Getting into the habit of organizing your kitchen and adopting a weekly routine of meal planning go hand in hand, and they can both help to reduce your kitchen carbon footprint. How? Well, when you know what you already have on hand and you know what you need to buy for your weekly meals and snacks, you end up buying less food … and wasting less.
Focus on climate-friendly food habits including things like taking stock of what you have in your kitchen and meal planning versus individual climate-friendly foods. The impact will be far greater.
Given the COVID-19 crisis most of us are dealing with right now, this action is certainly timely. Before you head to the grocery store to stock up on pantry essentials, take stock of what you have on hand. Stores are selling out–it’s hard to find chicken around here these days–so please just buy what you need!
Your carbon footprint is directly tied into your “food print.” The goal with this March action is to adopt habits that help you and your family consume the foods you already have on hand and avoid throwing any of it away. Two great ways to achieve that goal are to keep your kitchen organized and to meal plan.
Did you know that a recent study from the College of Agriculture Sciences at Penn State University found that U.S. households throw away nearly a third of the food they buy? That adds up to $240 billion annually in wasted food. One of the authors of that study, Edward Jaenicke, said that, “According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, food waste is responsible for about 3.3 gigatons of greenhouse gas annually, which would be, if regarded as a country, the third-largest emitter of carbon after the U.S. and China.” Just think about all the resources that go into growing, producing, and transporting our food. All require precious natural resources, so throwing food away is like throwing oil, gas, and even solar energy away.
Interestingly, in households where a shopping list was used when shopping at the grocery store ended up wasting the least amount of food. Planning and food management pay off!
Organize Your Kitchen:
Every week, take a few minutes to organize your fridge, freezer, and pantry. When I was a nutrition student back in the late 1970s and 80s, we learned about the First In, First Out rule … or FIFO as we called it. Restaurants use this technique all the time to minimize food waste. The way it works is that the first things you purchase and bring into your home (that’s the “in” part of the equation) should be the first things you use up or take “out.” If you buy a box of whole grain pasta today but realize you already have a box in your pantry, move that first-purchased box up front and put the newer box behind it. The same goes for fresh foods like milk, juice, eggs, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, etc.
It also can’t hurt to label and date your food. I’m sure you’ve opened your freezer many times only to find a large zip-top bag filled with freezer burned “something.” I’m right there with you! But if you take stock of what’s on hand each week and label and date your food (especially when freezing leftovers), you’ll start to minimize those mystery items. By organizing your kitchen, you end up wasting less food. And remember, wasted food that ends up rotting in a landfill can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions … and it’s a waste of your hard-earned money too.
Curious how long various foods stay fresh in your fridge and freezer, check out these helpful charts from FoodSafety.gov.
Once you know what you have on hand, you can plan your weekly meals and snacks around them. Plan to use up what you have and then figure out what you want to cook over the coming week.
Start Meal Planning:
Whether you were born with the organizing gene or not (I was not!), when you meal plan each week, you’re more likely to use up what you already have on hand, and you end up purchasing only the foods you need. There are a lot of meal planning tools out there, and I recently wrote a blog post about meal planning, so I encourage you to check it out: 30 Meal Planning Tips for Busy Families.
If you’re looking for a simple meal planning tool, download my 7-Day Meal Planner for FREE.
Tell me if you’re meal planning and getting your kitchen into ship-shape condition. How’s it working out for you?
February action: Use Reusable Grocery Bags Versus Paper
January action: Compost Food Scraps and Kitchen Waste