My husband and I have made it our mission to do what we can to reduce the amount of unnecessary waste we produce in our kitchen. From avoiding packaged food items, to composting our food scraps we have made a lot of progress over the past few years.
When we are asked about how we do this while working full time jobs and caring for a 16 month old child, our answer is always centered around arming ourselves with the right zero waste kitchen essentials. Below I have detailed our most used zero waste kitchen tools (and a few bonus items that you might find helpful).
10 Tools for a Zero Waste Kitchen
I have collected jars of multiple sizes that I use for storing things like bulk pantry food, spices, meat and cheese, etc. In my home I use a combination of inexpensive Ball Jars as well as more expensive Le Parfait jars. With that said, you could easily get away with repurposing sauce jars, peanut butter jars, or whatever other glass jars you already have on hand!
Funnels are super helpful for neatly pouring tricky bulk ingredients like quinoa or spices out of reusable bulk bags and into storage jars. They are also incredibly helpful when pouring cleaning solution ingredients into small spray bottle openings.
3. Dish Brushes
I like using a dish brush to scrub any stuck-on food bits from cookware and dishware. I use a bottle brush when cleaning trickier items like water bottles, baby bottles, and the inside crevices of our coffee pot.
I have a set of 6 glass spray bottles and have used them for years and years in my home. I use an oil based paint pen to label each of my spray bottles (labels wash off when scrubbed with lemon oil). I always maintain one for countertops, another for windows and mirrors, one for showers and bathtubs, and another multipurpose bottle for floors and other surfaces. Here is a compilation of my favorite natural, DIY cleaning solutions.
A few months ago we invested in 24 bar mop towels to use for heavier cleaning jobs (primarily wiping floors after our 16 month old finishes his meals) and we haven’t looked back since (see this article about our paper-free kitchen)! We use up most of these towels over the course of seven days, so I wash a load of kitchen towels just once a week and we’re good to go. We also use these cloth napkins instead of paper and love them. If you’re concerned about staining, check out this post detailing stain removal techniques for any stain.
7. Water Filter
Avoid purchasing filtered water jugs and instead invest in a high quality water filter. There are water filtration systems that you can install in your home. If you are renting or unable/unwilling to make that investment, consider a water filter like the Berkey water system. We have the Royal Berkey in our home and based on our usage it should last us 5 years before we need to buy any replacement filters! MUCH better for our health and for the environment than a Brita…
Jars are sometimes an option for storing leftovers in the fridge, but in my opinion it is FAR easier to scoop leftovers into square/rectangle containers than small mouthed jars. Glass food storage containers are a great option because you don’t have to worry about filling them with hot foods or microwaving. Stainless steel containers are great for lunchboxes because they are lightweight and durable, but remember they should never be placed in a microwave!
The EPA estimated that food waste represented 15% of total municipal solid waste in 2015. That is close to 40 tons of waste! We can do our part to minimize this by composting our food scraps. Check to see if your community offers compost pickup services. If not, check for nearby compost collection. Store food waste in a compost container on your counter or in your freezer during the week then drop it off at a designated location the day you do your grocery errands. Alternatively, you can compost in your kitchen or backyard. We recently invested in a backyard composter and plan to reuse our compost in our small vegetable garden.
Lastly, we try to prevent waste from ever entering our kitchen by shopping with a zero waste grocery kit. Our kit includes canvas totes, reusable bulk bags, mesh vegetable bags, jars, and a water soluble crayon or washable marker for writing bulk bin numbers on our bags. Read more about how we grocery shop without waste.
Other Helpful Zero Waste Kitchen Accessories
The following items I do not consider to be “essential” but could be helpful depending on how you cook or use your kitchen.
- Reusable Snack Bags – We like reusable silicone snack bags for baby (and grown-up) snacks while we’re out and about because they are lightweight, don’t take up much room, and won’t shatter if our 16 month old decides to toss one to the floor. They are also great for packing things like sandwiches in a hiking backpack for the same reasons.
- Beeswax Food Wrap – I don’t personally use these but I know many people find beeswax wraps to be a helpful alternative to plastic wrap.
- Silpat Mat – If you bake regularly, this is a great non-stick alternative to foil or parchment paper.
- Tea Strainer or French Press – If you’re a tea drinker, try to purchase bulk loose leaf tea and steep with a reusable tea strainer or french press.
- Reusable Coffee Filter – There is really no need to purchase single-use coffee filters. Just dump the coffee grounds out of this into your compost each morning, rinse, and reuse the next day.
- Stainless Steel Straws – I have never found much of a need for straws, but if you love them go ahead and invest in reusable versions. There are also handy collapsible travel versions you can keep on your keyring at all times.