Here at Produce Made Simple, we’re entering the new decade with a goal of creating a healthier and more sustainable kitchen. This includes offering simple yet tasty ideas to help save us all time and money, while focusing on reducing our overall waste. As we strive to keep more and more matter out of the landfills this year, we thought it might be helpful to share the ideas we’re starting with in hopes of inspiring all of you to join us in building a zero-waste kitchen.
Make use of what you have
Before you go grocery shopping, shop your fridge and freezer! Know what is in your fridge and pantry so you don’t buy it again. This tip takes no time or effort at all and can save you hundreds on your shopping over time.
If veggies are looking a little wilted, give them a new life with a quick soak in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes. That will often be enough time to reinvigorate limp lettuce, sad celery and even thicker vegetables like broccoli. While this tip may not bring all of your produce items back to a state where you feel good about adding them to a salad, they can still be enjoyed in a cooked recipe.
Leftovers should also be enjoyed, rather than stored to throw out a few days later. And it’s so easy to turn leftovers into something new! Add them into a stir-fry, a frittata, soup or a casserole. Get creative!
Leftovers herbs can be sundried and ground for use in soups and pasta. You can also freeze a mixture of herbs and extra-virgin olive oil in ice-cube trays to prepare frozen herb cubes that can be used for seasoning at a later stage. Check out all of our 101 articles which contain how to freeze tips too!
Use vegetable scraps to make stocks
Perhaps the most basic suggestion on our list but keeping vegetable scraps for soup stock is a great starting point when it comes to reducing waste in the kitchen.
Use reusable shopping and produce bags
Produce can be tricky for a zero-waste kitchen because a lot of it comes either wrapped in plastic or bundled together with bands and stickers. Many consumers may not realize that this plastic is usually used to reduce food waste through the chain. For instance, the plastic wrap on cucumbers helps them to stay fresher longer, so only unwrap the plastic when you are ready to wash and eat them. Clam shells for items like tomatoes are specially designed to allow produce to breathe to prevent it drying out, and also to prevent damage in transit and at the store level. You can also reuse clam shells for storing other produce like apples or loose produce once you get it home. The produce industry is working always towards new sustainable initiatives but in the meantime a good starting point for eliminating some plastic when you go shopping is to take your own reusable shopping and produce bags to the stores with you. The goal here isn’t to be perfect, but to simply be better than before.
Compost, compost, compost
While preventing waste is a more sustainable goal, composting is one of the most eco-friendly ways to recycle your food waste that can’t be avoided. You can ‘recycle’ organic yard scrap, fruit and vegetable leftovers, tea bags, newspaper shreds, dead flowers, and egg shells. Follow guidelines from your municipality on what is accepted in the compost and what isn’t to prevent contamination in your local system.
Regrow vegetable scraps
If you have a sunny window, you can regrow many different vegetables, like green onions, celery, leek roots, lettuce and carrot ends. There are many different sites on the internet with tips on how to find success with these free kitchen gardens.
Use fruit scraps, too!
In the same vein as regrowing veggie scraps, you can turn fruity rinds and skins into something pretty spectacular as well. Apple peels can be used to make homemade tea and watermelon rinds can be turned into kimchi. A quick Google search is sure to send you in the direction of plenty of inspiration.
Overripe fruit is a cook’s secret weapon
Don’t toss those brown bananas and mushy peaches! Overripe fruits are perfect for baking and making sauces, salad dressings and sweet syrups. They’re also perfect for freezing for smoothies.
Get creative with citrus rinds
Citrus fruit rinds (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit) can add a pleasant fragrance to your home when added to potpourri. You can also use the zest of citrus peels in baking and savoury recipes. Alternatively, use leftover pieces of citrus to scrub some rough salt over your cutting boards for an all-natural, astringent cleaning. For a deep clean, simply scour with salt and the flesh of a lemon, let sit for 5 minutes and then scrub clean with soap and water. It’s natural and effective.
Buy whole heads of broccoli
It’s tempting to skip buying full heads of broccoli in favour of broccoli crowns, but it’s usually cheaper to buy the whole thing. The stem shouldn’t be wasted either, because broccoli stalks are a delicious addition to your dishes, once you remove some of the tough fibrous outer layer. Peel this away and add the sweet and crunchy inside stem to soups, salads and slaws, or simply eat them raw.
These are just a few of the ways we’ll be looking to reduce food waste in our kitchen this year. We’d love to hear what you are doing too! Please share on social media and be sure to tag us @producemadesimple!