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Natural Awakenings Tucson

Sustainable Kitchen: Advice for Buying and Storing Food

Glass jars of dried foods on wooden tray


As we awaken to the climate crisis, we are called to participate in its solutions. In addition to frequenting farmers’ markets, much can be done at the grocery store and in the kitchen. By adopting these easy practices incrementally, we’ll be living zero-waste lifestyles before we know it.

At the Grocery Store

Food waste is environmentally problematic, producing a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Before entering the grocery store, plan meals for the week and build a shopping list to prevent overbuying. 

Buy staples like nuts, beans, flours, grains, dried fruit and chocolate chips in bulk, carrying them home in reusable cotton sacks that can be purchased from artisans on Etsy. Some grocery stores offer paper bags in the bulk aisle; choose these over plastic and save them for subsequent uses.

Many of us have stopped drinking bottled water to ditch single-use plastics. Consider expanding that effort by forgoing packaged products that can be made easily from scratch, including salad dressings, breads, hummus, nut milks, nut butters, jams, tortilla chips and granola. 

Some food companies employ eco-friendly packaging, setting an example for the rest of the industry. Read labels not just for ingredients, but for packaging practices, too. For example, look for shelf-stable dried goods packaged in recycled cardboard boxes printed with vegetable-based inks. While loose tea is the most sustainable choice, we can also opt for compostable tea bag brands that don’t use strings, staples or individual wrappers.

In the Kitchen

One of the most elegant and traditional storage solutions is the Mason jar. It’s an inexpensive, reusable, versatile option, not just for canning and preserving foods, but also for storing bulk pantry items or refrigerated leftovers. 

While paper towels and napkins may be biodegradable, an Earth-friendlier choice is reusable washcloths and fabric napkins that are easily washed in the laundry. Avoid ones that come in plastic wrapping. Darker colors will hide stains better, but if they help save the planet, embrace the stains. 

Several options exist to avoid plastic wrap and disposable plastic containers, including reusable silicone freezer bags, beeswax wraps, glass spray bottles and stainless steel canisters. Keep and reuse grocery store jars. Soaking them to remove the labels is easy. 

A bristled, wooden dish brush is preferable to petroleum-based disposable sponges that come wrapped in plastic. They last longer, don’t produce as much bacteria and are capable scrubbers. Use bar soap to avoid plastic dishwashing liquid containers.