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Zero Waste Junk Food

Zero Waste Kitchen

Last Updated on January 23, 2024

I like to think I eat healthy 98% of the time. After listening to a recent podcast I did with Matt Prindle, I realized I mentioned some form of junk food at least 8 times.

To be clear – I am ALWAYS thinking about food. Often times, I’ll be staring in the distance and someone will ask me, “What’s wrong?” I’ll turn to them with a confused look on my face; because, I’m desperately trying to decide between spinach, kale, and romaine for dinner. (spinach won tonight)

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And, while spinach, kale, and romaine play a large part in my life – sometimes you just need junk food.

So let’s talk sugar, carbs, and everything in between. Should we eat this stuff everyday? Of course not! But, every once in a while – go for it. Treat yo’ self. Life, after all, is about moderation.

Top 10 – Zero Waste – Junk Food

10. Vegan Chocolate Milkshakes: I love these bad boys when I’m out to eat. I love them made at home. I just love them.

Being allergic to dairy most of my life, I still remember what a treat it was when my dad made milkshakes. He’d make them with an immersion blender in these giant, ugly, lime-green plastic cups, but he’d always sprinkle chocolate jimmies on top!

To me, nothing says nostalgia like a homemade non-dairy milkshake. Now, this was wayyy before non-dairy everything was super popular. Getting dairy free ice-cream in the mid 90s was a huge treat.

 Homemade vegan chocolate ice cream. No bananas. 

Homemade vegan chocolate ice cream. No bananas. 

(Y’all. I still remember the first day I tried soy milk. It rocked my little dairy-free world.

It was a Saturday afternoon, Costco, 11.5 years old, gray marbled t-shirt with a bedazzled fleur de lis, hot pink shorts, and you had to pry my little hands away from the sample stand. It. Was. Bliss. Don’t worry. It was Costco. We bought a whole case.

9. Chocolate Chip Cookies: If you come over to my house, there’s a 99.9% chance I have a full cookie jar. Justin LOVES these.

He will come up with any excuse for me to make them. My favorite is, “Kathryn, we’re going to have people over in a couple of days. You should probably make cookies.

It will make the house smell amazing.” Obviously the smell isn’t going to last three days, Justin. Thankfully, I can make them in under an hour. 

8. Sour Gummy Worms: This is Justin’s favorite bulk candy. We often go to the drive-in movie. We like the drive-in because it’s cheaper and we can bring Nala. Nala loves to go to the movies.

We’ll stop by the bulk aisle to pick up our favorite movie going treats. But, I recently learned they have a whole section of bulk candy inside the concession stand! 

7. Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: This is my favorite bulk candy. Actually it’s my second favorite. My first favorite was the peanut butter cups.

But, they recently switched the supplier. The new ones have palm oil in them. Until that changes, I’ll just pig out on some chocolate covered almonds. 

6. Cheddar Whales: Let’s get a little salty. These are like a cheddar cracker, but in the shape of whales. 

At Berkeley Bowl the also have cheddar quackams in the shape of ducks which is adorable and it reminds me of Mitch Headberg‘s duck routine – it’s excellent. 

5. Pretzels: I used to have an obsession with Flipz chocolate covered pretzels. To get my fix, I like to dip the pretzels in melted chocolate or just eat them with a few chcoolate chips.

I’ve found the perfect combo is one pretzel to three chocolate chips. I also love to dip pretzels in a strong horseradishy mustard and peanut butter! … although – not at the same time.

4. Baked Goods: Most bakeries are so chill with putting baked goods straight into a cloth napkin or bag.

Typically they grab the goods with tongs and plop it straight into your own container. No waste.

Donuts, muffins, cinnamon rolls, croissants, bear claws, french twists, the list goes on and on. I am a sucker for a Saturday morning treat! I did walk all the way to the bakery – so it cancels out right? 

3. Deep Fried: I don’t deep fry very often only about twice a year. It’s messy, uses a lot of oil, and obviously – isn’t super good for you. But, with a fourth generation fried chicken recipe – sometimes it’s just tradition.

I have used it for cauliflower and it’s bomb. Hopefully granny would be proud. I also use her batter for onion rings, and since we have a pot of oil, I’ll do french fries too.

2. Tortilla Chips: Having grown up in Texas, I am obsessed with chips and salsa.

I get tortilla chips straight into my cloth bags from the tortilleria around the corner. If you don’t have one of those handy, just pop into any mexican restaurant.

I bet they’re frying some up right now. My friend Gillian typically pops by with salsa which is so, so, so good.

If you don’t have friends who make great salsa – get new friends. I jest; I jest. But, seriously – get together with a group of friends and make salsa. Summer is on the horizon which means tomatillos and tomatoes abound. 

1. Pizza: Please, don’t tell me you were surprised? We make a lot of pizza, we pick up a lot of pizza to go in our own containers, and occasionally….. we even do delivery! WHAT!? I know. I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

When we order delivery, we always ask for no extra sauces or packets and no plastic mini-tables. I have absolutely no idea what the proper term for that is, but the guys at the shop seems to know what I’m talking about. 

I’m left with just a pizza box I can compost

Ordering meatless or cheeseless pizza leaves you with almost no grease. So, even if you don’t have a compost – you can recycle it. If it’s greasy, then transfer it to a snapware ASAP, so you can recycle your box. 

And, now you know! Going zero waste doesn’t mean you have to give up your pizza delivery or junk food habit…. just promise me you won’t go overboard? 

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  1. Love your site but I wouldn’t compost pizza boxes. A recent post from one of the health websites stated there were dangerous chemicals in these boxes (who knew something so good could be encased in something so bad?!). Until we complain strongly enough to pizza restaurants to change this, I would either find a way to take your own container to box pizza, make homemade pizza (so easy and fun for kids), or eat at restaurant. We really have to be vigilant with corporations who do not always have consumers best interest at heart.

    1. We make a lot of pizza and we get it to go in our own containers. Call you local pizza place and see what they offer! Every place is different. A lot even advertise compostable boxes. I’m sure that’s probably just a Cali thing though.

  2. Good article! Changing my diet is going to be the hardest part of going Zero Waste, and it’s reassuring to know there will still be junk food options out there.

  3. You mentioned in your first junk food that you’re allergic to milk. I was wondering if everything you listed is dairy free or are you more lactose intolerant? I’m always looking for good snack foods and those whales look delicious.

  4. Why is it that bread, cookies, and little chocolate treats look SOOO much better in a piece of cloth than a plastic bag? I mean they look like they taste a thousand times better.

  5. We recently have started down the long road to zero/low waste. A long time ago I discovered that my husband’s favorite snack, cheez-itz, had palm on in them. He reluctantly gave them up, because a good man would rather help the environment over late night snacks. What about these whale cheese crackers? Now that I know the nasty-ness that go into the commercial kind I can’t help but be skeptical of every other version.

  6. Fun fact, that "mini table" is called a pizza saver, and it was invented by a NY woman called Carmela Vitale. I only know this because of a song by a comedian I like who talks about her!

    These are all great – I’m trying to be more environmentally friendly with the packed breakfast and lunch I make for myself and my boyfriend, but in England there’s not a lot of bulk buy stores or similar and I don’t have that much time to cook things from scratch… even if I HAD the time it’s tricky to find ingredients that aren’t drowning in packaging! Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming.

    I just started renting a private allotment, so in the future I’ll be able to grow some of my own produce, it just needs some work before it’s usable. I guess I just have to be patient!