The Frugal Way to Green in the Kitchen.

Via Catherine Monkman
on Jul 17, 2013
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Photo: Jennifer Storch on Pixoto.
Photo: Jennifer Storch on Pixoto.

How could I have done this more mindfully?

There are two ridiculously large chive bushes growing in my back yard, courtesy of our home’s previous inhabitants. They grew so large that I had to cut the bushes down to make room for more growth. I gathered, sorted, cleaned and finally chopped a massive mound of chives to be frozen and used while cooking.

Then, I bagged them.

Looking at the prepared spoils of my garden, I realized I was doing it all wrong, but I didn’t exactly know the mindful and green way to go about it either.

I confess that I am not as green as I should, could and would like to be. It’s a constant evolution in my household of thinking, education and action towards a more environmentally friendly home and this takes time. I want to move away from plastic but I don’t want to support mindless consumerism by trashing all of the plastic I already have and purchasing alternatives.

My question is: how can I have stored these chives for the freezer without using plastic?

There are only four little bags there. Hardly the end of the world, right? Wrong!

Here are a few statistics about plastic:

It can take up to 1000 years for a plastic bag to break down and even then, it’s still toxic. That is 10 to 13 consecutive average human lifetimes.

About one million plastic bags are used every minute and only about 3% of this is recycled afterward.

That plastic bag in your lunch has the potential to be ingested by an animal and released back into the environment after death and decomposition, only to be ingested and cause death again. And again. For that 1000 years mentioned in the first statistic.

I’d like to think we all know this stuff already. If this is news to you, then you have a lot to learn. You can start here.

So, what could I have used to freeze my chive harvest instead of plastic bags or containers? What are some green kitchen alternatives to plastic—that don’t force me to go out and buy more stuff? Let’s stop promoting consumerism in the name of green (because that’s not eco-friendly either) and find smarter ways to nail this.

Alternatives in the kitchen.

1. Save your glass jars and lids.pimentoJar

There are many sizes available from tiny baby food jars to large pickle jars. You can buy used glass jars at garage sales—does buying used things count as consumerism? These make versatile and aesthetic storage alternatives for the pantry, fridge and freezer.

2. Stop putting your produce in plastic bags.

I’ve seen bunches of bananas, celery, cantaloupes and pineapples deposited into those flimsy clear plastic bags at the grocery store. Ridiculous! You wash and peel all of your produce (even if it is organic) so why bother with the plastic? You could use smaller re-useable cloth bags for those loose items like apples and kiwi fruits.

If you can shop at a farmer’s market where plastic is less of an option, even better! Plus, there’s the benefit of eating local which helps to reduce the environmental impact of food shipping.

3. Don’t wrap it!

“Leftovers? Great! Let’s throw some plastic wrap over the dish and stick it in the fridge!” Here’s a better option: use your plates or bowls to sandwich your leftovers for fridge storage. The bonus is that you’re not tempted to put your food in the microwave with plastic covering it.

 4. Cloth and cardboard.

Use cloth and existing cardboard for storage. If you’ve bought potatoes in bulk using your cloth bags, all you have to do is deposit them in a cardboard box in cool, dark place to keep. My grandmother keeps potatoes well into next spring from the fall harvest this way. You can re-use cardboard boxes to store pretty much anything roly-poly.

If you’re crafty, you can sew your own cloth storage containers (using old clothing and sheets) for dry items in the freezer, fridge and pantry. If not, you can easily use the dish and wash cloths you already have. Save your rubber bands, such as the ones that hold together bunches of broccoli, and secure a bundle of cloth with them. Example: Wrap a stack of cookies, pasta, grapes, peas or beans (dried or fresh) in a cloth, secure with a rubber band and store in the freezer, fridge or pantry.

5. Re-use your refuse!

Re-use cardboard milk and juice containers for wet storage in the fridge and freezer. Just be sure to properly label them with the contents and date. Cereal boxes can be re-purposed into storage containers for many loose items. Old metal cookie tins make perfect stacking storage containers.

6. Grow and cook.

The more you cook from scratch, the less plastic you’ll use. There are many things that can be made fresh and stored in glass and metal containers. Spaghetti sauce straight from the tomato vine, granola bars, bread, salad dressings, soups—the list is endless.

Did you know that most tin cans are coated with a plastic containing BPA? When I say cook, I mean cook from scratch. This does not mean a can of this and a can of that tossed into your slow cooker!

Grow a garden and use the harvest. This saves your money and the environment multiple ways. Container garden if you must. Even window sills can become mini herb gardens. Every tiny bit helps because every tiny effort can make a huge impact.

Because I’m still learning, I need to know what else I can do in my kitchen to make it greener.

I will do my part to keep educating myself. Ahimsa, meaning to do no harm, must apply to our living planet too. The next batch of chives that I harvest will be wrapped in a clean recycled cloth pouch and frozen.

Please leave your tips and solutions in the comments!


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


About Catherine Monkman

Catherine Monkman is a shy, friendly Canadian living in a small house with her two nearly-perfect children, two kitties and two goofy dogs. Cat spends her free time reading, growing vegetables and cooking them, traveling, and learning life lessons courtesy of and along with her family. Cat began contributing as a typo vigilante and now eagerly serves as an editor, writer, and student of the mindful life.


18 Responses to “The Frugal Way to Green in the Kitchen.”

  1. Kevin says:

    Chop them up, put them in an ice cube tray and cover in olive oil and freeze. Then put the ice cubes in mason jars and away you go in the freezer

  2. Ralph Monkman says:

    Composting!! I set up my own composting corner in my back yard. Previous owners had used this area for a sort of refuse pile. The results are amazing. Use it for all flowering, gardening and lawn dressing. I recently purchased a real composter from our town along with detailed instructions. Look at the price of lawn dressing from your local gardening store. It's really easy and if done carefully there is virtually no odour. It even works well over the winter. Just needs to be turned over with with a garden fork every couple of days or weeks.

    • Cat B says:

      Yes! Composting is a great idea. I think it's definitely time to start composting more of our vegetable matter for the garden. Thanks for your comments!

  3. Gina says:

    Don’t forget about storing your grease fats and not pouring them down th drain. Mason jars work great for that, I leave one under my sink, ready to go, for when I’m cooking up something greasy. Have a little compost bin outside for your peels, eggs shell, etc. easy to do, and the plus side, wonderful nutrients for growing your own, and less waste to throw away. This one is more for just Saving money, but if you aren’t growing your own, green onions can grow easily in a cup of water. Just chop them up to the whites, and throw the bundle of bulbs in the glass with water, and you can re use what you have already bought!

  4. bneal817 says:

    Right on Cat! Just being mindful is half the battle, and the fact that you even consider these things makes a difference. And your tips here are spot on.

    ~ Ben

  5. Barbara says:

    The problem with using cardboard, is that it harbors things like roaches, who love to eat the glue.

  6. Jet says:

    Vermiculture- worm composting is great. Easy to do and doesn't have to take up much room at all. I move my bin into a discreet corner of my living room (with a potted plant onto of it to help disguise it) in the winter when they worms would freeze outside and then outside on my shaded patio in spring, summer and fall. They eat a lot of my veggie waste plus egg shells and coffee grinds. Then the finished worm castings go into my garden or potted plants.

    I also rinse out the plastic bags that I use and reuse them but I agree that getting rid of them altogether is best.

  7. KDK says:

    Chives can also be dried and stored in a glass jar. Great for sprinkling on baked potatoes or salads.

  8. Laura says:

    love, love, love, all these ideas…..keep them coming and thank you

  9. Evelyn Kelly says:

    Great post. Very useful tips you have shared here for using good storage like one of you have told regarding cardboard. I appreciate your all tips, these are really great and also very helpful.

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