And Become Healthier Along The Way
On average, Americans throw away 150,000 tons of food each day! What happens to all that food and how can we eliminate a portion of this waste?
Make Your List and Check It Twice
The first way to eliminate food waste is to take an inventory of your grocery list. Look at the foods and drinks that you are buying. Look at what you are often throwing away. It’s probably your once fresh produce, that are now have a swarm of fruit flies. You have the right idea but you just need a different strategy.
Often times we have good intentions when we shop, but the big mistake is shopping when you are hungry. When your body is hungry it will have a different brain chemist than when you are full. Which means psychology can determine what you buy. Hungry brains buy anything that looks appetizing, while full brains buy what they know they will need. Your body and bank account will thank you for doing this and you won’t have to throw away your “forgotten foods” because you will have utilized them.
Less processing is less waste. Another way to eliminate food waste is to decrease your processed food consumption. Processed foods such as fast foods and microwavable meals lose nutritional value when they are processed and chemically “enhanced”, becoming more complex than their natural forms. This means your body will have a harder time absorbing the nutrients and there will be less nutrition to absorb anyway. This leaves you hungry and causes you to keep eating, usually not turning to those real foods that provide what your body is needing.
Choose Your Foods Wisely
Protein, Fat and Fiber! This is going to be key to wasting less because you will be buying and eating less. The reason behind this is quite simple. Studies show that a lack of protein, fat, fiber or any combination of the above leads to feeling hungry and usually a sugar craving. When you have enough protein and fat, this curbs sugar craving and satiates the appetite. Fiber, helps with digestion and the absorption of nutrients, and you will be more full, healthy and less likely to be buying those sweets and junk foods that are highly processed.
Buying organic, whole foods is the best way to achieve this. You can also begin cooking with coconut oils, virgin olive oils and grass-fed butters. Organic nut butters like sunflower butter, almond butter, cashew butter and regular peanut butter are also good sources of healthy fats and protein. Remember, the healthy fats found in these things are good for you, vital for healthy brain and body function and help keep you full. Keeping you full with healthy whole foods, will help eliminate waste of processed sugary foods.
Keep your food organized. Whether it’s your refrigerator or your pantry you need to keep it as organized as possible. Of course you won’t eat the spinach that you randomly place on the middle shelf behind the milk. Having your shelves in the pantry and refrigerator labeled is a good idea. You can’t go too far when it comes to saving money and avoiding wasted food and resources.
Sauces and condiments can go in the door shelves along with smaller items. Veggies and fruits can go in their own separate drawers. Almond Milk and taller bottles or containers can go on the shelf with the most height and the stack able items like eggs and premixed salads can go on another. Your prepped meals and leftovers can go in their own space. This way you know what you have, what you may be looking for and where it should be.
These simple organizational skills will also help you recognize which foods you find yourself eating most and first. Don’t save your veggies for last after you have eaten your meats and more savory foods. Get a good mix of veggies, meats and your other food groups like nuts and seeds in every meal.
Plan, Prep and Enjoy
Meal Plan and Meal Prep is key to not making sure you don’t waste food and to holding you accountable to eat the meal your prepared rather than going to the nearest fast food store. At the beginning of the week plan out your shopping by finding healthy whole food recipes that you want for the week. Consistency comes into play here so having staples in your diet that are a weekly or even daily go-to, will keep you on track.
A simple “Breakfast” staple is a great place to start. Maybe it’s a fruit smoothie with peanut butter or eggs and spinach. These staple meals help you have a better understanding of how much you can eat and how much it will cost. This keeps certain variables of your grocery bill constant. After you have your meals planned for the week then you prepare them beforehand.
Cook what you will take for lunch each day at the beginning of the week and put it in glass Tupperware. This allows you to have a preset amount of food cooked and ready to go. This is a main factor in avoiding food waste.
An example of a delicious meal you could take for lunch for a whole work week would be: Chicken breast, asparagus and sweet potatoes laid out on a baking tray. If you generously drizzle it with olive oil, sprinkle it with salt and pepper and bake it to perfection then you have a healthy meal with protein, fat and fiber for your work lunches.
One of the best ways to cook for dinner is to use your crock pot. Put the ingredients in before work and by the time you’re home from work it should be just about ready to eat. When in doubt, slow cook your food in a crock pot. You can use water, beef or chicken broth, as well as vegetable broth for a vegetarian or vegan friendly dish. If you want to get fancy you can use or even create your own bone broth. Make more than you need, and save the leftovers for lunch the next day. This will help eliminate waste drastically.
An organized, systematic approach to shopping and prepping for your meals on a weekly basis will surely eliminate your food waste and drastically reduce your eating out expenses.
Keep a basic foods list of what you want to be buying and be consistent. Consistency is everything. Don’t go in blind every time you shop. A very basic rule to live buy for healthy eating habits is 1/3 protein, 1/3 healthy fats and 1/3 vegetables. It’s not imperative that you get exactly 1/3 of each but sticking around there is best.
You can get your servings of fruit in during other meals, but the truth is that fruit is not as necessary as we are led to believe. Though its sugars are naturally occurring they are still sugars, which the body doesn’t need much of. The American Heart Association recommends daily sugar intake for men should not exceed 36 grams and women should not exceed 25 grams. Without going into depth on why it differs from men to women, the point remains clear. We do not need very much sugar at all and though fresh fruit is delicious and has nutritional value, it should be limited to less than every meal. Fruit is actually a great post-workout food.
There are hundreds of different kinds of vegetables you can buy and dozens of kinds of healthy meats and healthy fats so your variations within your meal should never be an issue. Even with those 3 basic categories you could come up with literally thousands of different combinations for a meal.
Eat Your Leftovers!
Leftovers are a huge portion of food waste. They are often forgotten and pushed to the back of the fridge, so they are out of sight and out of mind. Keep them in the front of the shelves to avoid that tragedy. They can be difficult to eat because you just had that food that week and it’s boring; however, if you re-purpose your leftovers you end up with the same food but a different recipe.
Heat up those leftovers in a pan with some olive oil, add some hot sauce and spices in there, maybe scramble an egg in it and you have yourself a “new” meal with completely new flavor. You can even add elements of the leftovers to your other meals that week. Be creative.
Can You Compost?
Since nobody is perfect and we will inevitably end up missing the leftover veggies in the back of the refrigerator or the raspberries that got moldy when we didn’t notice in time to salvage the rest of them, there is still a way to not let them be “wasted”. You can start a composting pile! Even rotten fruit and veggies release their nutrients when they decompose into the compost which ends up creating fertile, nutrient enriched soil for whatever purpose necessary. Most any food is compostable although most people don’t do add meat to their compost because it attracts animals and insects.
Following these principals and suggestions will certainly help you save time, energy, money and eliminate your food waste nearly completely. You may even discover new ways to eliminate food waste and become a healthier, happier and more vibrant YOU along the way.