Going Green in the Kitchen
I joke a lot that in another life I would have been a hippie, I’m just too lazy. Which is partially true!
But can we all just agree that it’s super overwhelming? And expensive? And a lot of work? Ain’t no one got the time for that with a business and kids and a husband…and trying to sleep.
I’ve thought about “going green” and getting on the all-natural band wagon for a loooong time now. Before it was considered trendy. But whenever I get the bug, I go down the rabbit hole of looking up alllll the things to go green. From stainless steel straws to cloth napkins to composting to zero waste…and it gets SO overwhelming for me. There are so many green and natural alternatives out there, and my instinct is to switch everything at the same time. Again, overwhelming. And also unaffordable. We are on a tight budget, and I’m not able to drop a few hundred dollars on switching everything in my life.
A few months ago, though, I got the bug again. But I also got the drive to really to it. Only I knew it was going to be a slow, gradual process if it was going to happen. It would take time and patience and creating new habits. I’m not the most patient person, so it’s hard for me accept I can just go crazy with it, but that’s life, my friends!
I thought about sharing everything we’ve switched, but it’s actually a lot more than I thought. So I’m making this a series and dividing it by rooms of the house, starting with the kitchen! So I’ll share some tips and insight on how we’re making the transition, then share what greener products we’ve switched to (and prices vs prices of what I would usually buy).
Like I said, to make this happen for us, we have to go slow! This means I didn’t go buy all natural, green everything. When I run out of something, I replace it with a more natural/green option. For instance, I’ve been wanting reusable, silicone ziplocs to replace plastic baggies for a long time. But we had a whole thing of plastic baggies. When we ran out the other day, I hopped on amazon and finally ordered the reusable silicone ones. Same with dryer sheets. I want to replace those with wool balls, but I won’t do it until we run out of dryer sheets. I hate wasting what we already have, and this is also helping me space out the purchases.
Start small! I have a ton of reusable shopping bags, but usually the only time I use them is Aldi. So my first step was being intentional with what I already have. I’ve made it a goal to go a week without using any plastic bags, which means remembering my reusable bags and taking them into every store with me. Something helpful with this is keeping some in my car at all times, so when I leave my house and forget but get to the store and remember, I still have them with me! Once I made it a week, my goal was two weeks. It was really just getting into a new habit. Anyway, point is, when I start reading about going greener, I got an Amazon and added #allofthethings to my list, but then I’d get overwhelmed and stop. So start small, with manageable things, until those became habit.
Budget for it
Let’s just be honest. Green and natural things are more expensive. Rarely is a green alternative cheaper than its worse counterpart. This has been and continues to be one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to going fully green and natural. As a result, we really have to create room in our budget for it. This means I try really hard to not spend more than I have to at the grocery store. We try to keep it under $80, $90 on bigger trip. We try not to eat out a ton or buy much extra stuff. This gives us a tiny bit more margin to buy more natural products.
We only replace an item with its green/natural counterpart when it needs replaced. I mentioned this above because it helps me space out the purchases, but it also doesn’t hurt our budget quite as much. When it came time to replace our plastic baggies, I bought the reusable ones. While I would never spend $12 on plastic baggies, I was going to have to go spend $5 on them. I’d rather put that $5 towards a better option. This will also, hopefully, keep me from having to buy them in the future, so looking at it as an investment and that I’ll save the money I’m paying helps the upfront cost hurt a little less.
Ordering online or through a place like Thrive Market can also help you not look at similar but worse products. Because honestly, looking at a $12 product next to a $3 product can really make you start wondering if it’s actually worth it.
And I’ll be honest. One of my future goals is to be able to buy things from small companies, zero waste packaging, all the cool things. But again, those are always more expensive. I get why, but still not affordable. But for now, I’m able to find a lot of affordable, greener options that aren’t too bad compared to what we used to buy.
Stainless steel straws $4.99
I’ve never been a huge straw user at home anyway, but whenever we eat out or I get coffee out, I’d like to not use plastic ones. These ones on Amazon were so cheap, so many different sizes, and I love the pouch they come with so I can take them with me in my diaper bag or purse. The trick is remembering to switch them between bags and asking for no straw since most places just give you one, but again, creating new habits.
Reusable baggies $11.98 (Walmart brand storage bags, $5.22)
I like the ones we got because they come with three big ones that can fit a sandwich and two smaller ones great for snacks. These were definitely more expensive for us. But we use baggies so much for Dan’s lunch and the kids’ snacks, so honestly I think in just a month of not buying these, we’ll have saved the money.
Dish soap (Seventh Generation) $2.88 (Dawn dish soap, $2.64)
This one is not that much more, but I feel a lot better switching to a cleaner dish soap. I’ve been thinking about switching to dish soap bars- we don’t have a dishwasher and we go through A LOT of dish soap. Switching to the bars would save the many plastic bottles we go through, so that’s an option for the near future.
Produce bags $7.59
This is definitely an extra buy since you’re not technically swapping it for anything you’d pay money for. But. Plastic is bad. The plastic bags that you put your produce in at the store is bad. These are real cheap (I found mine in store at Target for $4, just can’t find online), and I just used them like crazy at the Farmer’s Market where they tried to give me plastic. So I think they’re definitely worth it. Also, cheap in comparison to other things we justify paying $8 for…
Silicone baking mats $8.38 (parchment paper, $6.68)
I bake. A lot. I was starting to go through a ton of parchment paper because it really does make a big difference in how baked goods come out. I bought these silicone mats to reuse, instead, and they’re a pretty equal cost. Another one I know that I’ll save the money in just a month or two. Also, reduces waste.
Wash Clothes ($2.97 at Walmart)
These are my attempt to slowly start replacing paper towels. I know these are biodegradable, so I’m not too much in a rush to fully replace them. But we do use a lot of them. For anything and everything in the kitchen. I bought a cheap pack of dish wash cloths at Walmart, and now that’s what we use to wipe up spills or use on our counters, etc. I know I personally have already cut down a tooon on our paper towel use by having these available! A little more laundry, but they’re small, it’s not a huge difference. Also super cheap to buy, and you’ll more than save your money by not having to buy paper towels every single week.
Glass Tubberware $29.99
We are slowly moving over to glass tubberware. I’ll be honest, this is an expensive switch, which is why it’s taken us so long. We’re doing this slowly. At Aldi they’ve had 3 piece glass tubberware for sale, so I have bought that twice. We haven’t thrown away our plastic yet because, honestly, I hate waste. I’m careful to not heat anything up in it anymore, but still use it to store leftovers. I do like the glass a lot better, and it definitely makes Dan and I feel more adult, ha!
Reusable water bottles/coffee cups
I almost forgot this one because it’s so second nature to us. We do not buy water bottles. We have a Brita water filter, and Dan and I both (and the kids) have reusable water bottles. We also have reusable coffee mugs (goal of mine to start taking these into coffee shops to stop using plastic there, as well). If you haven’t gotten on this bandwagon yet….what are you waiting for?!
What we want to switch
Like I said, this is a process. We still have a long way to go, and there are still some items high on my list. I want to buy some 100% cotton cloth napkins. This will hopefully help us reduce our paper towel use even more and *maybe* get rid of it altogether.
I did get a question about a better alternative to garbage bags. We’re still finishing up our box of garbage bags, but I have been doing research about better alternatives. I’ll be honest- there’s not a ton out there. Every suggestion I can find just suggests to line your trash can with paper. That’s not doable for us, so we’ll probably just switch to Seventh Generation garbage bags as theirs are at least made with 65% recycled materials. There are biodegradable/compostable garbage bags out there, but those are small and typically good for bathrooms. We don’t use garbage bags in our bathrooms, but if you do, I’d definitely recommend using them there!
As it can get easy to go down the zero-waste rabbit hole, I’d love to organize our pantry into glass containers and try to shop bulk when I can. Getting down to the small things, I’m also contemplating getting rid of our plastic dish wand (which I <3) for a washcloth or bamboo scrubber. I recently found our Target has a whole Natural Home section in their kitchen section which has bamboo and silicone utensils, bowls, and measuring cups, so that’s #goals, as well, for my dream green kitchen.
I will also in the very near future be ordering some Bees Wrap, which is natural wrap that you can wash and reuse, to replace aluminum foil and plastic wrap. This is also a little pricier, $18 for 3 pieces, but we use a lot of foil. I know we’ll save that money, but it’s always the upfront cost! But my goal is to hit “BUY” before July.
So that’s where we are in our kitchen! Let me know what switches you made or if there’s anything I need to switch out that I forgot about! I’m always reading and looking to see what else I can make greener options with! I recently started following The Eco Warrior on Instagram, and they post some great things you can replace with greener options! They are also focused on zero-waste, but I’m finding them pretty inspiring!