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With earth day upon us, I thought I would share with you some tips and tricks to help you be greener in your kitchen. These are just a few simple suggestions, on top of reducing, reusing and recycling, that I try to incorporate as often as possible, some more consistently than others. Have fun with it and let me know what you do to be greener in your kitchen!

  1. Cook from scratch whenever possible.

Although more time in the kitchen may not be an option for everyone, buying whole foods verses pre-packaged or pre-made foods is not only more economical and nutritious, it minimizes the waste that pre-packaged or takeout items come with. To save time, cook large batches of soups, stews, or chili for example, or cook a few extra pieces of chicken, that could double as lunch or dinner the following day.

  1. Plan ahead, think big batches and leftovers.

Create a meal plan for the week and shop for the ingredients that you need. Although I am not one to always plan my meals in advance, doing so not only saves you from making extra trips to the grocery store, it removes a lot of the stress of trying to decide what to have for dinner in your already busy lives. As a result, you may also be less likely to pickup or order dinner on your way home, thereby minimizing waste. When planning your meals for the week, also plan for leftover meals that do not require turning on appliances. Consider extra pieces of chicken or salmon added to a green salad, or wrapped in a multi-grain tortilla or collard greens for an easy lunch or dinner.

  1. Go Meatless at least once a week.

Involve your family and try going meatless at least one day per week. Not only is incorporating more fruit and vegetables into your diet economical, it reduces your carbon footprint and is better for you on the whole. Consider building meals around, greens, beans, whole grains, tofu or tempeh.

  1. Try no cook meals.

Summer is a great time for opting for more no cook type meals. Try cold soups like gazpacho, salads or a wrap filled with leftovers for lunch or dinner.

  1. Buy local and organic when possible.

Buying local and organic foods can be challenging, especially this time of year.  Having said that, many locally grown vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, leeks, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and squash continue to be available through the winter and early spring. Several farmer’s markets are also open year round and offer local and seasonal vegetables. For a complete list of what is in season, see Foodland Ontario Availability Guide. Also visit www.edibleontario.com for a list of farmer’s markets that are open year round. Where possible, consider organic rather than conventionally grown products.

  1. Bring your own shopping bags and buy in bulk.

Another reason I love shopping at the farmer’s market – less packaging! When possible, bring your own shopping bags and buy in bulk to reduce waste.

  1. Optimize your oven.

Allowing your oven to perform double duty does take some organization and planning that may not always be possible. Having said that, if you are a family that spends time in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, preparing your meals for the week, then this is a great time to have your oven working for you. If your oven is already on, use this time to roast your nuts and seeds or extra veggies for an easy side or a salad. Bake muffins or snacks that can be easily frozen and used throughout the week.

Another great tip is not to open the oven door to peek inside unless it’s absolutely necessary. Every time you open the door, you are loosing heat and increasing your cooking time. You can also cut down on oven use by turning off the oven about 5-10 minutes before your dish is scheduled to be done. Leave it in the hot, sealed oven to continue cooking on it’s own. (Please note, this may take a few attempts before you actually get it right!)

  1. Use a kettle and put a lid on it.

Using a kettle to boil water rather than the stove is faster and saves on energy. A tight-fitting lid also ensures that the heat remains in the pot doing what it is intended to do. Some experts in greener cooking also suggest turning the stove off about 1-5 minutes before the food is scheduled to be done, allowing it to continue cooking on it’s own. This technique works best with grains such as quinoa, rice or oats, where water and heat continue to be absorbed as they continue to cook.  (Not sure if this would be as effective with a gas or induction stove.)

  1. Keep cold water in the fridge.

Nothing like a cold drink of water on a hot summer’s day. A pitcher of water in the fridge helps solve this problem without keeping your tap running to cool down your water.

  1. Think about quality cookware and greener cleaning products.

One way to ensure a greener kitchen is to consider the products you are using on counters, to wash dishes and in the dishwashers. Many products contain toxic ingredients that pose a risk to both humans and the environment. One way to address this issue is by making your own cleaning products with simple ingredients such as vinegar, lemon, baking soda and salt. For a natural counter cleaner (and all round cleaner) use 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water with a few drops of lemon juice for added freshness. For areas that need a more abrasive type cleaning, try lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt or baking soda added directly to the surface you are cleaning. This is my favourite go to for cleaning my cutting boards.

This month, Clean Eating Magazine posted recipes for 3 toxic-free homemade cleaners using ingredients such as lemon, baking soda and essential oils. Below I have provided recipes for 2 of the cleansers for you to try at home!

Citrus Bath & Kitchen Scrub

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

Add baking soda to a small dish. Pour in lemon juice and watch it foam up. Mix with a spoon to form a thick paste. Use immediately by applying a thick layer to your surface with a sponge and gently scrubbing the surface. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before rinsing.

Grapefruit and Lemon Dish Soap

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup liquid castile soap
  • 2 tsp vegetable glycerin
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 30 drops grapefruit essential oil
  • 15 drops lemon essential oil
  • 1 empty dish soap bottle or Mason jar with a pump lid

Directions:

To an empty dish soap bottle or Mason jar, add all ingredients and 1/2 cup water; stir or gently shake until combined. (NOTE: The salt will settle to the bottom; shake the bottle a few more times throughout the day until it dissolves.)

There are also many environmentally friendly cleaning products available locally or online. Although for the most part, a vinegar water solution does the trick, there are times when store-bought cleaners and dish detergents are convenient. Here are some of the products I have used in the past and quite like; Seventh Generation, dish soap and detergents, Nature Clean surface cleaner and Lemon Aide dish soup and surface cleaners. For additional information on product safety, visit Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning @ http://www.ewg.org/.

In terms of quality cookware, cast iron and stainless steel are two great options. Non stick coatings can be toxic especially as the coating begins to wear down over time. Cast iron distributes the heat evenly and allows food to be cooked at a lower heat. It also comes with the benefit of adding iron to your food!

Stainless steel also cooks food at a consistent heat. To ensure food does not stick, heat up your pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add your cold oil (I like grapeseed) and wait for the oil to heat up before adding your food. Continue to cook over medium heat. It did take some trial and error to get it right, and still does, to prevent my food from sticking, but it does work!

There are also some greener lines of cookwear available on the market. Cuisinart for example has a new line of green gourmet cookware that has a ceramic non-stick interior that is petroleum free, PFOA and PTFE free (commonly used chemicals found in non-stick coatings). For additional information on buying greener cookware, see www.newgreenbasics.com.

As I said, these are just a few suggestions you can incorporate to help you be greener in your kitchen.  If you would like to learn more, have a read of Cooking Green by Kate Heyhoe or visit her website www.newgreenbasics.com.

Linda @ The Wholesome Kitchen