Zero waste cooking: recipes and tips

January 23, 2024

Imagine your kitchen as a green haven where food doesn’t end up in the bin but is transformed into delicious meals or composted for the garden. This is the vision of the zero-waste kitchen, a movement that aims to reduce and eventually eliminate the waste generated by our cooking and eating habits. So, how does one cook zero waste? In this article, we aim to show you that this isn’t as daunting as it seems. With a few changes in the way you shop, prepare, and cook your meals, you too can make a significant contribution to the environment.

Make use of every part of your ingredients

Most of us are accustomed to discarding parts of our ingredients that we deem not fit for consumption. However, you’d be surprised how much you can do with stalks, peels, and seeds.

For one, vegetable scraps like carrot tops, onion ends, potatoes peels, or celery leaves can be boiled down to make a vegetable broth. This nutritious, flavorful broth can be used as the base for your soups, stews, or sauces, or to cook rice and pasta with. You’ll need to clean these scraps properly, add them to a large pan with water, a bit of oil, and salt, and let it simmer for an hour or so.

Stale bread can be transformed into bread crumbs for coating or in meatballs. Simply tear or cut the bread into small pieces, toss them into a food processor until finely ground, and store in a jar in your fridge. If you don’t have a food processor, toasting and then grating the bread works too.

For fruits, don’t throw away those citrus peels. They can be candied or zested and then frozen for later use in baking or cooking.

Explore veg-centric cooking

Vegetables should be at the heart of a zero-waste kitchen. Not only are they good for you, but they also come with less packaging if you buy them loose. More importantly, every part of them can be used in cooking.

For example, cauliflower and broccoli stalks can be sliced and cooked just like the florets. They are fantastic when stir-fried with a bit of garlic. Beet greens, which are often discarded, can be cooked like spinach or kale. They are also great additions to salads and smoothies for their nutritional punch.

Adopt recipes that make full use of your veg. There are countless recipes out there that utilize every part of the vegetable.

Compost your food scraps

While we’ve been advocating for using as much of your food as possible, we understand that not all scraps can be cooked or eaten. This is where composting comes in.

Kitchen scraps like coffee grounds, eggshells, fruit and vegetable peels, and tea bags are great for composting. They add nutrients to your soil and help your plants grow.

There are many ways to compost. You can have a compost pile in your backyard, a compost bin or worm bin. For those with limited space, vermicomposting or bokashi composting are good options.

Learn to preserve

Preserving your food is another excellent way to reduce waste in your kitchen. It allows you to extend the shelf life of your produce, especially those that are in season.

There are several methods to preserve food, such as canning, pickling, fermenting, drying, and freezing. For instance, you can pickle your cucumbers, beetroot, and onions; ferment your cabbage to make sauerkraut; dry fruits like apples, bananas, and berries; or freeze your herbs in olive oil.

Preserving not only prevents your food from going to waste, but it also gives you a supply of delicious, homemade food that you can enjoy all year round.

Shop smart

Last but not least, a significant part of reducing waste in your kitchen has to do with how you shop. It’s essential to plan your meals and make a shopping list before going to the supermarket. This will help you avoid buying more than you need.

Also, try to buy loose fruits and vegetables instead of those packaged in plastic. Bring your own reusable bags, containers, and jars for your groceries.

In conclusion, going zero waste in your kitchen is not only about reducing waste. It’s also about being mindful of our consumption, appreciating the value of our food, and making the most of the resources we have. It might seem challenging at first, but every small step you take counts. And who knows, you might even discover a newfound passion for cooking along the way.

Embrace eco-friendly packaging and tools

In our quest to achieve a zero waste kitchen, we must not forget the importance of eco-friendly packaging and tools. The way we store our food also contributes to the amount of waste produced.

Instead of using plastic containers and wraps, consider switching to glass jars, beeswax wraps, and stainless steel containers. These items are not only reusable and durable, but they also don’t leach harmful chemicals into your food like some plastic containers do.

In addition, bamboo utensils, wooden cutting boards, and cast iron pans are excellent alternatives to their plastic counterparts. They are not only better for the environment, but they also have a longer lifespan if properly cared for.

As for cleaning, swap your synthetic sponges and plastic dish brushes for natural ones made from wood, bamboo, or coconut fibers. These products are biodegradable and come in plastic-free packaging.

Shopping in bulk is another way to reduce packaging waste. Check if your local supermarket or farmers market has a bulk section where you can fill your own containers with grains, pasta, nuts, seeds, and other pantry staples.

Moreover, remember to bring your own reusable bags when shopping. Not only for carrying your groceries home, but also for loose fruits, vegetables, and bulk items.

Create zero waste recipes

Unleashing your creativity in the kitchen is a fun and rewarding way to reduce food waste. By creating your own zero waste recipes, you can make the most out of the ingredients you have, minimize waste and enjoy delicious, nutritious meals.

Challenge yourself to create meals that use up every part of an ingredient. For instance, make a salad using roasted pumpkin, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a dressing made from the pumpkin’s flesh. For your leftover pasta, toss it with some olive oil, garlic cloves, finely chopped vegetables, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Join online communities or follow Instagram post of zero waste chefs and food bloggers for inspiration. A quick search for #zerowastecooking or #wastefreekitchen will reveal thousands of creative, waste-free recipes.

Remember, it’s not about achieving perfection, but about making small, sustainable changes that will help reduce food waste.

Conclusion

In essence, transitioning to a zero waste kitchen doesn’t have to be daunting or overwhelming. It’s all about making small, conscious changes in our daily routines that can significantly reduce the amount of waste we produce. From rethinking the way we shop and cook, to the way we store and dispose of food, every little effort counts towards a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle.

By embracing the zero waste cooking principles, we not only help protect our environment, but we also promote a healthier, more mindful way of eating. Additionally, we discover new flavors, develop creative cooking skills, and appreciate our food more.

Remember, every piece of food saved from the bin is a step towards reducing food waste and a victory for our planet. And, who knows, you might even end up creating your own waste recipes that you can post on Instagram for others to try. So, preheat your oven, finely chop your ingredients, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and embark on your zero waste cooking journey today!