Meal planning. The best tool in eating healthy and preventing food waste
In the US 40% of food we produce goes to waste, that’s 365 million pounds of food a day! Picture the worlds largest football stadium filled to its absolute brim with daily food waste, while 1 in 8 Americans still don’t have a reliable supply of food to their tables. All this wasted food is a huge contributor to climate change. If global food waste were a country it would be the 3rd largest emitter of green house gasses, just behind china and the US. It takes a ton of resources to produce food, keep it cold, and transport it. We are basically trashing the planet to grow food that nobody eats.
Research has actually gone to show that once something goes into the refrigerator it has less value to us. Through this research people were asked: if they got home and dropped a carton on eggs on the floor how they would feel, and they expressed they would be extremely upset about it. And then they were asked if your eggs sat in your fridge for a while and never got used, they felt a lot less remorse.
We over buy food because we have so much space to put it in. Fridges have grown 15% since the 1970’s, and the average dinner plate has grown 36% larger since 1960. People are uncomfortable with white space when it comes to food. We don’t like to see empty space in our fridge or on our plates, so we are filling our fridges and plates unconsciously. Read about how our environment affects our choices in this blog here. If we had smaller fridges and plates we would essentially eat less mindlessly and produce far less food waste.
Nobody actually likes wasting food; it’s just something we haven’t paid much attention to. But of all the problems to solve out there, reducing the amount of food we are wasting is the easiest.
Why do we throw away food? Because we are not self aware, because we can afford it, and our good intentions go bad…. literally. Life happens and then avocados turn to mush, berries grow fuzz, lettuce browns, and in the trash they go.
While we may not be able to prevent all food waste ourselves, like the food waste happening on farms, and in grocery stores and restaurants. That is going to take a bigger shift.
Lets talk about one HUGE thing WE can do as individuals in our homes. This one huge thing just so happens to be something that also helps you set up your environment to eat healthier, and save money. Win – Win – Win. Remember that post I wrote about how our environment is more influential to our choices than our willpower?
What is that thing?
Here is what I do EVERY WEEK. I sit down with my computer (some people just do it with pen and paper) and I schedule in my dinners, exactly what I am going to eat during the week. I make it practical, not aspirational, because life happens. I leave 1-2 days unscheduled, for if life does so in fact happen and you end up eating out you don’t have a meal ready to be prepared at home going bad, and I leave that blank meal in the calendar for the end of the week, where I take all the produce I didn’t use during the previous meals and make a stir fry with them or put them in a soup or stew, you’ll surprise yourself with what creative meals you can make with leftovers. Need meal inspiration? check here.
Then I go through my list of meals I plan on cooking and make a grocery list of what I need to cook those meals, crossing off anything I already have in the pantry. I try to pair meals together that use the same produce, if I know I won’t use all of it in one meal, for example purple cabbage or cauliflower, I NEVER use a whole head for a single meal, so I make sure if I’m using it for one, I schedule another meal that uses the rest of it. I then add to the list a reasonable and practical amount of snacks such as apples and bananas. I get real aware of how much I actually DO eat, don’t buy more than I need and stick to my list. Then when I get home with my groceries I store them in the fridge with whatever was already in there in the front, and I try to schedule my meals with the produce that turns the fastest first. Lettuce and other greens turn much quicker than carrots and celery. I cook all of my dinners double so that I can then take them to work the next day for my lunch, practicing the cook once eat twice mentality, saving me time in the kitchen.
This way of planning out my week’s meals drastically reduces food waste in my home, AND helps me eat healthy because I have a plan. When life does inevitably happen and I don’t have a plan, as the saying goes, I plan to fail….I eat all the cookies, I order the pizza, I don’t feel good.
Bonus thing we can do to prevent food waste?
We can freeze more than we think. Unused vegetables can be frozen if they are chopped and blanched first, then store them in a freezer bag for adding to stir fry’s, soups or stews at a much later date. Did you know you can also freeze avocado, the most notorious throw away. Before it goes bad, peel and puree it with a little lime or lemon juice and store it in a freezer bag, or just peel it if you plan on using it in your smoothies, you won’t have to thaw it before throwing it in the blender with other frozen fruit. I freeze peeled bananas once they start to turn brown for my smoothies and store them in zip lock bags, and any other fruit that is about to turn before I eat it fresh. I also freeze leftovers like soups, stews, sauces and curries that don’t or wont get eaten quickly for back up meals in the future.
Try out this one thing this week and see how much of a difference it makes in your plan to eat healthy, and the amount of food that is thrown away in your home. I challenge you to these changes, take a photo and post it on social media with the hashtag #preventfoodwaste and tag me @balancedwellness_ . I also challenge you to eat your leftovers and post a photo on social media with the hashtags #preventfoodwaste and #cookonceeattwice, and of course tag me @balancedwellness_
Change is hard, but oh so good.