I buy only one weeks worth of food at a time. I didn’t used to do this and it was a huge adjustment. Here’s why.
I was a food waster, big time! I am not proud of that fact AT ALL! I was throwing away probably over half of the food I was buying for my family of four. I know. Horrific. Not just from a money perspective, but more importantly from the health of our planets perspective. I recycle, I use a re-useable water-bottle, I bring my own bags to the store, I have re-useable lunch bags for sandwiches and snacks, I walk instead of drive as much as possible. I liked to think I have a pretty light carbon footprint. EXCEPT when it came to food waste.
Now I am grateful to be able to say that I am now a recovering food waster. All it took was for me to take stock of my behaviors and carry out a plan to change. The first thing was for me was to stop going to warehouse stores like Costco for groceries. Don’t get me wrong, I love Costco for a few reasons, like their business practices, how they treat their employees and their fair wages. Unfortunately for me, the bulk food buying was a major contributor to my food waste. I never seemed to make it through any large pack of fruit or veggies before at least a third went bad. The large tub of organic lettuce always went bad half way through. The bread loaves in sets of four were no better. I would try to freeze three out of the four but then I wouldn’t get them out of the freezer until it was much too late. Cans of food were pushed back into my pantry to be forgotten, the super-sized bags of pretzels or chips would go stale. Milk would go bad and cheese would mold. We just couldn’t consume the food I was buying in time. And when this food went bad, with a sense of loathing I would throw it in our garbage or down the disposal. CRINGE!
We are also a generation that has gotten used to expecting perfect foods. A certain shape, color, with no blemishes or flaws. Kind of how Hollywood portrays women (but that’s another issue). We want the best of the best and the rest, gets tossed to the side. As for this ‘perfect food ideal’ I made a mindset change. For example, if an apple is bruised I do not throw it away. I can bake it or dry it into apple chips. Same with most veggies, zucchini, carrots, celery…if they have lost their crispness I cook with them. Add them to soup, sauces, and casseroles. My crock pot has become my new “garbage” disposal so to speak. When I really thought about it, most of the food I was throwing away wasn’t inedible, it just wasn’t as good as what I could just go re-buy at the store. Which brings me back to my once a week grocery trip.
I now grocery shop once a week on Tuesdays. I buy less, 5 days worth of lunch options for my girls and I, and 5 nights worth of dinners, each dinner including 1 protein, 1 grains/starch, and 2 veggies. Yes, I know there are 7 days in a week, but I account for at least one meal of leftovers and one possible out to dinner meal either at a restaurant or friend or families home. I purchase few snacks and drinks, like juice or iced tea. I buy just enough milk and eggs. I buy one treat like ice-cream bars. In a box there are 8. That gives us two nights for sweet treats and other nights we have an apple, or other fruit or popcorn. My girls eat more dinner now knowing there isn’t a ‘special treat’ every night.
I do not buy more even though I am tempted. I plan wisely. I buy some fresh and some frozen, starting all fresh at the beginning of the week, leading to the frozen toward the end. By Monday our fridge (which is never full to start with) is very empty. This system forces me to eat what I have purchased. Another problem I had with food was forgoing what I had bought and making only what sounded good that day. This left fresh food I should be eating first being left until last and therefore going bad. With this method I have been forced to cook and eat what is here.
I could go to the store in between my weekly shopping trip but I don’t. It has become a sort of challenge to make it through the week. We have run out of “food” and resorted to making pancakes for dinner since we had mix in the pantry. We eat left-overs the next day so there is no questioning whether they are bad. We may add something to them, but we eat them nonetheless. I also stopped cooking food for six instead of 4. It’s a good night when we are all just full enough and there are no leftovers. A success! I have gotten better at this.
Now, the little bits of foods we don’t eat…the peelings, rinds, tips of beans or carrot ends. Well, I have a friend who has chickens who will eat anything. I give her some. My 136 pound St. Bernard loves veggies, so I often feed the trimmings to her as I make dinner. She also loves the fish skin and any meat bones. My next step will be to build a homemade compost bin. But there really isn’t much at all that I need to think about finding an alternative disposal for.
So, stats, according to the US EPA 21% of landfill waste is food! 20 % of methane gas emission is from this food waste in the landfills. When we waste food we are also wasting all the resources it took to grow that food and transport it to us. There are many environmental as well as economic benefits of less food waste practices. You can read them here.
- Buy less food. Start with a weeks worth and buy only the minimum you think you’ll need. You won’t starve. You can always run to the store.
- Don’t throw out food based on its appearance. It probably isn’t inedible. Find a way to use it anyway.
- Keep half fresh and half-frozen (if you are buying a weeks worth) . If you won’t eat it in 3 days, freeze it or buy already frozen proteins and veggies.
- Eliminate buying super-sized anything. It’s just better not to.
- Find out who in your neighborhood has animals that eat food waste. Like chickens or pigs. You may be surprised who would love your veggie ends.
- Build a composter. There are some easy DIY on you-tube and the web. When I make mine I will post it.
- Don’t be afraid to be creative with meals. Use leftovers to make a frittata or have breakfast for dinner. A ‘clean out the fridge’ table spread. Kids think it’s fun to have something out of the ordinary.
Please share any tips you may have to help cut food waste in the comments below!! In this case more is better 🙂