Whether you’re looking to save money on groceries, reduce your environmental impact and footprint, or you’re just flat-out sick of finding spoiled fruits and veggies at the back of your fridge (enduring the depressing process of throwing out once perfectly edible food) – this read is for you.
The key to reducing food waste is starting at the source, and by taking a few simple, proactive steps in your everyday life, you can make it a seamless reality – rather than the complicated task you assume only supermoms with A-type personalities can manage!
First up: Meal planning.
It might not sound thrilling, but believe it or not, we ALL do it. It’s just a matter of how far in advance you choose to think about it. Some of us “meal plan” 5 minutes prior to ordering takeout at our favorite local burrito spot. Others set aside a certain time every Sunday to sit down and think about the meals they’ll be having for the entire week ahead. I’m going to try to inspire you to move towards the latter.
Meal planning is important not only for health (mindful and advance consideration into what and how you’re going to eat often comes hand-in-hand with healthier decisions), but also to avoid over-buying and hence over-spending at the grocery store. Consider a meal-planning tool like Meal Garden, a customizable meal assistance tool that you can easily use on your phone or desktop.
With just a few clicks, you can have recipes planned in your calendar, and automatic grocery lists done for you – all pre-organized by aisle or store. Furthermore, you can remove items you already have, cross ingredients off as you shop (even on your phone), and filter your list by meals or day (for instance, if you grocery shop multiple times throughout the week).
Next up, let’s talk refrigerator protocol:
FIFO : First In First Out. There’s a reason food service businesses follow this rule strictly – and you should too! In case you’re not familiar, it refers to how you stock the fridge. Essentially, it entails shifting the older items to the front of the fridge, for easy access – and a gentle reminder that they’re there and need to be used up! So the key take-away here: when you’re unpacking groceries, make sure to put those fresh ingredients towards the back of the fridge, and pull out the older items already in there and make sure they’re right at the front so you remember to use them up first!
CORN: Clean Out Refrigerator Night – an acronym that Kristine Peacock from Meals That Matter once shared with me. In other words, take an “empty” fridge as a challenging opportunity – not a sign of defeat! Now’s the time to get creative, grab a wok, and throw in “everything but the kitchen sink”.
Practice safe storage.
You’d be surprised at just how many things should be kept in your fridge – NOT your room-temperature pantry…
One of the most neglected foods left to spoil in our kitchen cupboards? Nuts! The oils in these nutritious foods actually go rancid faster than you might imagine – turning acidic and reducing their nutritional benefits. One of my favorite Canadian TV Personalities and RHN’s in Toronto, Kim D’eon, wrote an extensive and informative guide about how to keep your nuts and seeds fresher for longer – minimizing the possibility of you ever needing to throw them out – check it out here.
Take full advantage of your freezer!
Yes, we’ve all heard about “freezer meals”, and are familiar with the concept of freezing leftovers for later on in the week or month – which is great, but let’s take it up a notch…
Did you know you can freeze herbs? Chop them up and place them in oil and water – an ice-cube tray works great for this purpose. Unless you plan to put dill in just about EVERY MEAL after buying a bunch from the grocery store, you’re going to want to practice this trick…
These little herb “poppers” are total time- and life-savers when it comes to last-minute seasonings for a stir-fry, or save leftover herbs like mint and rosemary for a swanky cocktail to impress your guests!
Freeze ingredients you’d otherwise throw out…
- Kale stalks – these go great in smoothies! Here’s an example recipe.
- Take note of veggies that are “on their way out” and stick them in the freezer to preserve their lifespan. You can stick them in stir-fries or other cooked dishes later on.
So while “meal planning” and “reducing food waste” doesn’t exactly sound like the most exciting thing on earth. Interpret it is your invitation to get more inspired in the kitchen – without ever having to the face the dark bleak reality of stinky, wilted veg at the back of your crisper bin ever again!
Kiki Athanassoulias is a Rotman Commerce graduate from Toronto, and a current fellow in the entrepreneurial non-profit organization, Venture for Canada. She joined Meal Garden — a health-focused meal planning startup, as it was a perfect fit to her strong passion for food and nutrition, complimented by her business background and entrepreneurial training. Today, she acts as Marketing Director, and her goal is to pay it forward by genuinely helping Meal Garden users succeed in living nutritious and well-balanced lives! In her free time, Kiki enjoys practicing yoga and writing for her blog, Mindfully Edible.
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