Everyday Ethical: My low-waste kitchen essentials [ep. 15]

May 28, 2019

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In today’s episode, I talk about my 6 top low-waste kitchen essentials (although, count how many times I say “7” by mistake!). You’ll get juicy tips on how to reduce both your plastic waste and your food waste, and some product recommendations to help you on your journey.

Podcast graphic with the words "Everyday Ethical: My low-wast kitchen essentials" over a picture of a pantry

My low-waste kitchen essentials: Episode Links

My Instagram

Stasher bags (AD- Affiliate link)

Beeswax wrap (AD- Affiliate link)

Cafetière 

Tea strainer  (AD- Affiliate link)

Tea strainer pot  (AD- Affiliate link)

Episode transcript:

Hello and welcome to Everyday Ethical, a podcast about all of the small ways that we can be more sustainable, without the pressure to be perfect. I’m your host, Bethany Austin, an imperfect ethical lifestyle blogger, who talks about everything from slow styling to cruelty-free cleaning.

Today is a juicy one, full of loads of tips that you can take away with you and use in your kitchen. That’s right, the heart of the home and the place where a shit tonne of plastic waste is created. I’m going to talk – who am I kidding, I’m going to gush – about my 6 favourite kitchen essentials for lower waste living.

So, let’s dive in.

[Theme music plays]

As I’ve spoken about before on this podcast, I used to be a total fiend when it came to buying all of the “essentials” that low waste people on the internet told me to. If someone said that I “needed” something in order to reduce my plastic waste, I was all over it. Ironic really, that I thought more consumption was the answer to reducing my consumption. The truth is, I just wanted to be like every other zero-waste out there who seemed to have got the whole thing nailed. But the truth is, everyone has different lives. I could completely mirror all of the things they owned. That doesn’t mean that it would slot seamlessly into my life. Because my life is different to theirs! I don’t necessarily create the same waste that they do, so their solutions might not be my solutions.

So, before we get into the nitty-gritty, please understand that I’m not telling you to go out and buy or use any of these products. Instead, I’m just going to talk you through my personal kitchen saviours. Maybe you’ll think “Nah, I don’t really need that”, or maybe you’ll think “HOLY shit, what a game changer, I need one right this second”. Either way, you need to figure out what will work for you and don’t let me – or anyone else – tell you what is totally “essential” in YOUR journey.

However, I suspect that most people would benefit from having most of these items, to be honest. A lot of them are replacements for things that are super common in a lot of kitchens, so I’d say there’s more than likely something in my list that you would benefit from having.

For me, a lot of these things have been total game changers and have massively reduced my plastic waste, as well as my food waste actually. They’re things that I use every single week, if not every single day. They’re things that I would definitely miss if I didn’t have them.

And, let me tell you, a matter of months ago I was definitely no zero waste saint in the kitchen. I mean, I was at uni, living in a shared flat and my nearest shop was just a conventional corner shop. I bought everything in plastic and stored in plastic and threw away all of that plastic. Honestly, if you could see the difference in my bins now and then, you would be astounded.

Of course, some of reducing that plastic waste is to do with how I shopped, which is definitely another episode for another time, but a lot of it is also to do with food storage, cooking practices and generally just being more aware in the kitchen. And that’s some of what I’m going to share with you today.

The first thing on my list of kitchen essentials is a super accessible one that pretty much anyone can get their hands on: Jars. I’m not talking about fancy mason jars, or anything either. I’m talking about the once that you get free when you buy pasta sauces and that sort of thing. Jars are everywhere. You don’t need to invest in ones specifically for storage, do you hear me? Unless you’re massively worried about having a cohesive aesthetic in your kitchen – I’m not judging you! But, if you want to save yourself a fair few quid and have a really versatile way to store food that is completely zero-waste, just wash out any food jars and they’re ready to use again.

I use jars for a tonne of stuff. I store homemade sauce in them, chickpeas when I only use half a tin, veggies submerged in water to keep them fresh, coffee grounds to keep them nice and strong and loads more! When I do go to bulk shops – which is rarely because I don’t have one near to me – I also use them for produce there. My fridge and cupboards are filled with the things and it makes me feel pretty smug to know that they didn’t cost me a penny.

And the best part about glass is that, if you can’t use them anymore or don’t need them, glass is infinitely recyclable. Unlike plastic, it can go through the recycling system as many times as needed, without its structure weakening. Total power material, honestly.

The second thing on my list of kitchen essentials is another type of storage: Stasher bags. This one is something that you have to buy and is a specific brand because I massively, massively rate them. Stasher bags are basically a reusable alternative to those, like, little zip lock bags that you can fill with just about whatever you want. But they are so incredible. I’ve never been as passionate about a type of food storage before, it’s slightly embarrassing.

They’re made of silicone and they fasten together at the top. It sort of slots in to itself and sticks together, which means that it is good for liquids, too. The material also means that it’s dishwasher safe, oven safe, freezer safe, microwave safe, and can even be used in boiling water. I’m aware that I sound like this sounds like one massive ad, but I promise it’s not haha. They’re just super durable and versatile.

As much as I love jars, they can’t usually be used in the freezer because they’ll smash. So, stasher bags come in handy for that.

They’re one of the main ways that I have reduced my food waste. So, for example, when my veggies are on the turn, I chop them up, usually parboil them and then put them in a stasher bag. Chuck them in the freezer, and they’re ready to use whenever. And because they’re quite flexible they don’t take up a massive amount of space in the freezers, unlike things like tupperware, for example.

Now, onto my final food storage thing – I promise! – but I swear I do use all of these. The third thing on my list is beeswax wrap. It’s an alternative to tin foil or clingfilm. It’s basically a material like cotton, covered in bees wax, meaning that it can be wrapped around food, and then, with the heat of your hands, sticks to itself. Then when you’re done with it, you just wash it off, leave it to dry (I just put mine on a clothes airer) and it can be used again. They can be used for up to a year, before they lose their sticky-ness. And they’re great for dry foods, especially sandwiches and stuff. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend storing wetter foods, like cut up fruit in it though, as it can make it become less sticky.

Another thing worth noting, is that they can’t be used it the freezer, either. So they are a direct substitute for tin foil or cling film, which is super helpful, but not universal.

 

Now onto one of my absolute favourite things in the kitchen – My cafetière! I don’t use jars of instant coffee, or a coffee machine, since all of them mean creating more waste, sometimes that which isn’t recyclable. For me, the best option is a cafetière, or you might call it a french press. That means that the only waste created is the packaging of the coffee grounds and I use the brand Lavazza, which comes in a thin, metal wrap. That means it can be recycled, so it’s not as bad as most coffee packets. If you want to go all out, you can get coffee beans from a bulk shop and grind them yourself. That way it’s completely zero waste!

But, for a step that is a bit more accessible, get yourself a cafetière. You can find them in most supermarkets for between a fiver and £15. I got one that’s made of stainless steel and is completely plastic-free, plus it keeps your coffee warm until you’re ready for it! I got it in ASDA, so maybe you would still be able to find it – but I link a similar one in the show notes for you!

On the topic of hot drinks, another total kitchen saviour of mine is my tea strainers! I have two types – One is just a normal stainless steel tea strainer that you put inside the mug, and the other is a strainer teapot.

Did you know that most conventional tea bags contain plastic? Yep, even though a lot of brands recommend composting them, they are usually made of a mix of natural fibres and plastic. So, even if they break down, they don’t fully biodegrade.

So, to avoid tea bags, I opt for using a strainer instead. I get my loose leaf tea in cardboard boxes, tins or something that I can reuse to further reduce my waste as well. Then I use my tea strainer for single cups – aka me when I’m working from home – and my strainer teapot for when I have guests.

Now, my final absolute essential for my low-waste kitchen is my food waste bin. I’m quite lucky that I live in an area that accepts food waste and collects it on rubbish day, but I also compost at home, too. So I have a little, kind of, caddy, that I keep on my kitchen surfaces so it’s always at hand. I usually don’t use a bin liner, because it’s just unnecessary waste, but when I do I obviously opt for biodegradable bags. Then, when I have any leftovers or peelings that can’t be used, I pop them in there.

Even though I’ve massively reduced my food waste, it’s nice to know that when I do have some, it’s getting reused in the form of compost. So, my little food waste bin is definitely an essential.

And, that’s it, those are my 6 kitchen essentials for reducing my waste. Like I said, most of them are things that I’ve adopted over the past year, but they have become such staples in my everyday life. And I’m sure that a lot of them are probably relevant to you and the way that you live, too. So maybe you’ll want to invest in them.

Before I head off, let’s recap what the 6 things were:

 

My 1st low-waste kitchen essentials was Jars. Just good ol’ glass jars for storing food in.

Number 2 low-waste kitchen essentials was the Stasher Bag, because it’s super handy for freezer storage and can even be used in the oven.

Number 3 low-waste kitchen essentials is beeswax wraps for wrapping things like sandwiches. 

Number 4 low-waste kitchen essentials is a cafetière to reduce the packaging I use for coffee

Number 5 low-waste kitchen essentials is my tea strainer so I’m not using tea bags with plastic in them

And finally, number six low-waste kitchen essentials, is my food waste bin for all of that juicy, juicy compost.

 

Do any of those things sounds like things that you could use? Will you be investing in any of them? I would love to hear from you. And please also share any of your low-waste essential with me because I’m always looking to learn. Just your thoughts on your Instagram stories, maybe with a print screen of this episode and the hashtag #EverydayEthical. You can tag me @BethanyPaigeAustin, which will also be linked in the show notes.

If you found the information in this episode valuable, and you want to show me some lovin’, please consider leaving me a glowing review on iTunes. Not only does it make my day, but it will mean that more people are likely to click on the podcast and give it a listen.

I hope that you did learn something new today and that you’re feeling inspired to go out there and live every day a little bit more ethically. I speak to you pals, next week!

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