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In the effort to reduce your family’s waste, one of the biggest issues might be food waste. I have found that the bigger my family has grown, the more food we consume, the more we buy, the more we prepare, and the more that potentially gets thrown out when it is past its prime.
The problem with food waste, aside from costing you money, is what happens to the food after you throw it away. Food is the single largest source of waste in landfills, even more than plastic and paper. When food gets thrown out, whether in a plastic trash bag or not, it ends up in a landfill and eventually gets covered up. Without oxygen, the food will slowly decompose and produce methane gas. And methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Not good at all.
I have 5 specific tricks that help me minimize food waste, even with a big family. Check ’em out!
5 Ways To Reduce Food Waste
#1 Plan Your Meals Around Your Family’s Schedule
You’re in luck because meal planning is one of the most covered topics on Pinterest these days, with a plethora of tips and guides on how to go forward with this. But the type of meal planning I’m talking about does not need to be at all complicated. Simply taking a few minutes on Sunday, looking at your family’s calendar for the week, and figuring out a rough plan is as difficult as it needs to be.
Take into consideration any nights when maybe a kid or two will be absent from dinner and need to reheat it later. Or maybe when the whole family will be at the ballpark for the evening. A crockpot meal on the go or snack bar sandwiches might be the answer here.
Don’t forget to plan a day or multiple days for leftovers. Sometimes I find that I have a meal planned for dinner, but we have so much food in the fridge from recent nights that a leftovers night makes more sense. And the bonus of having leftovers if you have a bunch of kids like I do is that they have some choice over what they eat for dinner. It’s like a buffet!
#2 Write the date on leftovers and open food packages
If you’re anything like me, you put leftover food away after a meal thinking you’ll remember which night you made it. Then, a few days later, you’ve completely forgotten. Once I started labeling everything as it goes in the fridge, things have gotten much easier. I got these Chalktastic chalk paint markers on Amazon–I tried some others that I would not recommend. I have silicone, plastic, and stainless steel lids that top my food storage containers, and these write on all of them perfectly. It is also very easy to wash off after the food is emptied and gone. So right before the food goes into the fridge, I just scribble the date onto the lid. I do this for leftovers, jars of salsa, containers of lunch meat, and anything else that the clock starts ticking, so to speak, once you open it.
#3 Keep a dinner log
Another habit that has really helped me reduce our family’s food waste is keeping a meal journal. It’s very basic, guys. I have one of those lined composition journals and dedicate a page for each month. Then I just record a date per line and what we had for dinner. This helps in two ways. 1) It’s a backup for my food labeling system, in case I’m trying to recall what night we had which dinner. And 2) It allows me to make sure I’m not making the same thing too often.
#4 Freeze foods that can be bought in bulk and frozen like meats, cheeses, and bread
This tip is something that’s really helped with our big family. A lot of foods freeze really well. The bonus of freezing foods is that you stop the aging process in its tracks until you’re ready for it. The main things that I freeze are meats, cheeses, and loaves of bread. I tend to buy meats either on sale or at wholesale stores like Costco and then freeze them until I’m ready to use them. Cheese, bought on sale or in bulk, also freezes/thaws really well. And bread, both loaves of French or sandwich bread, thaw really fast on the countertop and are just as good after freezing as when they were purchased.
#5 Send leftovers in school and work lunches
Finally, putting leftovers in school and work lunches is a great way to use leftover meals when maybe there’s not enough for an entire meal for everyone to eat a second time. A thermos is a fantastic way to keep those meals hot until lunchtime. See the method to my thermos madness in my post How To Pack A Hungry Teen’s Lunchbox.
Reducing your family’s food waste is a great step toward lessening your negative impact on the environment. And bonus, it’ll save you loads of money! Try out these 5 tricks that work for my family!