Have you ever tried to waste less food? How does that go for you? I always feel like I could do better even though we really don’t waste shameful amounts of food at all. That being said, as I write this post it’s summer and it’s food bonanza season, with lots of beautiful fresh food in the fridge, overflowing gardens, and loaded produce shelves. Our kitchen is bursting at the seams, and that kicked in my perfectionism. Now I’m sprinting off on a “waste less food” marathon ….again.
However, this time is different. Food management changes over time in every home. So, I rethought the whole concept of waste less, and decided to accept a few things about myself. I will probably never can/preserve food again on any large scale. Freezing doesn’t suite me however, I do like drying. Essentially I just want to eat healthy and fresh, always waste less food, and do my part for the planet and our budget, including support some of the industries that that manufacture high quality products.
It’s a Life Value
My mom’s side of the family was pretty “Scotch” – their term for plain, old fashioned tight. We learned that wasting anything was unthinkable. And I do believe we need to teach this core concept to our children.
That feeling of self-efficacy we get when we create and live a well managed life is priceless. We can show our children how we do this while they grow up and, subsequently, they will know how to design their own well managed life once they are grown.
Here are some of the ideas I came up with this time around.
Strategies for Less Food Waste
- Collect data. Track what you waste, just for a week or two, and see where you stand. Which meal usually has the most waste? But, don’t weigh the stuff or anything like that! Just jot it down.
- Decide what you call waste. An eggshell? Coffee grounds? Gardeners love these things for compost but…do YOU compost? Maybe not. Or, maybe you and your children will try some simple composting ideas from The Kitchn.
- Planning. Yuk. I’ve tried to plan menus and it never works for me. Now I use my Simple Meal Plan and just plug in whatever fits each meal. Most days I’m a cook, not a chef. So, find your own style for planning and, most of all, keep it simple!
- Shop for five days and make it last seven. Eat something healthy in the pantry, or on the shelf, to fill in. Amazingly, this really works!
- Stop dishing up food for your children. Teach them to dish their own as young as possible. This tunes their hunger meter, and they probably won’t get in trouble for not cleaning their plate.
- Eliminate sugar. To lessen food waste? Yes! Sugar ruins appetites for hours after eating or drinking it. It also ruins our sense of taste and makes most other foods taste dull by comparison so, if you have picky eaters, check their sugar intake. For more about the disasters caused by eating sugar watch Fed Up.
- Stop all eating, gum chewing, and drinking, except for water, 60 to 90 minutes before the next meal. Save your appetites because of course, everybody eats better and wastes less when hungry.
- It drives me crazy when I can’t see everything in the overcrowded fridge. How about you? So, first use the things that spoil quickly and second use the things that take up a lot of space, such as that big, juicy watermelon!
- Freezers come in handy but they can also serve as a long layover for food that will eventually, or soon, end up in the trash. Things get lost and freezer burned in a freezer so, freeze only for a very good reason and try to use food before it ever gets there.
- Do It Yourself Night. Growing up, every Sunday night was do-it-yourself for dinner in my home. Dad usually had a can of homemade tamales from Mancuso’s in Lake Charles, LA. The overall procedure was pretty simple. Essentially we prepared our meal on our own, everybody cleaned up their own mess, and no one touched Dad’s special tamale stash – ever. Understandably our whole family loved this meal. We used up most of the leftovers and no one had to cook. So what do you think?
- Establish procedures, not rules. For example, we all try everything at least once. A try-it smell, a try-it taste, or a try-it bite works, and let your child decide which try-it they choose. Everybody starts small and asks for seconds. Finally, and very important, what’s your dessert policy?
- And last but not least, teach and use manners. Be grateful and never model or allow complaining about food. Take turns working in the kitchen and always thank the cooks!
I know you have other really good ideas so please post them here. What are your favorite, simple ways to waste less food?