Planning to Cut Waste
It’s been great to hear the media coverage that reducing plastic food packaging has received this week. Whilst the cynic in me knows that the long line of companies jumping on the band wagon are almost certainly doing so for publicity opportunities, we can’t deny that any move towards reducing single use plastic has to be a good one. The more air time this issue gets the more people are going to be talking about it and the more accepted the idea will become. We need to change our habits but it is high time big companies were doing their bit too and making it easier for us all.
Most of our wheelie bin waste was due to food or food packaging. The one thing that I feel has the biggest impact on our food waste and packaging waste is planning. As two working parents our entire life runs on a schedule. Much as that sounds dull, we are creatures of habit, so it wasn’t hard to include food in that. We were already doing a weekly meal plan to keep our grocery costs down so all I had to do was adapt it to a new focus.
Our weekly meal plan starts with our veg box from Clervaux Trust. The contents of the veg box is emailed out to us, usually early on in the week. I plan the week’s meals based on the contents of the box, using any stuff I know we already have in the freezer or cupboards. Anything I know we don’t have is listed below as a shopping list from either a supermarket or our local greengrocer, Neeps and Tatties. Our veg box arrives on a Thursday and I pick up any other items we need on the Friday.
The Benefits of Menu Planning
You only buy what you need.
I find having a list keeps me focused on only buying what we really need. The bill is reduced dramatically if your list is planned to your menu as you avoid impulse buying or buying “just in case.” Even if you haven’t got round to considering any substitutions in your food to avoid plastic, just planning your menu and shopping accordingly will cut food waste as you will only be buying stuff you know you’re going to use that week. You will not be getting to the end of the week and chucking out yoghurts because you bought them again and you hadn’t eaten last week’s.
You can plan to make things in advance.
I enjoy making my own hummus but this sometimes means soaking chickpeas overnight. One thing I’m hoping to do in future is grow my own bean sprouts. Both of these cut plastic packaging, but require planning days in advance. I tend to scrawl things like “soak chick peas today!” or “put yoghurt maker on!” on my menu plan so that I don’t forget.
You can stick to seasonal produce.
That means fewer food miles. This is where planning from our veg box really is key. However, you can get a comprehensive list of seasonal produce here and use it even if you don’t receive a veg box. I have found that we have had so much more variety in our meals and I have really enjoyed researching recipes. We used to buy a pack of tomatoes and a cucumber every week as salad staples. This winter I have had to get a bit more creative with salads and coleslaws relying mainly on carrots, cabbage, beetroot, kale and celery. For the first time in my life I find myself looking forward to certain ingredients coming into season!
All this works wonderfully on a regular week, but can be hard to plan for on unusual weeks. Now that we’ve been on this journey a while I am beginning to enjoy the complications and view them as challenges. For example, times when we have to make long car journeys and a picnic is required; times when we get invited to a party and we have to bring a dish; child friendly packed lunches. I still get frustrated that certain ingredients are hard to come by without plastic packaging. Cream is my current number one on the hit list.
Do you meal plan? Please share your hints and tips either in the comments or via my facebook page.