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7 Simple Low-Waste Cooking Tips Everyone Needs

Minimizing your environmental footprint in the kitchen is as easy as paying a bit of extra attention—and embracing some low-waste cooking swaps.

low waste cooking
Written by
Samantha Bailon
The kitchen is where the magic happens. When approached with thought, whole and healthy ingredients are transmuted into meals designed to be shared with loved ones, the act of cooking an act of
. But there is a downside to our culture's approach to food: the waste involved is detrimental to the health of our planet. Fortunately, a few simple low-waste cooking hacks can help to alleviate the issue.
According to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
, an estimated 63.1 million tons of
food waste
was generated in 2018 by Americans alone. In addition, a cavalier approach to kitchenware can translate to additional municipal solid waste (MSW), filling our landfills with items that should have enjoyed longer lives in our homes.
From meal planning to preservation to quality cookware, these tips will ensure that your kitchen is a low-waste space.

7 Simple Ways to Cook With Less Waste

1. Plan Meals

A bit of extra forethought can mean a huge reduction in food waste.
Planning meals
for you and your family prevents overshopping and is a great way to keep your
grocery store
spending at reasonable levels. Planning out two to three weeks of meals, shopping with quantities in mind, and regular food prep all combine to make your cooking life easier and less wasteful.
Meal planning also
helps improve
the diet and health of a person simply because they are including more nutritional ingredients to cook with, and are eating less healthy options outside their home—which sounds like a pretty sweet deal. 

2. Choose Cookware That’s Built to Last

When it comes to cookware, you typically have four:
cast iron
, nonstick, stainless steel, and ceramic. Selecting your perfect pans can be tough, but this is one area where quality is key, both for the health of the environment and the humans in your home.
Many nonstick coatings produce
harmful byproducts
, not to mention release toxic chemicals when overheated. Plus, they only enjoy a lifespan of around
three to five years
. Cast iron pans, on the other hand, last for generations and when taken care of properly can lend to even more flavorful food. That said, cast iron is less multi-function than stainless steel (which can commonly be found secondhand) or ceramic.
Brands like
boast options that are long-lasting, toxin-free, and aesthetically pleasing, meaning that your cookware can stay in the kitchen and out of the landfill.

Caraway Cookware Set

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3. Store Food Properly

low-waste cooking
Food storage is a huge factor in any low-waste kitchen. Check storage directions on labels and store and prioritize ready-to-eat food ahead of non-perishables—a method known as "First In, First Out," commonly used by chefs.
Store produce in
Veggie Saver Produce Bags
to ensure peak freshness, and cover partially-used fruits and vegetables with
Food Huggers
to keep them viable. Herbs can be stored with stems in water, sliced bread in the freezer, and leftovers topped with convenient
fabric bowl covers
. These simple yet effective methods ensure that your food stays fresh and out of the trash can or
compost bin

4. Get Creative With Preservation

Mastering the arts of pickling and preservation ensures that food scraps stay edible for months or even years. Craft
with aging fruit, use a dehydrator to turn mealy apples into healthy snacks, or learn
how to pickle
or ferment veggies for a long shelf-life and probiotic benefits.

5. Avoid Plastic Packaging 

low-waste cooking
So far,
eight states
have banned single-use plastic bags. But you don't need to wait until the material is outlawed to curb your use. Remember to bring reusable bags (it doesn't need to be a giant
tote bag
—any will do), bring along
produce bags
, or ditch bags altogether and opt for a cardboard box.
Even better, direct your dollar toward the vendors at your local farmers' market, where you’ll find in-season produce without the extra waste. You can also practice bulk shopping and always keep a strong supply of grains and other important household staples. 

Food Huggers Set of 5

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 6. Reuse Stems, Seeds, and Scraps

When cooking with whole foods, try to use the whole foods. Low-waste advocates like Max La Manna suggest
trying recipes
that use the entire fruit or vegetable, from seed to skin. Should you be left with scraps and skins, store them for future use in stocks, stews, or sauces.

7. Host a Potluck With Friends

low-waste cooking
Consider planning a regular potluck with friends, family, or neighbors. Have everyone bring their favorite dishes or week’s leftovers to avoid throwing out tired dishes, preventing food waste in favor of a delicious celebration.