Tips For Zero Waste Food
The most common question we get as a zero waste family is, “How can I reduce waste while grocery shopping or ordering takeout?” So let’s talk about our favorite methods for reducing waste, whether we’re shopping for groceries to cook at home, going to a restaurant, or ordering in!
The first way we shop zero waste is to get as much of our food as possible at our local farmers market. We’re lucky to have a farmers market relatively close to our home.
My family has adapted to seasonal eating; surprisingly, we never feel deprived or like we’re eating the same thing repeatedly. Besides local and seasonal fruits, veggies, and nuts, you can find eggs, milk, cheese, fish and sea foods, bread, baked goods, chocolate, mushrooms, meat, poultry, and honey at farmers markets.
Most farmers market goodies are sold package-free, and usually, the vendors happily allow us to use our own containers. We use containers for sprouts and berries and reusable bags for everything else.
The second way we buy our groceries with zero waste is to buy bulk food from our local co-op, the People’s Co-Op, in Ocean Beach. They have almost all the staple foods we use, like oats, rice, quinoa, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, pasta, and more.
We bring our own large glass food storage jars, pre-weigh them before shopping, and refill them right there and then. The best part is that the jars do not have to be empty, and we only pay for what we buy. We can skip bags and add what we bought to our glass jars.
The bonus of shopping in bulk is that it saves us money—when you buy prepackaged food, you also pay for the packaging. Here is a link to bulk locators all over the U.S.
Yes, cooking from scratch is the most sustainable and waste-free way to eat, but sometimes it’s nice to go out to a restaurant or order in. When we do treat ourselves, we try to do it with as little waste as possible. When we opt for restaurants, the first thing we do is decline crayons and coloring pages for our kids. Instead, we keep an activity bag in the car that contains coloring books and pages, crayons and pens, card games, homemade playdough, yarn, and more to keep the kids happy.
We also order kids’ drinks in regular glasses and skip the straws. We keep a zero-waste car kit, so we have food containers to bring home any leftovers. That way, we can skip disposable boxes. We bought our stainless steel containers from Life Without Plastic. Our favorites are this circular container, and this rectangular stainless steel container, which is perfect for sushi. We love that they’re heavy duty—we’ve had ours for years.
When it comes to takeout, we generally order from the same restaurants and ask them when ordering if it’s okay for us to bring our own containers and bags. Usually, restaurants are happy to work with us, so we make sure to A. ask nicely, B. Bring clean containers, and C. give a good tip. Also, remember to say no to chop sticks, napkins, sauces and more. Trust me that it’s worth the effort to bring your own containers for your takeout food because it almost always comes packaged in plastic and not only is it waste but it also increased chances of dangerous chemicals leaking into food with hot food heating in food plastic containers.
Read more about zero waste cooking here
How to reduce food waste by storing food properly here