According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, “roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted.”
That’s a lot of food waste! So if you’re a sustainably-minded, zero waste chef, we’ve got tips for you to help stop unnecessary food waste.
Curbing food waste may seem like a daunting problem, but it all starts at the individual level. Combine these zero waste tips and you can make a difference, and keep more dollars in your bank account.
Tip #1: Plan meals ahead of time
If the food in your fridge always seems to be growing some new strain of mold, it may be time for you to sit down and plan your meals before you hit the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Finding creative recipes that make use of leftover ingredients — like stews or salads — are a key part of any meal plan.
Meal planning is also a great way to cook meals ahead of time and cut down on waste, since you can use ingredients across multiple dishes and make them all in advance. We work out a plan for the entire week and do our grocery shopping each Saturday or Sunday, buying just what we need that week.
I used to be a binge grocery buyer with great aspirations to use a bunch of produce, only to toss it because I didn’t have a plan (or if I did, I didn’t stick to it, opting to eat out instead). Not very zero waste of me, is it? Can you relate?
And remember, the crock pot is your best friend. We always make a crockpot meal on Monday and have leftovers one or two nights during the week. We always have some plates or bowls with leftovers in the fridge, covered in beeswax food wraps.
Tip #2: Buy local ingredients from farmers’ markets, family-owned grocery stores, or local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture)
By shopping at farmers’ markets and family-owned grocery stores, you’re helping to prevent both food and packaging waste as well as getting higher-quality food. And, because you're shopping for local produce, you are reducing your carbon footprint that comes with transporting produce to your area.
Avoid plastic bags when shopping for produce. Opt to reuse something from home, or choose from our reusable bags and totes. And store produce in glass jars or containers to extend their life.
According to the World Economic Forum, vegetables are changing shape due to the climate crisis. Increased drought and heat waves cause produce to be smaller and misshapen. Embrace the produce that looks a little odd, and keep imperfect fruits and veggies from going to waste.
Another option to shop for produce is to support sustainable CSAs, which delivers farm-fresh produce to your door (or a central pick-up location). CSAs support local farms, you can often buy organic at reasonable prices, and you can help keep ‘ugly’ produce from being tossed out just because it looks a little wonky.
By keeping your dollars in the community, you can make more of an impact.
Tip #3: Experiment with new ways to eat leftovers
Find creative ways to combine leftovers into entirely new dishes. Do you have leftover veggies and rice from different meals? Combine to make a veggie bowl and add some sauce for a new flavor! We use the same ingredients to create a Mexican meat dish one night and a Korean dish the next night.
When packing away your leftovers, be sure to do so in an eco-friendly way. No plastic wrap or plastic containers here! Opt for what you already have or cover your dish, bowl, or plate with colorful, compostable, beeswax food wraps. They come in a variety of sizes and patterns.
At Good Soul Shop, we’ve got alternative storage solutions to help keep your food fresh.
Bonus: Search food blogs to get out of a food rut
Our household is a bit divided, with one vegetarian (me!) and two meat eaters. I rely a lot on Google searches and food blogs to find something different and tasty to try. So here are some things we do to cut down on cooking time and food waste.
Mondays are crock pot days for the meat eaters. We combine meat, veggies, and some broth to eat throughout the week. And if you make a big batch, you can freeze a portion for another week. Leftover roast? Search food blogs for different ways to use your leftovers. Just because a recipe calls for making from scratch, that doesn't mean you have to.
Favorite crockpot meals include
- Chicken cacciatore over spaghetti
- Pot roast with potatoes and carrots (leftovers can become beef stroganoff with a side of veggies)
- Beef stew (which is lovely when paired with rice, orzo, or even risotto)
- Chicken noodle soup
- Tortellini soup
To save time, we also buy rotisserie chicken, remove the skin, and use the meat for quick meals during the week (or freeze and use later). And rotisserie chicken can make a great topper to a Greek or Caesar salad for lunch or dinner.
Speaking of salads, we make a BIG salad and cover the bowl with our beeswax food wraps. We eat the salad through the week for lunch and dinner.
One staple we make are enchiladas, which are easy to put together in a quick assembly line using fully cooked ingredients (beans, chicken). Bake for 30 minutes and voila, dinner is served. Quick and easy!
Ending food waste starts with each and every one of us. Comment below with your tips and tricks for zero waste cooking!