Beginning your Zero Waste journey means reducing your trash to its maximum. This includes food, clothes, beauty products, or even home furniture.
One of the easiest ways for you to go Zero Waste is to consider cooking (and buying!) food differently.
Below, we give you a few tips on how you can decrease food waste while keeping the right quality and quantity of each ingredient.
Bear in mind that it often comes with a bit of organization before going food shopping.
Thus, planning your meals (and consequently), listing precisely what you need, is key to a successful and eco-friendly meal plan.
What Is a Zero Waste Meal?
A Zero Waste Meal is a combination of three principles: no packaging, no waste, and as much as possible, no processed food.
To be able to maximize your chance of making such a meal, we came up with the following tips:
- Go to the supermarket with your own reusable, and washable containers (glass, metal, cloth shopping bags, etc.).
- Avoid non-sustainable packaging, and refuse single-use bags (vegetables, fruits, and the like) and bottles(water, sodas, etc.)
- Buy as much as possible seasonable fruits and vegetables, as well as locally produced goods to decrease your carbon footprint.
- Eat non-processed meals and consequently, avoid ready pre-cooked meals. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing what you eat, where it was produced, and how it was made. Moreover, processed food often comes with a lot of unnecessary packaging.
- Compost the remaining waste (peeling, etc.)
- Eat all the leftovers whenever you can!
How Can You Plan Meals Without Wasting Food?
By planning your Zero Waste meals, you can save not only precious time and money, but also energy (both yours and your kitchen’s appliances).
Additionally, you will decrease the risk of buying last-minute ingredients that come in a non-sustainable package.
We recommend that you plan the equivalent of 5 to 7-day meals, depending on the available space you have.
The reasons why we like Zero Waste Meal Planning at Puratium are simple: reduce waste to its maximum, save time and eat according to a balanced (well thought!) diet.
Firstly, plan the evening meals, then lunch and breakfast.
To get you started:
- Find a quiet moment to inspect your kitchen. The exercise is more laborious when your kids, partner or pets are running around.
- Take everything out of your fridge. Make sure that you sort ingredients per category. You want to make sure you do not miss any hidden goods.
- Have a look at what you have, and what needs to be eaten in priority; add these items on a (virtual) list.
- Pro-tip for the fridge: take this opportunity to store most of your ingredients in transparent jars, if not yet done. It is way easier to avoid food waste when you have better visibility of each product (and consequently, spot sooner when it is going bad)
- List the items you have in your pantry, and that can be part of the equivalent of one full meal for your family.
- Consider matching these items i.e., to consume urgently from the fridge + the pantry.
- If indeed possible, add an ingredient that you know you can easily find in your local bulk store.
- Our typical example: if there is zucchini and pasta left, buy chicken breast and nuts( For example: pine nuts).
- And there you have your first meal (or more, depending on your cupboard’s secrets). Four to go!
To plan the remaining meals of the week:
- Have a look at your freezer: is there anything sitting there for a while? Or that you know someone has been craving? Make sure to move items around and open all drawers. For the rest, follow the same logic as above.
- Think of three easy meals you want to prepare. We recommend combining a maximum of 4 to 5 ingredients per meal, as they tend to be cheaper, faster to cook, and to generate less waste.
- Keep it simple for these meals in terms of preparation and complexity. However, we encourage you to plan one ‘new’ meal each week. For this instance, you can combine more ingredients. Ideally, you should prepare this meal the night in which you have more free time. See below the recipe for our last finding!
- In terms of quantity, this might take you a few rounds before finding the right balance, depending on your family’s preferences and rhythm. Try to buy only what you need. Generally speaking, for a healthy diet, you can start with the below( quantities are specified per adult):
- Meat / Fish: 100 / 150 grams
- Rice/Pasta/Potatoes/Quinoa(namely, carbs): 70 / 90 grams
- Vegetables: 80 / 100 grams
- Pro-tip to remember: try to use the same ingredients for two meals. Especially when it comes to chopping or preparing vegetables that take time, such as asparagus. You can, for example, use them once with a risotto and once with eggs; have you heard of the famous White Asparagus ‘à la Flamande’? It is delicious!
- Lastly: we recommend cooking two or three meals at once. It will save you time: in that regard, you only need to clean the kitchen one time. Additionally, It will save you energy: since you can cook several ingredients at once and decrease your gas or electricity use.
Lunch & Breakfast
Before listing the items for lunch, consider eating your leftovers from the night before.
More generally, for breakfast and lunch, have a look at the below ingredients. We recommend them as you can readily find them in bulk at your local farmers market or organic store:
- Bread, Butter, Cheese or Ham, Eggs
- Oatmeal, Yogurt, Nuts, Fruits
- Coffee grains, Loose-Leaf Tea
- Salad, Olive Oil, Cheese, Vegetables, Legumes
Looking for more Zero Waste Snacks? Have a look here.
Once you are done with Zero Waste Meal Planning, here are a few tips when going food shopping. Essentially, it is important to bring:
- Your virtual list! Try not to buy anything else that might not fit in your plan; not only to save money, but also to avoid waste.
- Glass jars for liquids, meat, fish, nuts, pasta and the like,
- Your eggs carton(we actually wrote an article on how to reuse the cartons here)
- Your cotton bags for fruits, vegetables, oatmeal, coffee grains, etc
Our Last Zero Waste Recipes (4 people)
Craving something sweet?
Try our Orange and Almond Cake! It requires only seven ingredients and 10 minutes of preparation for this delicious cake, approved by partners and kids.
- Grape the orange to get its zest. Then squeeze it to extract the juice.
- Mix the butter (it should be soft) with the sugar, the eggs, the orange juice, and its zest.
- Add the flour and baking powder.
- Butter the cake pan and add the batter.
- Spread the almond flakes equally on the top(almonds are optional).
- Leave in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes at a moderate temperature (180/190 C°)
- Eat when the cake is still a bit warm: Bon appetit!
Craving something salty?
Try our Risotto! It takes about 35 minutes to prepare. We also give three optional ingredients to better suit individual preferences: White Wine (half a cup), Parma Ham, and Cayenne Pepper.
- Chop the onions and the garlic. “Brown in” the pan for a few minutes with a bit of butter or olive oil.
- Add the rice and stir in the pan for about a minute.
- Add 3 to 4 cups of hot water, salt, and (cayenne) pepper. Stir gently, and regularly, for about 20 minutes until all the water has evaporated. If the rice is still a bit undercooked add another cup of water.
- In the meantime, fry the seeds with a bit of olive oil at high temperature for two to three minutes. Leave them on a plate nearby.
- Then, chop the mushrooms and brown them with white wine in the same pan you used for the seeds (7 to 8 minutes at medium temperature).
- Chop the basil leaves.
- Grape the Parmesan.
- Add half of the leaves, half of the parmesan, and all the mushrooms in the pan where the rice is at.
- Add salt, pepper, and the juice of half a lemon.
- Stir gently at a low temperature for about 5 minutes.
- Prepare the plates with a portion of risotto, and a bit of ham on the side. Spread the seeds, the rest of the basil leaves and parmesan equally.
We hope this article has helped you understand the importance of meal planning in regards to Zero Waste.
But more importantly, we hope that you are now convinced that it is feasible, affordable, and useful. With some planning and a bit of patience, you can make any of these recipes.
Do you have more tips to share for a Zero Waste Meal? Share them with us! Or, if you have any questions please let us know.