Zero Waste Cooking Tips

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Last Updated on May 11, 2020 by Chef Mireille

Zero Waste Cooking Tips to Save Money

Get the most bang out of your buck and save the planet with these cooking tips and food preservation recipes. Includes the low down on expiration dates and composting.

Now with people being at home, cooking at home has become popular again. In addition to learning to cook some basic recipes like jam, bread and ice cream, learning how to get the most bang out of your buck by practicing these Zero Waste Cooking Tips will have your wallet thanking you.

In America alone, there is 80 billion pounds of food waste a year that winds up in landfills.

Not only will it be better for your finances to practice food waste, but it’s better for the environment and this planet we all share.

Maybe you have seen photos in India, Indonesia or the Philippines of coastlines covered in trash. There are many NGO trying to clear this waste and cleaning up the beaches of the world. How about trying to stop adding to the problem at all?

Reusable Bags

Let’s start before the food is even in our homes. Here in NYC just a few months ago, plastic bags became outlawed. I was so happy to see the reduction of plastic as for many years I have been shopping with my own reusable bags.

However, since our world changed with the global pandemic, I notice many stores have become lax with this law. I guess since people are stocking up and going out as little as possible, the quantities of groceries people buy now are much larger.

Since the law was quite new, many people don’t have a large variety of reusable bags to bring to the market.

I hope when life gets back to normal, the law becomes enforced again. Americans use about 100 billion plastic bags a year. Do you have any idea what that does to landfills and animal life.

Just to give you one statistic – 100,000 marine animals are killed every year due to plastic bags.

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When I was visiting Iceland last year, most people walked with their own bags because you get charged a fee for the store to give you a bag. I think this is a great law to encourage the use of reusable bags.

Are you not stocked with reusable bags for your shopping trips? Here are some that you might find useful.

Food Scraps

What do you do with carrot peels, parsley stems, cilantro stems and asparagus woody ends? Do you just throw them in the garbage?

There is a lot of use in these food scraps. A lot of flavor can still be pulled out of them. Save them and keep them in a ziploc bag in the refrigerator?

Then when you are ready, make your own stock. All you need to do is boil these vegetable scraps in a pot of water with some garlic, onion and spices of your own preference (black pepper, cumin seed, coriander seed, cloves, etc.). Then drain it and store the stock in ice cube trays. Then whenever you need a few tablespoons of stock, take out an ice cube.

For chicken stock, add chicken bones. For shrimp stock, add shrimp shells also stored in the freezer until ready to use.

Composting

Even after you have utilized as much as you can for every part of the vegetable, you will still have food garbage. By composting, you can reduce your food garbage to almost nothing.

There are two ways to compost

  • Compost Center – You can store your garbage in an odor free compost bin and then once a week or as needed, bring to your local compost center. There all those foods scraps can be turned into soil.
  • Self Composting – If you have a house and maintain a garden, you can get your own composting bin. Just put all your food scraps in and in a few minutes soil and/or fertilizer tea can be made for your garden.

What kind of scraps can you compost?

  • Food and Vegetable Scraps
  • Non Greasy Food Scraps (bread, rice, pasta, beans)
  • Coffee grounds and filters
  • Tea bags
  • Nuts and pits
  • Egg Shells
  • Dried Flowers or Flower Stems

Food Preservation

You may ask yourself “What are are the ways to avoid food waste?” or “How can I reduce food waste when cooking?”

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Well, I am here to give you some guidance with Zero Waste Cooking Tips.

There are some foods we bring home and we know some of it will most likely end up in the garbage.

Here are some recipes to avoid that unnecessary food waste!

Pesto

Maybe you need a few tablespoons of parsley for a recipe but the market only sells it in a huge bunch? How are you going to use up the parsley before it goes bad?

Pesto Methodology can be used with many different herbs including parsley, cilantro, mint and vegetable greens like spinach, beet greens, etc. Use this Spinach Pesto or Chimichurri base recipe to use up leftover herbs and vegetable greens.

Vegan Beet Green Pesto

Jam

Jam is a great way of preserving fruits and vegetables. You won’t have time to eat them all up before they go bad and plus it is more cost effective to make your own jam! Everything from easy 15 minute Blueberry Chia Jam to Pumpkin Jam to Strawberry Jam can easily be made with leftover fruits or vegetables.

Pickles

Here in America, when you say pickles most people think of cucumbers in brine. However, in many cultures of the world, all varieties of vegetables and fruits can be pickled.

Pickle is a process, but not one particular food item. Basically all you need is some kind of acid – usually vinegar or lemon juice and some salt. Indian cuisine and Malaysian cuisine use pickles a lot, usually called achar, but they are not the only ones. To start you on your pickling journey, here are a few recipes you can try.

Many people throw away parts of fruits and vegetables that can be utilized in recipes. From beet greens to watermelon pith, do a quick Google search and you will find many recipes to utilize these extra parts.

Want to know how to use the watermelon pith and rind in recipes? Check out these 15 Watermelon Recipes that utilize all parts!

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Expiration Dates

This is definitely one of my major pet peeves. As a food blogger and a chef, I belong to many cooking and food groups on Facebook. I can’t tell you how many times people post questions like “My milk is going to expire tomorrow and I haven’t even opened it yet. Can you suggest some recipes so I can use up the milk?”

Some people throw away good food on the expiration date stamped on the product. This is another major cause of food waste!

An expiration date does not mean the product is going to suddenly go bad on that day. Especially an unopened product hasn’t even begun its shelf life yet.

Expiration Date is the suggested date you should purchase the product by. It is NOT the date when you can no longer use it.

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An opened container of buttermilk will last in my refrigerator for about 2-3 weeks, regardless of the expiration date. Eggs can last months!

However, you don’t want to drink bad milk right? So how do you tell if the milk is bad?

Personally, I just taste it if I am not sure. One sip and the sour taste will tell me it is no longer good. One sip is not going to be detrimental in any way. Usually, the sour smell is an indication and you don’t even have to taste it, if you don’t want to.

So PLEASE if you take no other advice from this post, don’t throw away food unnecessarily. Expiration dates DOES NOT mean the food is no longer good.

Food is bad when it smells or tastes sour or you see mold!

I hope these Zero Waste Cooking Tips help you save some money and let us all work together to preserve our planet!

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Thank you for sharing!

About Chef Mireille

CHEF MIREILLE - AUTHOR, RECIPE DEVELOPER AND PHOTOGRAPHER FOR Global Kitchen Travels
***
Chef Mireille is a NYC based freelance chef instructor and food photographer. Due to her very diverse family background, she was able to travel and learn about global cultures and flavors from a young age. Her passion for culture, cooking, history and education had made her an expert on developing traditional globally inspired recipes & delicious fusion cuisine.
Her extensive travel history provides a plethora of background information and Travel Tips!

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Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Mayuri Patel

    Mireille coming from a third world country, we grow up not wasting food. During my visit to Florida last year what really baffled me that the Super Power didn’t have any rules or regulations on less usage of plastic bags. A visit to the supermarket and plastic bags were just used mindlessly by those who packed up the shopping. Many countries world over including India, Kenya, Indonesia have bans on plastic bags and it just becomes natural to have a cloth bag handy whenever we go shopping. And yes pickles was a way to preserve certain fruits and vegetables to last the whole year. Thanks for including my lemon pickle link in your post.

    • Chef Mireille

      living in a capitalist society, often little attention is paid to earth and natural resources especially with the current government that puts little value on scientific fact. Progressive, liberal states are a little better but in order for real change to occur, it has to start from on top.

  2. ARCHANA

    I do agree with Mayuri we have quite a few fees for asking for a bag at markets. They are not enough but it is a beginning. In India, we grew up to hardly wasting anything. The waste in my grandmother’s kitchen ended up in the coconut tree and it used to be coconut shells and a few peels.
    Yes, pickles and jams help preserve veggies if your milk has spilt them make cottage cheese with it.
    But I am glad we have started looking at the health of Mother Earth!

  3. Mina Joshi

    Really good post. Having grown up in Kenya we were always taught to economize and not waste anything. Food got eaten or reused to make new dishes, clothes got given to the poor children and the Locals reused most of the plastic or tins that the western world throws away. I even save the free condiments we get given at restaurants to reuse at the Office. Now if possible, I buy products that can be refilled into my containers. Thankfully, we have a good recycling system in place in our Region.

    • Chef Mireille

      My Mom being from the Caribbean also taught us not to waste. She also saved free condiments and extra napkins to be used at home. Unfortunately, America is quite wasteful and go for immediate comfort. They often choose the easy way, not taking into consideration the effects. Even with all the studies etc. so many people are still so wasteful. Anything you want to improve for society that requires making minor change they scream “civil liberties”. Some people have even been resistant to wearing masks for this stupid reason.

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