Putting The Three Rs To Work in Your Kitchen
Life can get pretty hectic. Working, commuting, and keeping up with all the sports and activities our kids are involved in makes relying on fast, convenient, pre-packaged foods a whole lot simpler. But, have you ever stopped to consider the amount of garbage we humans produce and where it all goes?
Shopping for, storing and preparing foods can generate a lot of waste.
Many of us are now taking the reusable shopping bags or bins to the grocery store, which is a wonderful start to reducing the amount of plastic that ends up in the landfill. It’s estimated that Ontarians use over two billion plastic bags per year. That’s a lot of plastic!
I had the cloth bags long before the stores in my community began charging for bags but I would routinely forget them at home and end up with plastic. Now to make sure I always have my bags with me, I make putting them back in the car part of my routine when I unpack the groceries. Instead of putting them away somewhere in the house, I force myself to go back out to the car once I’m done unloading the groceries so that I don’t forget to take them with me the next time I shop.
This also means I have cloth bags to use when I pop into the drugstore or any other store I might shop at throughout the week. There are all kinds of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle when it comes to the foods we eat. Changing old habits is always a challenge but helping to preserve our environment is worth the effort and every little bit helps. There are a number of suggestions outlined in this article to help get you started.
• Take reuseable grocery bags or bins to the store instead of using plastic.
• Use refillable drink containers instead of drink boxes or plastic water bottles.
• Take a reusable coffee mug to the coffee shop instead of wasting a paper cup.
• Buy large containers of yogourt, crackers, cookies and other snacks and portion them out into
re-useable containers instead of buying the individually wrapped packages.
• Avoid prepackaged convenience foods (like Lunchables) and put together a homemade version.
• Buy frozen juices and make in a reuseable jug instead of buying large plastic containers of juice.
• Buy local produce whenever possible and freeze for future use.
• Grow fresh herbs in the summer and move them indoors to your kitchen window to have all winter
long instead of buying.
• Plant a vegetable garden. Kids love to see things grow and it helps them see where food comes from.
• If you used to use plastic grocery bags as garbage bags around house (like in the bathroom garbage
can), use other bags instead like the large bag your milk comes in or the bags that your toilet paper or
paper towel come in.
• Wash and reuse plastic cutlery sent to school in the kids’ lunches. (They can go in the dishwasher.)
• Reuse bread bags, milk bags, the bags you get your pita bread or wraps in instead of buying lunch baggies or using plastic wrap.
• The bags that hold your cereal inside the box can be cleaned and reused in place of large Ziploc bags to store frozen foods. For example, if you buy a large package of chicken breasts and divide these up into meal sized portions for freezing, use the cereal bags in place of Ziploc bags to do so. The heavy duty clear plastic bags milk comes in are also great freezer bags if you cut the tops off and wash well.
• The plastic zipper bags that frozen fruit comes in can be washed out and used for storing foods in the freezer too. Just be sure to label these so you know what is really in them.
• Use washable towels instead of paper towel for wrapping foods or wiping up spills.
• Use margarine or ice cream containers for storing foods. Just make sure you don’t use for hot foods or use these containers to reheat foods in the microwave as these plastics can leach into food when heated. (Use glass or CorningWare-type containers for reheating.)
• Use cloth napkins instead of paper.
• Buy canned foods and beverages instead of plastic whenever possible. Not all plastics are recyclable (and some areas recycle very few plastics).
• Compost fruit and vegetable cuttings/peelings. Invest in a compost bin to get you started or be sure to participate in any municipal compost programs.
• Check with your local municipality to see what items are recyclable in your area, and when you grocery shop, try to choose items that have recyclable packaging over those that don’t — paper versus plastic egg cartons, for example.
Kelly Barry is a Registered Dietitian who has a passion for food and all things related. She has spent many years helping individuals and families along the road to healthier eating and understands the challenges
parents face when choosing to make healthy foods a priority.