We often discuss food waste and its environmental impact. Today I’d like to talk about the avoidance of food waste and what that means in practice for a busy student or young professional. I’ve been working for the past two years whilst juggling a full-time student workload. Trust me when I say I get it. No judgement for when eating cheese with your toast is as fancy as it gets. But really, with a few new habits in place, we can improve our nutrition, vary the meals we eat, and waste less! It’s a win-win for us and the planet. What’s not to love? Here’s what’s worked for me and what it’s meant for my lifestyle.
Meal planning. I find flexible meal planning is key. At the height of my periods of organisation, I go to the farmers’ market on a Sunday morning and fill a bag up with vegetables in season. That evening, I make two to three dishes that I can mix and match and quickly add a protein and carb to for a meal at work or an easy dinner later on in the week. I deliberately make less than what I would need for the whole week, to make room for lunch dates and evenings out. Some days my body cries out for something else in particular. I would rather have to do an easy grocery run mid-week instead of having two week-old grilled veggies hanging around in the fridge, waiting to be noticed.
Think about your needs. I love coop vegetable subscriptions. However, while I had access to one, I stuck to a half-basket rather than springing for the full option. Why? The full basket would have been a good amount for someone else, maybe. Knowing my habits, though, I would have either had to throw out some produce weekly, or be stressed out trying to figure out ways to use up the produce before the next batch arrived. There are also a few things I try to avoid buying unless using them within the next couple of days, such as salad greens and mushrooms.
Creativity and research. Once in a while, despite my best efforts, I end up with odds and ends that don’t fit into my usual recipes. Here I go online, hop onto Pinterest or Buzzfeed, and find inspiration from other unheard-of combinations that others have come up with. For instance, did you know you could make pesto out of carrot tops? Sometimes I check to find out if certain parts of fruits and vegetables are actually edible. Most often, they are. I make it a point to purchase organic when possible, and am quite comfortable eating fruit and vegetable peels. There are also other uses you may not have known about that can be discovered with a bit of digging around. I have a friend who cleans her house with white vinegar. She soaks citrus rinds in it in order to get a fresh, natural fragrance without all the packaging of common household chemicals.
Save food. “Great ideas, but you still don’t seem to understand what I mean by a lack of time. And I can’t cook!” Okay. One may not be exceptionally talented in the kitchen. But that tuna salad sandwich you picked up in the chilled aisle of the supermarket…you can definitely do that. However, if you would like to buy prepared meals whilst still doing a good deed environmentally, look into buying things which are approaching their best-by dates. I’m a huge fan of Too Good to Go, which lets me pre-book restaurants/supermarkets’ projected surplus. A caveat is that I never really know what I am getting. This is especially the case if I am using the app to purchase from the supermarket, but it’s a little bit like grocery roulette. Some days you get chocolate mousse and vegan sausage to mix up your dinner prep. Other days, you might get more uncooked turkey breast than you can eat in a week. Either pass it on to a neighbour (in Paris we have Geev and HopHopFood), or keep it in the freezer to prolong its freshness!
Inventory. Speaking of your fridge, how often do you know what’s in there? Do you treat it like a burial ground for leftovers and random things in jars and food keepers? My mom tries to do weekly inventories. She takes out whatever needs to be eaten immediately. She has a full household, so this is possible. (Especially with my two gigantic little brothers.) Living on my own, on the rare occasions the fridge has a significant amount of food in it, I place new purchases at the back. I also read a great tip recently. If you don’t have the time to take proper stock of what is in your fridge or pantry, take a photo! That way, you avoid that third bottle of milk, or the bananas you actually didn’t need. There are apps like CozZo which help out with this. Read about them in our article here.
Off the top of my head, these are the tricks I use. If there’s anything you’d like me to add to this article from your own experience, feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write an article yourself! Let’s learn and grow together.