Another week into the challenge, and I’m feeling good about our progress! I’m far from perfect and far from where I’d like to be, but all in all, I’ve seen an enormous difference from simply paying attention.
While some food waste is seemingly inevitable, I’ve seen for myself that the vast majority of it can be prevented by noticing it, working actively to prevent it, and, especially, recording it.
If you’re interested in seeing earlier posts in this series, click HERE.
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How I’ve Been Cutting Down on Food Waste This Week
- Even though I just bought two bunches of bananas, they were starting to turn super quick, so I froze the majority of them while they were at their optimal ripeness so I could enjoy them in smoothies throughout the week. I also had a LOT of frozen fruit in the freezer from previous months, so I used up a lot of that in the smoothies this week as well along with individual containers of flavored Greek yogurt because I like what it adds to the consistency.
- While school mornings are often a little too hectic to do much else besides cold cereal, I’ve been trying to switch it up for myself at least so that we can start using up some of the other food we have. We still have a few hens that are laying, so I made up a simple cheese omelet one morning with avocado and salsa on top. We also did scrambled eggs and toast one morning for everyone, too.
- I had two small tupperware containers of macaroni and cheese leftover (one homemade, one from the box), so I served those to the boys one day for lunch with a side of pears, since those are one of the first fruits to spoil.
- Whenever Matt asked me to pack his lunch for work, I always made sure to throw in a couple of the clementines so that we can be staying on top of those before they go bad.
- Since I knew Monday night would be crazy because it’s when I’m doing the copy editing for the local newspaper, I made a double batch of the kids’ favorite homemade mac and cheese to serve to the boys at lunch that day, then I made sure to put aside a big portion so that Matt would have lunch to take the next day to work.
- Even though it’s not a food that needs to be used up quickly, I did make oatmeal with raisins a couple times for lunch this week. Since we were out of milk for about a day and a half, I couldn’t add any of that, but the boys still loved it.
- I have a bagged salad mix that’s quickly going south, so anytime I had a deli meat and cheese sandwich, I made sure to add some of the lettuce from that on top.
- For every lunch, I always made sure I put fresh fruit from the side so that we can try to use all of it up before it goes bad. This helped us to finish up the rest of the pears, about half of the apples and clementines, and one of the two containers of red grapes that we bought last week.
- I had 4 large red potatoes from my shopping trip in early October that needed to be used up because they were starting to sprout, so I cleaned them up and threw them in the Instant Pot to bake, then served them on Friday night with some of the fresh chicken I had from my Sam’s Club haul last week (baked using this recipe) and carrots on the side (which I had bought during my shopping trip in early October and which needed to start being addressed more rapidly than I was). The baked chicken used up the rest of a jar of lemon juice and also the rest of a small container of dried basil. I froze the remaining 7 chicken breasts that were in the package for future dinners in the month. I also cut up some of the Italian bread I’d made for my book club to eat on the side since it’s best when consumed within 24-48 hours of baking.
- Saturday we had a “fend for yourself” dinner for Matt and I (the kids ate leftover pizza), which was a good chance to use up leftovers as well as continue chipping away at the gigantic bag of salad mix we got from Sam’s Club (which feels impossible to use up before it starts to spoil).
- While it basically just used up stuff from our pantry and freezer (and not anything that was about to spoil), we did Korean BBQ ground beef over rice with a side of broccoli on Sunday. (And a random note–this was the first time I used tamari sauce instead of liquid aminos for our gluten-free soy sauce option, and so far I’m a definite fan!)
- For dinner on Tuesday, I made up our own gluten-free riff on honey lime chicken enchiladas, which effectively used up the jar of honey that had been in the pantry forever, the rest of a container of lime juice, and the rest of a thing of (opened) chicken broth in the fridge. It also used up a bit of the whipping cream I try to always have on hand and which usually doesn’t get a chance to spoil but is good to keep top of mind nonetheless. Oh, and it also finished up a bag of corn tortillas we had in the freezer. A successful zero waste dinner for sure!
- On another fend-for-yourself night, I made up a can of tuna with some Miracle Whip and had tuna sandwiches with some salad mix lettuce added on top for crunch.
- Since baked potatoes have been really appealing to me lately, I scrubbed four jumbo russet potatoes and cooked them in the Instant Pot to have on hand for dinners and lunches when we just want something quick. Matt and I ate two one night when the kids were just having something quick (quesadillas with clementines), and I had the others for lunches. Lately I’ve just been putting butter, sour cream, and cheese on top, but maybe we’ll get fancy one of these times and put on some canned or homemade chili or something.
Odds and Ends
- I had some food left over from hosting book club last week, so Matt and I enjoyed those appetizers at night while we watched a show together. The caramel dip isn’t gone yet, but it has been a good way to encourage us to continue to go through the plethora of apples we’ve been enjoying over the past month and a half or so (and which really need to be used up ASAP). We ate up the rest of the queso though, as well as all the Italian bread (although that one was up to me as it wasn’t gluten-free, so Matt couldn’t have any).
- While we still haven’t taken the plunge and totally cut out the Diet Dr. Pepper yet, we have drastically reduced our intake of it, which means that instead of spending $30-40 on it this month like we had been doing, we’re only going to have spent about $22. Progress is progress, even if it’s not ideal.
What We Ended Up Throwing Away
I’m having a hard time knowing what I should “count” as food waste (which is silly considering that I’m the one running this challenge in the first place!). The reason I’m torn is because the majority of our food waste can be fed to our chickens, so very little actually goes into the trash. However, there have been a few items lately that really SHOULD have been eaten by us but weren’t, so I think I might still count those as food waste even if the hens ended up getting them.
So basically what I’ve decided is that I will count things that were UNPREPARED that go to the chickens as food waste, and anything that was a prepared food that just wasn’t finished by somebody (let’s be honest—wasn’t finished by the kids) WON’T count as food waste.
That means that our total food waste for the week was 3 zucchinis, 2 of which were given to us and one of which we grew ourselves. Yes, we fed all three to the chickens, but we really should have used them up ourselves before they went soft. Although we got all three for free, I’ll still calculate out what they would have cost at the store to be fair.
Total Food Waste for the Week: $2.43
Going Forward + Weekly Grocery Bill
I have some tricky odds and ends that I need to try and use up from this week, including about a half cup of green enchilada sauce and some leftover rice (I’m thinking I’d best go with these sweet potato and black bean rice bowls to deal with those). I also have a LOT of red grapes from our Sam’s Club haul last week (they were the best price I’d seen in ages, so I bought 6 lbs.), which I need to start putting on the side of at least one meal every single day to even have a chance at using up in time, seeing as I still have 3 lbs. of them.
If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that we only had $40 left in the grocery budget for the whole rest of the month. While I’ve been used to this style of grocery shopping for years (where I do one massive haul and spend the majority of our budget at the beginning of the month and then just do a couple smaller trips later on), I will admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve had THAT small of a budget to make stretch over 3 weeks or so. However, I actually really love the challenge of it, so I’m being super mindful of how we spend that money!
This week, we spent $27.79 on two gallons of milk, 8 bananas, four 4-packs of Oikos yogurt, lemon juice, and dried basil. That means we only have just over $12 left in our grocery budget for the month to stretch over the next 20 days or so. Should be a fun challenge! (I will note that if we see that turkeys are a good price this year–which I highly doubt, to be honest–I do plan on going over budget to pick up a couple to put in our freezer.)
How’s your grocery budget looking? Are you being more mindful of it because of rising food costs, or have you decided to just increase your food budget until everything (hopefully) calms down a bit?