Monday, February 9, 2009

Green up the kitchen

Pull together these tips to make the kitchen, and your wallet, a little greener.
1. Recycling Ideas
You know you should recycle, especially all the packaging that food comes in. Want to eliminate waste even before you buy? Cut down on prepared foods, especially those with loads of sodium, bad fats and additives.
If you recycle glass containers at home, not only do you avoid plastic, but you can see what you put in them. More on that later.
2. Bulking Up
Your first shopping change? Buy in bulk. Now, that doesn't mean going to a place that sells five-gallon containers of mayo for large families and small businesses. Bulk means loose and unpackaged.
Even at a regular supermarket, you'll notice that some foods - loose dried pinto beans or nuts in the shell, for example - can be found in bulk. But for other staples like sugar, flour, oatmeal, spices or dried fruit, look for health-conscious stores with many large bins.
You'll soon get the hang of it. Grab a plastic bag, shovel in what you need, and enter a code number from the bin onto the twist-tie. You'll be surprised by the money you save at the register.
Here's where those glass containers you saved come in. Pour that bag of nuts - carefully! - into a jar, and you've just recycled packaging. You can reuse/recycle the plastic bag.
3. Think Global, Buy Local
Your next step to greener shopping is buying local produce. Again, you may want to look first at your usual food store or at produce-only stores, where vegetables grown in the area may be proudly identified. I've even found local produce (though not from small farms) in dollar stores that carry food. A buck for three heads of organic romaine, a bag of limes or of gourmet shallots? No kidding.
Many Southern California neighborhoods have farmers' markets. Some are more general open markets with packaged items, clothing, or prepared food for sale in addition to produce. If you've never been, you owe it to yourself to check one out. You're almost guaranteed to meet lots of friendly shoppers and knowledgeable vendors. When was the last time your food shopping felt like a street party? Yes, it can actually be festive, and the more often you go to a market close to home, the more you get to know your community.

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