Top Tips for Reducing Food Waste when Cooking for One
I hate throwing away food especially as food amps up in prices and food insecurity is so real for many individuals. While sometimes you need to go with your cravings and toss out a meal prep or a yogurt especially if you come from a restricted background. There are some ways to help limit wasting food which also saves you money in the long run.
Freeze Breads/Bagels/Muffins etc.,
I like to purchase the Ezekiel Sprouted Grain Bread and O’Doughs Gluten Free Bagels a lot. I always pretty much have a set in my freezer. I’m not the person who is going to go through a loaf of bread alone in a week. Freezing my bread allows me to spend money on the kind of bread I want and enjoy sandwiches/toast etc., when I prefer. I also save money by not tossing out half a loaf of bread at the end of the week. This is also a great hack for having seasonal favorites around for longer like the pumpkin bagels from Trader Joe's!
Use Protein Shakes or Shelf-Stable Milk Boxes as Milk
My freshman year of college I would always purchase half a gallon of lactaid milk to keep in my fridge and almost every week I tossed the majority of it out. I started venturing out and used a protein shake in my cereal and in my smoothies as the liquid base. I even found myself preferring it as it added protein to breakfast. I also prefer using my Iconic protein shakes for liquid base in my smoothies nowadays as I think it makes my smoothies taste better. I use Iconic Protein Shakes the most, but also love the OWYN, Koia and Fairlife brands. Brand like Horizon have shelf-stable individual milk boxes that you can purchase or non-dairy shelf-stable milks are other good options since they have longer expiration dates! You can also have fun with different flavors like chocolate, cookies n cream, cafe latte etc., Chocolate protein shake as milk in cereal >>> count me in!
Plan Meals out in Advance
When I purchase dips or tomato sauce or a specific cheese I’ll try and plan meals out to accommodate the ingredient within a week span. The key is to plan different styles of meals using the ingredients, so you don't get tired of eating the same thing. For example, I used the Primal Kitchen Tomato Basil sauce the other week and made different meals with the same sauce. I made English muffin pizzas, wrap pizzas, and chickpea pasta all within the same four days. This helps differentiate your meals each night while also reducing wasting food.
Only cook with what you need
You don't actually need to cook a whole box of pasta or mac n cheese at once if you don't want too. I usually only cook partial of the boxes, so I'm not obligated to have the rest of the meal tomorrow or toss half the box away. I just suggest sealing the rest of the package in a ziplock or some other container that you may have. There's also nothing wrong with purchasing microwavable Mac n' cheee, rice or pasta for convenience and portions!
Meal Prep with Healthier fast-food options
I’m a huge Starbucks lover, and currently eat it daily and had a whole segment called “meal prepping with Starbucks" during my Disney College Program. It brought me happiness and helped keep me nourished! There’s so many healthier options at every fast food location that you can find to incorporate into your day. Some of my go-to’s are the Egg Bites and Spinach Feta Wrap from Starbucks, Avocado Toast from Dunkin’, and Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap from Chick-Fil-A! There's no reason to shame anyone for eating out and there’s also time to treat yourself to the maybe not healthiest option at these places, but one that is healthiest for your soul. All foods provide nutrition and something is better than nothing no matter what. I also currently work at Starbucks meaning I almost have something from there every work shift.. and I never get sick of the food tbh.
Use Frozen and Canned foods
We love a good freezer. I love to keep staple frozen veggies, protein sources, and snacks for those low on grocery moments because you don't want to over buy for one. I also always keep canned food sources on-hand for convenience, single serving options, and for the lengthy expiration they have. Don't shy away from frozen meals either. There's some really great options on the market now available for purchase. Trader Joe's has some of the best frozen meal options in my personal opinion and some of the cheapest!
Guacamole/Avocado Spreads instead of Avocados
I learned early-on in my college program that it made more sense for me to purchase guacamole or avocado singles compared to actual avocados. You can take them with you on the go, they have a longer life in your fridge and the convenience will motivate you to actually use them in your meals. It also limits the debate of figuring out if your avocado is actually ripe enough. Sometimes I even purchase the avocado spreads from Starbucks and bring them home for convenience later-on in my day/week. You can use avocado spread for so many recipes and fun meal concepts that it's one of my must-have grocery items.
Buy Foods You Love
Eat what you like. Buy what you love. Focus on what you can add-in versus what you are taking out of your diet. Two of my personal staples are my protein pancake mixes and smoothies. I focus on how I can add different nutrients into them for nutrition rather than always switching up my meals. Don't force yourself to eat things you don't want!
My Go-To Foods for reducing Food Waste
The cheapest fruit on the market, the easiest to bake with, and space saving in the freezer for smoothie blends. When you catch a banana going bad I suggest making some banana bread, banana pancakes, banana muffins etc., or freezing them for some of the best smoothies you’ll ever make.
I love smoothies and I genuinely have a smoothie almost every day out of pure enjoyment. Not gonna lie sometimes it's even two and there's nothing wrong with that. Frozen fruit is a great way to get in some fiber, vitamins and antioxidants when fresh fruit seems to go bad too quickly for you or when it is out of season.
A high protein snack option that can be made into so many nutritious things! I love making nutrient dense yogurt bowls, putting yogurt into my smoothies, and adding them as toppings for pancakes/waffles! I even use it as a baking ingredient in some of my recipes for additional protein.
String Cheese is one of the greatest foods to exist in all honesty. A childhood snack turned into a young adult must-have. It’s a great source of protein, lasts a long time, and can be turned into so many foods. I used string cheese in all my quesadillas when I was completing my Disney College Program because I didn't want to waste half a block of expensive mozzarella cheese.
Applesauce is a great source of vitamin C and one that is often forgotten about outside of the fall season. I like to add applesauce in my protein pancakes or my oatmeal pancake recipes. Additionally, I love using applesauce with grilled chicken as a “dipping” side. If you are an athlete, it's an easy digestible, quick source of carbs and natural sugars that can be eaten pre-workout or during a workout without disrupting your digestive system too much. I usually buy the unsweetened cheapest version at the store, but in the fall I always get the unsweetened one from the orchid by my house!
Maybe my favorite food to ever exist. I eat canned pumpkin daily to the point where it's probably a miracle I’m not orange. I add it into my protein/oatmeal pancakes, make smoothies with it and even mix it into yogurt for my own protein fluff recipe or incorporate it into oatmeal. I seriously go through cans a week.. you can even ask my roommates. While applesauce provides Vitamin C, Pumpkin is a great source of fiber and Vitamin A! Buying food you love and want to eat will help prevent food from being tossed out.
Did you know that eggs are one food you can safely consume up to a month after the sell by date? I learned this in my food and nutrition class that I took in college. Eggs are a great source of protein and fats. I only really use them in baked goods, because I don’t love the taste of any other type of eggs. You can also purchase liquid egg whites and a 6 egg carton instead of a 12 egg carton. These are two hacks I always use.
Oats are one of the most versatile foods. You can grind/blend then into flour for all your baking goods, add them into smoothies, cook in pancakes/waffles and have the obvious bowl of oatmeal or even overnight oats. They never really go bad either and are a great pantry item to keep in your space.
Packaged Deli Meat
I like to buy the Applegate or the Trader Joe’s pre-packaged deli meat for a few reasons.. The ingredients are super clean and natural and until you open the package.. It lasts. This is super easy as someone who doesn’t always have time for grocery shopping. I also recommend finding some frozen protein sources you like or purchasing canned tuna/salmon. I like to grab some of the frozen burgers from Trader Joe’s for a cheaper option, but I also love the Applegate brand for all things.