As you adapt more into reducing waste and start developing healthier habits, you will find (as we continuously do) that going 100% Zero Waste initially is quite tricky, if not unrealistic.
The same can be said of having a Zero Waste Pantry. Nevertheless, it is possible to take some small leaps.
Keeping a minimalist pantry is more than just the nice Mason Jars you may have in your pantry. You also have to bear in mind where these items are being produced. And how are they made?
Namely, what is the point of having ingredients in glass packaging if they were made or transported involving plastic or some form of container that cannot be reused?
Ideally, you want to apply some of the principles we talk about at Puratium, in helping you get as close as possible to a plastic-free pantry.
Nevertheless, here is a system that will help you keep your pantry as Zero Waste as possible.
Reduce Or Eliminate Unnecessary Purchases
If you want a good idea of where to start, stop buying unnecessary things when grocery shopping.
What are the odds that if you go into your pantry, you will have packaged products? Additionally, what are the chances that you don’t need at least one thing in there?
It’s one of the main principles of minimalism. Namely, buy what you need.
For context, in the United States, the Department Of Agriculture estimates that anywhere between 30 to 40% of the food supply is wasted.
Consider that if we reduce even half of that waste, we would be making a huge impact, which is why we talk about the importance of Zero Waste consistently.
If you need more reasons, then consider the economic impact. Namely, how much money you save by reusing bags, containers, etc.
A good practice we have is to every six months go back and check our expenses, and see where we have unnecessary purchases.
Now, we are not suggesting you cut out things that make you happy, or have some form of value to you, but just to take a look and see what you can eliminate.
There are many ways to avoid overbuying, such as meal planning in your kitchen effectively. But namely, a lot of it has to do with self-control with what you want to eat.
The more you buy things like plastic bottled water (which you can replace with water filtered with active charcoal), the more damage you are doing.
Also, realize that in bulk production, you will have things like spoilage, or circumstances in the production cycle that are out of our control.
Such examples are a malfunction of equipment and food going rotten because of insects, rodents, or bacteria.
Hence, these are the elements we cannot control, so we have to make a difference at home.
Reuse Your Containers & Jars
Probably the primary subject matter most people are looking for in regards to pantry and Zero Waste. In this regard, Mason Jars are essential.
Primarily, how do you make them reusable? Mason Jars (or glass Jars in general) have a ton of uses; we recently wrote an interesting article on how to properly freeze these jars(you can find that here). In addition, they are great for home decorating.
Rather than buying more, it is better to simply figure out the best way to use the ones you already have.
We’ll get into what you can store with them in a second. The most difficult adjustment you will have to entertain is preparing these containers and doing much of your shopping with them.
If you are bringing in food in other packages and then passing them to the glass jars, you are just contributing to waste.
Namely, you have to take your jars and use them as containers for much of your kitchen food shopping.
Finding stores where you can bring your containers to use for food storage is becoming easier.
Namely, because people are familiarizing themselves with food waste. If you need some information on local shops that allow you to bring in items for things such as beans, seeds, etc., a local google search should solve your issue.
One example is to first try bulk food stores, much of these benefit from people bringing in their own containers.
That being said, while part of Zero Waste is to avoid buying more of these jars, if you are just starting, and you have to buy some jars, then make sure you get jars you will be able to use as bags for all your items.
Nevertheless, here is a list of items that you can keep in these glass jars and typical to find in your kitchen to avoid waste pantry.
Feel free to use your imagination to add more things to your recipes.
For a Zero Waste or at least Low Waste Pantry, buy only what you need, and avoid single-use packaging. Reuse glass jars for other purposes at home and in your kitchen.
Sauces & Oils
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Pasta Sauce
Everybody has at least one of these items in their kitchen(If we had to guess, we would say Olive Oil is a staple in everybody’s kitchen).
Namely, these are just a few examples of oils and sauces you can buy and refill at the store. Additionally, we cannot think of a better way to repurpose pasta sauce. Speaking of pasta:
We won’t go into any details here. Pasta is available at just about any store, but it usually comes in bulk. Whole wheat pasta looks quite lovely in your pantry.
Like much of this list, rice is an excellent bulk purchase to make for your pantry.
Rice and Quinoa make up a considerable part of a lot of people’s daily diets, so finding a way to store them responsibly is a must.
Nuts & Seeds
- Sunflower seeds
We all eat and love some form of nuts; people like to use them in these containers for aesthetic reasons.
- Black beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Coffee beans
Legumes are an excellent source of protein. Additionally, they look great stored in your pantry, and easy to get in bulk (in bags or containers).
Sugar is also available in bulk, which a lot of people don’t seem to know(white, brown, cane, among others).
These are some of the things we’ve implemented to avoid food waste and make better use of bulk shopping(in addition to implementing some swaps).
- Some useful tips when you go shopping is to first weigh your empty container, for example at the deli counter of your store.
- The point here is to avoid being overcharged for any items you buy by weight (like meat).
- If you need tips on how to deodorize jars quickly, you can do so with some water and baking soda. You’ll also want to label them.
- If you love milk, then stop purchasing them in plastic containers. Finding milk in glass products is quite easy (and make sure likewise to find a way to use that glass as a bag), the same for just about any liquids.
- Stop purchasing things like single-use oils.
Achieving a Zero Waste Pantry is more of a slow approach (that we started some time ago); it involves some changes in your kitchen and time.
While at first, it may seem complicated, small steps go a long way towards reducing food waste.
Reusable bags, planning your meals, finding bulk stores, these are just some of the things you can make use of to start this Zero Waste process.
Some people have done this for years with seamless success.
Therefore get organized, and start making the transition with the right approach. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions on this post.
CO-Founder @ Puratium. Lover of Belgian Beer 🍺, and debating endlessly over 🏀. That being said, actively doing my part for the 🌍.