By Liesl Clark
After picking up several hundred pounds of plastic off our beaches, it was tough to return home and find the same stuff in my home, especially in the cupboards holding our food. We decided to go cold turkey and threw all our kitchen cupboard plastics out.
I Freecycled our tupperware and all of our Teflon-coated pans and appliances (I was really going deep with the anti-plastic thing). Even plastic travel mugs were off limits. We took stock of the things that we typically bought with plastic packaging: Rice that came in plastic bags as well as various grains, pastas, nuts, and dried fruit. How was a family to switch completely to non-plastic-packaged staples?
Our answer was in bulk foods. I can go to our local store with my own containers and buy most of what we need from our bulk department. I invested in some large glass jars and store almost everything in them (you can see brewer’s yeast in our last plastic containers in the upper left corner there — it’s mostly used for our pets).
An even cheaper solution is to join a local organic bulk food delivery service where I can get really large amounts of staple foodstuffs for much cheaper. For us, this option makes sense because we eat rice and dhal (red lentils) many times a week like most people do on the Indian subcontinent. Since we’ve raised our children to be accustomed to simple meals, we don’t want to start them on too many processed foods at this stage in their development. So, dhal bhat it is, along with Indian and Thai curries and lots of variations on rice and bean Mexican-style dishes. The kids love pasta, too, so we get all of it in bulk.
Rice comes in 25 and 50 lb bags, dhal in 25 lbs and I buy flour in 50 lb bags since we bake our own bread. Pastas comes in 10 lb increments as well as all of our nuts and dried fruits. The large bags of flour and grains are then stored inside galvanized metal bins in our pantry.
When we run out of power, we have enough staples of one sort or another to keep us going, with a veggie garden, plenty of berries and fruit trees to round out our produce needs. Even the chickens and bees contribute to our overall food production on this micro-farm.
Was it difficult to move away from plastics in the kitchen? Remarkably, no. As soon as we stopped buying single or even 1-week-lasting servings of things from the grocery store, we saw the plastics disappear. We do occasionally buy things like tortilla chips for the guacamole we make (avocados from CA of course) and those come in a crinkly chip bag, so we’re not completely devoid of plastics. Although, I’m considering getting them in bulk from our local Mexican restaurant. They make them by hand and I can just order them as takeout in my own container! We also see plastic rings around some of the glass store-bought items we get, like mayonaise. But our “trash” is truly minimal, now that the common grocery store plastic packaging has been greatly reduced.
If you want to give it a try, zero wasting your cupboards, feel free to ask questions. Or if you live nearby, I’d be happy to help you do it in person, a sort of in-home plastic-free cupboard consultancy. Feel free to connect in the comments below.
If you’re looking for more “reduce, reuse and rethink” inspirations for your kitchen. Please visit our Trash Backwards app where we have ideas for reusing, organizing, even fixing your everyday things so they’ll last longer and leave less impact: