If you truly want to live a low waste life, you have to buy less. Especially food, since that's what we buy most often. This means you can't eat pre-packaged meals. No more frozen pizzas, no more rotisserie chickens, no more sliced bread, no more Oreos. All of this produces waste that is usually not recyclable. These types of products also often contain an abundance of chemicals and preservatives. Chemicals and waste are what we're trying to avoid in a natural lifestyle. The only solution is to make more things from scratch. Like anything, this does have its own set of pros and cons.
I'll start with the bad. You have to prepare and you have to spend more time overall in the kitchen. Making things from scratch usually means meals take longer to prep and cook. I'll give you a few examples. Instead of buying a package of frozen mixed vegetables, buy all fresh veggies! You'll have to wash and cut them instead of dumping them straight from the bag into a pan. Or for instance, instead of using a package of breadcrumbs (or even creating breadcrumbs from store bought bread), you'll have to make your bread, bake it, let it cool, and then create your breadcrumbs. Then as a final step, you'll add those breadcrumbs to whatever you're making.
Obviously you can apply these concepts to whatever foods you usually cook. As you can tell, you'll need to set aside more time for dinner depending on what you like to eat.
On to the good. I'll use the same examples as before. Fresh vegetables are 1000x better than frozen. So by purchasing fresh veggies (and buying/storing them in reusable produce bags), you've not only saved trash from the ocean that your frozen veggies would have been packaged in, you've also increased your own nutrition. Fresh veggies are better for your body, nutritionally speaking! In my opinion, the texture and taste of fresh veggies is also better, which increases my pleasure and therefore, my general well-being and happiness. By making breadcrumbs from homemade bread, you have once again saved the ocean/earth from plastic trash that does not decompose and you also get to enjoy a more delicious and preservative free flavor from the breadcrumbs.
BUT WHY, REALLY?
It is SO fun to make your own food. It does take more time, as I've already said. But truthfully, what else are you doing instead? Watching TV, checking your phone? Wouldn't your time be better spent saving the planet/being eco-friendly, pouring love into your meal that feeds your body and ultimately your soul? Food, GOOD food, will take your life to the next level. I promise.
I'M TOO BUSY TO COOK!
I know, you're too busy. Trust me, I have been there. A few years ago, I was working 4 jobs, some days from 6am-8pm, and I somehow still found time to make homemade hummus (and many other things). You've just got to prepare ahead of time and when you're not working. Also, ask yourself if 4 jobs is sustainable and healthy for your life. You can always make casseroles to freeze that way you don't have to actually cook on your busy days. The crockpot is your friend. Toss something in there before you go to bed, let it cook all night, and have it before or after work the next day. I've only used it once, but the InstaPot is also your friend. I mean, you really don't have an excuse to not cook everything from scratch if you own one of these. They cook so fast! I'm not asking for perfection, I'm asking you to try! Just try it. Cake from scratch is better than box cake. Homemade spaghetti and meatballs is better than Chef Boyardee.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
I am not perfect. We still buy packaged food, but the majority of our food is homemade. We buy chips because homemade ones don't last more than a day and they are a lot of work to make everyday. You see? Not perfect. But if we buy a bag of chips that lasts a week, rather than a bunch of tiny bags of chips, I've still created less waste. The ingredients you need for making things from scratch will often come in plastic packaging. But it's better to buy flour that will make multiple things like cake and bread, rather than a box cake that has plastic packaging in addition to a loaf of bread packaged in a plastic bag.
For a long time, my goal was to be zero waste. Ultimately, I decided that this is unattainable, so instead we are attempting a low-waste life. So get off your phone and go make something! Craving bagels? Make 'em! Need a chocolate cake right now? Make one! Once you start making everything from scratch, you will feel unstoppable. It's empowering!
I'll be starting a recipe series soon so you can learn how to make simple recipes from scratch, so be on the lookout for that!