5 lesser-known hacks for a low waste kitchen

1. Make your own vanilla extract

Place vanilla beans into vodka (add a splash of rum if desired) and leave for about 2 months. I rotated so that one bottle is being used while the other is in a dark space extracting.

Bonus: no crazy additives, you can reuse your containers over and over, and it tastes absolutely real and delicious.

Vanilla Beans

2. Use block parmesan instead of the grated kind in a plastic tub.

Look in the deli section of your grocery store and buy a block of parmesan (or romano or asiago) cheese. Use a small grater or zester to grate directly onto your food. This will last way longer than you’d expect.

Bonus: no cellulose (that most parm has in it to keep from clumping) and much fresher tasting cheese

3. Store leftovers in canning jars.

When you have leftover soup, gravy, or something that’s liquid and hot: Pour the leftovers in a canning jar and secure with a canning lid. Then put in the fridge to cool. While this is not “canned,” it will last a long time in the refrigerator because of the seal created.

Bonus: Less wasted food. You can also make a double batch of something and store for a couple weeks in the fridge rather than freezing.

Empty Mason Jars

4. Save veggie scraps and meat bones to make stock/broth for soup.

Even if you don’t compost, you can make use of the food scraps you don’t eat. Save them in a bag or container in the freezer until you have a pot full. Put your scraps into the pot, cover with water, and simmer for several hours. Then cool and strain the scraps out. You are left with a rich and nutritious soup stock that will add to any soup, gravy, or sauce that you make.

5. Reuse your baggies by throwing in the wash

While reusable is best, if you do find yourself using plastic baggies now and then, they can be washed by turning inside out and putting them in with a load of laundry. Just be sure not to put them in the dryer as they might melt. Turn right side out, hang to dry, and they are good to go again.

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