Written by Emma Rohmann
We’ve all been there. It’s Sunday and you realize you have no food. So you head to the grocery store and start throwing stuff in the cart, roughly putting together a menu in your head. Or maybe you shop every couple days, grabbing stuff on your way home from work. While you may think it saves time to meal plan on-the-fly, you’re actually wasting money. A lot of money. Here’s a look at how you can meal plan to waste less – money, time, and resources.
The Cost of Food Waste
Studies suggest that individuals are wasting $400 a year on wasted food – that’s $1600 a year for a family of 4! And this doesn’t even include the amount of food wasted before it reaches our grocery carts.
Wasting food doesn’t only impact our wallets, but when you throw away food (yes, even if you compost it), you’re wasting all the resources (water, fertilizer, farm equipment, labour, transportation, storage, refrigeration, etc.) that went into getting it to you in the first place. So yes, while composting is good, not composting is even better.
It Starts With a Plan
Some people shy away from anything that requires planning. But trust me, if there’s ever been a time to plan, it’s for grocery shopping. Before you head to the grocery store, follow these tips I give my clients to help make the most of your budget:
1. Look in your fridge and pantry. What do you already have that needs to get used up? Build your menu around these first. Meal planning programs like Meal Garden can be used to find recipes that have the ingredients you’re looking to use – easy peasy! If you’re not feeling like using up something that’s about to go bad, freeze it for later.
2. Know your schedule. I have my calendar open when I’m planning my meals for the week. If we have activities or events that will mean less time available, I make sure the meals on those days are super simple. Meal Garden lets you choose how long you have to make a meal, from 15 minutes to 1 hour, so you can choose meals that you can make in the time you have so you can actually use the ingredients you bought.
3. Be Flexible. Things happen. Sometimes even the best made plans go sideways. So if you have a schedule change and you can’t make the meal you had planned, try using up the ingredients another way or freeze them for later. One way to do this is to plan a day at the end of the week for pantry clean-out. Meals like pasta bakes, frittatas, homemade pizza, and stir-fry can be simple ways to use up veggies and leftover meat that would otherwise get thrown out.
Build the Habit
Once you get the hang of meal planning, it becomes second nature. Building your shopping list from a menu will save you time in the grocery store and goes a long way to help prevent wasting food (and money). Set aside time that works for you before you hit the stores – whether it’s every other day or once a week. Use tools like Meal Garden that make it easy to find recipes and create grocery lists. Pretty soon, you may even start to like planning!
Emma Rohmann is founder of Green at Home. Through workshops and consultations, she helps families create healthier, happier homes by reducing exposure to toxic chemicals and reducing their environmental footprint. Learn more at www.greenathome.ca.