As a family, we are regularly looking for ways to be kinder to the environment. We’ve switched to reusable water bottles, pack lunches in reusable containers, and bring our reusable grocery bags to the store. But, there’s always more we can do.
Recently, we’ve become very aware of the amount of food that we waste. Food waste is a waste of money, resources and it has a negative impact to the environment.
Here’s a few things we’ve done to be more mindful about the food we purchase and prepare:
Make Smaller Portions: I’m from a family of 9, so small portions was never something I was familiar with. I was trained at a very early age to make extra. I’m very good at making enough dinner, treats, or snacks to feed a small army. The problem is that my little army of 5 (most of the time 4 with one at college) doesn’t need that much. First I started scaling back, now I’m pretty good at making just enough for our family dinners (I still have a bit of a problem if we have people over). The sweet spot is to make enough that everyone had plenty to eat, but there aren’t heaps of leftovers. At the end of the week, much less food gets thrown out because there wasn’t an excess.
Leftover Night: Despite my best efforts, there are often times leftovers. I’m happy to eat them for lunch, but it’s not my family’s favorite option. As a team effort at least once a week we have leftovers for our meal. A common phrase you’ll hear is, “I get a prize, I emptied a container!”
Save for a Rainy Day: Instead of letting leftovers take their chances of being eaten for lunch or leftover night, I will often package them up right away, throw them in the freezer and use them at a later time. If it’s not realistic that they will be finished in a day or two, they get to extend their time in the freezer. Fresh vegetables can be salvaged too. Just blanche them in boiling water and freeze. They can be used later in a stir-fry or blended into a sauce.
Repurpose Leftovers: We are omnivores at our house, so often times I do this with the meat portion of a meal. Ground beef initially used for runzas can be set aside and used another time as a pizza topping, pulled pork can be used another time for burritos, and roasted potatoes can be used another time for stew. Sometimes I’ll do this right away, portions of Monday’s meal will show up on Wednesday, other time’s I’ll pull a container from the freezer and use that.
Keep the Refrigerator Bare: If the refrigerator is really full more things go to waste. There’s only so much our family can eat in a week. Also, if you can’t see what’s in there, if you can’t easily move things around to get to containers, items get pushed to the back and are forgotten. Nobody likes to pull out a container of “what is this” or “when did we have burgers”.
Repurpose Overripe Fruits: There’s apparently a banana cycle that I’m not in sync with. Some weeks my family will mow down a bunch of bananas in record time. Other weeks nobody touches them. The good news is that they like banana bread (so do high school track athletes). Easy-peasy. You just pop them in the freezer (peels and all) when they get overripe and use them to bake with later. I also do this with other fruits that are just past their prime. Apple a little mushy? Dice it up and put it in oatmeal. Too much cantaloupe? Freeze it and use it in a smoothie. Fruits are very forgiving if you just give them a chance. Don’t let a little bruise or yucky spot spoil the whole piece. You can probably still use it!
Our family has been focusing on reducing food waste for the last couple of months and I’ve noticed a difference. We are wasting less food and our grocery bill has come down a bit. There is still more that can be done, but every little bit, every little change makes a difference to our family and to the environment. What can you do to reduce?