Zero Waste Grocery Shopping : Canned vs. Frozen
Updated: Sep 24, 2020
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Sometimes no matter how hard you try you just can’t get something waste free . Maybe you don’t have access to a bulk store or maybe the item you need just doesn’t come without packaging .
Nothing is worse than realizing an item you regularly buy doesn't have a more eco friendly option .
The zero waste lifestyle Is about being aware not being perfect . So don’t go thinking you can’t live a greener life because there are items you just can’t give up .
One area I really struggled with when starting this journey was canned vs. frozen .
Sometimes if you are not able to stop buying an item you have to make a conscious choice about which is better for you , your family, and the earth .
For the purpose of this post we are going to talk about peas!
My kids LOVE peas . I mean love. My son won’t even eat macaroni unless there are peas in it . I’m not even joking .
Have you ever bought fresh peas ? I haven’t ... I’ve never even seen them at my grocery store . So unless you are able to grow them or you know of a local farmers market that sells them , you are out of luck when it comes to finding zero waste peas .
If you can’t get them fresh you have 2 possible choices...
Canned or Frozen !
Modern cans are typically made using aluminum or steel . Aluminum is a sustainable and durable metal.
There is no limit to the amount of times aluminum can be recycled . This means a can of food can be recycled over and over again without any loss of material ... unlike plastic .
Unfortunately the process of creating new aluminum uses a lot of energy and can contaminate the ground and water.
Once canned food is stored there are no special storage needed unlike frozen and fresh foods . This is a big energy saver but cans are heavy and are expensive for transport .
It is very common for there to be a lining between the can and the food that contains plastic . This commonly contains BPA! BPA can seep into your food and drink and could cause possible health problems .
Canned food also tends to be loaded with unnecessary sugars and salts . Be sure to read the ingredients before buying any cans!
Do you have frozen fruit or veggies in your freezer ?
What are they all in ?
Unfortunately this plastic is not recyclable in most places. They are made out of multiple layers of materials which make them hard to recycle .
Some places will recycle these bags if the plastic is a stretchy material. Be sure to check what is accepted near you.
Frozen veggies are light so they are cheap to transport and over all they require less energy to produce .
Fresh and frozen produce has more nutrients than those in a can as nutrients often gets lost during the process of canning.
A great thing about frozen fruits and veggies is they can be eaten in portions unlike cans . This can potentially create less food waste.
Which is Better ?
Obviously that depends on you and what you believe is most important .
In my opinion ... frozen wins every time.
Yes cans can be recycled and frozen produce bags cannot but I do not want to expose my family to the harmful effects of BPA.
I also want to ensure my children are getting all the nutrients they can from the veggies they eat . That is not the case with cans .
What about the bag ?
There are many ways you can reuse these bags before you throw them in the trash !
You can use them as a garbage bag for your car , as a bag to scoop kitty litter , as a way to store you kids wet clothes when out and about , and so much more .
Try to buy your frozen produce in larger bags instead of multiple smaller bags !
I‘d love to not need to have frozen fruits and veggies in my freezer but life happens. We avoid it when we can but when it comes to peas my kids are demanding! It's important to me that I know I am making the right choice for my family and our health.