Thanks for your thoughtful comments! This giveaway is now closed. -Cara, 5/6/16
Waste in the kitchen is a big topic these days, a fact that’s reflected in certain trends I’ve been seeing. Like: Perfect vegetables are out, restaurant pop-ups repurposing food that would have gone to waste are in. Ubiquitous plastic baggies and wrap are out; beeswax-coated cloth to hold cheeses, halved grapefruits, and bread loaves are in. Throwing out your food scraps: out; saving them for stock or compost: in.
Depending on your mindset, some of those of-the-moment ways of staying green in the kitchen might sound so onerous that your inner voice is screaming “compost?!?!” in disbelief. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a few small changes. For example, while I’ll never give up paper towels for messy tasks, like wiping out the oily wok in between batches of fried rice, I make the effort to grab clean kitchen towels for most other undertakings, from blotting tofu to wiping down shelves.
I especially try to make these kinds of little changes when I go grocery shopping. The tweaks I make while stocking the pantry and running out for milk are tweaks that don’t inconvenience me at all but do help cut down on some of the less sustainable parts of being a consumer these days.
In a monthlong celebration of Earth Day, Whole Foods Market has started a conversation about just these types of changes, and I’m happy to have the chance today to share those parts of my routine that aim to keep things green.
Read all the way to the bottom for the chance to win a $100 gift card to Whole Foods.
How to Clean Up Your Shopping Routine
- Go grocery shopping. With so many options for ordering groceries online, making the effort to shop in person most of the time ensures that you have the ability to make real choices for yourself about packaging and ingredients. In person, you can also deviate from a set meal plan if organic strawberries are on sale or if the broccoli turns out to look subpar and therefore likely to go to waste. You feel more connected, I think, to the products you buy when you pick them out yourself.
- Tote Totes. Re-usable bags prevent you from stowing stuff in one-time-use bags! I should admit here that I just cleaned out my tote collection. There were dozens. Even with a more edited selection, I find I always have the right bag for the job. That’s the second part of this tip. While I wouldn’t advise amassing quite as many as I used to own, don’t be overly minimalist here. If you like carrying groceries home in a few smaller bags, stock those. If you have transportation and want enormous canvas sacks that can hold your whole grocery load, treat yourself to a few of those. If you buy a lot of pies, then find a tote with a wide base. I’ve often found that a big backpack can be an essential part of grocery shopping, and of course tons of city dwellers swear by their fold-up shopping carts.
- Don’t Bag Your Produce. There’s no requirement to use those plastic baggies around the produce department, so I tend to pile my veggies unprotected in my shopping cart and then my tote bags. (I make exception for teeny tiny veggies, like Thai chilies, which might get lost without a bag, though you could invest in some light drawstring pouches if you’re serious about being plastic free). I wash all veggies before I eat them, so I don’t really worry about them getting dirty. I do keep raw meat in another part of the cart, though. Occasionally, my heads of lettuce have left puddles on the cashier’s belt, but no one ever seems to mind.
- TYOC (Tare Your Own Containers). Take bulk buying one step further by bringing along your own bags or jars. Check in with a sales associate to be sure this is okay, then measure and mark the weight of the empty containers before you fill them with oats and seeds. That way, you’ll only pay for the contents of your jar, not the jar itself.
- Read Labels – Seriously. The only real way to find out if products comply with your personal green ethos is to read labels carefully. This is as true for packaged foods as it is for produce. When the USDA has certified a fruit, grain, or vegetable as organic, for example, it means that toxic and persistent pesticides haven’t been used during growing; you’ll be spared pesticide intake, as will the land and water used to grow the food. If you’re not sure what “natural” or “local” really mean, read up and ask until you understand.
- Find Second Life for Scraps. First, make the most of all the foods you pay for by using them while they’re fresh. Then, see what you can do to salvage ends, stems, and leaves that would otherwise go to waste. Some ideas: put a squeezed lemon half in the dishwasher for extra freshness. Freeze extra bits of organic veggies for eventual use in stock. Make endless batches of green sauce and pesto with herbs, radish or turnip or beet greens, and even excess kale. Experiment with odds and ends in any way you dream up!
- Look for Deals. This one is a little roundabout. But by saving your own money when you can, you’ll be able to spend on the right products when you’d like to. In particular, look for discounts when fruit and veggies are in season and therefore abundant. I’ve been using the Whole Foods Market app, which offers really relevant coupons – recently, there was one that included a $5 savings on any $20 worth of produce!
how TO WIN a whole foods gift card
Leave a comment below to share the ways you stay green in the kitchen. (Browse here and here for some starter ideas.) I’ll randomly select a winner next Friday, May 6, so please be available at the email address you input.
This post was sponsored by Whole Foods Market. All opinions, as usual, are my own. Follow along in the Earth Month conversation at #1greenthing. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep Big Girls, Small Kitchen delicious!