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Zero Waste Cooking

Jul/30/2023 / by Rashmi Gopal Rao

Reduce, reuse, and recycle applies to meal prep as well

South Asian woman in a kitchen chopping vegetables
Image via Shutterstock

Minimizing food waste is one of the best ways to protect the environment, save precious resources, and even feed the hungry.  According to a report, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted.  This amounts to a staggering USD 408 billion in food trashed each year. 

Zero waste cooking can reduce food waste tremendously.  Here is how you can practice this in your kitchen and home.

Proper Meal Planning

The first step in zero waste cooking is to do a quick check of the ingredients in your fridge before ordering fresh batches.  You may have an assortment of vegetables left over from previous meals that aren’t sufficient for a main dish, such as broccoli after adding some to a soup or pasta.

In such cases, bunch all the leftovers and rustle up a quick salad or stew.   This way you not only end up with a clean fridge but also a nutritious meal without the guilt of trashing vegetables.  On the days you are short of veggies, you can use some beans and lentils. They are great for a one-pot meal.

Efficient Use of Vegetables

Try to use every part of the vegetable you are cooking, from the peels to the seeds. For example, the seeds and peels of gourds are excellent sources of fibre and minerals.  You can dry roast and powder the seeds and add them to soups and salad.  Squash and pumpkin seeds can be roasted and used in baked goodies.  The peel can also be added to stew or ground with coconut and spices to make flavourful chutneys. 

Similarly, hold on to the stalks of cauliflower and broccoli since they are edible.  You can chop them fine and add them to stews.  You can also roast, grill, and sauté them for a crunchy treat.  Greens of beets, turnip and radish can be used in salads or cooked with lentils. 

Effective Storage

Make optimum use of your freezer and store your leftovers so they don’t spoil.  Use preservation techniques like pickling in case you have excess peppers or berries.  Extra tomatoes can be pureed and frozen as ice cubes, then used when required. Fruits like bananas and grapes can be frozen and consumed as popsicles.  Dehydration is also an effective technique of preservation.

Longer Preservation

If you have a deluge of fruits at home, jams and marmalade are always a good idea.  Plums, mangoes, oranges, and strawberries are excellent choices for these.  Further, you can make juice and concentrated syrups which you can use even weeks later.  Fruit cakes and pastries are also good options if you enjoy baking.

Composting

When you are left with the odd vegetable or fruit, just transfer them to the composting bin.  Sometimes, you can still think of alternative uses, like soaking fruit and vegetables peels in water and using that water to nourish your plants.  Banana peel is especially nutritious for this purpose.  Egg shells are also a rich fertilizer. 

Reducing Packaging Waste

Being conscious of your packaging waste while shopping for groceries or ordering food can also minimize your wastage. Carrying your own cotton bag while shopping is one of the best ways to refuse plastic.

Order out only if necessary since it generates involves large amounts of plastic waste.  While it is not possible to stop ordering out completely, you can choose to order from restaurants that use compostable packaging material.  Further, you can pick up takeaway in your own container and decline plastic plates and straws.