Plastic-Free Bentos for packing food at home, on the trail and beyond

6 Easy Eco Kitchen Tricks

Double down on eco-friendly in the kitchen with these strategies!

The cooking, eating, cleaning up, and disposal of food is one of the most fundamental aspects of human life. It occupies a lot of our time and energy each day.

As a result, there are many opportunities to "green up your act" from grocery to garbage. You can reduce food waste, eliminate much of your trash production, and use less energy and water in a variety of small ways.

Since you already know about composting, using eco-friendly cleaning supplies, growing an herb garden, and taking reusable bags to the grocery store, we have some lesser-known ways to "green up!” your cooking!

1. One-Two Punch Your Meal Planning

Avoid food waste by doing "double duty" with ingredients for your weekly menu planning. For example, if you know you're grilling chicken on Tuesday, plan for a chicken caesar salad or chicken noodle soup for Friday night. That way, your leftovers don't become science experiments! The landfills become a little less full, and the energy that went into making the food doesn't go to waste.

It's also a great opportunity to get creative about what you cook. How might you best combine ingredients in new and exciting ways? What new recipes might you try out? There's only one way to know for sure.

2. Have Dinner for Lunch

Cooking doesn't use a lot of your electricity and water, as compared to your heating and cooling, or laundry, but if you could cut it in half, wouldn't you?

At dinner, make a habit of cooking enough to have a lunch-sized serving of leftovers for every member of the household. This means you prepare only one meal for every two, and cuts down on eating lunch out at (notoriously wasteful) restaurants. Instead, you can save by bringing lunch food to work to save money!

This one has the added benefit of saving you significant money over each month. It's a win-win!

3. Store Your Food Properly

There's an art and a science to storing your groceries once you get them home. Doing it right can add days or even weeks to how long ingredients stay fresh and usable on your shelves and in your pantry.

It's estimated that Americans throw out a pound of food per person per day, and poor food storage is a huge part of that.

For example, implementing your storage strategy for any item immediately upon bringing it home will add a significant amount of time to its storage life. Don't let things you plan to freeze sit on the counter or even in the refrigerator while you figure out what to do with it. Instead, immediately place it in freezer-proof packaging in the freezer.

Do the same with your loose grains and bulk food items. Immediately place in a sealed reusable container in a cool cabinet instead of letting them sit on the counter.

It's also a good idea to have a "fridge velcro" meal once a week. Go into the fridge and pantry, grabbing food that's about to go bad and make a meal out of it. Salads, home-made pizza, pasta, rice dishes, and casseroles are great options for this method, and delicious to boot.

4. Go Reusable With Your Party Supplies

Yes, the reason people go with paper and plastic disposable dishes and flatware when they party or picnic is because those large events are hard enough to clean up without washing up. And yes, the cost of disposables is so low it seems like it's "just not worth it" to go any other route.

Not true. Neither of those is a good enough reason to contribute to the global landfill problem. Instead, consider picking up our reusable straws, flatware, and cooking utensils for your picnic and party needs. In the short run, it limits your footprint. In the long run, it does save you money as compared to throwing away those one-use items.

 

5. Perform a Kitchen Makeover

No, we don't mean remodeling the whole thing! Instead, go through your kitchen and make a few powerful changes that can save energy and water.

  • Adding a low-flow aerator to your sink
  • Replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED
  • Investing in glass food storage containers ECOlunchbox! Hint! Hint!
  • Replacing paper towels and paper napkins with kitchen towels and cloth napkins
  • Ditch Teflon dishes for stainless steel or copper
  • Replace your fridge or dishwasher with an energy-efficient model

6. Change Your Dishwashing Game

If you're still handwashing your dishes for ecological reasons, stop right away. It turns out, dish-per-dish, that modern washers use less water and less cleaning product than doing it by hand. Plus it gets your dishes cleaner.

But when you're using your dishwasher, make sure you're making it as efficient as possible:

  • Use only eco-friendly detergents
  • Run it only when it's full to the manufacturer's specifications
  • Do not overfill it, as this might make you rewash dishes
  • Don't use the heat dry feature; air dry instead.
  • Quickly scrape food before putting it in the dishwasher
  • Lower the temperature of your water thermostat to 120

Final Thought: You Don't Have to Go All-In, All At Once

Instead, focus on just one aspect where you can make a small change with a big impact today. Practice it until it becomes second nature. Then, when it's all but effortless, consider adding a new change.

This accomplishes two things. First, if you overdo it at first, you're likely to give up. That's human nature. We revert to our old habits when we become overwhelmed. Second, it allows you to build up to making several major contributions over time.

Share your eco-friendly cooking tips!

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