Waste not, want not

A few years ago I made a goal to “waste less food.” Like most life goals it’s been a few steps forward and a few steps back, but three years later I can honestly say I’ve made progress and I waste far less food than I did previously. Ancillary to the bigger goal of wasting less was two sub-goals to eat better and be more organized. I’ve made real progress on these sub-goals too. We eat a home-cooked meal almost every night (not usually cooked by me, more on that in a minute) and our meals our planned out a week, sometimes two weeks ahead. It’s working.

Here’s some tricks that have worked for me in wasting less food:

1. Ask the crucial question: would I eat this if I were starving to death? When I’m contemplating whether or not to toss something I ask myself if I’d eat it under starvation conditions. Now, the truth is there is probably almost nothing I wouldn’t eat if I were truly starving. But it’s amazing how this simple question made me stop and consider if I really needed to toss this or not. This question has also pushed me to do things I would have been too lazy to do before — cut off the yucky bit and eat the rest, paw through the entire pound of greens beans to salvage the good ones and only toss the ones that are truly rotted.

2. Obsessively date everything: I keep a role of masking tape in the drawer next to the fridge with a selection of Sharpie markers and I put a date on EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you how much food this has saved. Where before I might think “well, better safe than sorry” now I know these leftovers have only been there a day or two. And putting something into the freezer without a label on it is just silly — you might was well just toss it now.

3. Plan, plan, plan. Since both kids went back to school in September our nanny now makes dinner most nights. But she needs to know what to cook. She also orders the groceries for the week and she needs to know what to order. So I need to plan. I can’t say enough about meal planning. It just doesn’t take that much time to do and saves so much time later. The weeks when I don’t plan are stressful and slightly chaotic. The weeks I plan are smooth and happy. But planning also helps me use leftovers more efficiently and ensures that we only order what we will eat and eat what we order.