Ok so first up let’s be realistic here peeps…….A Zero waste Pantry is probably a bit of a misleading statement, the ability for most of us modern families to have a totally zero waste pantry is very hard, however it’s quite possible to make great steps towards one. Pete and I have been slowly making changes to achieve that. Yes, we got to the point where I was looking at everything that I throw away and thinking how could I reduce that. Let me share our journey with you.
If you have been looking at those beautiful Pinterest pantries with all the lovely jars lined up and no “plastic” in sight , these are not in themselves Zero waste, they may look pretty but the ingredients could have come from a plastic packaging or single use containers, which is now sitting the rubbish bin. Achieving a Zero waste pantry is soooo much more than pretty glass jars.
The best approach to starting on this journey is to start with the Three R’s , hopefully you have heard of them. These are the waste hierarchy, so in terms of your pantry you should;
1 st Reduce, what you buy and what you waste
2nd Reuse - what you purchase and how much you waste
3rd Recycle - what you use that can be processed into future goods
They are in that order because the priority is to firstly try and reduce what you purchase then reuse what you have and last option is to recycle.
So Pete and I have been applying the three R’s to our journey to Zero Waste in the pantry. Oh yeah when I say pantry , it also includes Fridge as well. I’ll take you through what we have done and how we have done that.
Surprisingly, I believe that this is probably the hardest to achieve for a lot of people as it simply means buy less food and packaged products. When it comes to cooking and stocking up pantries, most people have far too much in their pantries and purchase too much food. There is no better illustration of this than food waste.
Did you know that here in Aotearoa we throw out 157,389 tonnes of food waste each year. In 2018, the food waste per household was the equivalent of 86kilos. Thinking of this in terms of money how would you feel if you went into your bank account and there was $644 less in your account…think you would notice that? Sure you would and that is, on average, how much the food waste costs per year.
There is great support for those, like us, that are wanting to reduce food waste. There is a great website called Love Food Hate Waste which has been developed off the highly successful Love Food Hate Waste campaign in the UK. WasteMINZ has partnered with over 60 councils and the Ministry of the Environment to promote and support the reduction of food waste across Aotearoa. The website is full of great ways to reduce food waste, including links to the individual council programmes and initiatives. Totally worth checking it out.
For those from the US reading, I’d refer to you the USDA site which has some really scary food waste information but also resources.
Coming back to “Think global , act local “ approach, Pete and I have found that the easiest way to reduce food waste is to meal plan. In fact we have been a meal planning family “for like ages ago!!” (it’s a saying here in Aotearoa). The reason meal planning reduces food waste, it’s that you only buy what you need for the meals you have planned to cook. The added bonus is that it is also a very economical way to shop as it saves you heaps on your grocery bill. Now my friends if you are interested in learning about meal planning and how easy it is, just jump over and read my Meal Planning for beginners post. I have easy to follow steps and even a hand meal planning FREEBIE for you.
Now because we meal plan and only buy what we need our pantry is minimal. For us this was one of the starting points of getting to zero waste. It is really helpful to use a shopping list and only buy what is on the list. This helps to avoid buying extras like those “specials” that you will never actual use.
Another area that you can reduce your waste is to think out your food scraps. What do you currently do with these? If you have a garden maybe you can set up a Worm farm. Those little worms are fantastic at chomping through the kitchen scraps and turning it into worm juice and compost for the garden. They are actually easy to make and you should be able to get instructions from your local garden centre or Hardware store.
Now this is where you can get all pretty in the pantry with jars and storage. Ideally using storage options that you can refill. With jars you don’t even need to go out and buy them, just recycle your food jars. Give them a good clean and remove the food label (if you can). Now you can use the jar to store some of your pantry staples, like your dried goods. Now, the challenge with this is that you have to refill without adding to waste. This essentially means that you need to take your jar/storage container to the shop for refilling. This means that you will need access to refillery stores. These stores are becoming more popular, thanks to people wanting to move away from single use containers. I shop at out local GoodFor store, and they have nationwide, plastic-free, 24 hour, delivery. If you are not sure what options you have locally, see if you can locate any wholefoods or bulk foods store as generally they would have refillable options. Huckleberry , Commonsense stores in Wellington and Auckland have sustainable nation wide delivery.
You do need to be slightly organised to manage your pantry stocks like this, as you need to be able to take your jars with you to the shop to refill, You can’t just rush off to the supermarket and get another packaged replacement. However if you can just refill, it is very satisfying and you do really cut down your waste and even recycling.
The other aspect to using jars and refilling is the aesthetic options you get with this in your pantry. If you love to have an organized and beautiful looking pantry ….jars are a winner! just check all the Pantry inspiration in my Pinterest Kitchen & Pantry Organization board.
If you can’t reuse jars and want to buy new ones, your local home store should have plenty, and most refilleries sell storage jars as well. Goodfor have a great range, we use their tinted glass bottles for our oils which are refillable. I recently had to get some more spice jars and picked up these little cuties from The Warehouse. The main thing to check for with storage jars is to ensure that they have really good seals otherwise your supplies will go stale. And if you want to go all out and get labelling , you can use vivid marker or chalk pen (just wipes off). I am of course a label queen and have a label maker which I use on nearly everything in the house that can be labelled!!! There are also many online stores on Instagram and Etsy that sell pantry labels. One of my favourites if Pretty Little Designs, they not only have fabulous labels in a variety of fonts but they have beautiful bamboo glass jars and spice sets and they ship internationally (from Australia).
I have found a great article from Treading my Own Path which is all about jars in a zero waste pantry, totally worth a look.
Finally lets talk about recycling which is the last thing to focus on to reduce your waste. This means trying to ensure that if you have to purchase things try and make a conscious decision in buying an item that can be recycled. Always check the recycling number on the product and ensure that this is able to be recycled.
As an example here in Aotearoa (NZ) we can only recycle #1 and #2 plastics, as China no longer takes our plastic waste. This means a lot of plastic containers, and soft plastics are just dumped into land fill. So it’s extra important to know this so you make sure you buy wisely.
Changes we have made
Pete and I still a long way to go to get to what I would call a zero waste pantry, however we are really pleased about the progress that we have made in significantly reducing our waste. I have listed below the changes we have made and maintained;
Reduced purchasing of package dried produce such as flours, rice, nuts, beans, cereals etc.
Refill our storage jars at the local refillery, Goodfor
Stopped purchasing milk in plastic containers. Purchase milk in glass milk bottles from our local produce store, Simply Fresh
Stopped buying single use oils. Refill oil jars at the refillery, Goodfor
Reuse our coffee beans bag when purchasing our coffee beans from Meebz (best roasted beans ever)
Reuse the egg carton when buying our free range eggs.
Use reusable cloth bags for fruit and veges
Use a Keep Cup for my free coffee at our local produce store, Simply Fresh
So my challenge to you is to see what changes you can make in your regular grocery shopping to reduce your waste!.
To help get you started I have developed a great little FREEBIE which guides you through options to a Zero waste pantry, grab a copy below.
Remember your Three R’s
So lets wrap up, Pete and I have found sticking to the Three R’s, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle really helpful in making the changes we have done to date and we are certainly still on the journey to getting to total zero waste pantry. Making small changes regularly is probably the best approach and allow yourself to get use to the change before going onto your next one. You could just pick one area of the Three R’s
Reduce - meal plan or compost
Reuse - fruit and vege cloth bags
Recycle - use kerbside recycling and check what plastics do get recycled
I’d love to hear how you get on with your journey and what changes you have made so leave your comments below
Happy waste reducing my Tidies!!
If you enjoyed this post, see my other post about kitchen organization
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