Our household consists of two parents working full-time, a cute and talkative toddler, an energetic soon to be first-grader, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who believes that he is every bit as royal as his name implies. I’ll tell you, it is busy here.
We are eager for efficiency and have developed some tricks to simplify our meals and run our 6pm marathons of dinnertime-bathtime-storytime-bedtime. But yes, we still want the dinners to be somewhat healthy and, no, we have no time for fancy meals. We get home at 6pm and need to have dinner on the table by 6:30pm to meet the whole evening routine. With our whole sustainability motto going on here, what have we learned?
- Wash fruits and vegetables before putting them in the fridge – the items that we threw away the most were fruit and vegetables, so I started making sure I washed everything on the weekend and placed them on very visible glass containers on the fridge. The exercise of washing raspberries, strawberries, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts would take me no more than 15 minutes. This is totally worth it. We started doing this and stopped wasting vegetables and fruits alltogether. It is the simplest change I’ve done in our household in the last 10 years (gulp!) that had pretty obvious and fast results. According to the Google Sustainability site, ⅔ of food tossed out at home could have been eaten if stored properly.
- Buying washed vegetables or salad kits – I am not proud to say that we bought salad kits (because of all the extra packaging involved), but that helped us increase our salad consumption and also give us a quick dinner alternative for salads. The salad kits actually inspired me to be more proactive with our vegetables and prepare them in advance; I noticed we would eat all salad kits but other leaves would still go bad. As an alternative to salad kits, you can just buy the triple washed leaves and recycle the single plastic container if you are still not into food prep.
- Moving older yogurts to the front of the fridge (or anything that may go unnoticed in a corner) – everybody has unique preferences for yogurt in our house so we often ended up throwing away yogurt because we bought too much. I learned recently (thanks Google Sustainability!) that for every 2 yogurts you throw away in a week, that is 2912 gallons of water wasted in a year (9 hot tubs full of water). Yes, offer yogurt after dinner as dessert, afterall kids still need protein.
- Eating leftovers regularly – I know, sometimes, it doesn’t look great. You crave eating out at your favorite sushi place instead, but simply making a point of eating the leftovers (I even remind my husband before we leave for work on what’s there in the fridge) goes a long away. Per our experience, eating cooked food that has been well kept and refrigerated for about five days has been just fine. Sweet items last forever – I recently ate caramelized figs that were left in the refrigerator for five months.
- Using Instapot for large meals and freezing – We are big fans of Brazilian bean soup (sopa de feijao), split pea soup, and lentil soup. Using the Instapot for pretty large meals were also a good way to reduce our waste (no carrots left on the bottom drawer!) and have nutritious meals available for weekday evenings.
None of this is rocket science, but small changes in your routine can go along way to reduce food waste, carbon footprint, and water consumption. If you are still not convinced that food waste is a thing, check out the following resources: