I have a problem with food waste. Every Sunday I come home with a fresh batch of groceries, and I have to tackle the remnants from the week before. Anyone else know what I’m talking about? You open the fridge to deposit all the new goodies, and you’re faced with some sad looking produce that is bound for the trash.
I hate throwing out food. It’s terrible for the environment, a waste of money, and makes me feel like a bad planner. But eliminating it has been an ongoing struggle in my house. I know we can be better, and sometimes we are, but it’s too easy to slip back into bad habits and rely too much on the garbage system.
I know I’m not alone in this battle. It’s estimated that Canadians waste $31 billion in food every year, and 47% of that comes from us consumers. That’s a hell of a lot of money we’re literally throwing in the trash. And that’s just the money part. A significant portion of what makes up our garbage is also food waste.
One of my goals for this year is to make greener choices, and reducing my food waste is part of that. Since the beginning of the year we’ve been making some changes and trying new tactics to reign in the garbage, and today I wanted to share what’s working for us.
Last year we started composting to help reduce our food waste. I can’t take any credit for this as it’s 100% the bf’s domain, but it has made a difference in what we throw in the trash. Now, if some fruits and veggies are past their best, we can feed them to the worms. It’s not perfect, because we’re still wasting money on food we don’t eat, but at least we get some compost for the yard.
Because we live in the frigid north, it’s a challenge to compost outside. We keep ours in the basement year round in a giant Rubbermaid container with worms to break down the food waste. The set-up was simple and cheap, the bin doesn’t take up much room, and most importantly, it doesn’t smell (I was worried about that.) If you’re interested in composting, you can check out this tutorial for setting up a system like ours.
I am an avid meal planner (see here, here, and here.) Every Sunday morning I browse through my Pinterest Recipes Board and choose meals for the week and make a shopping list. I hate grocery shopping (who doesn’t!), so my goal is always only to go once a week. Post-work grocery runs for that one ingredient you forgot are the absolute worst.
Choosing recipes is the part I’m good at, but I finally realize that’s not all there is to meal planning. We are only two people, which means we often don’t use up full portions of an ingredient with one meal. If we buy a bunch of celery to use in a soup, we’re going to have 80% of that bunch of celery left. The smart thing would be to choose more than one recipe that calls for celery. I’m learning that I’m rarely that smart.
I also need to be better about checking the fridge before meal planning. Basing your meals on what is already in the fridge, freezer, or pantry can significantly lower your grocery budget and reduce food waste.
I am the kind of person who needs to see results to stay motivated. To stick to a workout plan I need to have a schedule of what workouts I’m doing each day. If I’m trying to eat healthily, I’ll have way more success when I keep a food diary. I’m a rule follower, so having a way to make myself accountable is critical.
After seeing the idea of tracking waste on my friend Angela’s blog, I knew it was the kind of exercise that would motivate me to be better. Now, I have not been tracking every piece of garbage we throw out, but I have been tracking our food waste. Baby steps.
I knew throwing away food was an issue for us, but I didn’t realize the extent until I saw it all written out in front of me. It’s eye-opening for sure, and if you are on a mission to reduce the amount of garbage you produce, then it’s really valuable.
Use Up Dinner
The change I made that has made the most significant impact on how much food waste we produce is incorporating a ‘use up’ dinner. One night a week I skip the meal planning, and instead, we rummage through the fridge and create something with all the perishables that don’t have much life left.
Our go-to meal for this is a frittata. You can throw just about anything (veggies, meat, cheese, etc.) in a skillet with a bunch of eggs and call it dinner. Other options are stir-fries, chili, fried rice or minestrone.
Make Your Freezer Your BFF
No matter how well you plan, there are always going to be times where you have leftovers you just can’t get to in time. Maybe you had plans come up unexpectedly and had to skip dinner, or you just could not bring yourself to cook and ordered takeout. We all have those kinda days.
When that happens, and your fruit, and veggies are taking a hard turn to the mushy side then take advantage of your freezer.
- Pack up individual portions of fruit and greens in containers for smoothies
- Freeze brown bananas as is to use for baking
- Chop herbs and freeze with oil in ice cube trays for use in soups and sauces
- Keep a bag of carrots, celery, onions in the freezer to make stock with next time you have bones
- Save broccoli and cauliflower stems in the freezer to use in soup
Just don’t be like me and forget to check your freezer every once in a while and actually use what you’re putting in there.
Do you guys struggle with food waste? Or maybe you’re an all-star and can share some of your tips and tricks with the rest of us? Share in the comments!
This post was proofread by Grammarly.