What is zero-waste cooking and how do I do it?
Doing your part to lower your carbon footprint might mean changing the way you cook. Here’s how to be sustainable in the kitchen.
Food waste is a big problem worldwide, but especially in South Africa where, according to the WWF, 10 million tonnes of food is wasted every year, while millions of South Africans go hungry.
We’ve all become more aware of how our everyday habits affect the environment, from the way we shop to our energy consumption. But have you ever thought of doing things differently in the kitchen?
What is zero-waste cooking?
Zero-waste cooking is exactly what it says on the tin – no waste is left behind after cooking a meal. This would include parts of the ingredients you’re using (as well as its packaging) that you would usually throw away. Not everything has to go into that particular dish, however. You could use some parts for future dishes, put them in the compost pile or repurpose them in some other way.
Zero-waste cooking helps you to reduce, reuse and recycle things in your kitchen and home as well.
- Reduce the amount of food you’re cooking so that you can avoid waste, while also avoiding unnecessary ingredients and extras.
- Reuse your food scraps for other purposes like composting. Use reusable containers for leftovers.
- Recycle your leftovers into more meals instead of wasting food.
How do I do it?
Well, individual dietary needs look different for everyone, but there are different ways to go about zero-waste cooking that can be beneficial to everyone.
Use as much of your ingredients in your cooking as possible
We often cut and throw away parts of vegetables and fruits that we can still use. For example:
- The stems of vegetables such as Swiss chard and kale are often removed, but they’re edible too! You can sauté them, add them to soups or even make smoothies. Broccoli stems can be roasted and grilled or even used in great recipes like this broccoli quiche!
- A lot of root vegetables are sold with their green bits still attached. They don’t need to be thrown away! You can use them in salads, roast them, make them into kimchi or use them in recipes that call for you to use greens like this chicken salad with bacon-wrapped greens.
- Have carrot tops and bits of fennel? Keep them for use in a great pesto!
- Collect your pumpkin and squash seeds and roast them for a delicious snack or make a dessert like this pumpkin pie with candied pumpkin seeds.
- You can use potato peels to make crunchy crisps or dehydrate apple peels for a healthy snack. Use cucumber peels to make your own tzatziki.
- Scrub ‘em clean and make juice from all your fruit and veggie leftovers.
- Make and freeze broth for future recipes like yummy ramen with leftover bones, meat and veggie scraps.
What to do with the waste you can’t cook
- Freeze cheese rinds and use them to flavour soups or give them to your dog as a snack (make sure that your vet approves).
- You can start your own veggie garden by replanting roots and trimmings from veggies like onions, celery and lettuce – or even avocado.
- If your everyday breakfast consists of plunger or filter coffee and a few eggs, you can use both the coffee grounds and eggs shells for fertiliser.
- Make oil infusions, vinegar or bitters with fruit peels.
Your compost pile is your friend
Whatever you truly cannot use can be placed in your compost pile and that can help your beautiful garden grow. Just remember there are certain things like onions and citrus that aren’t good for composting, unless you try the bokashi composting method.
Have you tried zero-waste cooking? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.