A very zero waste kitchen

Actually, spoiler alert, I’m not sure if this is zero waste or minimalism, how I have my kitchen set up. I found minimalism years before I found zero waste, so I had already started downsizing kitchenwares while simultaneously upgrading my worn out plastic crap to stainless steel — but because I was tired of replacing it every few years, not because I was worried about the landfill quite yet.

(Hey, I got there eventually. I try to be kind to my younger self, who hadn’t learned her lessons.)

I’d also like to point out that it took me THREE PASSES through my kitchen to get it to look like this. The first time, I did the obvious, easy stuff — but I was afraid I’d need it someday, so I just put it in bags down in the garage. When I found I couldn’t even remember what I’d gotten rid of, I donated it. Ditto for the second bag, except I parted with maybe some harder stuff.

By the third go-round, I was like, whatever, over it. I was ruthless. And kind of depressed that I had held onto some items for so long (because I had a dream of being a marvelous cook. I felt like I’d really gotten somewhere when I finally tossed my tart and cheesecake pans into a bag).

It hasn’t been hard to keep my cabinets clear of clutter. I like the space so much better than I liked having more stuff. Now I only have items I use in real life and don’t have to paw through my dream life to get to them.

I’m not a psychology major or anything, but there’s gotta be a lesson in there somewhere.

Figure 1: The silverware drawer.

Once upon a time, I had a ton of stuff crammed into this drawer. One of the best decisions I made was to invest in a set of stainless steel measuring spoons (I have one set total). I have a double set of silverware that has served us well. And don’t underestimate the power of a good pair of kitchen scissors.

Figure 2: Cast iron.

I tried to get a photo of my baking dishes, but the cupboard was too dark. But this is really what I wanted to show anyway: I have a couple of bread pans, a couple of stoneware baking sheets, two Dutch ovens in different sizes, and these cast iron pans. I love these things. I have already told Abby she’s getting a set when she gets her own apartment — and she’ll never have to buy anything else.

Figure 3: Pots, pans and random items.

The four pots on the middle shelf are in constant use — I’m kind of impressed they’re all clean and put away at the moment. My handled-mixing bowls, not so much — I have two large and two small, and I grab those first when I’m cooking. (I actually have a bit of a bowl problem … I have more in another cupboard.) Replacing my plastic measuring cups with stainless steel is on my list, except these are in excellent condition so I can’t justify it. And the basket holds the random bits that don’t really fit anywhere else: Cookie scoops, funnels, the tea strainer.

Figure 4: Dishes and glasses.

Huh, most of these things must be in the wash. Well, anyway, after going through three sets of dishes in 15 years, Eric and I decided to upgrade to Fiestaware — and have had no problems with cracks or chips or any of that stuff. (Johanna did manage to break a bowl once by dropping it on the tile floor, but in the bowl’s defense, nothing survives the tile.) I have too many mugs — but we use them as cereal bowls when someone forgets to turn on the dishwasher at night. 😉 I also have a set of glass-topped dishes to store leftovers in, as well as a rather lot of custard cups. And all of our glasses are pints from various breweries. I don’t know what to tell you about that, except we’re in Oregon.

I’ve lost track of what number we’re on, but anyway, here’s my tupperware drawer.

I have one rule for the tupperware drawer: If the container does not have a lid snapped on it, it does not get put into this drawer. I’m slowly replacing the plastic containers with stainless steel. Slowly, because we’ll be down a kid this time next year and won’t need as much to pack our lunches. (Great. Now I’m sad.) We’ve actually started using linen napkins to wrap a lot of our lunch stuff, from sandwiches to veggies to fruits and desserts. Plus napkins take up less room.

Possibly figure 6: Cookbooks.

There’s really not a point to this photo, I guess, except that I used to have a lot of cookbooks. A lot. I still have a rather extensive scenic historic collection in my reading retreat (I’ve got a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from before the red checkered cover was a thing), but what I ended up keeping for my kitchen are books that I use as resources.

Figure 7: Counter space.

I am a big fan of empty counter space, but I do have a couple things displayed — like my stainless steel cooking utensils, knife block and a pottery jar I absolutely adore. And for Christmas this year, Eric surprised me by framing this tile we bought a few years ago on vacation — it was like $5 or something and I wanted to hang it in my kitchen. I kind of forgot about it. It makes a great trivet.

Figure 8: Nobody puts coffee in the corner. Except actually I do.

Hidden by the microwave is my coffee stash: Bulk regular and decaf, and my coffee cone and reusable filter. My coffee grinder is behind the jars. And since I named dropped Michael Stipe and Sassy magazine in my last post, let me point out that is a genuine Northern Exposure mug purchased in Cecily, Alaska (aka Roslyn, Washington).

Figure 9: That one messy corner.

I keep a drying cloth and rack by the sink because (and you’re not going to believe this) I have a lot of reusables that need to be washed every night so we can use them again the next day. (I know, crazy.) And P.S. I keep trying to get rid of the toaster but the fam always cries foul. Whiners.

So that’s (most of) my kitchen. If you’re just starting to outfit a kitchen, I highly recommend investing in pieces that you will be able to use forever … and only buying what you’ll use in real life. Because the best way to avoid landfill later (or even donating unwanted items to secondhand stores that have so much crap they can’t keep up) is to not buy it in the first place.

Thoughts, feelings, questions?

Next up: Uh, I haven’t thought that far ahead. 😉