughter didn’t eat in her lunch.
Make stock. At all times in my freezer I have a gallon freezer bag in which I put onion peels, ends of carrots or other veggies, garlic peel and tiny cloves, apple and pear cores, and the skin and bones of a chicken. When my bag is full, I dump the frozen scraps into my biggest pot, add water, and let it simmer for an hour or two. When it’s finished, then the bones and trimmings go into the trash (not the compost pile because of the meat). I run the stock through a cheese cloth, cool it in the refrigerator so that I can skim the fat, and then it’s ready to freeze.
Don’t buy too many fresh fruits and veggies. Yes, we all want to eat more of these, but having a fresh, every-changing selection of produce is more appealing and less likely to go bad, than just buying produce once a week.
Snack foods. Yes, my house has snack foods it in, but I typically just buy one or maybe two of these treat foods a week. We don’t always have chips and other chips and three kinds of crackers and packaged cookies and chocolate-covered nuts. Just one or two is enough. Eat those and then get something different. That way, it’s truly a treat and not a pantry staple. Same with cereal. Unless you’re like my cousin who truly loves cereal and enjoys mixing several different kinds together on a daily basis, two or maybe three boxes is all you need.
Eat your leftovers! I once worked with a woman who cooked fresh every night and threw everything that was left at the end of the meal away. She and her husband refused to eat leftovers. I’m still shocked by this. When we are cleaning up after dinner, we immediately package up lunches for Dan or I to take to work. (Today – leftover grilled chicken, leftover salad, and a small handful of whole grain pretzel sticks that the kids turned their noses up at. [They are pretty twig-like.]) If needed, we have a leftover lunch on Sundays. I just pull everything out, and anybody can help themselves to anything.
What system do you have to reduce waste in your kitchen?
Today’s Mini Mission
Declutter disposable items from your home and your shopping list. For example ~ Cling film, aluminium foil, paper napkins, paper towel, dryer sheets, wet wipes. Utilise other items in your home that can easily take their place. The environment and your bank account will be all the healthier for it. I haven’t eliminated all of these things from my home but I use so little of the ones I do still keep (paper towel and aluminium foil) that I buy them in small quantities and only replace them when they totally run out. And before anyone tells me that these things are cheaper in large quantities, think for a minute about how easy it is to be wasteful with stuff when there is plenty on hand.
It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow