Zero waste is not about perfection, pure white walls with all-bamboo utensils and high-grade steel. Zero waste can be a very utilitarian, non-magazine spread kind of joy that works even in an old apartment in a “bad” neighborhood. (Yeah, spoiler alert: I’m talking about myself.)
Ideally, we’re planning on buying a house soon, which would give me free reign to design a kitchen a little closer to my dreams – but still, my kitchen will never be all matching jars and minimalist perfection. Because that necessitates a lot of spending and more waste.
Until then, welcome to my (kinda-sorta) zero waste kitchen:
How would I describe my kitchen?
Bigger than my previous minuscule kitchen, but nothing to write home about. It’s actually quite a nice little space, but it has no natural light which really kills my desire to spend any amount of time in it.
We’ve got a stove, microwave, dishwasher, and fridge that came with the apartment, as well as ample storage space for all the kitchen items we need to store.
See that super-clean stovetop? (It’s not usually that clean – I just took these pics after my weekly cleaning session.) Cleaned with just baking soda, citrus vinegar spray, and hot water. Boom!
For washing up, I use a Dish Dumpling* as a natural sponge and baking soda in lieu of dish soap. My husband prefers regular dish soap so he purchases that when he feels like, although he’s slowly coming around to going without.
The top wire cabinet is full of all of our mugs – we probably have about 15, most with sentimental value.
You know I love you when I gift you a mug!
Below that is our shelf housing two kombucha SCOBYs, a basket with tea and my tea strainer, cool glassware from my mom, and another mug. (Seriously, we have a problem!)
That cutting board is another little quirk of our relationship: the P side is mine and my husband’s only allowed to chop meaty things on the other side. Compromise!
Below the sink: extra glass bottles I’m not sure what to do with yet, shopping bags, and a stash of plastic bags I haven’t gotten around to yet.
The lower cabinet right of the sink: all of our cooking things. We have two cast iron skillets (one vegetarian, one meaty), a large, heavy pot, a medium pot, a crock pot, and 3-4 bowls. I feel like this area is pretty solid, but there’s a few things I’d like to add into the mix eventually.
The upper cabinet to the right of the sink: all of our dishes/storage options. I feel like we have way too many plates and bowls for two people, but my husband catches me every time I try to get rid of a few.
I’m of the “less stuff = less washing” mentality. Sue me.
On the very top left are our containers. The two red ones are Bialetti brand that I found in a second hand shop; unfortunately, I couldn’t find them online. I really love these because they’re oven safe! The glass container is an unmarked one I picked up from TJ Maxx.
On the right, I’ve got an off-brand Ninja for smoothies, my ragged collection of glass jars, and coffee items. I love using my Osaka pour over*, although we do still have a coffee maker for larger batches.
What’s in the drawers?
Nothing too wild, although I do have an important note. In the second picture, you see plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and plastic bags – all big no-nos for zero wasters. BUT. All of these were rescued from being trashed (we have a ton of plastic bags from snacks at our school which would otherwise be single use).
Carefully using up resources that have already been created is much more mindful than simply tossing them in the landfill for the sake of calling yourself “zero waste”.
What am I eating?
Our eating habits are kind of strange for a few reasons:
- I’m a vegetarian and my husband is… not. This requires a lot of finesse and bargaining whenever we’re both in the kitchen. It is what it is, and life is actually a lot easier than you might imagine. I tend to cook a lot, so he’s usually happy to go along with whatever I do.
- We have 1-2 meals at work during the week. We both work in schools in which we’re expected to eat with the kids to promote a “family style” environment. This means we both usually get breakfast, lunch, and a couple snacks during the day. This cuts down on a HUGE portion of our grocery bill.
- We rescue a lot of food from our job. The nature of childcare/institutional settings is that there are tons of licensing issues. A lot of that requires perfectly good food to be thrown away just to be absolutely sure the clients aren’t affected. That means “expired” food is often rescued rather than tossed. Consider it dumpster diving without having to get into the dumpster!
So what’s inside our cabinets, exactly?
On the top shelf are a couple of loose leaf teas as well as some local honey.
On the bottom shelf: all of the spices. I’d like to blame the spice addiction on my husband, but it’s partly me too. We buy/rescue a lot of spices and try to use them up.
Moving to the other side of the kitchen, the top of my fridge is home to veggies that don’t need to be refrigerated slash whatever else we think to stash behind the picture frame.
Our freezer: we’ve pretty much stopped using any frozen foods. Instead, our freezer is a repository for future compost and ice cubes. And a random bag of peas.
Exciting, I know.
Our fridge. Definitely not #PinterestWorthy, I know, but I’m trying to be realistic here!
The top shelf is for milk (glass bottle from Oberweis Dairy), veggies, and stuff that needs to be eaten pretty quickly.
Middle shelf: longer term items like tofu (first time purchased this year – I finally cracked!), eggs, pre-cooked food, and various jars. Check out the two bags of cheese and the veggie broth rescued from the trash at our school – go dumpster diving!
Bottom shelf: a couple of bottles of kombucha and any of my husband’s meat are relegated to the bottom row!
The side door is a hodgepodge of butter, yeast, in-use fruit, and whatever condiments have been rattling around our fridge for ages.
That’s it! Our super-tiny kitchen packed full of stuff! Definitely not 100% zero waste, but we’re on our way!