Lately, I’ve been more conscience than ever about the amount of food I waste. I’m not proud about it. And I’ve been trying to get better, but I’m not sure that I’ve been succeeding as well as I could (or should) be.
According to a recent study published in the scientific journal Appetite, approximately one-quarter of our food supply is wasted. About 60 percent of that waste happens at the household level in the United States. If the environmental impact (e.g. wasted natural resources, increased methane gas) isn’t motivating enough, here’s a compelling stat:
The amount of money that families spend on food that they don’t eat is about $1000 per household per year.
That’s a pretty significant chunk of change. I can think of a lot of other things that I’d rather spend my money on. Given that my haphazard efforts to reduce food waste haven’t been as successful as I’d like, it’s clear that I need some sort of plan to help me out.
Effective Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Researchers in Denmark recently surveyed just over 1000 adults who are responsible for shopping and cooking in their homes. The survey asked them all sorts of questions about their shopping behaviors, perceptions about food waste, use of left-overs, cooking skills and more.
The survey found that stronger planning routines were related to:
- Less purchasing of unplanned items, and
- A better ability to use left-over food.
Neither of those insights are too surprising, but it’s a good reminder that I need to plan my family’s meals better.
How to Plan Meals Better
In Maryann Jacobsen’s new book, What to Cook for Dinner with Kids: How to Simplify, Strategize and Stop Agonizing Over Family Dinners, Maryann identifies and offers strategies to deal with a familiar problem: decision fatigue. In the world of Pinterest, we’ve become bombarded with a constant slew of new recipes to try. While variety is key to good eating, Maryann argues that we’ve lost sight of our “tried and true” recipes, those that work best for our families.
Her solution is to focus on a rotating set of meals that your family loves. Not only will everyone be happy, but it will also make shopping, food prep and teaching kids to cook much easier. While this may sound like it lacks variety and excitement, Maryann recommends getting in more variety through side dishes.
I’m already kind of a “sides” girl anyway so this idea makes me happy.
How to Prep Meals Better
In addition to planning meals better, actually preparing them is obviously key to reducing food waste. I admit. I’m often guilty of ordering delivery rather than cooking what’s in my fridge, mostly because things aren’t prepped and the kids are melting down and need my attention.
Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean may just be the queen of food prep. On her site, she says “Food prep is probably the most under-rated, under-utilized healthy living tool. Making it a habit to spend even just one hour on the weekend to prep food can make a huge difference in your food choices during the upcoming week.”
Not only does Lindsay regularly share oodles of tips on food prep and left-overs, her site features 21 unique meal plans (snapshot of a few, below). Lindsay has set the bar pretty high when it comes to her dedication to preparing food, but her strategy works.
I’m off to go prep some food now….if you have any more tips to share, drop me a line or share them in the comments below.