Products I Love Tips

5 Ways to Reduce Waste in the Kitchen

reduce waste

Eating well is a great way to improve your health, but even healthy foods can create a lot of waste that ends up in our landfills, oceans and environment.

Last spring I read the book Zero Waste Home, and have since made some changes at home that have made a big dent in the amount of waste we produce. Here are a few of the waste (and cost!) reducing habits we’ve developed. They’re all easy and you can do them too!

1. Buy foods in bulk instead of in packaging. This greatly reduces the amount of plastic waste that goes into our landfills, and protects your family from the toxins that can leach from plastic into your food. Awhile ago I bought these cloth bags to use for fresh produce and bulk items like oats, nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruit, and the occasional chocolate or candy treat. I never have to use plastic bags anymore.

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When I get home from the store, I just transfer whatever I’ve bought into glass jars and then put the cloth bags into my reusable grocery bags so I remember them next time I go shopping.

Great places to find bulk foods: Sprouts, Whole Foods, Henry’s, Wild Oats and other natural food stores & co-ops.

reduce kitchen waste

2. Buy cereal & dry goods in bags instead of boxes. When you don’t have access to bulk items or want some more conventional cold packaged goods, look for foods that come in bags instead of boxes. These tend to include a lot less packaging and thus save waste and energy.

Brands I love: Nature’s Path, Three Sisters, Arrowhead Mills, Bob’s Red Mill. 

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3. Make your own frozen fruit. It’s easy to buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market or grocery store (using your cloth bags!) and freeze it yourself for smoothies and future cooking projects. I still use plastic ziploc bags for freezing, but can reuse them many times before throwing them away.

Side bonus of making your own: you can be sure your frozen produce is local, not from far away places.

reduce kitchen waste frozen bananas

4. Refill hand and dish soap containers instead of buying new ones. Common Good & Co. makes glass hand & dish soap containers (as well as cleaner & laundry detergent) and has refilling stations around the country so you can fill up when you run out. My closest refilling station is 40 minutes away, so instead of driving there all the time, I go twice a year with some big jars so I can stock up.

Note: you can also buy plastic bags of soap to refill containers you already have – Method and Mrs. Meyer’s both sell these soap refill bags.

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5. Choose eco-friendly sponges. Regular sponges are made from petroleum foam and can contain heavy metals, polyether, polyurethane, harsh adhesives, PVC and BPA. Not exactly “clean!” Luckily there are a number of eco-friendly choices on the market now. I’ve been buying these Honest Company sponges lately, which are made from cellulose and walnut shells and work really well.

Other good sponge choices: Twist, Natural Value, or Scotch Brite Greener Clean.

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Making even a few of these simple changes at home can have a big impact in the waste your family produces.

Any other ideas for reducing waste at home? I’d love to hear your suggestions!


  • Megan (The Lyons' Share)
    September 20, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Great ideas! I already do a lot of these (frozen fruit, refill soap bottles, etc.), but I have always struggled with the bulk bins – if you’re just getting a little bit of something, that HUGE plastic bag seems like a waste! I have never thought to bring my own cloth bags for the bulk bins. Thanks!

  • Melanie
    September 20, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I love the idea of using reusable produce bags. How do you go about using them when buying produce and bulk items that are priced by weight? Do you have any problems with this?

  • Amelia
    September 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

    There is a tare weight on the tag attached to the bag so the checker can subtract the weight of the bag. The bags are extremely light. Even if you want to buy things in jars you can write the tare on the jar and the checker can subtract it from your purchase!

  • Amelia
    September 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

    I love the bulk/produce bags – they have come in so handy and I think I’ve saved hundreds of bags in just 6 months!

  • Anna @ Fitness à la Anna
    September 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks for the great tips! I always use reusable bags when I can when I go grocery shopping, although I never considered purchasing eco-friendly sponges. I will definitely have to add these to my list of things to get!

  • Rachel
    September 24, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Amelia, I think we live parallel lives (I could have taken that photo of my pantry!) A few years ago I read an article about Bea from Zero Waste and was very inspired. It was one of the many reasons I was motivated to created a product that helps do away with some of the waste in our daily lives.
    It’s a reusable bag instead of plastic bags for lunches, bulk food, produce, whatever; they are called neat-os. They use a zipper and you can see what’s inside. And soon they will have the tare weight printed on them too! Check ’em out!

  • Sara Tetreault
    April 19, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Amelia, we are two peas from the same pod! 🙂 Great tips and I would add meal planning as another way to reduce waste. If we all plan to eat the food we’ve purchased – or grown – we can really make a dent in the amount of food waste that happens in our country. Can’t wait to see you next weekend!! xoxo

  • Amelia Winslow
    April 19, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    I’m with you 100% on the meal planning, too! See you soon!

  • Crista
    April 23, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    great ideas! thank you for sharing… I need to start buying more in bulk..

  • Faye Kingston
    March 1, 2016 at 5:17 am

    Great tips! I’m recently truing to reduce my family food waste and the waste we produce at all and here are some great ideas. I’m surely showing your post to my sister too. She’ll be glad to have your tips. Thanks for sharing!

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 2, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks, Faye. Let me know if you implement any of these and how they turn out!

  • Velma Marshall
    March 17, 2016 at 7:17 am

    Thank you very much for the helpful tips! Recently I become very concerned about reducing waste and looking for ways to do that. Those ideas are extremely useful to begin with!

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