Hi there, Clare from The Refillery here again thanks to @Love-Gorey with your March eco-blog.
This month we would like to give you some tips on reducing kitchen waste. As costs everywhere seem to be rocketing, now is a good time to rethink how we can save money and reduce waste at home.
1. Plan a Menu
Before you shopping, plan your meals for the week. Planning ahead helps you have everything you need on hand, allows you to prepare some foods in advance for faster meal prep later, and fits leftovers into your menu.
Try to stop food waste by incorporating perishable goods already at home to inspire your food selections. Another helpful tip is including in-season fruits and vegetables because they should be both better quality and less expensive. And don’t forget to consult your calendar (to make sure you’ll be home or don’t have other dinner plans) so that you’re planning to cook the right number of meals and portions.
Once you’ve got a plan, create a grocery list to support the menus; that way, the food you buy is already designated for a specific meal. This helps eliminate impulse purchases, too.
2. Stick to the List
We’ve all heard the cautionary tales about shopping on an empty stomach or meandering through the store without an idea of what to cook. Once you’re at the store, stick to the list
It’s OK to allow some room for flexibility: If some things are out of stock, find an alternative that works. However, if there’s a big sale on a bulk item you rarely use and it isn’t on your list, pass it by. It’s likely you’ll end up wasting more than you would save by deviating from your list.
3. Shop Critically
Pay attention to what you’re actually picking up at the store and where it fits in your meal plan, especially with perishables. Brown bananas won’t make it to the end of the week. It’s helpful to learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” dates and what they mean for different types of goods.
Avoid bulk purchases of produce and dairy, which have a limited shelf life. Bulk purchases of meat, on the other hand, minimize costs and can easily be frozen for later. Skipping pre-cut beef and poultry, and opting for larger pieces you cut at home, will also add to the savings.
4. Restock Wisely
When you start restocking your fridge and pantry, do what the grocery store stockers do: Move older items to the front so they are used first, and put the new purchases with a longer shelf life to the back. This way you’re more likely to use food before it expires. Also, avoid overpacking the fridge. Cold air must be able to circulate around refrigerated foods to keep them properly chilled. Decreased circulation results in faster decomposition of foods.
5. Store Produce Correctly
Fruits and veggies vary in freshness factor, so do your homework and learn the best way to store the produce you buy most often. For example, do not refrigerate potatoes; store bananas away from other fruits and never wash berries until right before you’re ready to use them. Pantry foods also need some attention. Did you know you shouldn’t be storing spices close to heat, and nuts will last longer if you keep them in the fridge? Little tips like these can add days to your purchases.
6. Cook Only What You Need
When it’s time to cook, prepare an appropriate amount of food. For example, there is no need for eight servings of rice if you live alone. Learn to pare down or expand recipes to suit your household size, and then buy, prepare, and cook accordingly. Alternatively, you can cook a recipe that makes too much food if you include the leftovers in your meal plans. Maybe you’ve worked in leftovers for lunch twice that week, or have planned for two different dishes that require chicken breasts that you can cook at one time. Like grocery shopping, menu planning really comes in handy here.
7. Freeze Your Leftovers
To freeze your leftovers properly, first cool the food to room temperature. Then place it in freezer-safe containers, date the containers, and clearly label the contents. It’s helpful to include a use-by date, too, to help you quickly identify what to eat first. Although you’re probably no stranger to freezing leftovers, you might be surprised by all the foods that can be frozen for a longer life, like sauces, herbs, cooked rice and grains, and butter. Remember to add these frozen food sources to your meal plans; it’ll help you use them before they’re too old and stop you from spending money on ingredients you already have.
8. Preserve Excess Fruits and Veggies
Produce turns quickly, and it’s a costly waste when you don’t use it. Be proactive by preserving remaining fruits and vegetables during your meal prep. Fresh fruit can be frozen in plastic takeaway containers and the like and used in smoothies or cocktails instead of ice.
9. Use What You Have
Instead of throwing out produce that’s getting soft and spotted, make something that doesn’t need the ingredient to be perfect looking. For example, a browning banana will be perfect for that banana bread you last made during lockdown!, Dry green beans might be tough when roasted yet a nutritious addition to a casserole. You can also find ways to use typically discarded items like vegetable peels, stems, and leaves on Pinterest and in cookbooks. Get the absolute best bang for your buck by utilizing every part of what you purchase.
10. Find Alternative Disposal
Many of the scraps left behind during food prep, or on a plate after a meal, could be turned into gardener’s gold: compost! By composting food waste (i.e. egg shells, coffee grounds, and fruit/veggie peels), you’re not only making good use of your food scraps but creating nutritious food for your plants. If you’re using the remnants to create fertilizer for your garden, or simply tossing the in bins collected by the city, your waste still turns into a valuable, sustainable resource. It’s like reinvesting your original purchase.
Reducing food waste takes practice. Things like seasonal menu planning and carefully storing different types of produce require extra effort. Sometimes a walk down the wrong aisle can put you in the mood for tacos when they’re not on the menu. It may take some time to learn and for the effort to become routine, but the results are worth it. Maximize how you shop, prep, and store your food, and watch your grocery bills shrink as a result! Your budget and your conscience will be happy.
Thanks for reading, See you again next month when we hope to have some seasonal spring tips for you.
Clare @The Refillery