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Glass jars with lentils and various other ingredients

The Zero Waste Kitchen

Zero waste is not a new concept; not that long ago, not wasting anything was vital to survival. Now with the amount of waste that we’re dumping into our environment, we are starting to move back towards zero-waste living. Completely changing the way we shop and cook sounds a bit daunting, but Kate Charles (dclutterd) is here to help us with tips on building up a zero-waste kitchen.

1. Shopping and storage

The first idea in understanding zero waste is refusing to accept waste in the first place. That might mean choosing items that have no packaging over those that do and politely declining leaflets, freebies, and samples. Another way to avoid packaging is to bring your own containers to zero-waste shops, and fill them from bulk dispensers. Most of these shops charge by weight, so you can bring any empty container to the shop – fill it to your hearts content – and pop it back in the cupboard when you get home. More and more shops are waking up to the shift in attitude against packaging waste, making this a much easier venture than it used to be. The following list is a great guideline for reusable storage options that you can take shopping and store your food in:

Bread and bakery goods – cloth bags, or re-used plastic bread bags, sturdy paper bags can be used several times
Dry goods – Cloth or mesh bags, plastic or glass tubs with sealed lids, or sturdy paper bags
Vegetables – Washable mesh bags, re-used plastic bags, re-used mushroom cartons
Oils/vinegars and other liquids – two designated containers that can have the same liquid put into it every time – when one runs out, start on the second and put the first into the ‘for refilling’ bag
Meat and fish – Glass or reusable plastic containers with sealed lids are best, compost-able paper

2. Food waste – tops, tails and leftovers

Chopping fresh veg is a particular pleasure of mine – the aroma of a freshly-cut leek, or minced garlic starts my mouth watering before I’ve cooked a single thing! Once it’s in the pan, you are generally left with some peel, skins, roots and leaves. But before throwing your undesirables in the bin, consider these eco-friendly options. Depending on what you have at your disposal, you may be able to plant seeds, pits or parts of root vegetables to grow your own produce at home. If that’s not an option, chuck all of your food waste into a container in the freezer and when it’s full boil it down and strain it for your own broth. For more ideas on how to reuse your food waste, visit our recent blog post about how to reuse your leftovers. If these options are not right for you, check out some other things you can do with leftover food: 

Use a compost or wormery – if you have a garden, you can start a compost or womery where you can cultivate your own fertiliser
Bokashi bins – odour-free composting systems in a sealed container are a better option for flats and apartments with no outdoor space
Food waste bin – if your council collects food waste, this is a great option, especially for those with no garden or compost bin

Storing leftover food can be given a zero-waste makeover too: Swap out your single-use clingfilm for beeswax or soy fabric wraps, or invest in some silicone dish covers that can be washed and reused many times.

3. Cleaning and hygiene

Most of what people use in the kitchen is terrible of the environment. Sponges take longer than a human lifetime to decompose, and even “gentle” cleaners contaminate ground water supplies. If you’re serious about having a zero-waste kitchen, here are some easy swaps:

Plastic scrubbers and sponges – swap for coconut-fibre or loofah scrubbers which last as long as their plastic counterpart, are washable during use and compost-able once finished
Paper towels and wipes – cotton cleaning cloths, perhaps cut-up squares of old clothes or bath towels that can be washed and re-used
Single-use cleaners – swap for a glass spray bottle with bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar, or your favourite natural cleaning recipe

Home-made cleaners

4. When food goes bad

You can avoid food waste by putting older food at the front of your fridge, planning meals that use up everything you’ve bought, and cleaning out your fridge on a regular basis. When it happens though, food that has gone bad can still be put into the compost – it’s just started composting a little early! Food that you would usually eat raw that hasn’t gone off but is a bit squishy can make the best baked goods. For example, bananas that no-one would eat make great banana bread, wrinkly apples make amazing apple sauce and hard bread whizzed in the food processor makes brilliant breadcrumbs.

5. Planning and organising

Watch out for some other articles in this series that deal with meal-planning and making grocery lists. Planning is a necessary part of creating a zero-waste kitchen, for example, if you’ve ditched canned beans for dried (cheaper!) beans, you’ll have to soak them overnight before cooking. Making a meal plan is great for this, as you can note ‘soak beans!’ the day before. Making a grocery list is the best way to avoid impulse purchases, or accidentally buying duplicates – minimising waste, and saving you money!

I hope that this article has inspired you to make some changes – if it has, let us know in the comments!

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you to #NOWorganise please tag us with our hashtags so we can see what you’ve been up to! 
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Miss P mixing batter

Play with your food – cooking with children

The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home, so what an amazing place to make wonderful memories with your children! With all of the complications of the kitchen it may seem counterproductive to let children help out, but Sarah Muir (Ellibee Home Organisation) is here to explain why letting children explore food and help in the kitchen is vital for their development.

Miss P is nearly 4 and loves helping me in the kitchen – it’s become our thing! It’s our time together to chat, prepare dinner, have fun and learn. It turns out there are so many benefits of involving children in food preparation. Here are our top 4:

1. Trying Out New Textures

Miss P’s first forays into food fun was messy play! We’d go to messy play groups where there were trays of baked beans and cabbage with dinosaurs hidden underneath or construction toys and cereal! She’d get messy and explore the sight, touch and, most importantly, the taste of these foods. We’d also do messy play at home making pies for monsters with squidgy mashed potatoes or searching for the orange segment treasure in a tray of jelly – it all got put in her mouth! Even now as we prepare dinner she will try new foods and textures. A little while ago we made chicken and vegetable curry with green beans. Miss P’s job was to help with the vegetables. She played with the green beans popping out the bean seeds and sneaking some raw courgette as we prepped. We later compared the uncooked textures of the vegetables to the cooked ones and talked about what we preferred. Eating and liking food is linked to repeated exposure. It can take around 10 times of being introduced to a food before a child likes it. What better way of introducing and exploring foods for those first few times than making it fun and messy! Miss P actually didn’t like baked beans until she was sat in a big tub of them scooping them in with her hands, despite having them on her plate several times before.

2. Opportunities for learning

Cooking is fun for children (and can be for parents too) but there are also many learning opportunities. Here are five of our favourites:

  • Fine motor skills – cutting (with a blunt knife or kid-friendly scissors), spreading and pouring can all help develop fine motor skills ready for writing and drawing in the future.
  • Creative skills – Whether it’s coming up with tasty combinations, or making your meal into a work of art, cooking forces you to use your imagination. Miss P’s favourite thing at the moment is making pizza faces with different ingredients.
  • Numeracy skills – Miss P loves numbers so we use cooking as a way of practising her maths skills. She identifies numbers on the scales (number recognition) and counts out different ingredients as we use them.
  • Safety skills – Sharp knives, high heat and germs are the biggest safety factors in the kitchen. When cooking with Miss P I use these as learning opportunities to teach her what she can and cannot touch and why. Not only am I keeping her safe, but showing her the reasoning behind all of the rules means she’ll understand what is dangerous.
  • Food waste and recycling – Miss P loves being my ‘bin lady’ when we’re preparing food. It’s the job she can easily do with little instruction. As a result of this she knows what we put in compost, what goes in general waste and she even has a better idea than Mr Ellibee of what goes in the terracycle or flexible plastic bins!

Miss P rinsing blackberries in the sink

3. Eating more food

This is probably one of the best benefits of cooking with children – they eat more food! It is scientifically demonstrated that children are more likely to eat food that they prepare themselves. A 2014 study conducted by van der Horst, Ferrage and Rytz and published in Appetite showed that children were 76% more likely to eat salad when they had helped to prepare the meal than if the parents had prepared the meal themselves. This is great news for increasing nutritious eating in children and helping to reduce food waste. When a child takes part in preparing food they feel more control, have more ownership over it and feel a sense of achievement. They want to eat it and they like what they eat. We have definitely noticed this with Miss P. She’ll tuck in with vigour when it’s something she’s been involved with preparing and more often than not she loves the taste and has a good go at eating it! This is great news for reducing food waste.

Miss P eating vegetables

Delicious raw courgette!

4. Making informed decisions about food

Being part of the meal preparation, whether it’s choosing items in the supermarket, selecting what we want to prepare for dinner or deciding how much food goes on the plate helps the child to make their own decisions about food. The other night Miss P was helping me prepare chicken pasta bake
and she tried the sauce that we made and decided she would prefer plain pasta with her dinner. As she wasn’t having the vegetables that were in the sauce, I gave her the choice of a carrot, tomato and cucumber and asked her to choose which ones she wanted with her pasta. She ate all of her dinner that night because she had chosen it (with restricted options and guidance from me). Guiding young children to make their own choices gives them a sense of control. It has the short-term benefit of increasing the chances they will eat what is on their plate but also has long-term benefits that will set them up for making nutritious and waste-free choices in the future.

Miss P and I love cooking together. Our favourite things are making smoothies (a great way of using leftover fruit) and making homemade pizzas. Cooking makes room for many conversations about food and other everyday things and the fact its fun and reduces food waste is a big bonus! What will you cook with your little ones?

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you, please tag us on social media with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been up to! 

A newly renovated white kitchen

The ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen

The kitchen is the heart of the home and a room that we spend a lot of time each day preparing our meals. So it can be very exciting and scary when the decision is made to invest in a new one! Here to help is APDO member Natalie Hare (Hare to Organise) with her ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen.

I often come across clients who have decided to invest in a new kitchen. Usually, they have already had a kitchen designer come over and have been given some beautiful design plans. For more successful sales, kitchen designers tend to focus heavily on the aesthetics, giving their potential clients a beautiful print out of a gorgeous kitchen. It is then easy for the practicalities that are so important to keeping a kitchen clean and organised to be forgotten. However, you don’t need to compromise when it comes to having both function and beauty. That’s why I have created the ultimate guide to designing a functional kitchen; so that you feel equipped to make the best choices and get your money’s worth.

Step one – Declutter

Before you can know what kind of storage you’ll be needing in your new kitchen, you need to know how much stuff is going into it. Because people don’t renovate their kitchens very often, it is easy for unnecessary gadgets, appliances and crockery to pile up in the deep dark corners of your cupboards. Once you’ve pulled everything out and gotten rid of what you don’t need, you’ll know exactly what you have left. This should be done either before or in the very early stages of the design process, as this may change your opinion on how you’d like to use your kitchen. Hiring an organiser to help with this step can be very beneficial, as we work with you to discuss the practical issues and solutions for better function in a space. You can find your local organiser by popping your postcode into our Find an Organiser tool.

A clear decluttered kitchen

A kitchen that has no clutter is much easier to manage

Step two – Visualise

When having input into the design of your new kitchen, I advise you to take a good look at the one you are using now.  What annoys you?  What makes using your kitchen difficult? If someone came into your kitchen to make you a meal, would they find things with ease? Visualise yourself using the space so that you can efficiently plan out your storage. If you put something next to where you are most likely to use it, then the chances are better that it will get put away and the space will stay tidy. Don’t forget to consider physical health:  if you or someone else in your home has a health condition that affects your mobility, then this needs to be considered in the plans. Having low cupboards may not be a good idea if you cannot get down to floor level, equally having lots of upper storage isn’t ideal if someone is in a wheelchair. This is a great discussion to have with your designer as they will know about creative solutions that may not be obvious.

Step three – Organise

So at this point you know how much stuff you have and you can visualise how you’re going to use it in your new kitchen. That’s a great start. Your designer should now be able to give you a design that is functional, beautiful and perfectly tailored to your needs. Even though the actual skeleton of the kitchen is very important, it can also be helpful to have some organisational systems within the cupboards. Anyone who has been to a cupboard in my house will know that I have a little bit of an obsession with neatly packed boxes and baskets.  What I love most about them is the fact that I can empty a cupboard in minutes and I haven’t got to worry about sticky marks/oil etc on the surface of the unit. Rather than having open packets of flour, sugar etc floating around, decant them into clear containers with labels. Baskets and boxes containing food items make it easier to see what you have.  How many times have you been to the supermarket and got a bag of pasta, only to find two stuffed down the back of another cupboard?  Not only does this technique simplify your storage, but it cuts down on food waste when you can see everything clearly.

A kitchen cupboard set with tall storage

Step Four – Finalise

So now you’ve done all of the steps that have lead to making a decision on a kitchen that not only looks great but functions exactly how you need it to. It can be nerve-wracking to finalise something as big as a kitchen, so I’ve created a final checklist of things that often get overlooked to ensure that you’ve considered everything before signing on the dotted line:

  • Corner storage – Can you reach all of the areas of your storage? There are many different corner solutions now that allow you to access your items by sliding out a tray or rotating a shelf. Things that are not easily accessible tend to be forgotten about.
  • Bins – Have you considered where your bins will go? If you have decided not to have built-in bin systems, make sure that you’ve allocated space for them in the floor-plan.
  • Cleaning supplies – Don’t forget about your mop, bucket, broom etc… It may be worth ensuring that you have a long skinny compartment in your cupboards to store these awkward tools.

Getting a new kitchen can be very exciting, but try not to get caught up in the aesthetics before the practical side is finished. Follow my ultimate guide and you can have a kitchen that not only looks beautiful, but is truly functional as well. Happy designing!

Natalie Hare

Natalie Hare of Hare to Organise

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired a post on social media, use #NOWorganise or tag us so we can see what you’ve been up to!