Photo taken by Peaches Goodrich
Hello my trashy babies! This month in Trash is Tragic, we’ll peep the intimate contents of a zero waste kitchen. Are you ready, my dirty bird?
The basic idea is, stop bringing food packaging into the house and minimize the food waste going out of the house. Eating in a zero-waste kitchen is phenomenal for a couple reasons:
- We eat healthy
- We save money
- We live simply
- We stop shrink-wrapping the planet
In the Old Days, I’d buy packaged food, but it irked me. Other shoppers never appeared concerned. I’d stand among them in the produce section, staring at bagged spinach and thinking, there’s something twisted about compostable matter wrapped in infinity oil. Deep in the mind hole I’d go: Humans have a history of making major goofs and maybe this whole “linear waste disposal” concept is a horror show of our own design!
It’s not that I was wrong – in our world of plastic everything forever, linear waste is a disaster. But perhaps thy lady needeth a friggin chill pill? So, let’s crawl out of the mind hole and break it down. When I buy packaged vegetables, I also buy the plastic packaging – a non-biodegradable resource designed for single-use disposability. In doing so, I agree to the wack-ass notion that personal health can be achieved at the expense of our habitat’s health. I’m not into it. Neither is reality. So, how do we avoid making food trash?
Bea Johnson (Zero Waste Home) has a useful framework for thinking about overall trash reduction:
Refuse what we do not need
Reduce what we do not need and can not refuse
Reuse what we consume and can not reduce or refuse
Recycle what we can not refuse, reduce, or reuse
Rot (compost) the rest
What does that look like in real life? Below, I’ve outlined our kitchen staples to show you how zero waste is implemented in the home. Use whatever works for you. Armed with knowledge and some resources, we can each make small steps to kick plastic-forever-waste in the dick.
KITCHEN STUFF #1: GROCERY SHOPPIN’ KIT
Homemade Drawstring Bags
These things are cool because they’re:
- Fucking adorable
- Have a built-in drawstring for easy closure (P.S. there’s no such thing as closure)
- Easy to clean with soap/water, or in a machine if you’re fancy
What do I fill them with at the commie co-op?
- Brussels sprouts (yes I spelled Brussels correctly, you fucking fascist)
- Pretty much anything you expect can be placed in a cotton bag
Making drawstring bags requires basic sewing skills. Use fabric you might otherwise throw away, like worn out sheets, or cum rags that have seen better days. Here, the fabric is cotton I marbled at a workshop, during the week in ‘16 when “Professional Marbler” struck me as an achievable goal. The “drawstring” is made from scrap bias tape. If you don’t want to make these, you don’t have to. Any kind of reusable bag will do. You can buy some. I don’t fucking care.
I store the drawstring bags inside my grocery totes, so packing for shopping trips is easy. That’s just the kind of girl I am, easy-breezy! The mesh bag is useful for wet produce, but I prefer to use the Seacoast Family Care Services Maternity of Portsmouth Regional Hospital tote because it’s comfortable and reminds me that my sister E, who gifted it to me, is judgemental about my choice to remain childless. The basket is cool. It has a flat, reinforced bottom making it useful for heavy jar days.
Nope, not a sharpie heart on my hand. It’s a crude tattoo. The outer dots are where the “artist” (my neighbor) “tattooed” (with a sewing needle) the first draft but I was like “nah too big” so he narrowed the design, and that’s why the tattoo looks like an homage to the Smashing Pumpkins. Here is our shopping list booklet. It hangs on the cupboard where we store food and there’s a (compostable) pencil nearby because, as we know, the list is as good as dead without one. We run out of something, we don’t rely on “remembering.” We. Write. It. Down. The list saves us time and gives us a serious competitive advantage in the dog-eat-dog aisles of Harvest Commie Co-Op.
I will also bring, as needed. . .
- Stainless steel containers – for olives, deli cheese, etc.
- Jars – for nut butter, spices, oils, etc.
KITCHEN STUFF #2: DRY GOODS
Nuts, beans, legumes, grains, dried cranberries and citrus peels, trail mix, honey, almond butter, coffee, rose petals, shredded coconut.
Upon returning home with my passive-aggressive maternity tote, I transfer sacked dry foods into jars. With the array of jars above, it doesn’t appear as though I have a definitive jar favorite. Well, friend, I do. Wide-mouth jars with the swing top. I enjoy wide-mouth jars in general. Why would I want a jar that tapers a tiny fucking bit at the top. I can’t get my meat hooks in there. There’s delicious bean dip inside that can not be reached by man nor beast nor carrot.
Storing dried goods properly keeps ‘em from spoiling – in airtight jars, out of sunlight, and away from heat. It also deters household pests such as mice and moths. Growing up, my family’s pantry had a moth problem. One time, my sister D poured herself a bowl of cereal and dug in. Half-way through the meal, she looked down and thought, “Why are the rice krispies moving?” Surprise, the cereal was moth babies.
KITCHEN STUFF #3: PERISHABLES
Sexy Stainless Steel
These airtight stainless steel containers Rock. My. World. I did the “tupperware-remnants-from-a-previous-roommate” hustle for years before investing in these bad boys. I’m not saying you need them, but I am saying that owning them makes me a better person than you.
They’re great for transporting food because they don’t leak and they’re lightweight. When storing perishables, we label the tub with a wax pencil, so food is easy to locate in the fridge.
Where to find:
Package Free Shop
Life Without Plastic
Improvised Bread Box
Mel’s Bread Storage System
- Get the bread. Keep a mental list of places that sell loose loaves of bread (or bread in compostable paper if that’s what they got). I got this delicious loaf for like $3 at Central Bottle in Cambridge. Bonus points: make the bread yourself.
- Put the bread in a cotton bag. The cotton absorbs moisture away from the bread, keeping mold at bay. This bag used to be a tote; I cut off the handles and strung them through the top seam and voila, it’s a drawstring bag.
- Put the bagged bread into a box. This keeps the bread from drying out completely. Our cast iron Creuset is off duty most of the time, so “Bread Box” is it’s side hustle.
Bread made from scratch is the food of our ancient ancestors, and our ancient ancestors did not use Calcium Propionate or Butylated Hydroxytoluene. Thus, it has a shorter shelf life compared to your common sliced bread. Eat it within like 6 days. If you can’t do that, store all or a portion in the freezer and it’ll keep for a long time. Break that shit out when you’re ready to create a grilled cheese masterpiece. Dried bread can be resurrected as croutons, bread pudding, bread crumbs, body of christ, etc.
Bowls, Jars, Bottles
We eat many fruits and vegetables ‘Round Here. To get them sans garbage means saying “NAH” to plastic produce bags, obvi. But it also means eschewing things like rubber bands, twist ties, and produce stickers – as much as possible. ‘Round Here, zero-waste produce options shrink a little when farmer’s markets close for the winter. Do your best.
Storing fruits and vegetables properly is an important element of waste subversion. Some foods dry out in the fridge, so keep them out on the counter, where you can closely monitor their activity and report any suspicious behavior. Foods we store en plein air:
- Butter – in a butter dish – except in summer – butter soup
- Green onions – in a glass of water – they keep growing!
- Olive oil – in a dark glass bottle with a spout, stolen from a bar
In Da (refridgerator) Club, by 50 Cent:
- Carrots – store in a water bath; change the water every week or so and they’ll last for a long-ass time
- Greens (chard, kale, spinach) – in airtight containers
- Herbs (cilantro, parsley) – in a glass of water
- Broccoli – goes in bareback
I could go on, but I’ll provide a link instead:
How to Store Produce Without Plastic, via My So-Called Life, I mean, My Plastic-Free Life
KITCHEN STUFF #4: FOOD SCRAPS
I freeze vegetable scraps. When the time comes, I’ll turn ‘em into broth and use it to cook grains or make soup. Same goes for bones. I don’t eat meat often, but occasionally, I get an all-encompassing “buffs wing” craving that requires immediate attention. After devouring the innocent chicken’s buffs, I take the buff bones home from the restaurant – in a container I’ve brought, or a clean handkerchief, or a compostable napkin. I freeze ‘em in a stainless steel container until there’s enough for broth.
Reasons to avoid store-bought broth:
- It comes in a plastic box which will terrorize the planet for generations
- It can be very high in sodium – no good for skin, no good for nothin’
- The taste is “whatever”
- You’re gonna use one cup and the remainder will rot in a forsaken corner of your fridge
- Roommates will see your failure
- Dumping it out the sink is smelly
- Taking out the trash is boring
Reasons to make your own broth
- You feel Little House on the Prairie as fuck
After making broth, I either use it within a week or freeze it. Careful – broth loves to be forgotten, but will resent you for it.
Recipes, via Zero Waste Chef:
Zero-Waste Vegetable Broth
Zero-Waste Bone Broth
15 Creative Uses for Food Scraps
We ate a lot of citrus this winter. Grapefruits, lemons, and limes add fresh flavor to winter dishes, giving our taste buds a nice kick in the dick. Eating citrus flesh creates rind waste, and too many citrus rinds in the compost heap can lead to mo’ problems. Luckily, they can be repurposed to sensual effect.
Uses for citrus peels:
- Lemon zest
- Tea (once dried)
- Candied citrus peels
- Infuse cleaning vinegar for lemon fresh scent
There are many more . . . I’m gonna link ya!
10 Ideas to Rescue Citrus Peels, via Zero Waste Chef
Avocado pits are a natural fabric dye. They create a beautiful, delicate pink color. I’m saving up to dye something big, who knows what (probably cum rags). I’ll share my results when the day comes. In the meantime, there are plenty of tutorials on the net, just google The Net Starring Sandra Bullock.
KITCHEN STUFF #5: THE COMPOST BUCKET
Little Daddy Compost Bucket (slipper for scale)
We keep this bad boy under the counter. As you can see, there are holes in the top for aeration. Each time we add wet stuff (food, eggshells, coffee grinds), we add a handful of dry fibers that have been torn up: brown paper, newspaper, egg cartons, etc. We store the shredded paper in a bag, kept handily near the compost bin. When the bin fills up, Peaches will haul it out back to the Big Daddy.
Compost Bin in the Back Yard with Neighborhood Cat, 2018. Digital Photo. Price upon request.
Big Daddy Compost Bin
We had to get a new compost bin when the old plastic one was overrun by rats. After three years of hard service, she was simply no match for the rat boom of ‘16. They built labyrinthian tunnels Secret of NIMH-style, chewing in from the bottom and out through the sides in their greedy quest. In winter the compost heap became an incubator. Compost creates heat as it breaks down, and boy were those twisted little rats loving it. Day in and day out it was a Caligulan rodent orgy and it needed to stop. Metal composters are great rat preventers. Unfortunately, a metal compost bin of “eh” quality can cost several hundred dollars. So Peaches came up with another idea.
How to fashion a compost bin from a metal trash can
- Obtain a metal trash can
- “Swiss cheese” the bottom with a drill; “many, many, many, many holes”
- Drill holes on the side of the can: one row of holes about ¼ of the way from the top, another row about ¼ of the way from the boom.
- Use gardening shears to open the side holes up little
- Dig a hole in the earth, deep enough to bury the trash can halfway
Fill ‘er up with a mix of food scraps and dried fibrous material (dried leaves, torn up newspaper, brown paper, etc). Stir it up once in a while. The only thing is, you gotta shovel it out to get the finished compost. We do this once a year. Ok, Peaches does it once a year.
There are more convenient composters for sale. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a booming rat population, plastic composters can be bought at most garden centers. A family company in Canada makes a nice metal one for fancy folk: https://speedibin.com/
KITCHEN STUFF #6: CLEANING SUPPLIES
(No) Scrubs by TLC
Top to bottom:
Redecker soft-bristle brush head
Redecker hard-bristle brush head
Redecker pot scrubber, of the hardest bristle
Redecker scrub brush (for bathtub, basins, surfaces, whatever)
All of these are compostable, last a long long time, and don’t hold odor – so say bye-bye to nasty sponge smell. Boston General Store in Coolidge Corner sells Redecker brush heads. You can find sea sponges at Cambridge Naturals in Porter Square, or at a fancy skin care store on Charles Street that I walk past sometimes. They’re in the window. Natural sea sponges are kind of expensive, so I cut them in half, and use them to clean surfaces.
Top to bottom:
Spout, stolen from work by a bartender friend
Dr. Bronner’s and H20, kept next to sink
Dr. Bronner’s, STRAIGHT UP, kept under sink
The plastic bottle is a remnant from the Old Days. I keep a couple of these under the sink and fill ‘em at Harvest with bulk Bronner’s.
At home, I fill the glass jar about halfway with Bronner’s, and top it off with water. The mix pours out nice ‘n smooth onto my hard-bristle dish brush. The soap mingles with the water as my hand agitates. It conjures a luxurious lather that’s sexily sustainable. The mood in my kitchen gets super twisted.
The Bronner’s is mostly for dishwashing but I’ll also hit the mop up side with this shit when I’m feeling randy.
Unless Your Cleanse Involves Vinegar, I Don’t Give a Fuck
Top to bottom:
Homemade all-purpose vinegar cleaner in a plastic spray bottle
Baking Soda, can’t you fucking read
Vinegar, infused with lemon rinds for lemon-ass freshness
It’s time to do away with the notion that a product is needed for every conceivable cleaning application. Vinegar is fantastic substitute for chemical “cleaning” products, and can also be used for laundry, pest control, and gardening. More on that another time. I haven’t found white vinegar in bulk (YET). Buy it in glass and reuse the bottle.
Basic Vinegar Cleaner, via Zero Waste Home
- Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup water and ¼ cup white distilled vinegar
- For lemon scent, put two citrus peels into the vinegar for a few weeks, prior to diluting
- Spray on surfaces and wipe away
Cut Your Own Rags – out of used . . .
- Cotton t-shirt
- Cum rags, but I guess that’s already a rag so maybe not?
THAT PRETTY MUCH DOES IT
There are other things in my kitchen, like a food processor and knives, but I’m tired of talking to you. I love a good comments section, so please gimme your feedback and questions below. I’m on instagram @melsmoviemagic.