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Chasing adventure & living mindfully while parenting through mental illness

Lessons In Zero Waste Living: Kitchen Talk

Lessons In Zero Waste Living: Kitchen Talk


Today is part 2 of my series on Zero-Waste Living. In part 1, I shared my tips for questioning consumption habits. Now I'm tackling the other big waste area: food packaging. I have noticed so much of our waste comes from the packaging on foods we eat. I have 2 picky eaters, and they love their individually packaged treats. Plastic bags and containers for produce, soda cans/bottles, yogurt and fruit snack containers, and paper towels make up the bulk of our home’s waste (other than diapers, which we are thankfully phasing out).

I am going to start off by saying we have not gone completely zero-waste. Johnson herself admits that it is still impossible in today's society to be completely waste free. A few months ago, we made a big push to use mesh produce bags and bring our own totes to the store. We still buy food that is packaged in plastic. The boys drink lots of milk, and we can't afford the milk sold in glass bottles at their current volume. We eat a lot of yogurt too. I could go on. But I'm sharing our routine so I can show you what changes I've made to reduce waste.

Bea Johnson recommends having a meal routine. For example, she has the following schedule and can vary dishes with seasonal ingredients:

“Monday: Grain (couscous, dry beans, rice, quinoa, lentils, etc.)Tuesday: Pasta (whatever shape I find in bulk, we’re not picky)Wednesday: Pie (quiche or pizza)Thursday: Bread (to go with our veggie “fridge-clean-up” soup or salad)Friday (shopping day): Fish with a veggie side and starch (usually potatoes)Saturday: Dinner with friends or dinner outSunday: Meat with a veggie side and starch (usually potatoes)”

I usually rebel against routine. But as my life has gotten busier, as my kids have gotten pickier (I so wish they weren't, but what do you do), and as I realize what works for all the bodies I'm feeding, routine in meals is crucial. Meal formulas and a daily multivitamin do wonders to reduce anxiety about meeting everyone's nutritional needs.

The boys eat lots of fruit and peanut butter and not a lot of meat or cooked food. We are at a stage where we eat separate meals from the kids. Here are some ways we have reduced packaging for their food:

  • Buy yogurt in bigger containers (I've saved a few empty Paw Patrol ones to trick Olin)

  • Buy crackers, raisins, and “incentive candies” in the bulk section

  • Homemade granola bites

  • Homemade muffins

Here are things I still haven't solved, mostly because I don't want to change too much at one time :

  • Cheese sticks

  • Fruit snacks

  • Grapes in a plastic bag

  • Juice cartons

Nick and I eat lots of stews and stir fry. We don't eat a ton of pasta. And since I'm busy enough juggling the kids, I don't cook every night. I cook 2-3 nights a week, and we have leftovers. My lunches are pita, carrots, and hummus. Nick makes wraps at work. For breakfast, I have cereal and Nick has yogurt with trail mix. My bad habit is sparkling water, and the cans/bottles can pile up (it cured me of my soda habit, which is a huge health).

These are the ways I have reduced waste from the grown up kitchen elements:

  • I bought a SodaStream to reduce sparkling water waste.

  • I've started making my own pita/naan. It's easy, and I find it relaxing. Plus it tastes so much better!

  • We refill small growlers at the local breweries. We use 1 litre bottles.

  • I've sourced a few places to buy kombucha on tap, and I fill a growler

  • I buy cereal and trail mix in bulk

Things I am still working on:

  • Nick uses tortillas for his lunch wraps, and I've not incorporated making those yet

  • We occasionally have chips

  • We still occasionally buy beer in bottles or cans

  • I have a lot of trouble remembering to bring my reusable coffee cup!

  • I haven't found a butcher to buy meat without plastic packaging yet.

  • I haven't found a place to get tofu without the plastic wrap

  • Berries that come in plastic tins when they aren't in season

Simplifying our eating habits keeps me from ending up with a pantry and fridge full of half-recipes and unused condiments. A major symptom of anxiety is decision paralysis; by reducing decisions to formulas, I can take that anxiety away.

We have also changed up our cleaning a bit, focusing on the following changes:

  • Use reusable cloths for most messes

  • Homemade cleaners with vinegar and essential oils

  • Our vacuum doesn't use bags

  • Using a feather duster for dusting (a hit with the boys)

  • Switching to bulk laundry detergent

  • Dish soap in bulk

Ways I won't change our cleaning routine:

  • I will always have bleach around (some germs can only be killed with bleach), and I will always clean the bathroom with bleach

  • I won't switch our dishwasher soap to an eco-friendly version. We just bought a new dishwasher, and I've heard that eco-friendly soaps cause more build up. I will research this more in the future, but for now, a functioning dishwasher is really important to reduce disposables.

I am still working on finding places that don't involve running around town all day. Bea Johnson recommends shopping just once a week. It's hard, but I am working to find ingredients at home and not have to go shopping multiple times a week!

Zero Waste Living is a big undertaking. The changes are simple, but they are many! Sometimes it feels futile and never-ending. It is definitely worth it when it comes to clean up time. I had let the dishwashing and cleaning go for a few days, and it was so nice to have mostly just dishes and rags to wash, not cans, bottles, and other garbage to haul out! That alone is motivating for me!

Lessons In Zero Waste Living, Part 3: Systems of Power

Lessons In Zero Waste Living, Part 3: Systems of Power

Lessons In Zero Waste Living Part 1: Questioning Consumption

Lessons In Zero Waste Living Part 1: Questioning Consumption