Let’s give a huge Food Saver Friday welcome to guest blogger – my friend, Michaela Gasseling. One of Michaela’s passions is teaching others that healthy eating does not have to be expensive, bland, or complicated. She keeps it simple by planning her family’s menu each week and then prepping the foods for the entire week all in one day (or sometimes two). Like anything else, it takes practice and consistency to make it a lasting habit. She started weekly meal planning and prepping for her family about two years ago, about the same time she became a mostly stay-at-home-mom, and she and her husband went from two down to about 1.25 full-time incomes. It became imperative for them to use their budgeted food dollars wisely, wasting as little as possible.
All of the above, plus her belief that discarded food equates to money (and resources) down the drain, makes Michaela my go-to meal planning guru. So, without further ado – here’s Michaela.
Meal Planning to Reduce Food Waste – Part 1
Raise your hand if you’ve ever gone to the store and filled your cart to the brim with food to pack your fridge full. You had good intentions of making amazing meals with every last thing you bought. But then mid-week, or a week later, you discovered half of your produce is soggy and wilted at the back of the fridge. Did you cringe at the idea of all the wasted resources as you threw away x-amount of dollars -worth of groceries? Are you raising your hand? I am.
Believe me, we are not the only ones with our hands raised. Terryn has mentioned the staggering statistics about food waste in our country. We are definitely not alone, and that means it also has to be a group effort to reverse the problem.
We walked through a typical scenario that might occur without meal planning in place. Now let’s look at how we can change this with a meal plan and a little prep work at the beginning of the week (or whatever day works for you). There are many methods of meal planning, and which one works best for your family depends on many factors, not limited to, your demographic/ location, the size of your family, your budget, and of course your tastes.
I am going to give you a preview of my typical method. Let’s say it’s a weekend that I have a Bountiful Basket, so I have a large number of fresh fruits and veggies on hand. I do not want any of these quality, nutritious foods to go to waste, so I:
- Sit down with pen and paper, my recipe stash, and Pinterest.
- Plan the meals for the week around whatever produce I have. Bountiful Basket is an incredible value, but you do not know ahead of time what you will get.
- Typically pick out five main dishes to use for the evening meals, with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
- Make my grocery list and get groceries.
If you don’t have Bountiful Baskets in your area or it isn’t a basket weekend, you could do the same thing on a Saturday with your local grocery store circular in hand. Look at what’s on sale, and plan meals around those items. And then, the prep begins!
Sometimes I do a little bit on Saturday, but I like to only make a mess of the kitchen one time, so I will dedicate about 1 ½ hours on a Sunday (usually while the kids are napping), to knock out the prep-work:
- Washing produce
- Chopping veggies
- Portioning things into single-serving size containers
Just spending that 90 minutes each weekend pays off exponentially during the week. When week-nights are crazy and we are tired and/or pressed for time, most of the work is done for dinner, helping us avoid take-out or drive-through (saving $$ AND helping us eat healthier!).
Having everything ready and easy to grab for snacks or meals will help you know what all you have on-hand, and studies have shown that you are more likely to eat what you can easily see. So if you have washed, cut, ready-to-go fruits or veggies staring at you from the fridge, you are more likely to grab those and go! Properly stored produce also keeps for longer, helping you avoid finding the forgotten soggy carrots at the back of the fridge.
Meal planning has immensely benefited my family and can yours too. It allows you to eat healthier (less pre-packaged convenience foods and eating out), shop more efficiently (less trips to the store), save money (a list means you are less likely to impulse-buy), and last but certainly not least, eliminate food waste.
Next Week on Food Saver Friday
Michaela will be back with a more in-depth look into her meal planning and prep process. In the meantime, if you have questions feel free to leave them here in the comments, or shoot us an email using the Contact Me page. You can also follow Michaela on:
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