Meal planning is the gateway to reduce food waste. This simple technique can teach you to save money on groceries and spend lesser time cooking in the kitchen. Food waste occurs in several ways such as, throwing skin of vegetables and fruits, grocery shopping every week, not using leftovers, wasting pre-cut salads, fruits and meat, and not checking expired items in the pantry.
These are simple things that indirectly contribute to food waste in the world. If we become wiser and considerate of food we buy, store, and consume, we can make a change in the society. Here’s how you can reduce food waste,
- Use Vegetables Fully
How many pieces of half-cut fruits and veggies are there in your fridge now? At least a dozen? Most of us have the habit of using a vegetable in half and saving the rest for later. Yes, it’s good that we think about the future while cooking in the kitchen. However, saving half-cut veggies will do no good because they will shrink and rot within a few hours.
It’s better to plan your meals with one or two vegetables and use the entire thing in the pot without saving it. If you are making steamed broccoli as a side dish for lunch, chop the rest and puree to make a hearty soup for dinner. This method helps you use your vegetables fully and make two meals for the day at one time.
- Batch Cooking
We lack time and energy in the midweek to make elaborate meals for lunch or dinner. We want to order in and relax on the couch for the night. But this can cost you unnecessarily since you already made a lavish grocery shopping at the weekend. Cooking protein-rich meals in slow cookers or instant pot for 2-3 days of the week in advance can save money and reduce food waste.
Batch cooking is cooking 4-5 wholesome meals for the week on a single day. You can cook on a Sunday or Wednesday depending on your schedule and freeze portions of the meals. We make fresh produce and grocery into meals on the day of shopping, which helps reduce food waste.
- Repurposing Leftovers
You have followed my advice on batch cooking and had prepared different dishes for the week. However, you ended up eating only half of the meals and leave the rest untouched. Most of us find it awkward to reheat and eat pre-cooked food. But cooked food lasts longer than uncooked produce, which makes it the best way to improve shelf-life and reduce food waste.
You can jazz up leftovers for the weekend. Instead of serving the food in the same combinations, mix and match. Spice it up with fresh salad, cheese, and deep-fry some leftover meat. This can make it less boring for kids and they will finish the leftovers. Have a leftover party at home and invite friends and family. Help them understand the importance of not wasting food by sprucing it up into delicious weekend meals.
- Chop Veggies at Home
The choice of buying pre-cut veggies has made us lazy in the kitchen. We spend extra bucks on pre-cut veggies than a bunch of greens on sale because it takes time to chop them. Most offer a fancy guarantee of staying fresh for 7 days and if you freeze, it can last up to a month. But how many times did you throw that box of chopped veggies in two days because it turned bad?
Chopping vegetables is a tough task because we need energy. Instead of buying pre-cut veggies, invest in an excellent chef knife or a chopper. It takes just minutes to slice, shred, or spiral veggies with this equipment. It will help cut food waste substantially and save money in the long run.
- Homemade Stock
Is your fridge door stocked up with cartons of fancy stock? If we dig deep, it’s just tasty water. They prepare most of the stock using a bunch of veggies and meat, which we use every day in the kitchen. Instead of throwing the peels of root vegetables and herbs, save them in a container in the fridge. When you have enough veggies and meat, just add them to an enormous pot of water. You can add spices and seasonings. Sieve the water, cool, and store in the fridge in a glass bottle. This will stay good for a month.
We can add homemade stock to soups, stews, curries, and pilaf. This will make it flavorful, aromatic, and tasty compared to cooking with just plain water. Once you get the hang of making homemade stock, you will never go back to the store.
- Pickle and Preserve
Pickling is an ancient method of preserving food followed for generations in many countries. It is a smart way of storing food for longer and reducing food waste. You can pickle vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, and seafood. In most Asian countries, pickling is a tradition where people use the first harvested produce to make pickles. This represents that we use the harvest for the entire year.
We must learn the art of pickling to preserve food. The only requirement for making pickles is glass or ceramic jars. Invest in some good long-lasting jars and pickle away! You can make spicy pickles with several foods and enjoy them for months. This is the best way to reduce food waste and make use of produce for sale.
- Know Your Fridge
Preserving food is a technique developed by man from the time of inhabitation on the earth. Our ancestors followed storing food in clay pots, ceramic jars, and glass pots, but because of electricity and technological innovations, the fridge has made preserving food easier and simpler. Every house has a fridge in today’s world, but most of us do not know its basic rules and organization techniques.
Get to know your fridge personally, understand its behavior, know where and what to store, and maintain it properly. Use the top shelf of the fridge for perishables, middle for leftovers, and bottom for herbs. Store fruits and vegetables, meat in crisper drawers. Do not keep butter, eggs, and cheese on the fridge door. It is only for condiments, sauces, and juices. Keep dairy products in the drawer below the freezer. We must store eggs in the prime area of the fridge. Adjust the temperature according to the season and type of products. Clean and declutter regularly.
- Go Pantry Shopping
Most of us are enthusiastic shoppers for grocery and food products. Before you do your weekly shopping, spend a few hours in your pantry. Check the things which will expire soon and come up with recipes for the week with your existing grocery. Most of us can cook 10-15 recipes for the week without buying new products.
We have created a mindset of weekly grocery shopping which makes us forget about the existing food items in the pantry. This leads to lots of food waste because of expiration and spoilage. Try to implement this habit of pantry shopping every week to minimize grocery shopping and food waste.
- Reduce Cooking from Scratch
It is best to have a few no cooking from scratch days in a week. With meal planning, you can prepare extra dishes for the week and store them in the freezer. Just reheat and serve hot for weekday dinners. This will reduce food waste and unnecessary grocery shopping. If you chop vegetables and cook every meal in the kitchen, then you are wasting plenty of time without being smart.
There are several recipes that stay good for 4 days; choose them for the week. Here check out 3 ways to cook eggs once and eat all week. Meal plan according to your choices and food availability. Cook one day a week and reduce cooking from scratch throughout the weekdays. This is a splendid idea to save time, money, and food.
- Become Friends with Freezer
The freezer is a lifesaver. You can freeze many food products for up to 6 months. Learn freezer storage rules and adapt it to your lifestyle. This will increase the shelf-life of food items. Freeze batch cooked meals, meat, and excess food items. When you are meal planning, include 2 freezer meals for the week to make your family members enjoy freezer meals and save money on groceries.
You can quickly freeze leftovers to use later instead of throwing them in the dustbin. The more you use your freezer in the right way, the more efficient you will be in reducing food waste in your kitchen.