Meal Planning - The Ultimate Way to Reduce Waste
Without a meal plan, we often need to make a last-minute dash to the store, grabbing overly packaged ingredients (instead of buying bulk or package-free) and wasting precious time. Or, when we have no idea what we could possibly make for dinner, at the end of the day, we resort to expensive take-out options. Once you spontaneously decide on take-out, the veggies and fruits you thought you might use at the beginning of the week end up going bad in the fridge. This cycle can feel overwhelming and complicated. EVERYONE has been there.
The good news is, fall is the perfect time to start meal planning as we get back into routine. And we’ve got tons of tips to help you get there.
Two Overarching Meal Planning Strategies
Everyone has a different capacity for planning and making food which is why we have broken meal planning down into two camps:
1. Make a New Meal Plan Each WeekThis method of meal planning requires time, creativity and commitment - and if you have multiple cooks in the house, it requires cooperation. This is the perfect strategy for those who love poring over cookbooks or googling the next dinner recipe. Decide on your recipes a week in advance, make your shopping list, see what you can get low-waste or zero-waste - and voila! Low waste eating for the week!
2. Set up a Standing Meal PlanThis method is perfect for a busy household. Are you juggling work, kids, a work-out routine, or simply the day-to-day complications of life? Sometimes it’s just not reasonable to create a brand new meal plan every week. Us humans, we like our routines and if you have kids, they like routines even more. Creating a meal plan to post on your fridge helps get everyone on board for the meal and gives you a visual indicator of the groceries you will need for the week.
What is a Standing Meal Plan and How Does it Work?
When I mention the standing meal plan to others, the first question I get is “isn’t it boring to eat the same thing every week?” Well, it depends on your household and your household’s needs, but you can structure a standing meal plan in different ways to suit your need for consistency or change:
Version 1 - Keep it the Same Every WeekIf you love eating the same meals each week, just do it! Set up the same dish for every week day so you know exactly what you need and exactly what you are making each night. This is the easiest way to reduce food waste and packaging waste while conserving your time and energy. Life is complicated, making your food as simple as possible could be just the change your life needs!
Version 2 - Create Themes for Each Day of the WeekIf you don’t want to eat the exact same thing every Tuesday night, set up themes instead. You might have a taco night that can also be a burrito night. The main ingredients are the same, but you can switch out ingredients to make it a little different each time. You might have a pasta night with endless variations in sauces, noodles or sides. The benefit to a theme is you create a parameter for your brain to work within. You don’t have to start from scratch for each night dreaming up a brand new idea. And, you will find, many of the ingredients will remain the same week-to-week.
Version 3 - Set a Standing Meal Plan Days but Leave Room for Creative MealsSet up a standing meal plan for five days a week for your busiest evenings and set aside two days where you want to try new recipes. The key here is to research your meals before you grocery shop so you can find the items you are looking for low-waste and package-free!
Meal Planning Tips
While we recommend focusing on more detailed dinner planning, don’t forget about lunches, breakfasts and snacks. Pick a few key items that will get you through the week:
- If you love potato chips and chocolate, get a couple jars of Rootables potato chips and chocolate treats for the week.
- If you eat eggs, bread, granola or oatmeal for breakfast, make sure you have them on your shopping list.
- Dinner leftovers make great lunches, but make sure you have a few easy freezer items for when leftovers aren’t an option! We love Kula Kitchen’s pre-made meals and Nina’s Pierogies for quick lunches.
- If you are packing cold lunches, jot down a separate shopping list just for those items.
A Sample Low Waste Weekly Dinner PlanIngredients included to help create shopping list.
Monday Night - Pasta with Kale Caesar
- Tomato or Rose Sauce
- Veggies of choice
- Lentils of choice
- Neufchatel Cheese
- Vegan Caesar Dressing
- (Option: Toast cubed sourdough in the oven or pan with garlic powder, salt, thyme & olive oil)
Tuesday Night - Tacos
- Bulk Corn Tacos
- Pinto Beans (for refried - made with veggie scrap broth or whole)
- Feta Cheese
- Veggies of choice
- Spices (cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, salt)
- Sriracha Revolver Hot Sauce
- Farmhouse or Yoggu Yogurt (tasty sub for sour cream)
Wednesday Night - Curry
- Chickpeas (or legume of choice)
- Butter or Coconut Oil
- Spices (Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, Cayenne, Salt)
- Basmati Rice
Thursday Night - Stir Fry
- Veggies of choice
- Tamari Soy Sauce
- Maple Syrup
- Rice or Noodles (linguini actually makes a great sub for a stir fry noodle!)
Friday Night - Burgers
- Coastie Craft Burger Mix
- Veggies of Choice
- Livia Potato Buns
- Acorn Condiments
- Spread'Em Chive & Garlic Cream Cheeze
Saturday Night - Minestrone Soup & Sourdough
- Homemade Veggie Scrap Broth
- Cannellini Beans
- Cresti-di-Gallo Noodles
- Standard Veggies (tomatoes, onion, carrots, celery)
- Seasonal Veggies (e.g. potato, zucchini)
- Livia Sourdough
- Butter or Spread'Em Cream Spread
Sunday Night - Pizza
- Bread Flour
- Maple Syrup
- Olive Oil
- Tomato Sauce
- Cheese (Feta, cheese curds, or Neufchatel) or Cheeze (Spread’Em Cheeze)
- Seasonal Veggies
This sample low-waste meal plan is loosely based on what happens at my household each week. When I tell other families that we have had a meal schedule posted on the fridge for the last five years, I often get looks of awe and scepticism. It can seem unattainable and unrealistic. But I want to share our meal plan because meal planning was a game changer for my family. It helps us reduce our household waste (and maintain our sanity!) as we work to feed our bodies healthy food while running around doing everything else that needs doing. That said, no one is perfect and sometimes pizza night becomes take-out pizza, or taco night becomes Bandidas night (in Reusables - because YAY!). What I do know is that even when we apply this formula even some of the time, we are all a bit calmer and happier. If you haven’t tried meal planning, I hope there is an element of this calm and happiness that can spread to your household too.
This meal plan is just one version of an infinite amount of possibilities. Every household has their favourite dishes that could make up a weekly meal schedule. The Jarr team would love to hear about the low waste meals you have on repeat every week at your house. Comment below or Contact Us with your favourite dishes. We would be happy to pass on your inspiration to others!
Emily Sproule is the founder of Jarr, a mom of two young school age children and an environmentalist doing the best she can with the time she has. Emily lives in East Vancouver, is passionate about business as a force for change and is excited to bring package-free grocery delivery to Metro Vancouver.