Let’s talk about how you can create a sustainable kitchen, even if you currently have an average run-of-the-mill one.
- Building a Sustainable Kitchen Haven
- 3 Sustainable Kitchen Practices
- Cooking with Ethical Ingredients in Your Sustainable Kitchen
- Energy-efficient kitchen practices to include in your sustainable kitchen
- Waste reduction and recycling – the power behind a sustainable kitchen
- Fun Sustainable Kitchen Challenges
A sustainable kitchen is what helps keep you afloat while helping the environment. And don’t worry. If that’s not on your priority to-do list just yet, it’s still a great way to setup your kitchen.
Building a Sustainable Kitchen Haven
Why should you want to revolutionize your kitchen?
Glad you asked!
Part of enjoying a self-sufficient life is building a sustainable and ethical kitchen. One where every meal becomes a conscious choice, not just for our taste buds but for the planet. And all the bits and bobs tied to that are intentional too.
This may be trendy right now, but transforming your kitchen into a sustainable haven is a powerful step towards making a positive impact.
So check this out.
Your kitchen not only serves up delicious meals but also contributes to a healthier environment and supports ethical practices.
It’s no longer just about what’s on your plate. It’s about the journey those ingredients took to get there and the footprint they leave behind.
I read an amazing book that opened my eyes to the impact of making small food changes, even just one home cooked meal a week would make a difference. The book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.
We can’t know what we haven’t been taught.
– Barbara Kingsolver
So, even if you’re just starting to really explore your kitchen, this is one place where sustainability and ethics come together.
Sustainable practices = longevity. And that means that ethically sourced ingredients and tools support community and clean consciences for a long time!
3 Sustainable Kitchen Practices
#1 Mindful Meal Planning
Planning is the root of sustainable practices. Not only does having a plan keep you on track, practicing the plan simplifies things and reduces food waste. When you realize the delicious purpose an item has, you minimize the chances of it being forgotten in the back of your fridge or pantry.
Here’s how you can tackle it.
- Start by jotting down a simple meal plan for the weekend. Or if you can manage it, do a 5 or 7-day meal plan.
- Consider your ingredients.
- Use what you already have first & what’s nearing it’s expiration/best-by date.
- Lean towards ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes. This streamlines your grocery shopping & maximizes each item.
Bonus tip: when you arrange your meals, do so thinking of how you can use leftovers. Chicken left over from one meal can be added to a salad or soup of another. Something like that.
#2 Eat Local: Farm to Table
You may hear this a lot. But here it is again.
Eating locally will turn your kitchen into a portal to the world. So when you actively choose to source products locally, that brings the world closer to home.
Support local farmers not only for the fresh & vibrant produce but also for the positive impact on your community. This way you won’t just enjoy seasonal flavors. You become a crucial part of a sustainable cycle that supports the livelihoods of those around you who also are doing their best to nourish the Earth.
And what’s more, you cut down on some of the environmental impact of long-distance food transportation too.
Bonus: Plus, shopping with a small farmer helps you build community and connection. This is so valuable. You might not be ready or able to grow your own food yet, but the goal is that someday you will. It’s these very connections that will help you do it.
#3 Waste Less, Compost More
Composting is like giving your kitchen scraps a second chance at life.
And it won’t cost you anything more than whatever you’ve been doing with them (likely tossing them am I right?).
Meanwhile, you can start creating nutrient-rich soil for your own windowsill or balcony garden. OR you can donate these precious food scraps at most farmers markets or community gardens.
Diverting food waste from landfills isn’t just a sustainable kitchen practice. It minimizes your environmental impact & contributes to the cycle of renewal.
All you need to do is collect your food scraps in a sealed container and store them either in your fridge or pantry.
If you’re able to actually compost them yourself, just transfer them to your composting container.
And if you’re donating them, be sure to keep do so frequently to avoid less-than-pleasant smells.
Bonus tip: Use reusable containers and try to reduce single-use plastics here. Make a small investment in quality reusable food storage containers or alternatives. And when possible, minimize packaging waste by buying in bulk. That saves you money in the long run too!
Cooking with Ethical Ingredients in Your Sustainable Kitchen
Shifting gears a bit, let’s talk about food. Being ethical in the kitchen means making thoughtful choices about what you buy. It’s like being a superhero for farmers and the environment.
First, there’s conscious consumerism.
Be a mindful shopper. Maybe you’re early on in your self-sufficient living journey like me. We can’t be 100% self-reliant so when purchases are made, it’s important to do the best you can with what you have.
Understanding food labels and certifications is one way to do that. Whether it’s “Fair Trade” (meaning fair wages for farmers) or “Organic”, the label signals sustainable farming practices. Decoding these labels means you get to make choices that align with your values. And that’s HUGE.
Here’s the caveat. You have to do your research.
The little conspiracy theorist in me is doubtful about how much any of these labels truly mean. But that’s why I said you have to do the best you can with what you have.
Knowledge is your defense. Use it wisely.
Then there’s animal welfare.
I’m a meat and dairy eater. So is the rest of my family. Thus, in this category of a sustainable kitchen with ethical values, it’s important to understand labels like “free-range”. That term is a sliding scale though.
Sometimes it means the animals have access to roam freely. However, they may only have that access for a small part of the day and not the full day as you may think. You can read the governing agency literature on it. Or simply ask your farmer to explain their practices.
This is an area where it’s important to consider the humane treatment of an animal. And also the impact that industrial farming has on animals. If you’re opposed to it all, you can try a plant-based diet or experiment with meatless meals to cut back on the amount of animal products you’re using.
Energy-efficient kitchen practices to include in your sustainable kitchen
Opt for energy-saving cooking to reduce your carbon footprint.
If you’re not generating your own energy yet, here are a couple tips to minimize energy consumption.
- Optimize oven and stovetop usage for efficiency.
- Use lids on pots and pans to retain heat and reduce cooking time.
- Explore cooking methods like slow cooking for energy savings.
Now, for the benefits of using energy-efficient appliances. If you’re renting (and that’s fine, btw!), use what you have.
But don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your landlord about swapping out some appliances (within reason). Upgrading to Energy Star-rated appliances, for instance.
They may be interested in the environmental impact and cost savings too. The best time to bring it up is when an older model naturally needs replacing. You can advocate for that!
Reducing Water Waste
Saving water in the kitchen isn’t just about turning off the tap – it’s a lifestyle. And here are some practical ways to conserve water while cooking and cleaning.
- Use a basin or stop your sink when washing fruits and vegetables instead of running water.
- Collect and reuse water from rinsing fruits and veggies for plants. Or flushing toilets.
- Opt for efficient dishwashing practices to minimize water usage.
- Install water-saving devices and faucets.
- Explore faucet aerators to reduce water flow without compromising pressure.
- Consider installing a low-flow kitchen faucet for efficiency.
- Learn about smart technology that optimizes water usage in the kitchen.
Reducing Food Waste
Food waste is huge in America, but there are simple practices we can do to reduce that.
- Kitchen Inventory – This is the EASIEST way to reduce food waste. Keep track of the food on hand. Because “out of sight, out of mind.” Keeping food visible gives it a higher chance of being used before it requires composting. Use our basic kitchen inventory management worksheets to get started.
- Meal plan – Keep it simple. Whether it’s one day, one week or just one ingredient. Make a plan for the food you just identified you have & needs to be used. For example, if you find you have 5 potatoes reaching the end of their prime, decide what to do with them. Maybe make a breakfast skillet hash or bake a couple for roasted potatoes. And if you really won’t eat them, make a plan to preserve them! Preserving food at home as a beginner is as easy as using vacuum seal bags to stash something in the freezer without it getting the dreaded freezer burn.
- Proper storage – This helps maintain the freshness of food for a longer period, preventing premature spoilage. Keep perishables like fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, store dry goods in airtight containers and freeze or preserve items that you won’t use immediately.
- Get creative with leftovers – turn last night’s chicken into today’s quick stir fry or cozy chicken noodle soup. Repurposing leftovers also adds variety to your meals. It’s a win-win – less waste and a chance to discover new flavor combinations or practice some basic cooking techniques.
Waste reduction and recycling – the power behind a sustainable kitchen
Zero-Waste Kitchen Challenges
When I make space for my competitiveness in the kitchen, it becomes exciting. So turning waste reduction into a game was so much fun!
Remember, zero-waste practices don’t mean you have to be perfect. Everything I’m sharing is about progress.
And here specifically, we’re looking for creative ways to repurpose kitchen scraps, minimize waste and just enjoy the journey we’re on.
So here’s a few tips on zero-waste practices and repurposing kitchen scraps (before they need to be composted).
- Take on weekly or monthly zero-waste challenges.
- Set achievable goals to gradually reduce kitchen waste.
- Explore the zero-waste movement and its principles.
- Transform vegetable scraps into flavorful broth.
- Transform fruit peels into powerful vinegars for cleaning surfaces.
- Explore DIY projects using repurposed kitchen items.
Effective recycling strategies for your new kitchen
We’ve reached the point where it’s time to start sorting and recycling materials like paper, plastic, and glass. Just maybe, you can repurpose them into functional storage solutions! Just be sure to thoroughly clean and dry them first to avoid contamination.
You can turn glass jars into all sorts of storage vessels. Cardboard boxes can be used for freezer & pantry organization. And you can even upcycle some packaging material in other parts of your home too!
The game is “how many lives can this item live before its final resting place?”
Fun Sustainable Kitchen Challenges
(plus a downloadable game card too!)
- Make mindful choices one at a time. From reducing single-use plastics to choosing eco-friendly kitchen products.
- Try dedicating the first week of each month to something like “plastic-free week” or “reusable shopping challenge”.
- Host a product swap get-together with a few friends.
- Maybe even break out a small pot of dirt to plant some herbs!
Whatever you do, start small. Overwhelm never helped anyone do anything. I should know.
Your sustainable kitchen is now underway! These practices are going to have a long-lasting impact on not only you, your home and family, but on your community too.
You’ve got this, lovely. I’m glad you’re on this journey with me.
Comment below how your kitchen transformation is going. I’d love to know!
🌱 Start Small. Start Now. Start where you are with what you have. The rest will follow.🌱
Is being more self-sufficient is something you’re interested in but you’re not sure where to begin?
Then check out the Self-Sufficient Living Roadmap!
I designed it to help you eliminate some of the overwhelm of starting an incredibly massive journey.