No Waste Meal Planning
I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s getting very expensive to live.
From housing to vehicles, lumber and gas, virtually everything we use in our day-to-day lives has increased exponentially in cost, and nowhere has this become more obvious than on our grocery receipts.
Being a single female I’ve always been able to budget my grocery allowances from $50-$75 a week- that was until 2020. Since then my pantry and refrigerator staples have doubled in cost, with a carton of egg whites alone now running almost $7.
I already had these inflation issues at top of mind when I decided to write this article, sharing my lighthearted hacks for stretching your dollar at the grocery store. But in the hours before I sat down at my computer a video came across my Instagram feed that really put into perspective a much deeper reason to share these tips. The video was a gut-wrenching moment captured somewhere in war and disease-ridden Africa, of a starving child being given a few slices of bread. It was only a few seconds long, but it hit me like a ton of bricks, snapping me out of my selfish mindset of “first-world problems” and reminding me there are people experiencing true unimaginable pain and suffering. This child, who due to the shocking advanced state of starvation actually could have been anywhere between 5 and 20 years old, almost seemed fearful to take the slices of white bread, his large hollow eyes darting back and forth before he shoved it in his mouth and the video ended.
I’m not an emotional woman and I rarely cry, but this shook me. However, what shook me even harder was the disgusting facts I discovered when I immediately began Googling statistics on US food consumption.
We are now a nation that is 73.6% overweight, with 41.9% of those people considered obese. With 2/3 of our population ingesting so much food we are overfed to the point of disease, one would think there would be a food shortage in this country. On the contrary, we have a massive food waste problem. Each year, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US, which is nearly 40% of all food in America; which equates to 130 billion meals. For the record, the entire population of Africa is 1.2 billion, with 278 million (or 20%) suffering from chronic hunger. So if I did my math correctly, that means with just the food we throw away each year in the US we could feed every person who is starving to death 467 times.
I’m truly disgusted by this data. We have got to be better people, to ourselves and to others. It’s unacceptable that we live in such a land of comfort that we’re making up reasons to hate one another that don’t even exist outside our own minds. It’s unacceptable that we are actively choosing to kill ourselves with excess food while others are dying from lack of it. And the fact that our world’s leaders have figured out how to get anything my heart desires delivered to my front door in less than 24 hours via Amazon but somehow hasn’t figured out how to freeze and ship surplus food to dying people and instead chooses to let it rot in landfills should tell you everything you need to know about how much they really care about humanity.
With all that being said, I can’t stand people who complain but never act toward resolution. I Googled “how can we help starvation in Africa” and the first piece of advice I was given was to “pray for them.” While I’m not knocking the power of prayer, I would prefer a faster acting and more hands-on solution to this crisis, and I firmly believe charity starts at home, so the most important thing we here in the US could do would be to help ourselves first. We have to stop this madness of hoarding and disrespecting our bodies with superfluous amounts of toxic foods. I firmly believe obesity is a mental health issue and not a physical one, and should be treated as such; there’s no shame in seeking help for compulsive over-eating just as with any other addiction having a negative impact on your life.
Now, I’ll finally get to the initial point of this article and that is some advice on how to more effectively manage your grocery purchases, which will not only reduce personal waste, but will also keep more dollars in your pocket. The most important thing you can do, like most things in life, is to make a plan and stick to it. Only make one trip to the store each week; as the week rolls on and you run out of necessities, add them to a list for the following week. But while I’m a big fan of having a strict list for necessities like toilet paper, dishwasher pods, etc, I actually don’t make a set list of meals for the week. Instead, I “hunt” at the grocery store, and build my meals around what I find. Let me explain.
I eat basically the same breakfast every single morning. When it comes to lunch and dinner however, I like to mix it up. Kroger (and most other stores) is amazing for having daily markdowns on items that are going out of date the next day. So when I go in, the first section I visit is the meat department, as that is the focus of my meals. I see what good deals I can score and build my meals around that. Last week for $3.85 I got 6lbs of seasoned chicken thighs and legs on markdown, which after cooking and pulling off the bones came out to 2.5lbs of meat, or 9 4oz servings. Then I took all those bones and tossed them in the crockpot with onion, celery, carrots, salt, pepper and water and cooked it on low for 16 hours which yielded 12 cups of homemade bone broth, saving me another $12 off my grocery bill. Each and every department in Kroger has a markdown section, filled with discounted foods that can be cooked in the next day or two or frozen for later. Breads, produce, dairy and even shelf stable items that are just going out of season can be purchased at a fraction of their original cost, saving you a boatload of money and keeping them from being needlessly wasted in a dumpster. And I know this is easier for me as one person who isn’t a picky eater, but this is when we all need to re-evaluate our priorities and stop being so finicky about what we eat. Get creative and make it a fun family bonding time to explore new recipes and tastes together. Remember, that broccoli you can’t stand would be the dream of that child in the video.
Finally, if you have the capacity to garden, do so. Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow your own herbs and patio plants like tomatoes and peppers in containers. Buy locally sourced and sustainable goods to the best of your budget. And again, only buy what you can reasonably consume; we are blessed to live in the land of plenty, but it’s high time we stop taking it for granted, look outside ourselves and try to give as much if not more than we take.