In Honor of Earth Day! Tips for Reducing Food Waste

April 23, 2020

Happy (day after!) Earth Day! Though really, shouldn't every day be earth day? Managing food waste is at the forefront of my mind since we are limiting our trips to the grocery store as COVID19 continues to rule the world. As I’ve gotten older and become responsible for cooking all my own meals and managing my budget, I’m much more in tune to how much food actually gets wasted in my house. Growing up, my mom was a pro at eating leftovers. I vividly remember her mixing seemingly random combinations of fridge items to make up a new meal for the sake of using up the food. I, of course, thought this was weird and gross. Now, though, I’m definitely becoming my mom; it pains me to throw away any food! Since I’ve started paying close attention to this we really don’t throw much food away, but every once a while our leftovers get forgotten about, forcing us to toss them.

Here are some of my food-saving tips to help you lessen your own waste and better manage your food budget!

1. Commit to packing lunch from home using leftovers from dinner. When we cook dinner, we purposely cook more than we know we will eat so we can pack leftovers for lunch. Not only do you use up what you already have, but you save money on buying lunch! Win-win!

2. Snack on leftover veggies while you prepare breakfast and lunch for the day. Veggies at breakfast? Say what? For me, part of my work day morning routine is to make my breakfast and pack my lunch after I do my prenatal yoga flow (prenatal, yes! 😊) I’m often starving when I wake up, so while I’m preparing my meals and snacks for the day I’ll munch on some leftover cucumbers from the salad I made the night before. If you tend to snack while you cook dinner, just switch the timing! Snack on those leftover veggies instead of chips to cut down on waste and boost your veggie intake!

3. Create your own version of Chopped. Is this my second Chopped reference on this blog? I think so! When we get low on groceries and have a mismatch of foods in the fridge, we have a lot of fun coming up with a recipe to use up those foods. Sometimes they’re winners and sometimes they’re just mediocre, but failing sometimes is part of improving our cooking skills!

4. Anticipate when you’ll get sick of eating the same meal. Batch cooking is great; cook once, eat five times. But, are you one of those people (like me) that gets sick of eating the same thing after you eat it twice in a row? Batch cook all you want, but make sure to freeze your extras! That way, a month from now when you actually are in the mood for that meal again, it’s ready to go. Remember to label and date your containers or freezer bags so you know what the food is and when you made it!

5. Refrigerate or freeze your bread products. Maybe this one only applies to me, but we have a big problem with our bread going moldy really fast! We don’t eat a ton of bread, so we keep it in the freezer all year round. No more moldy bread!

6. Make a list before grocery shopping, and don’t shop hungry! Sticking to your list will help you avoid buying unnecessary ingredients that you *think* you might use, but probably won’t.

7. Keep a well-stocked spice pantry. I can’t emphasize how important this is. Keeping a variety of herbs, spices, and oils on hand allows you to cook anything, without relying on expensive takeout when you’re feeling like Mexican, Chinese, or Thai food. Cumin and spices like chili flakes or cayenne help us to create winning Mexican inspired dishes. We keep sesame oil, sesame seeds, and low sodium soy sauce on hand for when we’re in the mood for Asian food. Fresh onion and garlic are a MUST for adding flavor without salt!

8. Quit being a short order cook for your picky-eater kids. This could be a whole separate blog post so I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but you actually DON’T have to make mac n’ cheese every night. The more separate meals you make, the more likely you are to throw things away. When serving a new food to your child, start them with a VERY small portion (we’re talking 1 carrot stick or 2 bites of chicken). If they don’t eat it, you’re only tossing 2 bites instead of a whole chicken breast.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful and are inspired to minimize your waste! Have any more ideas for reducing waste? Let me know at [email protected] and your ideas might end up in a future post!