In 2020, all food scraps – from businesses and residents – will be banned from Vermont’s landfills. That means, in the New Year, Vermonters must do more than just resolve to compost more – they must be refuse-compliant.
But you can resolve to go beyond compliance to support a healthier waste management system in the state by reducing the amount of food scraps your household creates.
One of the most direct pathways to achieving that reduction is food meal planning. By starting each week with a plan for what you will eat, you can shop for exactly what you need, and you won’t be buying excessive items that end up as refuse.
The added bonuses to meal planning include:
- a reduction in household food spending
- a savings in the time you spend cooking and cleaning
- more control over your eating habits
Sure, that all sounds great, but how can you realize those benefits? It all starts with the “plan” in meal planning. And planning takes a sticktoitiveness to work into your weekly routine.
Start a meal planning notebook. Once a week, at a time that works for you, write in your notebook what your work/personal schedule will be for the week. Get input from everyone in the household.
Once you have visualized your schedule, identify the days when you think you’ll have time to cook. Then decide what you would like to (or have time to) cook on those days. And, if applicable, identify what and when other household members will prepare meals.
Sample schedule and meals
- Sat – off / bake bread / cook minestrone soup / prepare tomato sauce for Thur
- Sun – leave at 3 / bake muffins / cook shredded chicken for tacos
- Mon – home by 6 / leftover minestrone soup
- Tue – home by 6 / prepare guacamole — for shredded chicken wrap
- Wed – home by 5:30 / grilled cheese sandwich and minestrone soup
- Thu – home by 5 / spaghetti and mushroom/tomato sauce
- Fri – dinner at Anne’s house
When planning your meals for the week, consider which meals will have leftovers, and identify which days you will eat those leftovers instead of cooking something new. In some cases, you can work leftovers into a new meal. See, in the sample menu schedule, that shredded chicken prepared for chicken tacos one day, can be used later for shredded chicken and guacamole wraps.
When your plan for the week is complete, use the meal outline to write a shopping list of ingredients you need to make each meal. After you have identified all the ingredients, complete the list with other staples. In the process, be sure to take an inventory of what you have in your kitchen, and whenever possible, plan meals around foods you already have.
At the grocery store, stick to your list! If you don’t need it for the week, don’t buy it. And finally, hang the schedule of your meals for the week in your kitchen for quick and easy reference.
Meal planning is a rigorous process, and it isn’t going to work the same way for everyone. Anyone, however, can take the basic concepts and apply them to their lives in a meaningful way to achieve waste reduction.
Here’s a quick review
- Keep a meal planning notebook
- Write out your schedule for the week
- Inventory foods you already have
- Choose meals to prepare
- Identify when you will have leftovers
- Make a shopping list and stick to it
After tracking your meals in a notebook for a while, the notebook becomes a handy record of your meals. Over time, you can go back and reference those records so you don’t always have to recall meal ideas from memory or do research.
Calculating portions (i.e., how much food you need for each person) is an advanced way to further reduce food waste (plus it helps with portion control in your diet). You can calculate the amount of food you need for one meal, and add enough to have leftovers, too. Portioning also comes in handy when cooking for a crowd. Check out the portions calculator at www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/portion-planner
Cook for the freezer
If you have a break in your schedule that affords you a little extra time for cooking, think about a meal that you can prepare to go straight to the freezer. It will store for a few weeks, and will be available when your schedule is busier than usual.
Meal planning apps
Free to download and use, and offers Meal Planner Pro edition with yearly subscription for $49.99 or monthly for $5.99. Offers meal plans and recipes that you can customize.
Plan to Eat
Offers 30-day free trial. Yearly subscription is $38.99/ or monthly for $4.95. Collects and organizes recipes, adds recipes to meal calendar, makes shopping list. Cook for the freezerIf you have a break in your schedule that affords you a little extra time for cooking, think about a meal that you can prepare to go straight to the freezer. It will store for a few weeks, and will be available when your schedule is busier than usual.