Beginners guide to Zero waste Pantry

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.

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THree R’s

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.

Reduce

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.

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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.

 
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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.

Reuse

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.

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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.

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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.

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Recycle

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.

 

FREE Guide

Helpful guide to get you started on your journey to a zero waste pantry

     

    Powered By ConvertKit
     
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    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!!

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    If you enjoyed this post, see my other post about kitchen organization

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    How I organised my new pantry

    It was late March when we finally moved back into the renovated kitchen, I simply just put things into the new pantry in a similar way that I organised my old pantry. I figured that in the coming weeks I'd get things sorted and reorganised for the new pantry. Well it's now August and I still standing staring at my new pantry working out how I want to organise it. So I set myself the challenge of getting this pantry organised by the end of August.

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    Situation

    In my situation I had a number of different things scattered all around the kitchen that I wanted to bring into one place, such as drink bottles, cooking equipment, food storage containers, cook books etc. This means that at the moment I'm all over the kitchen getting bits and pieces and it feels very disorganised to me. The other issue is that our old pantry was a walk in pantry and our new one is different. We now have a bench top pantry along with three drawers and a corner cupboard. In fact there is a lot more space now however it is used in a different way. Added to this Pete and I have finally adjusted to cooking for two rather than four, so what we now have in our pantry and cupboards is different to what we had in the old pantry. The challenge I had was how to work out the best way to house everything that I wanted together in the new pantry.

    To be honest I have struggled with this organisation job, many a time I have been found just standing and staring at the new pantry, trying to figure out the best way to organise everything.   

    Sometimes it just takes time to get things right and it can be a bit of a process of working out what works best for you. So let me take you through how I went about this organisation mission. 

    Inspiration

    As my regular readers know I love to use Pinterest to get ideas, it's a fabulous "visual google". I have a board all about Kitchen and Pantry Organisation in which I have got lots of great idea content. Fair to say that I have spent a wee bit of time searching through #pantryorganisation pins and got lots of inspiration.....like some of those pantries are off the charts!!! however I would question how practical they actually are. 

    For me I love getting inspiration that helps to make things more functional at the same time as looking gorgeous darling!

    I have been inspired to try and use as much glass jars for storage as possible.  In my old pantry, below, I got rid of a lot of old plastic containers, however as you can see in the picture below there are a few still to change over.

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    The main goal for the new pantry was to get everything in one place and make it really accessible. I do like to see as much of my pantry items as it's a really good way to be on top of what to buy.

    Declutter

    OK this is fancy way of saying pull everything out of the space and sort it out!. So that is just what I did, got everything out of the pantry as well as the items I had elsewhere in the kitchen that I wanted to house in the pantry.

    Once I had everything out on the bench tops I was able to go through and sort out what we actually needed and still used. This is also a good time to check the expiry dates and get rid of anything that has expired.

    Lastly I took advantage to give the pantry shelves, all the drawers and corner cupboard a clean. TIP: a simple clean up of a space can make it look a lot better and nicer to be in. 

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    categorise

    After sorting through all the items and getting rid of the unused and expired items, I categorised them. This is a really good way to help you work out how you want to store them when you put everything back. I also changed out my plastic containers to jars. I found that I have these main categories;

    • Baking items
    • Cereals and grains
    • Mixers, spices, seeds and nuts
    • Cooking stocks and seasonings
    • Tinned goods and jars
    • Snacks and spreads
    • Potatoes and onions

    I also had non food items that I wanted to store in the pantry area;

    • Crock pot, toastie maker and steamers 
    • Water bottles and lunch containers
    • Baking tins
    • Food containers

    So I've decluttered, cleaned and categorised everything, now the mission was to work out where to place them in the pantry. This is all about setting up good systems so you can keep your pantry organised all the time. And not just a one off burst of cleaning and sorting then back to a big mess again.

    Ok so how I do this in any space, is to work out what you use and how often, this will guide you to where and when you need to have the items and how easy it is to get to them. TIP: if it's not easy to get to, your system will not work and you'll get a mess pretty quickly.

    Storage and system

    In my pantry I have the spaces for storage spread out between the shelves in the bench top pantry, three drawers below the bench and the corner cupboard which has two large shelves. The best access is the bench top shelves so I decided that I needed to put the items that we reach for daily on the first two shelves. In regards to the non food items I had already worked out the they are best housed in the corner cupboard as we only access these once a week or so.

    Then lastly the three drawers which are deep and wide and really accessible. The thing with the drawers is that you need to be able to see the items easily by looking down not straight ahead or up as in the pantry and I had the perfect solution for that, label the top of the jars.

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    So here is the system I decided on

    Bench top pantry

    1. Top shelf - Baking goods
    2. Middle shelf - Tinned goods and jars
    3. Bottom shelf - Spreads and snacks, Cereals and grains

    Corner Cupboard

    1. Top shelf - Crock pot, toastie maker and steamers 
    2. Bottom shelf - Lunch containers, baking tins, potatoes and onions
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    Drawers

    1. Top drawer-  Spices, seeds and nuts 
    2. Middle drawer - Cooking stocks and seasonings
    3. Bottom drawer - Food containers
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    The actual bench top houses our smoothie machine, toaster (Pete loves his toast!) and the grotty old microwave, which still works fine and no sense in replacing just coz it looks ugly.  What I did do though is put a tray on the top of the microwave and placed my two most used cookbooks there for easy reach!  

    The true test of the kitchen pantry organisation is how the rest of the family like it and work with it. For me that's Pete, it's got to work for him too, so each time through the process of organising I'd check with him and reorganise. There were a few things I changed thanks to his suggestion. I'd totally recommend that you involve the members of your family in this process, this will really make it work well.

    I am very pleased to say that this new pantry layout and system is working really well and best of all I have everything in the same area which is what I wanted. It's  really simply, decluttered and easy to use, hmmm just given myself a pat on the back!!

    Before I sign off here are a couple of tips;

    TIP 1 - Figure out your solution

    When you are wanting to organise a space, take time to think through these questions

    1. What the situtation?
    2. What's the problem with it?
    3. Why is it a problem? 
    4. What do I need to fix the problem?

    TIP 2 - Donate

    If you have any tinned goods or dried goods that you are not using any more, donate them (as long as within expiry date). Most local supermarkets have a donation box.

    TIP 2 - Move to refillables (reduce your waste)

    Also think about using refillables, (bring in your own containers) we are moving away as much as we can from plastic and packaging, it's a work in progress and I could and will do a post on this. Here in my neighbourhood there are a couple of really good stores that provide great options for refillables, GoodFor is now located in Takapuna and has stores in Parnell and Ponsonby and The Source Bulk Foods NZ is located in Milford as well as Kumeu. There is also the long standing Bin Inn, which Pete and I used a lot when the kids were young and money was tight and it was not fashionable to be refilling.....funny how times change...however I totally support all ways to increase reuse, recycle and refill ...I mean our children's, children are depending on it!

    So that's me done, hope you found some good ideas and tips and as always I'd love to here from you about your pantry organisation.

    I will be doing more posts about other areas in the kitchen that I organise and will certainly be doing more about my reuse, recycle and refill journey, so make sure that you stay tuned by signing up to my newsletter, love to have you join us.

    Happy tidying!

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