Meal planning for low waste
There's plenty of blogs and web pages dedicated to the benefits of meal planning but we'd like to throw in another one - to sustain your low waste lifestyle!
By acknowledging what you already have in your cupboard, and thinking about the week ahead and your family's food preferences, you can actively choose to lower your waste footprint not only in packaging but also in the food waste itself.
Did you know that Australian families throw away a minimum average of $1000 of food each year? That equates to roughly a whole month of groceries! This includes uneaten leftovers and neglected food purchased at the shops when we've forgotten our list and are already hungry! (You know that limp salad sitting at the back of the fridge?)
Some people can meal plan a whole month and kudos if you can however even planning a week or two in advance is really useful. Use a white or chalk board so the whole family can see "what's for dinner" and then rub off at the end of the week. Standing in your kitchen while you write the list is also handy as you can rummage through your fridge, freezer and cupboard and create meals with what you already have. Think of meals that might stretch to leftovers for lunches: roast chicken turns into chicken wraps, Mexican quinoa can be turned into a Mexican style salad, and meatballs (without the sauce) make great lunchbox fillers!
Creating a shopping list then helps you to 'map' out where to shop. If you are lucky enough to have a bulk food store near you (like us!) you might find that there are other services in the same area. We are lucky to be next to a great butcher, bakery and fresh produce store that will all take containers so you can almost do the full shop package free!
Even if the supermarket is your closest option, planning ahead can help you reduce packaging. Bring your own produce bags and ask if you can bring your own container for meat/bread/deli goods. Buy staples in the biggest size you can afford and store. Be picky with brands if you can - some pastas come boxed only in cardboard, pick glass jars over plastic and butter wrapped in paper can be home composted.
Don't be afraid to 'recycle' meal plans too! Most often you find you drift towards your favourite go-to meals but think you should always be trying something new. Maybe pick one day a month to splash out on a fancy recipe, go all out with dessert and make a big deal of it with friends! If the recipe is good, pop it into rotation. There's something to be said for the good old fashioned 'Sunday Dinner'!
An example meal plan:
Breakfast: Porridge, scrambled eggs on the weekend
Lunches: Balsamic roast vegetable salad with leftover chicken or chicken & salad sambos
Sunday: Roast whole chicken, balsamic roast vegetables and quinoa
Monday: Mexican quinoa with guacamole
Tuesday: BBQ steak & mushrooms, steamed herb potatoes, gravy
Wednesday: Beef stir fry with rice
Thursday: Veggie fried rice
Friday: Slurpy chicken & corn noodle soup
Saturday: Homemade burgers & salad
** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
In this case, the chicken meat and balsamic vegetables left over from Sunday would make lunches for the week.
Cook extra quinoa to make Monday's dinner as well as a side for Sunday.
Steak on Tuesday would be halved and marinated to make stir fry for Wednesday.
Leftover chicken stock (& hopefully some chicken too!) would make a quick noodle soup for Friday night and family burger night would round out the week.