Wasting food? Stop being so organized!

We know what we need to do to feed our families healthy, well balanced meals while juggling everything else: meal prep! So we plan out the week’s menu, we grocery shop on weekends, and on a really good week we’ll even cook meals ahead of time! Except, despite all of those great intentions, why do we keep sending so much food into the garbage or composter at the end of the week?

As a professional organizer specialized in family organization, I offer consultations on how to optimize family time and routines. Meal planning is a hot topic, and a recurring topic that keeps popping up in my consultations is how do we stop wasting so much food?

When I take a quick look into my customers’ fridges I see commonalities.  First, many of the customers asking for my help in this area already have great habits in place. They are already organized. Sometimes, in fact, they are too organized. Let me explain…  

When we sit down and plan our week’s meals, we cover everything. There is no room for spontaneity because, let’s face it, life is busy and we need to at least know how long preparing dinner will take. So, every day of the week is planned out. Except, oftentimes, the grocery store’s pre-packaged vegetables doesn’t quite match what our recipes call for. So, we end up with an extra leek, half a cauliflower that doesn’t have a purpose, that container of cream that we bought for the recipe that called for two tablespoons. We need to plan unplanned meals into our week to use it all up!  

There are a few ways of going about it, the first of which is to have a list of quick fridge-clearing recipes to use the food that would normally go to waste. On weekends, a great way to power through all the leftover vegetables are of course to get a nice vegetable soup simmering.  

On weekdays, I recommend my customers schedule their Thursday as the "unplanned evening." The leftovers will direct you to your création du moment! Repurpose your leftover vegetables into an omelet or a quiche, which is also a great way to use up that slice or two of sandwich meat from this week’s sandwiches. Throw some rice into the rice cooker as you fire up a pan with onions, left over crudités that are starting to get less crispy, any leftover meat, a bit of chopped ginger and sesame oil and you’ll have a healthy fried rice. No meat left over? No problem: scramble some eggs or throw in some thawed cooked shrimp and you’ll be good to go. The keys is to keep it simple, and Fridge-Clearing Thursdays will become an evening that is welcomed by all members of the family.

The second tip to prevent you from starting any science experiments is to set up a leftover bin in your fridge. Magically, when all of the orphan ingredients are brought together into one bin, your imagination will fire up to find a new fun way to use up those ingredients. On days when you’re not feeling so magical there’s also Google that will come to your rescue!

Finally, keep basics in your pantry or freezer to complete those meals: ready-to-go legumes, frozen shrimp, or eggs will ensure you have your protein. For a quick carb solution, whole grain couscous is ready in a snap to throw together a nice salad. Frozen vegetables can often round out the vegetable requirements in a fried rice or omelet.  

So, are you ready to disorganize your meal planning and quit wasting food?  Take this as your permission slip from professional organizer!

Mylène Houle Morency is a Professional Organizer, speaker and owner of FLO Organisation, which specializes in organizing families with children ranging from newborn to the teenage years. She has the firm conviction that organized homes help parents become the parents they want to be, by freeing up time and diminishing stress. She has the privilege to lovingly test all her theories and organization inspirations on her husband and three children!