Zero Waste in the Time of Coronavirus

Our RICARDO Test Kitchen chef, Étienne, shares a few thoughts on this new reality that’s had us staying indoors for over a week now.

At a time when coronavirus is slowing everyone’s life down, foodstuffs have suddenly become all the more precious. Are we imaginative enough to use these ingredients well so as to ensure we don’t let a single crumb go to waste?


Emptying the freezer, sorting through the pantry, transforming the contents of your fridge… You’ll quickly see that you can breathe new life into anything and create appetite-whetting recipes! For example, I recently found some egg yolks, as well as a lemon and lime that I had forgotten about. The result? A lemon (or other citrus) curd that will revive fruit, meringues or morning crepes. What I’ve assembled will far from make it onto the cover of RICARDO magazine, but they’re still a bright spot during this period of isolation.

meringue et lemon curd

I’m also trying to make a habit of cooking each withered vegetable I may have. Ones that are on the verge of being composted will go right into the freezer to eventually be used in a homemade vegetable broth. In ordinary circumstances, would I have used Brussels sprouts in a ramen? Probably not. But that’s what’s great: When challenged, we have no choice but to get creative. For now and for a little while, the quest for the kitchen ideal will have to be replaced by “it’s good enough as is.”


Overpackaging can definitely be tempting in uncertain times. I try to avoid it, but sometimes it feels like it’s the only option.

Our environment-friendly reflexes have suddenly taken a back seat. We choose chemical-laden products over organic. Gentle cleaning methods are no more. Just look at the aisle of cleaning supplies at the supermarket: The highly sought-after products are disinfectants that aren’t safe for the environment. Our good habits are taking a hit and disposables are the inevitable solution to that. Temporarily, at least. 

There’s also the fact that, given the circumstances, we’re no longer shopping reasonably. We say that this is normal in times of crisis, but what about all those canned foods? All that meat in the freezer? It’ll definitely take some inspiration to ensure these foods don’t go bad by the time this is all over. How about stocking up for the week instead of the entire month?


My job is culinary exploration, but I certainly feel a sense of guilt cooking those types of dishes at home right now. All those challenging recipes certainly don’t go hand-in-hand with confinement, balanced cooking or eating for sustenance. My blueberry angel food cake and my revisited cheesecake, which I’m currently developing for our upcoming summer issue, are definitely too much for two people. I’m considering sharing them with my neighbours...while keeping a distance of two metres, of course! Do we simply stick with a sure thing, or do we continue to have fun cooking over the stove? The answer to that is nuanced.

gâteau au fromage et gâteau des anges aux bleuets

Maybe there’ll be a “before” and an “after” to coronavirus. I’m personally taking in both the bad and the good. I hope my zero-waste reflexes will endure during this time of upheaval. How about you? What are some of your tips on using ingredients to their full potential?