Are you an inspired grocery shopper? Here’s the quickest way to find out: When you walk down the aisles and fill your cart, do you get energized by all the fresh goodness that’s around you? Do you find new creative meal ideas and end up leaving with more than you thought you needed?
Every trip to the market I would find myself feeling totally free-spirited. I’d pick-up zucchinis with the intention of spiralizing, fresh herbs for pesto, vibrant leafy greens for all the salads I plan on making, and I’m a sucker for fresh berries.
It’s okay if you’re an inspired shopper. You should get excited about creating healthy meals, but how many of us honestly utilize all the fresh produce that we’re buying? It’s a real shame to see things go to waste, especially if you’re investing in organic and local options.
It is estimated that the average consumer in both Canada and the United States throws away approximately 300 pounds of food each year. This statistic equates to about a quarter of your grocery bill ending up in the garbage.
If you find yourself purchasing fresh produce with good intentions, then you likely feel bothered when you couldn’t find the opportunity to use it. (If you don’t feel bad about throwing things out, then let me tell you – this article isn’t for you).
It’s true that shopping local and organic can positively influence your health, but this is not the first step to a sustainable diet.
You see, nobody benefits when fresh produce goes to waste. Since someone had to plant, water, harvest, package, and ship that – wasted food is equal to wasted money, time, labor and resources.
This isn’t a mom and pop speech about finishing what’s on your plate. Rather, if you’re buying healthy options just to throw them out, then yes – eating healthy is more expensive.
HOW TO BE A SUSTAINABLE SHOPPER
Don’t Just Vibe With It
Stick to the list. Choose only what you need and not what you think you’re going to use. Choose items that are versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked, limit yourself to just one or two trendy superfoods at a time (otherwise they get forgotten), and buy what you like – you don’t have to force yourself to enjoy kale.
Shop Minimally, More Frequently
Try buying what you need for the next few days. If you’re buying fresh, you need to shop more frequently because your timeline is shorter than if you were buying processed and packaged foods. Unless you’re a professional meal planner, the biggest reason why we throw things out is that we simply run out of time. If you purchase enough ingredients to make ten new recipes featuring items you’ve never used before, I admire your determination but shop minimally (just in case).
Start Cooking, Right Away
Don’t grocery shop with the intention of making it tomorrow, start when you get home. It doesn’t take long to whip up a batch of pesto or prep some meals for the week. If you’re inspired at the store, keep that momentum going when you get home – you will thank yourself tomorrow when lunches are already packed!
Store it Right
Biggest pet peeve – putting uncovered meals and half-used produce back in the fridge. This is the quickest way to promote spoilage and introduce unpleasant odors. Always store in glass airtight containers or mason jars. You should also invest in a beeswax food storage wrap, this natural alternative to plastic wrap can be used to cover bowls and protect your half-lemon or avocado.
Make Note of Trends
Are you constantly throwing out lettuce because you didn’t make that vibrant salad you envisioned this week? Choose a more versatile green next time such as baby spinach. You can use spinach in your salad, it’s great in smoothies and egg scrambles, plus you can use it in stir-frys and pasta. Lettuce is less versatile and often goes to waste if you don’t make enough salads.
Work With What You Have
Don’t plan your grocery list with a recipe book, plan with what you already have on hand. When we follow recipes we buy specific ingredients and potentially ignore our current inventory. Try not to purchase ingredients that you aren’t quite sure how to use. Follow recipe books for inspiration, but don’t be afraid to make some changes. Unless you’re cooking traditional French cuisine you can make some substitutions.
Utilize the Whole Food
One of my favorite ways to utilize the whole potential of my produce is making stock. Having homemade vegetable stock on hand comes in handy for a number of reasons, I always try and keep a few jars in my freezer. Save all of your peels, stalks, and leaves. Onion and garlic skins, carrot peels and celery trimmings are key ingredients. You can also save potato skins, herbs, leftover bell pepper, broccoli stalks, leek and carrot tops. Store these in a large stainless steel container in the freezer (if you’re looking to avoid plastic). All you have to do is put your frozen scraps into a stock pot. Add enough water to cover the veggies and ensure you can easily stir. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-hour. Then strain, cool and freeze.
Why You Can’t Throw It Out
There is no such thing as throwing something away. When you throw something out, it has to go somewhere. It may not seem like a big deal to throw food in the trash because it’s biodegradable. However, as our food breaks down, it produces methane, a greenhouse gas that plays a large role in global warming. Since food waste comprises about 20 percent of landfills – that’s a contribution to climate change.
Composting is a simple tool to keep food out of ginormous landfills. However, I know why most people shy away from this habit: it’s leaky and smelly. But you have a tool to overcome that downfall. Save all your paper bags to discard and store your compost in the freezer. If you’re skeptical on where your compost ends up on curbside collection day, visit Share Waste, a global tool to search for a composting space nearby. Support urban composting, and the planet!
YOUR SUSTAINABLE SHOPPING LIST TO AVOID FOOD WASTE
Slowly build your kitchen inventory to include these essentials. From here you can add in a few seasonal ingredients and vibrant flavors at a time. Keep it simple.
Your Fresh List
- Versatile vegetables. Choose veggies that can be used in a number of ways: baby spinach, arugula, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, sweet potatoes.
- Lasting fruits. Opt-in for frozen berries and bananas for smoothies, these last a lot longer than fresh. Some fruits that keep a long time are apples, oranges, and grapefruit.
- Flavor enhancers. Garlic, ginger, onions, lemon, and lime are essentials for flavor and they keep well.
Your Kitchen Essentials
- Oils & Fats: grass-fed butter, coconut, avocado
- Vinegars: apple cider vinegar, balsamic
- Seasonings: Himalayan salt, black pepper
- Grains: rice, quinoa, ancient grain pasta, oats, millet
- Beans & Legumes: lentils, dried beans if you have time to soak and cook them
- Dried Herbs & Spices: Create your line-up. I mostly use true cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, paprika, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and crushed red pepper.
- Sauces & Dips: soy-free coconut seasoning or tamari, salsa, hummus, dijon mustard
- Sweeteners: local honey, maple syrup
- Nuts & Seeds: walnuts, pumpkins seeds, hemp hearts, chia seeds, nut butter
- Frozen Vegetables & Fruits: at least two veggies and fruits for smoothies and quick dinners
By following these steps to become a sustainable shopper, you will avoid wasting time and money from buying foods you don’t use. Make healthy eating simple by keeping your essentials on hand and staying focused on grocery store trips. Remember – you can’t simply throw things away, they always end up somewhere.
Ready to take sustainability to the next level? Discover How To Eliminate Almost All the Plastic and Garbage from your Shopping Trips
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