Spice up Your Life: Waste Not Want Not (Part II)

As you saw in Part I of Waste Not Want Not, in trying to live a more a sustainable lifestyle, it’s important to us to reduce food waste. In Part II, we’re taking it another step further: along with reducing food waste, we’re reducing water and excess packaging waste.

We’re so lucky to live in a society where food is plentiful. Sadly, too much of our food ends up getting spoiled. When food goes to waste knowing that someone had to grow it, ship it and, as the end consumer, we had to exchange our hard earned money for it, it’s shameful. That lost effort, energy and money is totally preventable with just a few mindful tactics.

Preventing Food Spoilage

Reusable Produce Bags

Remember the picture below from my first post and how we wanted this senseless waste to be a thing of the past?

To resolve our spoilage issues, we’ve stopped using those clear plastic bags from the supermarket to store our veggies in the fridge; produce just goes slimy in them. Storing veggies in a reusable breathable bag will go a long way to extending the life of our produce. We already owned the veggie bags shown below but never committed to using them until now. Mesh bags can be machine washed to keep them clean.

Things like asparagus keep well upright in the fridge in a plastic container with a bit of water.

Root Vegetable Storage

We came up with a better way to store our root vegetables too. To prevent spoilage, all it takes is an ELLY tea towel and a few BYHOLMA baskets.

All we did was line the baskets and add our potatoes, onions and garlic. We can easily cover the baskets to prevent the light from spoiling our produce (the cotton dish towel is breathable and the weave of the basket allows air flow too). We’re storing these baskets under our kitchen cart. We adapt the cart to our kitchen space by adding drawers in the top section for more storage and closing off the sides to keep our new root veggies dark – which is just how they like it. You can read more about our kitchen cart makeover here.

It’s not only fresh food that we have trouble using before it spoils, but also food we store in the freezer which resides in our basement. We end up tossing almost as much freezer burned food that we forget about because it’s out of sight and out of mind. We resolved that dilemma in our last post by utilizing the VEMUND magnetic/whiteboard to inventory the food in our freezer.

Conserve Water

Cook Two Things at Once

Now that we’re saving our veggies from spoilage, we’re also saving water and energy by using the STABIL boiling insert. I had seen it used in Ikea’s own restaurant and was eager to try it at home. The insert allows us to cook two different foods in the same pot at the same time!

Keep Dirt in Check

Speaking of water conservation, the simple measure of adding a KOGE door mat by the sliding door in our kitchen is helping too.

Hubs barbecues a lot during the summer season and can’t help but drag mud onto our white tile floor which necessitates constant washing.

Now with a door mat in place, we can keep the dirt in check and reduce our water usage. The floor doesn’t have to be washed as frequently.

To save a substantial amount of plastic cling wrap from ending up in landfill, we’ve also started to use our PRICKIG microwave lid to reheat food. We had forgotten all about it and dug it out of storage when we started our sustainable living project. Now we store it in the microwave so we don’t forget to use it!

Spice it Up

Another area of food waste we’ve tackled is spices. Did you know that spices have a limited shelf life? Spices only last 6 months to a year at most and if they aren’t used in that time they should be tossed.

Our spice storage was so disorganized that we’d end up buying the same spice we already owned. They would both languish and expire before we had a chance to use them up!

Recently we installed pot drawers in the lower units of our cabinets so we could dedicate an entire drawer to spices. That was motivation enough to get organized and make it happen with DROPPAR spice bottles (which are unfortunately no longer sold at Ikea).

We were eager to toss the jars into the sink to wash them so we could get started on labeling and organizing our new spice drawer. However, the more sustainable way to go about it was to put them all in our Ikea BETRODD dishwasher. It may seem counter intuitive, but washing your dishes in an Energy Star dishwasher actually saves you more water than washing them by hand. Running the machine during off-peak hours is easy on the pocket book and meant they were all done for us early the next day.

We printed lables for each spice that we frequently use, using the clear Avery-compatible labels (#5164/8164 – 3″1/3 x 4″) shown below. Here’s a pdf example of what we printed.

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We trimmed the lables to size using a paper cutter and fastened them to each jar.

It was gratifying to see the customized labels on the jars! What I love most about DROPPAR jars is the wide mouth. There was no way to get a tablespoon measure into our previous ready-made spice jars! It’s too bad that Ikea no longer makes DROPPAR because their current spice jars (ÖRTFYLLD) are now taller and thinner. That means if getting that tablespoon measure right into your spice jar is important, you may have to purchase a slim set of measuring spoons!

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With the aid of the CHOSIGT funnel to fill our spice jars, we didn’t waste a thing! Once the jars were filled, it was a dream to arrange them alphabetically in our top drawer.

We LOVE how our spice drawer turned out and it has brought some much needed organization into our cooking routine. With our new meal planning strategy and dedicated spice drawer, our spices don’t go to waste. We won’t accidentally buy duplicates again either! Now we have quite the opposite problem; we often run out of spices because we use them so much!

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After dedicating a proper drawer to spice storage, we can see exactly what we have.

We’re getting into the habit of cooking exclusively with healthy fats, so we also printed  lables for the Oil and Vinegar set (in our case, it’s an Oil & Oil set). Again, Ikea no longer sells the one we have, but they do have this one available now.

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A Smart Way to Recycle

With the cardboard packaging from our spice jars – and other items we picked up at Ikea during the sustainability challenge – the ANVANDBAR bench fitted with VARIERA recycling bins, is perfect for capturing our blue box waste.

The great thing about having the ANVANDBAR bench for recycling is it’s also saving us money on energy costs. We used to open the front door every time we had to toss something into the blue bin just outside our front door. That repeated action let air conditioning and heat escape in the summer and winter, respectively. Now that there’s a dedicated place in the house to gather up and store our waste, all we have to do is lift out the VARIERA recycling bins when they’re full and toss it all at once.

Our Sustainable Sunday series is winding down. Next week, we’re taking on water and energy savings in the laundry room!

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Here are the links to our previous Sustainable Sunday posts in case you missed one:

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