Over the weekend, you always set out for Monday with the best intentions: eat well, exercise, be productive. You head to the grocery store and stock up your cart with all the fruits and veggies you can muster. You think through homemade recipes you plan to whip up after you get home from work or your daily to-do’s.
Then the week rolls around and a little bit of stress (or just the desire to have a little fun!) leads to after-work happy hours and get togethers. Or perhaps you have to work late and the last thing you want to do is cook when you get home. Inevitably, some of that food you so excitedly set out to cook ends up as a soggy lump in the trash.
Food waste is an unfortunate issue in the U.S. and worldwide. Not only does it mean wasted money for you (that could go to SO many better things, causes, and events), it also has a serious environmental footprint.
There are many advantages to cutting down on your food waste, and with a few small changes to your weekly routine, you can do so easily! Where should you start?
- Live by your shopping List. Before you head to the grocery store, think through what you’ll need for the week and make a list. Always check your refrigerator and your pantry before making the list so you know what needs replacing and what doesn’t.
If you want to make a particular recipe for your dinners for the week ahead, list out the ingredients. If a certain recipe calls for half a bunch of kale, for instance, find another lunch recipe that may incorporate the rest of that kale. The more you can overlap your ingredients in recipes, the better. That doesn’t mean they have to taste the same, of course! Kale-topped tacos are much different than a kale-shrimp Thai curry.
Once at the store, stick to your list (but do add that pint of ice cream if you really want it ;)).
- Prep food in advance. Setting aside an hour on Sunday is well worth not wasting food because the weeknights get too busy to cook. Prep at least a few meals for the week that you know you’ll eat. If your recipe makes more than that, stick the extra in the freezer, and set reminders for yourself throughout the week (on sticky notes or your smartphone) to take those meals out of the freezer if needed. You can always unfreeze – but you can’t un-rot.
As you’re prepping, think creatively about how you can use ALL parts of your food purchases. And that brings us to the final step…
- Find unique uses for the bits and pieces. Unused herbs that aren’t needed for the aforementioned recipes can be pureed and made into a base for pesto or whipped up into homemade dressings with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Citrus rinds are great additions to your water pitcher, tea, or sangria, and you can always zest the skin to give your recipes a pinch of tangy taste. Small bits and pieces of any fruits or vegetables can be added to smoothies and won’t compromise the flavor. Bones, stalks, and unused bits of veggies make for the perfect base for a stock, which you can use next week for a homemade soup. Make it a game: the less you waste, the more you (and others) win!
There you have it! In three easy steps, you can cut down your food waste, saving you money and time while improving your health and that of the environment.