2018... your year of LESS! Who doesn't want less clutter, less struggling with your weight, less stress, and today's topic... less waste! Our good man Andrew Ference, retired captain of the Oilers' hockey team, was on the radio asking the city to properly dispose of packaging at Christmas, and try to produce less garbage. That got me thinking about all the ways Nidal and I manage to produce about a third of the waste and recycling as our next-door neighbours do on a weekly basis. Here are my top tips to reduce waste from food in your home...
1. Plan out your meals for the week!
It takes about five to ten minutes for me to plan out what the meals will be for the week. Really, I only plan about three meals, because I love leftovers, and because my husband, the real chef of the home, is outstanding at improvisation. Planning out our meals helps us to plan the grocery list, and thus reduces wasted foods, our need for packaged non-fresh foods, and ingredients that go bad before we use them up!
2. Try buying in bulk.
Switching from canned beans to real beans has been a total game changer for me. I will pop beans in the slow cooker after deciding that I'm going to include beans in a few dishes this week, and set to high for a few hours, come back after running errands, and store the excess in the freezer in reusable containers. I find our recycle bin is far less heavy after making this switch. You can do the same with whole grains from the bulk section, baking items, and unsalted nuts and seeds.
3. Take your own bags!!!
When I was in Palm Springs at the farmer's market, a man dressed from head to toe as a "plastic bag monster" had donned all the plastic bags a person uses on average per year. It was gross! Think about how many bags you ask for on average at the grocery store, and multiply that by 42 weeks in a year. That plastic, though made from recycled materials, is not biodegradeable, and produces chemicals that are released into the air even if they are recycled into something else. For some fun new grocery bags with a fun chevron print, look to these Green Life Chevron Grocery Bags!
4. Purchase large bags of frozen fruit rather than tiny packs of fresh fruit.
Frozen fruit can be just as nutritious (and probably far more nutritious in the winter) than fresh berries! You can buy in larger quantities, and use in smoothies or warm up over your oatmeal, or as a quick treat with a drizzle of homemade chocolate sauce.
My new favourite feel-good item in the kitchen is beeswax wrap! In view of the chemicals kept hidden in plain old plastic wrap, and its one-use purpose, I've taken a liking to reuseable sticky beeswax wrap. It stretches and tightens a bit onto any bowl, and washes well in the sink in lukewarm water for its next use. Purchase some here!
6. Be the weirdo that takes their your own containers to restaurants as doggy bags.
Styrofoam is the cruellest of all packaging. Styrofoam is composed of benzene and styrene, both of which are known human carcinogens. NEVER MICROWAVE IT - it would release toxic chemicals into your food if microwaved. It is not usually recycled due to its lightweight nature and the high economic cost of transporting and degreasing the outer layer. According to environmental websites, styrofoam is the leading item in oceanic and urban pollution. Take that, packaged red meat!
7. Eat fresher foods.
Eating healthier is not just good for you - it's good for the planet! Take the time and effort to prepare home-cooked meals, as the benefits will last for generations to come. Avoid processed and packaged foods and food in containers and bottles that keep food preserved for months to years, aside from dried herbs and spices, nuts and seeds, dried legumes, and dry grains.
8. Store foods properly.
If you don't know why your food isn't lasting long enough for you to eat it, perhaps you should make sure you're storing it to maximize preservation! We keep breads and toast in the freezer - unless it's super fresh! Freezing breads decreases the moisture content, but I will use breads, tortillas, and wraps in foods slightly toasted or warmed so it's not a big deal to me if they don't taste less than a day old (which they would anyway if you keep them out of the freezer!). Also, note that where you store fruits and veggies, whether together or separate, impacts how long they last or how quickly they ripen. Check out this list for a few valuable bits of information on storing fruits and vegetables.
9. Organize your pantry and fridge.
How do you know what to cook or purchase if you don't first know what you already have? Get your food storage spaces organized, and place foods that you want to use up in clear containers so that you see them first and will want to cook with them. Having a chef as a husband has really helped me to get organized in the kitchen and use up foods that would otherwise go to waste because I've forgotten they exist!
Do you have any other tips for reducing food waste and food packaging waste? Let me know in the Facebook comments below!