Inside My (Mostly) Plastic Free Kitchen
Welcome to my Kitchen!
I wanted to invite you to get a closer look at how I organize my kitchen because this is where 90% of plastic waste is generated.
I am a year into this journey of zero waste and sustainability. In the last few months since starting this blog, I have been working harder than ever to eliminate plastic from my life and have made a lot of progress!
I have not reached perfection. But what does that even mean? I guess for me that would be consuming zero plastic and sending no waste to landfills.
I am not quite there yet! But I do want to show you the progress I’ve made so far using just a few simple reorganization techniques.
Honestly, going zero waste is 100% easier than it appears! All it requires is that you be willing to change your habits a little, swap out certain items for other items, and train yourself to pause for a moment before purchasing anything! But especially plastic items or items wrapped in plastic.
So here goes! The tour starts – NOW!
My linen bulk bags
I think I mention this in like every article, so sorry if this feels repetitive. But bulk shopping has changed the whole game! Since I started bulk shopping, I went from buying everything in a plastic bag or package to buying only a few items in a plastic bag or package – and only because I can’t find it in bulk!
The key is organization. What do you consume? Can you buy that in bulk? If so, where?
I have been systematically organizing what we eat on a regular basis. What meals do we like? What do we want to cook this week? Etc. Planning meals has helped so much because then we avoid letting any food go to waste. I go grocery shopping at Natural Grocers once a week for items like eggs, vegetables etc. (Everything is 100% organic! Yay!) Sadly they don’t have a bulk section, so I plan ahead and go bulk shopping only every few weeks at Whole Foods.
Example weekly menu:
We eat oatmeal and eggs almost every day for breakfast because oats are 89 cents a pound (um hello!) and we have several flavor variants – apple cinnamon, banana nut, and peanut butter. I buy the oats in bulk from whole foods, all the fruit goes into reusable produce bags, and the peanut butter I grind into a tared mason jar at Whole Foods. The eggs are free range from Amish farms. (I’m looking into finding local eggs).
This week we are eating hamburgers (free range, grass fed beef only), fried rice with chicken, and pesto pasta with avocado and spinach.
The meat I get from Whole Foods because they never source their meat from factory farms! I bring my own containers to avoid the plastic lined paper they use. The rice I get in bulk once a month in a big bulk bag, the pasta comes in a cardboard box, the avocado, spinach and other vegetables I put into my reusable produce bags.
My husband eats nuts as a snack which we buy in bulk, and I eat apples among other things.
I love to bake so I always make sure there is something yummy on hand. Yesterday, I made gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, chocolate chip banana bread! Last week I made gluten free, dairy free brownies.
Now, instead of buying tea bags, we buy loose leaf tea in bulk. I get last year’s dried peppermint from my mom’s garden, and lavender and chamomile from The Refill Revolution* in Boulder. She also has an online store, for all you out of staters! At the moment that’s the only tea we drink, but as need arises, we will find other places to source bulk tea leaves.
We are incredibly mindful about what we eat to ensure nothing goes to waste. We enjoy cooking at home and only eat out about once a month. When we do, I always bring a container from home to avoid disposable take out containers from the restaurant.
So yes, food does involve some organization! But once you get used to it, it becomes a new habit! It’s honestly simplified my life because I never have to scramble. And I get to enjoy knowing where my food comes from and the added bonus that I’m creating the least amount of waste as possible!
Read my extensive Bulk Shopping Guide to learn more.
Plastic free food storage is important! Especially when organizing bulk shopping. I have started collecting mason jars of various sizes. Many of them are juice jars, pasta sauce and mayonnaise jars that I’ve saved. A few of the large ones I purchased (but they are quite inexpensive). Utilizing Goodwill is an amazing option! I literally bought 20 mason jars for $10 last week. So cool!
Removing the labels from pasta sauce and other jars is easy. Just boil them in water with a little vinegar and baking soda. They peel right off afterwards!
I love how organized my pantry looks. I know where everything is and it’s easy to see when we start to run out of stuff. When that happens, I just jot it down on our pre-printed shopping list (it’s going digital soon).
We also use beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil. I got them from Etee, but The Refill Revolution* sells them as well. I highly recommend them. They keep food fresh, look cute and are compostable at the end of their life. Because of this product I have completely eliminated the use of plastic bags!
I think the initial organization process takes the most effort, but after a while it becomes a self sustaining system in your life. At least that’s what has happened for us.
I buy my dish washing liquid and dishwasher detergent in bulk from The Refill Revolution*. I put it into my handy glass dish soap pump and use bar soap for washing my hands.
I crocheted a little cotton “sponge” instead of using a normal sponge. Those things are made of plastic, and plus they tend to get icky so quickly! Using the cotton sponge is great because it’s texture makes scouring easier.
I disinfect it once a week by boiling it in water with a little vinegar and soap. When it wears out, I will either demote it to a cleaning sponge, or cut it up into little pieces and compost it.
If you’d like me to make you one, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m selling the sponges for $7, $15 if you want the sponge and dish rag set. (I’ll make an Etsy shop eventually).
I also have a wooden dish brush that I got from The Wild Minimalist and a wooden bottle brush that I got from a local grocery store.
All of these things can be found at The Refill Revolution* as well. Shopping locally is always better!
Honestly, I just use dish soap, water, and vinegar as cleaning solution. I put a few drops of lemon essential oil to make it smell fresh. That’s really it! I took an old apple cider vinegar bottle and stuck a spray head on there and it works great! Plus I think it looks kind of pretty.
I repurposed my husband’s old boxers into cleaning rags and I have a wooden scrub brush that I use to clean the tub. I use rags to mop the floor and a microfiber towel as a duster. Dish soap works great on my toilet bowl. I also have a bagless vacuum cleaner and compost the dust.
Our society has taught us that we need this cleaner and that product and this solution and that special broom. But honestly we don’t. My house is super clean even without all those chemical filled products.
This lifestyle is about simplifying everything. I have definitely found that to be true. Without all those different products taking up space, my pantry is much less cluttered.
My mom commented that this is how her grandma (my great grandma) used to clean and organize her kitchen. She’s right.
But I’d like to say that sometimes progress is looking to the past for its wisdom as well as keeping the knowledge we have now. My great grandmother didn’t have plastic as an option so she utilized what she had, as did her mother and back and back and back.
There is wisdom in that! All of this superfluous stuff isn’t actually bringing us anything and it’s harming the environment. I have no problem cleaning and keeping my kitchen like my great grandmother did.
If anything, I am drawing on her strength and wisdom. I bet her kitchen was sustainable AF! So is mine, and getting more so all the time.
I compost everything that I can. All food scraps, paper based tea bags, as well as dryer lint, the dust from the vacuum cleaner, tissues, paper towels, other natural fabrics and fibers, wood pieces as well as some cardboards, like pizza boxes and egg cartons (torn into small pieces) can be composted.
Right now, we use this large blender (blades removed) as a food scraps receptacle. I want to actually invest in a proper receptacle eventually, but right now this is what we’ve got. We use these compostable baggies from Biobag to store our scraps in the freezer before taking them to my mom’s house. She has a great compost pile that feeds her organic garden!
What I love so much about composting is that food scraps actually provide the soil with nutrients that it needs to keep growing our food for us! Instead of rotting in a landfill somewhere and polluting the environment, I am giving those nutrients back to the soil and aiding nature’s ability to renew again and again.
Read more about urban composting here: Nature’s Greatest Magic Trick – Aka Urban Composting 101
Our building doesn’t have recycling (which is awful and something I’m hoping to fix soon) so we take our recycling to a middle school down the street that has three big recycling dumpsters for the public.
I have been happy that as I start to buy things in bulk and make some things myself, the less we have to recycle.
This is an article I want to properly research before writing, but recycling isn’t as green as we like to think it is. Especially plastics. Glass, cans and cardboard are easier, so we try our best to only recycle those items.
There are still a few plastic items in there because we haven’t completely weaned ourselves off plastic yet. But we are chipping away at it! My goal is to only recycle a few items a week.
Seriously, it’s all about progress, not perfection!
We currently take our trash out once every six weeks or so, and even then it is a small, lightweight bag. We are constantly working to reduce our waste going to landfills, and we’re making progress!
This month I’ve been doing some spring cleaning and some things that had been hanging out in murky corners of closets came to light and couldn’t be donated or repurposed.
Trash happens. It’s ok! The point is that I’m actively trying to be better. And it’s slowly working!
I make several things myself, the most important being our milk for the week. We are both allergic to dairy, which makes things easier. So I make oat milk for us a couple times a week. Oats are ridiculously cheap, and it’s extremely easy to make! And it tastes nice, especially because I’ve started sweetening it slightly with diluted honey.
I wrote this almond milk recipe and everything is the same except that the oats only need to be soaked for 20 minutes before grinding. Take a look. Try it out. Let me know if you have any questions about it!
I also enjoy baking, as I said above, and make it a habit of always having baked goods on hand. I am gluten intolerant and so making my own baked goods has become second nature because it’s hard to find them elsewhere. I also enjoy baking with alternative sweeteners because sugar disagrees with my body. My favorites being coconut sugar, stevia, raw local honey and maple syrup.
Every week, I make protein bomb muffins for my husband using the leftover ground oats so that nothing goes to waste.
I also enjoy making hummus and falafel. It is much easier than it sounds. It is essentially ground up chickpeas with spices. Hummus is slightly more ground than falafel. It takes like fifteen minutes.
My husband contributes by cooking often and brewing his own kombucha.
There are some food products we struggle to find in bulk, or we haven’t found alternatives to yet. Some of them we can start to buy at the farmers market as soon as that gets going with the nice weather – like goat cheese for example.
My husband is obsessed with potato chips, so we still buy those, even though the bag goes to the landfill. He is very on board with this whole process, and has even been rescuing plastic bottles from work to be recycled (he’s amazing) but he can’t quite give up chips yet.
Because I’m gluten free, we buy this certain type of tortillas in a plastic package. Eventually I will learn how to make my own, but there’s a limit on how much of my own stuff I can make! Bread is also a similar challenge. If anyone knows of a bakery in Denver where I can bring my bread bag and get a gluten free loaf without a plastic bag let me know!
We are also looking into potentially doing a farm share so that we can get local fruits, vegetables, eggs and other food items.
This really is a whole lifestyle that we are embracing. For me, it gives more meaning to everyday tasks because it forces me to be mindful and present with what I’m doing, what I’m buying and what I’m bringing into my home.
I understand this is a lot of information, and I could go on and on about it. So if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!
It can be challenging to try and break down what I’m doing in a way that is digestible and understandable to others, so please let me know if something is unclear.
And finally, out of all the ways I’m reducing plastic in my kitchen, which one resonated with you the most? Do you think any of these ideas could be implemented into your life? I would love to hear about it.
Get the conversation started in the comments below!
* This is an affiliate link. I promise I don’t promote products I don’t use myself!