The kitchen is typically the room in the home that gets the most wear and tear—and for good reason. It's the hearth, the center for nurturing and sustaining. It smells great. But all that wear and tear can mean a steady cycle of used up items heading to landfills. Like much of the rest of what we purchase, we often opt for cheap even when we'll have to repeatedly replace those items as they break or become useless more quickly. The kitchen, though, is one place where its worth spending a bit more on the front end for investments that will last longer. Besides, many of them are also healthier for you and your family.
1. Mason jars: Tupperware has inspired generations of knock-off versions of its patented burp-seal plastic storage. You can now buy cheaper versions by the stack in supermarkets. But plastics can contain harmful chemicals, like BPA (bisphenol-A). Highly acidic or oily foods are more likely to pull the toxins out of plastic containers. So instead, opt for clear glass mason jars or ceramic storage. They keep your food from spoiling without leaching chemicals. Can't afford to invest in a new storage system? Start saving the glass jars your food comes in, like peanut butter, pasta sauce and juices. Clean and reuse those. Smaller jars such as condiments and preserves can make terrific storage containers for herbs and spices, too.
2. Reusable produce bags: While many cities across the country are (finally) banning the single-use plastic bag, bags used to store fruits and vegetables are exempt from the rule. But they're just as bad for the environment and can also make your fresh foods spoil more quickly. Investing in mesh, reusable produce bags reduce your bag imprint and keep food fresh. They're easy to use and wash—and make!
3. Blenders and Juicers: A healthy kitchen can often be one with lots of gadgets, like a blender for making smoothies or a juicer. With high-end models in the hundreds of dollars, the healthy foodie may opt for cheaper brands (a la: what's available at Target). But these models are cheaper for a reason and often burn out engines or break down within a few months. Cheap juicers in particular can also do quite a number on your vegetables—heating them too high (from the engine) and diminishing the quality of the nutrients. Granted a crappy juicer or blender is pretty much better than none at all, and if you have one on hand, do use it up. But it's worthwhile to save pennies for the upgrade. Greenstar or Champion juicers have been known to last people years…decades even. Blenders like BlendTec or Vitamix can also sustain years of smoothie making without needing to be replaced.
4. Cookware: It's hard to resist the $5 frying pans at Ikea, but there are good reasons to opt for greener cookware that will not only be made more sustainably but become like a member of the family. After all, it's the place where your food magic (or tragedies) happen. It's the vessel for love and nutrition, and when it's of value to you, it can change that experience significantly. Like the blender or juicer, you may have to shell out quite a few dollars for the Rolls Royce of cooking: Le Creuset cast iron cookware. Of you can opt for other green versions like Cuisinart's Green Gourmet or EarthPans. Whichever you upgrade to, the investment in green cookware is well worth it for chemical-free pots and pans that you'll cherish for the rest of your life.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger