Food Waste Warriors, Take Note!

The supermarket is ground zero for food waste. It’s where the real commitment to food is made, whether you end up eating it or not. That’s why food waste warriors usually begin their journey trying to heed the most basic advice about choosing your food wisely. The advice is easy to grasp and much, much harder to practice:  Plan your meals, make a shopping list from that plan, and stick to the list – and then stick to the plan.

While it may be obvious that meal planning involves choosing meals to eat for the week and creating a shopping list for those meals, a handful of not-so-obvious tips can make the process more effective.

  1. Don’t start from scratch: Meal planning does not mean hours with cookbooks every week. You likely already have a few meals that are regulars; count those in, and repeat them every week or two.
  2. Check the refrigerator: Your refrigerator is the starting gate for planning the next week’s meals. What needs using up? What’s a good meal to make with the other half of that broccoli, the last of the cottage cheese and the leftover pasta from two days ago? Sounds like a baked pasta dish might do the trick, and you’ll need to buy some pasta sauce and mozzarella to make that work.
  3. Use portion planners: Portion calculators are particularly helpful when you’re feeding a bigger group, but they might also add some insight as to why you always wind up with extra rice. There are many on the Web to choose from, and the “How Much Should I Make” chart below has some basic portion suggestions to get you started.
  4. Think double-duty: If you’re planning for Tuesday taco night, what else could you use those tortillas for? Maybe some Asian salad wraps, or cheese enchiladas? After you choose one meal, consider which ingredients come in large quantities, and plan a second meal around those.
  5. Schedule in a lazy night. Or two or three. So often we go to the store with hopes and dreams of preparing fresh meals all week, but the reality is we don’t have the time or energy to cook every night. So plan on lazy nights that don’t involve cooking – use up what’s in the freezer, or order a pizza.

For more meal-planning and other tips to avoid food waste, check out the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook or visit


Excerpted from Waste Free Kitchen Handbook by Dana Gunders (Chronicle Books, 2015).