The pantry can be a tidy queen’s favourite challenge, even for Marie Kondo.
It can also be the messiest part of the house and where you find yourself constantly throwing out perished foods. It becomes overwhelming when you consider this all in the context of starting a Zero Waste kitchen.
But it’s not all or nothing, there are many things you can do in between too, until you feel confident enough to move to the next change you can make. Slow progress is key to ensuring you can stick to the new habits in the long run and make it a sustainable practice that you embrace.
What’s a zero waste pantry?
Ideally it means no waste (surprise!!!!) but be it in disposables such as wraps and containers or food - all apply. While a zero waste pantry might seem a long way away, there’s room for a lot of changes to lighten your waste load along the way. Small changes in the right direction as you progress are important to maintaining motivation and making your practices sustainable.
Why a zero waste pantry?
Let's look at 5 top reasons for wanting to build your own zero-waste sustainable pantry.
It saves you MONEY
It saves you TIME
It saves you WASTE
It is HEALTHIER
It develops CREATIVITY (no, really)
Starting with what is likely the most appealing to most households therefore
Zero-waste pantry benefit #1: saving money
Managed properly, by storing properly, buying sufficient amounts and knowing the contents of your pantry through simple organisation techniques, you can save a lot of money, contrary to popular belief. If you knew where everything was and what needed to be eaten first, you’d not be throwing out and restocking so much. You'd also buy better priced loose vegetables and fruits more at wet markets for instance, to avoid the heavily packaged foods from the local supermarkets. Fresh also means better management of foods, so you're a lot less likely to stock up on tons of food or more than you can in fact consume. It doesn't require huge investments either to begin setting one up - most things you have used can be re-purposed without having to spend at all.
Zero-waste pantry benefit #2: time saved
After the initial one off of organising your new pantry, you’ll have simplified a lot of the tasks you usually do. Think about it, when you have hundreds of boxes and packaging all around your kitchen, you spend a lot of time opening, unwrapping, checking labels for due dates, sorting the containers and wraps (we hope!) and taking them out to the recycling bins. Be honest, do you really know what’s in your cupboards? A good zero waste kitchen has lots of tricks for ready-to-go snacks that make the whole idea appealing, and simple to roll out. If you are health conscious, you also won't be spending half the time in the supermarket scrutinising labels for nasties that are common in packaged and processed foods.
Zero-waste pantry benefit #3: less waste in the kitchen
Yes the most obvious one - less packaging in the kitchen means less to throw out. It’s not rocket science. And not just plastic and paper: if you organise yourself properly you’ll waste less food. In 2016 in fact, the NEA’s Household Waste Study revealed that over 50% of household food waste could be prevented. Food waste is a big problem because we use a lot of resources to produce food, and these resources go to waste too when we throw away produce. From greenhouse gas emissions, the use of land and water resources and the additional effects on the planet done by pesticides and herbicides, food production has a huge impact on the environment.
Zero-waste pantry benefit #4: better for your body and mind
It’s no news that plastic wrap and highly processed foods aren’t healthy. By going Zero Waste, you’re filling your kitchen with more fresh and often healthier food choices and reducing the toxins accumulated with packaged foods: both those that can come from the packaging and those added in industrial foods such as preservatives, thickeners, flavour enhancers... You'll develop a new relationship too with the nutritional value of foods, by looking up what makes a balanced diet rather than relying on agro-industrial claims. Ultimately, you will have greater control over your health, even if inadvertently.
Zero-waste pantry benefit #5: thinking outside the box
Ok so that one might be a little more far fetched ;) but it's not entirely nonsense! When you have to generate new solutions to new challenges, you will find that you will need to tap into a different mindset altogether. We never fix a problem by approaching it with the same thinking and attitude that created it. Allowing for more critical thinking and problem solving, you will start to appreciate the creativity that goes into imagining new recipes to use meal leftovers, learn new tricks and hacks to store food longer, how to make your own versions of previously packaged ready made sauces, seasonings and meals... So many new activities that you will open all your senses and knowledge about food. Given the vital role it has in our daily lives, shouldn't everyone experience this re-connection with what nourishes our bodies and minds?
If that's not food for thought ;)