The kitchen can be a great place to start when you’re on your zero waste journey, especially the pantry! If you took stock of all the waste that comes in and goes out, you’ll see that you probably have loads of room for improvement! All you need to do is to monitor your bin and what’s gets put in there week in, week out.
Once you know where your waste is coming from, you’ll be able to start putting actions in place to help you reduce your waste and hopefully become zero waste or close to it.
A really easy framework that can help you with our zero waste pantry is the 3 R’s, reduce, reuse and then recycle. Start by doing a pantry audit and see where you can reduce packaging and plastic, what you have in your kitchen or house to reuse in the pantry and then make sure you’re recycling the materials that you have in there. Just remember that recycling is the last resort and we should always try to reduce our consumption without relying on recycling.
How to conduct an audit for a zero waste pantry
Review your most-used recipes, find out the staples that you are using every week. There’s so much waste when buying one-off ingredients for specific dishes. If you know what you like to eat each week and buy accordingly, you’ll reduce your waste significantly.
Go through and see what’s out of date. Throw it out and then remember that you didn’t use so if you feel compelled to buy it again, think of an alternative that you might already have stocked.
Look to see what is in single-use plastic. Is there a way to be able to buy it without the plastic? Can you change brands? Find a bulk food store? Start or join a local co-op?
Is there anything in there can be reused or recycled?
Tips for achieving a zero waste pantry
- Buy your food from the bulk food shop (like The Source Bulk Foods) and store in glass jars.
- Stop buying processed foods. There are so many alternatives when it comes to replacing the processed foods with other, healthier options. Find recipes for snack options.
- Ditch canned foods and learn to cook your own beans or make your own tomatoes.
- Don’t head out and buy new containers, use what you have. Use jars that you already have, ask your local cafes for jars that they would throw out and remember to keep any jars that do come into your home.
- Get some reusable bags to use when buying your fruit and veg or just don’t use anything and just put your produce in the trolley.
- Find somewhere to buy bulk spices and reuse jars to store them. The tiny jars that you purchase spices in don’t last very long!
- Make sure you’re only buying what you need and therefore reducing food waste.
- Always use reusable shopping bags instead of single-use plastic bags.
- Find bread that comes without the plastic bag, often local producers forgo the plastic bag and use paper around the bread.
- Can you find an egg supplier where you can refill an old egg carton? Or is it time to get a couple of backyard chickens? Not only will that help reduce your waste but it will also help you use your food scraps and give you manure to use in the garden.
- Buy larger quantities over smaller packs. If you can’t source something to buy in bulk where you can refill a jar, then try to buy the biggest packet you can to help you reduce the amount of packaging over the longer term.
- Make your own sauces instead of buying sauces in jars or packets. It’s not as hard as you think and will no doubt be a healthier option for you and the family.
- Make your own nut milk. They’re super easy to make, help reduce your waste and will save you money.
Zero Waste Pantry Staples
An important factor to having a zero waste pantry is to keep your meals simple so that you’re not buying one-off ingredients that will then be thrown out because you never need it again. When you do this, you’ll know exactly what you need for each week and you’ll be able to stock up on the more frequently used ingredients.
Everyone will be different with their own staples and you’ll be able to easily figure what you use when doing your audit. Once you know, then you can make sure you’re stocking up on those ingredients.
Here are examples of zero waste pantry staples:
Other zero waste staples:
Apple Cider vinegar
Get started with your zero waste pantry
That should help you on the road to not only having a zero waste pantry but also on your journey to a zero waste home. It does take time and energy but it’s so worth it. Just remember that any progress is better than nothing at all. Even if you don’t make it to zero waste, you’ll be well on your way to low waste.