In this text you first read about how to buy bulk food and in the second part how to simplify the things in your kitchen (concerning food).
Before you start I recommend to tidy up the kitchen and the pantry. Empty the shelfs and look at your food and the other stuff you store for cooking. What do you really need? Which food can you buy in bulk or do it yourself? Which ones are the cooking tools you don’t really need?
Emptying all your shelfs and cupboards is a good and inspirational way to start. Read on to see how it continues:
Vegetarian, vegan, paleo, clean-eating,…: in the internet you find a lot of websites, blog articles, E-Books and further information about different eating styles. Most of the base on abstinence on certain ingredients: No meat, no dairy, no sugar,…
For Zero Waste you don’t have to scratch food completely from your menu. You can eat and drink everything as long as it is available in bulk respectively with the 5 steps of the Zero Waste system. For the most part you can keep “natural” eating habits. However, Zero Waste can have positive effects on your nutrition.
It is feasible to buy bulk food, but you need to know a few tricks.
1.Basic: Don’t eat processed food and finished products!
We all know this hint from several fitness magazines. Well, I have to mention it again here. This rule has already helped me before I started Zero Waste to avoid unconsciously a lot of garbage and to eat healthier. It’s not difficult: Replace tinned food, sauce powder, packed bread and other things like that with untreated fruits and vegetables.
My experiences: It’s the first step. Although I noticed that when I only eat fruit and vegetables, I always stay hungry! So I looked for alternative purchasing possibilities in point 3. But for these ones, you need some accessories.
2. What do you need to buy and keep your bulk food?
Some accessoires you need in general are already here: (link ). In addition I recommend the following things especially for buying and storing food:
Jam jars: A cupboard in my cellar is always full of them. They are all-rounders and you can buy everything in little quantities with them. I use them for olives, feta, herbs, spices, and homemade jam, of course!
Preserving jars: They are usually bigger than jam jars and their cap is made of glass. I usually store bigger quantities of food in them. Originally they are made for boiled down food, like my granny always did it. I also freeze food in them (how to freeze: contents follow).
Boxes all in the same size: To buy bulk food. They can also help you to freeze bigger quantities of food. The best material is pure stainless steel. For your start with zero waste you don’t have to buy all those boxes now. You can also use up throw-away boxes you store at home. I for example found a lot of 1kg-joghurt-buckets and cylindrical muesli packagings when I tidied up my cellar.
They are perfectly useable for bulk food and the buckets are often for freezing.
Another insider tip are cookie tins. Most of the time, I don’t store cookies in it but buy everything I need on the market or in the bulk store.
Oilcloth: Say goodbye to the wrapping film! You can fabricate this cloth on your own or buy them in the internet. Use clean bee wax and fabricate more of them at the same time. They are reuseable and I prefer o touch them than the wrapping film.
For eating to go and in the restaurant: content follows (link)
3. There are alternatives to supermarketsEmbed from Getty Images
shelves in a supermarket
In an average supermarket in Germany you find 10.500 products (data from 2012).  The lion’s share of these products is packed in throwaway packaging.
Even the bulk purchase of vegetables is a problem here. Heat-sealed corn lays between single plastic-wrapped cucumbers. When you’re lucky, you also get bulk fruits or vegetables, but often it is not biologically grown.
Due to the fact that I usually buy biologically grown and bulk products, the supermarket is a tricky place to purchase something ( you have to go to the supermarket?: read the article: content follows)
Purchase on a farmer’s market is much more relaxing! There I get fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products. As much as possible, choose the stands which sell biologically grown products.
At my bakers, bread is sold loose and I can pack it in a cotton bag I brought with me. If I buy sweeter bread or fattier bakeries, I take a cookie box with me.
In wholefood shops you usually find bulk fruits and vegetables and dairy products in returnable bottles, tomato sauce and nut butters in glass. Sadly, there are already a lot of products in plastic and paper throwaway-packaging.
I like bulk shops best: Here you can buy everything, the products are usually biologically grown and the shop keepers know where their products come from. These shopa are perfect for Zero Waste shopping. In a shop with big assortment you get everything: noodles, flour, lentils, oat flakes and sometimes even biological cleansers and cosmetics. The only disadvantage is that bulk shops are still sparse. If you live in or near a big city, you can find a shop in your area easily. I recommend this website for finding bulk shops worldwide.
4.How to overcome difficulties when buying food?
The best bags and boxes are useless if you don’t take them with you! That’s the point where a lot of Zero Wasters have difficulties in the beginning. E.g. you ride your bike to the farmer’s marke but don’t have any cloth bag with you. Or there aren’t enough boxes in your car.
- Always keep enough accessories! You need more than you think. I found a lot of them when I tidies up my cellar, my granny’s cellar. Don’t forget to visit a jumble sale! Here I got a lot of cookie tins very cheap.
- Scatter them in your house, car and bike. Everywhere. Never go out of your house without them.
=> Write a shopping list before you go to a store or market. To work zero Waste here, I recommend a smartphone or old paper you can’t use for other things (opened envelopes e.g.). I write my shopping list on a blackboard which is situated in the kitchen. That’s great especially when you live with your family or other people.
=> If you know what you really need to buy, place enough bags or boxes ready for your purchases. I always take one bag/box more with me than I need. So I can also take an eventual unpremeditated buying with me. When I buy dry food like beans, lentils or farina I always take a very big quantity with me. So I have always enough of these basics at home.
=> I experienced that I don’t need ten different sorts of lentils, farine or joghurt. So I used up all the different forms of them and created more space. However it can be utile to keep certain stocks, e.g. products you need very frequently or homemade jam, laid-in vegetables or frozen fruits for the winter.
Indeed, the bulk store has different kinds of dry foods or dairy products the whole year. It is exciting to try new ones sometimes and if you don’t keep to many kinds of them in your cupboards, you can avoid chaos.
As I already told you in the beginning:
1. Empty your shelves!
After tidying up look at all your kitchen accessoires carefully now.
Most of the kitchens are full with plenty of accessoires for cooking and baking: Electronic knives, lemon squeezers, garlic squeezers, bread cutters and other stuff. Most of this things are bulky, some need a lot of space. I can’t really say which things are necessary and which don’t. That’s individual. If you make smoothies every day, you will need you smoothie mixer rather than someone who uses it once a year. Take your time to think about what you want to sell or give to a friend.
In my kitchen were also some throw-away things like paper napkins, muffin forms, plastic bags, etc. Use them up or give them to someone who needs them.
Presumably you still have kitchen accessoires made from plastic e.g. bowls, boxes, pudding forms, beakers etc., it was the same in my kitchen. It isn’t environmentally friendly to throw everything away and buy a complete new series of kitchen accessoires. But you can make sure that in the future, you only buy accessoires which are high-grade, durable and biodegenerable respectively recyclable.
Look carefully at the plastic accessoires: Are they scratched? Do you use them in the heat or do they touch your food directly? An important point are plastic cutting boards. If they are scratched, little parts of the plastic can come into your cut food or into the water when you wash the board. So plastic lands directly in your tummy or in the environment. That sounds unappetizing. Even from an hygienical aspect plastic cutting boards aren’t advisable.
So you should really change scratched, strongly stressed plastic accessories against other materials.
My experience: I kept some pots and pans who have a plastic handle. But I decided to give away most of the bowls and boxes made from plastic. I already had enough of this goods at home or bought them on a jumble sale. My plastic boxes are replaced by stainless steal boxes and cookie tins.
Often it is also possible to replace a machine with easier tools, e.g. instead of a mixer I use an egg whip.
On the table
Minimalism! Nobody expects you to serve a three course meal with three extra big plates and cutlery. On weekdays, I usually put salads and main courses on the same plate. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins! And it can be even easier: When I forget the cloth napkins, I simply wash my hands and if necessary my face after eating. It’s also possible to use dishcloths for the cleaning of your hands.
I usually don’t use place mats or table cloths. It is way easier and saves energy to clean the table instead of washing, drying and ironing table cloths.
Advantages in the kitchen
Zero waste helps to find a more relaxing approach towards cooking and food. All you need is a bit time and creativity. Your kitchen will become a place where you like to be. Zero waste slows down your eating. I rather sit down for a complete meal than to noose some to-go-food.
Write me a comment!
Together we can find gaps in this concept easier and find simple ways to Zero Waste!
See also my special articles (link) for kitchen and food.