Try Something: Cook a Zero-Waste Meal

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Photo: Shane Valentine
Photo: Shane Valentine

Making dinner for the family can create a whole lot of waste – from tossed leftovers to piles of packaging. But our resident grocery shopping guru Shane Valentine is out to prove that preparing a waste-free meal can be fun, simple and surprisingly satisfying.

For our submission to Ethical Ocean’s Vegan Recipe Challenge, the chef, author and chef instructor for Whole Foods Market opened his family vault and re-imagined a sentimental childhood favorite – Puerto Rican Rice and Beans.

In a true zero-waste twist, Valentine shopped for all of his ingredients either in bulk bins or purchased the produce in the exact amounts he needed – all the way down to olive oil and individual cloves of garlic.

When it was all said and done, the bulk-buying whiz managed to recreate his grandmother’s recipe with absolutely no waste. Click here to check out the recipe on Ethical Ocean, and don’t forget to vote for us while you’re at it!

Want to give zero-waste a try on your favorite family recipes? Use some of Valentine’s top tips to revamp your go-to classics for a waste-free meal.

1. Buy a pinch or a pound

Many shoppers assume bulk-buying means picking up large quantities of each ingredient, but it’s actually quite the opposite. Choosing the bulk aisle allows you to directly control portion size – meaning you’re no longer paying too much for excess food you don’t need.

For his rice and beans recipe, Valentine purchased each item in the exact quantity he needed, from a half-cup of olive oil to a few tablespoons of dried oregano.

2. Control produce portion size

Earlier this year, Valentine let us in on a little secret: When produce is sold by weight, you can buy exactly what you need. Don’t need the whole bunch of celery? Just pull off a stalk or two. Only using half a cabbage? Ask a produce representative cut it for you.

We’ll admit this suggestion blew our minds a bit, but it really is that simple. To eliminate produce waste (and shave a few dollars off your grocery bill), keep an eye out for picks sold by the pound and buy only what you need for your recipe.

3. Bring your own container

Bring your own reusable containers, such as glass jars or food storage sets, with you to the bulk aisle to make your meal truly zero-waste.

Before filling your containers with bulk aisle picks, stop by the register first to have them weighed. A store attendant will mark each one with its tare weight, so you’ll only be charged for the food you’re buying, not the container.

Want More Tips?: Everything You Need to Know About Buying in Bulk

Mary Mazzoni

Mary Mazzoni

Based in the Phoenix metro area, Mary is a lifelong vegetarian and enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, biking and relaxing in the park. When she’s not outside, she’s probably watching baseball. She is a former assistant editor for Earth911.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/jbrowdy J Browdy

    It’s very annoying that you can’t see the recipe without signing in to Ethical Ocean. Any way around that?

  • Elizabeth

    Please get rid of the popup!!!!