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Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly Meal Preparation Tips

July 18, 2023

How frequently do you go grocery shopping without a plan? This generally results in overbuying at the store, and then food being thrown away and squandered. Because 38% of all food in the United States is wasted, meal planning and sticking to a list can help reduce food waste.  

When you plan your meals ahead of time, you are making wise dietary, financial, and time management decisions. Whether you live alone or with a large family, planning breakfasts, lunches, or dinners will help prevent food waste and make your life a lot easier when you have meals ready to eat when you get home. 

However, you must consider the environmental impact of your meal preparation. By incorporating sustainable methods into our meal preparation routine, we may reduce waste, conserve resources, and contribute to a healthy planet. 

Here are some tips for environmentally friendly meal preparation:

1. Use reusable containers instead of throwaway plastic containers: 

Instead of using disposable plastic containers, use reusable glass or metal containers. These containers are more robust and can be used repeatedly. 

Bonus points: Use reusable shopping bags when you go grocery shopping.

Our planet is becoming increasingly polluted as a result of our needless usage of plastic. A plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade in a landfill, yet Americans use over 100 billion plastic bags each year. 

Animals and sea creatures are constantly harmed by plastic pollution, either by becoming entangled in it and drowning or by choking on it. 73% of beach litter worldwide is plastic. Nearly 100 cities and counties in the United States have outlawed plastic bags, but it is still crucial to do your part by bringing reusable bags when shopping or purchasing glass containers. 

2. Plan:

Before you begin meal planning, plan out your week's meals. Make a list of all the meals you intend to prepare so that when you go to the grocery store, you only buy what you need. This cuts down on food waste by ensuring that you only buy what you need and use the ingredients you already have. 

Going to the grocery store and cooking on the same day might be difficult for larger households. Take 1-2 days out of the week to complete your meal planning and shopping, and the other day to cook.​​ Meal preparation just for yourself may be more straightforward because, at the end of the day, you know what you prefer. Having some go-to dishes on hand and in mind is a fantastic reassurance. 

3. Buy locally:

Buy fresh produce from local farmers' markets or grocery stores whenever feasible. This lowers the carbon impact of your food by reducing transportation emissions. Large chain grocery stores are convenient, but the food travels hundreds of miles to get there, leaving a significant carbon imprint. 

When you buy locally, you are contributing to community success! ​​Local farmers also get to keep more of their profits because they don't have as many transportation/delivery costs as large agricultural firms. Buying locally demonstrates that you care about the environment, yourself, and your community.

When buying pantry essentials or pre-packaged goods, search for companies that value sustainability, fair trade, and ecologically friendly packaging.

4. Buy in bulk:
Buying in bulk saves money and avoids plastic packing waste. For essentials like rice, beans, and nuts, look for bulk bins at grocery shops. Unlike regular grocery shopping, you must bring your reusable containers. 
Food storage containers, bags from around the house, peanut butter jars, and even old pasta sauce jars are all good options. Some grocery stores include bulk departments, but others, such as Costco, Sam's Club, BJ Wholesale Club, and Walmart, specialize in bulk purchasing.  
5. Use meat substitutes: 
Meat production contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.  Consider using meat substitutes such as tofu, tempeh, beans, or legumes in your meal preparation. All of these choices provide excellent protein sources, and meat made from plants significantly reduces greenhouse gas and methane emissions, energy expenditures, and water use. Plant-based meat emits 30%-90% less greenhouse gas than conventional meat. 
The United States consumed the most beef in the world last year, yet many people are unaware of the environmental impact. Meat production also results in massive amounts of waste, deforestation of the world, worsening of water and air quality, and species extinction.
Switching to other meat alternatives is not only beneficial for the environment, but it is also excellent for you! The substitution of meat reduces saturated fats while increasing the vitamin and fiber content of the recipes.


There are also other options to get your protein in such as tuna, oats, peanut butter, eggs, and edamame.  

6. Freeze leftovers: 
If you have leftovers that you won't be able to eat within a few days, freeze them. This reduces food waste and ensures you always have a meal ready. Frozen leftovers can stay safe in the freezer for a long time but usually taste better if you eat them within 3-4 months. 
Some foods do not freeze well and will break down throughout the freezing and thawing process. Cooked pasta, cream-based soups, lettuce, milk, potatoes, and pre-defrosted meats are all foods that do not freeze well.


Reuse leftovers

Turning your leftovers into new recipes by being creative with them is also a great way to reduce food waste. Cooked vegetables are easily wasted, so chop them up, add them to any soup, or season and roast them. 

Have a sweet tooth but have nothing but leftover rice? Leftover cooked rice can be easily transformed into rice pudding by heating one part rice, one part milk, and then adding whatever sweets or flavoring you choose. 

Make meat sauce and garlic toast with any leftover hamburger meat or buns! Leftover fish can be unpleasant, but not when transformed into delectable fish cakes. Flake the fish with a fork and incorporate it into any crab cake recipe. The list goes on and on, so be creative and find out what you enjoy!


7. Compost:

Instead of throwing away food scraps, compost them instead. Composting minimizes greenhouse gas emissions while also producing nutrient-rich soil. There is a wide variety of items that can be composted which includes, fruits, veggies, rice and grains, coffee grounds, eggshells, flowers, or cooked food without oil, dairy, or meat. 

This list doesn’t stop here so check out our blog if you’re interested in composting or want to start composting from home! 

Get Involved 
It's important to put these suggestions into practice and spread them to others to live sustainably and decrease food waste overall. Sustainable meal planning is an excellent approach to eating well and caring for the environment simultaneously. 
If you want to learn more about how to live a sustainable lifestyle, read our blog about how to be more sustainable this year or 7 simple routine changes to become a more sustainable shopper. 


Visit our Zero Waste Kitchen website to find out everything you need to know about living sustainably!

Take action now in the fight against hunger and reduce global food waste.