A Year of Good Money: Decrease Food Waste

grocery haul--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

Another month is here, and with it, another opportunity to get better at money stuff! (No, it really never ends–I’m always trying to work on spending a little more wisely, despite how long I’ve been paying attention to our spending!).

Last month I took on the huge challenge of a digital fast. There were so many takeaways that I’m dedicating a whole post to it.

For this month, I’ve been reading a lot about global warming, in honor of Earth Day, and I actually read some really useful information about how we, as a family, could do a better job of reversing global warming.

I read that the third top way to mitigate global warming, according to Project Drawdown, is to reduce food waste (if you’re interested, refrigerant/AC coolant management and creating more onshore wind power are #1 and #2).

As a huge composter, I was shocked to hear that reducing food waste was much more impactful to the planet than composting (composting is still a good method–coming in at #60 of 100).

Want to know what #4 is? A plant rich diet.

Okay, as someone who pays a moderate amount of attention to helping Mother Earth, the fact that there are two relatively easy ways for me and my household to impact climate change is kind of amazing.

Reduce the amount of food we waste.

Eat more plants and less meat.

This month, I'm taking on the challenge of wasting less of our food. Did you know throwing away less food is the number 3 thing we can do to help global warming? #wasteless #wastelessfood #zerowaste #envinronment #motherearth #choosefi #wastenotwantnot

We’re not vegetarians and we’re not going to be. But, over the years, we’ve decreased the amount of meat we eat. We’ve done it in various ways. One is that we used to eat one ginormous chicken breast each, when we had chicken. Now, we fix two large chicken breasts (or less!) for our family of four. That means that we each eat half a chicken breast, which is the actual correct serving size of about 4 ounces of chicken, or the size of your fist. Or, we’ll make chicken soup with one shredded chicken breast.

We also don’t eat much red meat (almost none!) because Mr. ThreeYear was infected with the Lone Star Tick several years ago and developed a red meat allergy. He gets horrible gastrointestinal symptoms when he eats red meat. Since he can’t eat it, the rest of our family doesn’t, either, except on the very rare occasion that he’s out of town and I remember to buy steak.

Another thing we’ve done to eat less meat is to incorporate one or two meatless meals per week into our meal plan. We’ll have sun-dried tomato pasta, black bean quesadillas, beans and greens, lentils, or some other meatless dish we’ve incorporated into the meal plan rotation. I’ve learned to add waaaay more spices to vegetarian dishes to give them flavor, and I’ve also started adding bouillon cubes to the dishes to add lots of flavor (they’ve got tons of MSG, though–just sayin’).

Budget Bytes has tons of budget-friendly, vegetarian recipes if you’re looking.

But I digress.

This post is supposed to be about reducing food waste and what we’re going to do during the month of May to develop good habits that will not only help our wallets, but will do our small part to help the planet.

In preparation for this post, I wrote last Wednesday about ways to eliminate food waste. I thought about when we’ve done the best at eliminating waste, and came up with the top methods we’ve used for keeping our food waste down.

During the month of May, I’m going to put those tips to the test and really challenge myself to waste as little as possible.

This isn’t the first time I’ve challenged myself to decrease the amount of food we waste.

Two years ago, I spent the month of June paying close attention to the amount of food we threw away. While we developed some great habits from that month, like prepping our veggies so they are more likely to get eaten as snacks or in lunch boxes, we also slowly crept back to our food wasting ways.

So I thought this month, almost two years exactly from our last challenge, would be a great time to re-do this challenge in our new home, with our new grocery-buying protocol, to see if we could do a little better about decreasing food waste.

And since we don’t have a composting system in our new house, it’s even more important than ever to waste as little food as possible.

Here are some ways I’ve thought about decreasing our food waste:

  • Cut up the entire head of broccoli, including stems.
  • Don’t peel carrots, cucumbers, or potatoes, and instead eat them with the peel on.
  • Do a daily inventory of our fridge and make a plan to eat things that look like they’re going bad that day.
  • Treat leftovers like a ticking clock meal that need to be eaten within a few days.

In the first two days of my challenge (last Wednesday and Thursday), I found myself mindlessly wasting food already. Mr. ThreeYear made pasta for lunch, and we left it out and it had gotten kind of hard. So I was scraping the leftover bits from the pot into the garbage disposal.

“Ahh!” I suddenly realized. “I’m wasting pasta!” It was a moment of awareness, the first step in changing behavior.

For dinner, I switched up the plan. I was going to make sub-dried tomato pasta, but we had some green beans that were about to go bad, so I roasted those with a pint of cherry tomatoes and one sweet potato that was looking a little dry. I cut up some lettuce that was on its last leg, and we had roasted veggies over lettuce greens. My family got surprisingly full from that meal, although there was a healthy amount of snacking afterwards.

On Thursday morning, I realized that Little ThreeYear had eaten exactly one bite of his waffles. What to do with soggy waffles? Nothing–I put them in the garbage disposal. But in the future, I’m going to have to come up with a way of getting him to finish his breakfast, because this is a common problem. I also noticed the boys never finish their morning milks, so I think I’m going to switch to water.

Again, awareness. It’s not like I’m not wasting any food, but I am paying more attention, so I’ve got to give myself credit.

Alright, these are the beginning notes to a month of success (I hope) in decreasing our food waste. I’m going to try and take shots of our fridge and pantry each week before I go food shopping to see how things are looking.

Here’s to a great month of money-saving activities in your house! Let me know if you have any tips for me in wasting less food!

Author: Laurie

Hi. I'm Laurie, and my family and I have set out to double our net worth and move abroad in the next three years. Join us on our journey!

8 thoughts on “A Year of Good Money: Decrease Food Waste”

  1. For the kids’ milk, use the smallest glass possible and put in 1″ of milk. Give children just a couple of pieces. I see people heaping huge amts of food on the kids plates. Their tummies are so small…and they become overwhelmed by huge quantities of food. Better to cut a small shape (cookie cutters are great) and let them ask for more. U could have eaten their waffle too. Rewarm the waffle in the frying pan for an afternoon snack..

    1. Rena, great suggestions! Hadn’t thought of rewarming the waffle but of course I could have. And I’ve been cutting the amount of milk I give them like you said. They only really need a swallow!

  2. Have you ever considered getting a few chickens? We have virtually zero food waste because anything we don’t eat goes to our chickens. They will eat almost anything. They’re not huge onion fans, but neither am I. In return for your kitchen scraps they give you fresh eggs and compostable manure.

    1. That’s a great idea, Brian! In our neighborhood, they’re not allowed, unfortunately, but we do have farms nearby, and it might be worth investigating if anyone would accept our food scraps for their animals.

  3. Recently I decided to change my relationship with food and myself and pay the price to achieve my goal.

    The challenge everyone of us face (sorry speaking on all peoples behalf) is that every single day we are bombarded with media, work colleagues, strangers, families and friends judgments about our body, beliefs, choices and words vs actions.

    Our feelings of self-worth, twisted and magnified by our own expectations, past experiences and the physical changes due to our hormones and the foods and drinks we consume.

    The good news is that we are not our past and each day we have the opportunity to live, believe in and do the activities to bring us closer to experiencing our ideal lives.

    In life I’ve learnt that success is simple, but not easy. You simply need to know specifically what you want, know how much it will cost and pay for it.

    I also know that change can happen in a moment, however coming to the decision to change can take years if not decades.

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