Tips on how to reduce the amount of food you waste
It is estimated that in the US between 30 and 40 percent of the food produced is wasted at the retail and consumer level. This is food that is perfectly edible after being harvested and instead of consumed, it is being trashed. For a better understanding of this situation, we are talking about a loss of about 1.2 pounds of food per person per day retail value of about $160 Billion… just wasted!.
The idea of wasting perfectly good food has bad implications in and of itself, especially considering how many people die of hunger in the world, but this is more complex and has many other layers associated to it, like the impact of where the food ends up, which is in landfills for the most part (we will come back to this point in a future post).
So, some of this food loss is due to issues that are out of your own immediate control, including problems during transportation for example, or ridiculous policies put in place by restaurants and grocery stores. However, you and I also contribute to food loss by buying food that we later just throw away! And it is not intentionally, of course, it is only due to poor planning on our part. Which is why I am going to give you a few tips on how you can reduce the amount of food you trash by simply planning.
1. Set aside some time in your calendar for meal planning. I know it sounds silly, but you have to plan to plan, haha. How often do you need to do this? It’s a personal choice. Initially, we planned our meals once a week, but we found that it worked best for us to plan 2 weeks at a time, even if we went to the store on a weekly basis, it was nice to have a break from planning every other week, but perhaps start with once a week until you get used to things.
2. Make a table that has the meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) on the side and the days of the week in the top. If you have another adult in your family, make sure you can share this document with them too, either physically or electronically. We use google sheets for this, and in the same document we keep the links of the recipes we’ve enjoyed the most, which also makes planning much faster.
3. Look inside your pantry and fridge to see what is there already that you can make a meal out of. If there is enough food for a meal (or part of one) add this meal to your plan.
4. Think about the recipes you want to cook that week and add them to your table, if the recipes includes ingredients that parish and can only be bought in an amount that is too large for that recipe, then find another recipe that uses that same ingredient for another day of the week
5. Complete the table with recipes also taking into account portions and if you want to have leftovers for another day of the week. An important thing to remember is to always check your calendar at the same time, you don’t want to plan a meal and then find out you actually have dinner at a friend’s house that day.
6. Once you have planned what recipes you will cook, you make a list of the ingredients you need to buy, always checking that you don’t already have them in your pantry. To save time on this step, there are smart phone applications you can use. We use “OurGroceries”. You can make recipe lists on these apps and just add them with one click to your list. They also have the items in categories, which makes things go fast and smooth at the store.
7. If despite the planning something comes up and you find yourself with too much of an ingredient or a recipe, offer some to your neighbors or friends, or consider freezing it and adding it to your table for the next time.
8. Planning your meals is a learning process and you quickly learn from your mistakes. When you find yourself trashing a certain kind of food, don’t get too upset or discouraged. Make a note of what you trashed and avoid making the same mistake in the future.
I will end by mentioning the other two benefits from meal planning that are also very important to consider even though they are not related to your environmental footprint. You will find that planning your meals is going to save you a good amount of money and will also help you eat healthier, by cooking more at home and exercising the power of choosing the ingredients you eat.