blog » August 24, 2018 by Renee Herren

How to Reduce Household Food Waste Every Day With Alison Mountfort! by Renee Herren

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10 months ago
How to Reduce Household Food Waste Every Day With Alison Mountfort!

Did you know that 25 percent of food brought home ends up in the trash? That is the equivalent of four full grocery bags being thrown away! Holiday weekends and back-to-school lunches and dinners are big trigger points for culinary stress and waste. Alison Mountford, an expert of reducing food waste and founder of Ends and Stems, shared tips for a #nofoodwaste and ideas on how to reduce household food waste when it comes to back-to-school lunches and family meals! 

Q: We’re all juggling so much, why should I put reducing food waste on my list?

The U.S. has 44 million people (13 million children) who are food insecure. No one should go to bed or school hungry especially when we already grow enough food to feed the entire world twice over. Reducing food waste is the first step toward a better system for all.

An average family of four wastes an estimated $2000 per year. That is money going right in the trash! Teaching kids to respect food in hand teaches them to value hard work and be grateful, too. And that’s a lot of money! What else can you buy with $2,000? I’m going to Hawaii!

It’s easy to start, most activism isn't this simple! Go to your fruit bowl. Eat that banana you know is getting old. Make dinner from your fridge/pantry tonight. Make a grocery list before you shop next time. Do a food waste audit and make small changes.

Q: This weekend is Labor Day. Any #nofoodwaste tips for a BBQ?

  • Plan your menu in advance and make a concise grocery list before you head to the store. Adults only need 4 to 5 ounces of meat, kids 3 ounces. Make three to four different side dishes maximum to both keep the planning simple and to make sure you can eat it all up!
  • Dessert is one of the most wasted things at parties – only about 60 percent of guests will have a piece. Less is more!
  • Cook all side dishes and marinate mains for the grill one to two days before the party. A whole side of grilled salmon or marinated tri tip is less work than burgers. Plan on low-maintenance room-temperature side dishes like tomato salad or quinoa with basil pesto.
  • Put food out in small portions, keeping the back up inside refrigerated. Let the bowls run low/empty then refill if your guests are still hungry. This way, everyone gets as much as they want to eat but your leftovers aren’t spoiled outside.

Q: My kids are headed back to school and its hectic, how can I simplify dinnertime?

  • Meal plan! Get a weekly calendar, mark who’s home each night, and decide on meals in advance. Make it realistic – 15-minute dinners on busy nights, cook two batches to reheat on even busier nights, have an Instant Pot dish ready for hands off nights.
  • Meal prep! Can you cook two dinners or casserole prep over the weekend? Chop veggies and store them, blend multi use sauces like turmeric-tahini, teriyaki or pesto in advance. Braise meatballs or a pork shoulder when you have time for a major weekday boost.
  • Got a teen in the house? Being a chef is cool now, leverage that. I met a dad (role model) who assigned his 15-year-old to be wholly responsible for dinner one night per week. Dad buys groceries. It’s that or cleaning the toilet, kid!
  • Try to eat at the same time every night. I know it’s hard, but when it’s a family commitment and the time is locked in, you’ll be amazed how much stress from planning dissipates.

Q: My elementary age kids need to pack their lunch every day. UGH! Help!

  • Get their buy in and repeat. Monthly, work with your kids to decide on a lunch rotation. This gives them choice and agency, but you can guide it for healthy picks. Each day of the week for the month, they’ll eat the EXACT same thing.
  • Help two or more kids work together and make their own lunches. One can make the sandwiches while the other chops carrot sticks OR one makes the entire thing and they switch off days.
  • Prep snacks and dips on Sunday or a night when you have extra time. Food can be packaged and cooked seven days in advance and remain safe to eat with little deterioration.
  • Leftover lovers! Pack up the leftovers from tonight’s dinner into lunch boxes for tomorrow. Bonus points for reducing food waste.

Q: What can I do to reduce my household food waste?

  • Meal plan. Something simple like: Monday, meatless; Tuesday, tacos; Wednesday, chicken; Thursday, casserole; Friday, homemade pizza. Set an old school schedule and your brain won’t have to work so hard.
  • Buy less and grocery shop from a list. Impulse buys at the grocery store often go to waste. Know what you need before you leave the house, check your fridge and pantry!
  • Did I mention that Ends+Stems is a meal-planning service? Shameless plug! Sign up for my custom weekly meal plans and let me tell you what to cook!
  • Do a waste audit. Put a notepad by the trash can for one week. Write down what you toss and why. Use that to implement changes like: buy fewer avocados, make banana bread, freeze berries, cook smaller portions, store herbs properly.

Q: I’m overwhelmed at the grocery store. Can you give me some low-waste shopping tips?

  • Make a list before you leave the house. Check it against your fridge. The less you buy, the more money still in your pocket AND the shorter your overall shopping time.
  • Can you buy anything online? I’m in a city and I use Instacart for larger items and things that don’t need a special touch like olive oil, grains, cereal, pretzels, milk, etc. Save your in-person shopping for produce and meat.
  • Write your list out by department. If you’re in the produce aisle, it’s much better to see all fresh veggies in a row together rather than scattered throughout. It’s easier to edit your list in peace at home than do that work while you’re standing in the store.
  • Plan to eat ingredients in more than one way. Broccoli florets are great steamed on Mon, then use the stems in a stir fry Wednesday. Chicken on the grill for Tuesday, then shredded over lettuce Friday. The fewer items you buy, the faster and more efficient your trip.
  • Know your brand preferences and stick to them. Don’t make this decision on repeat in the store. Pick a few items to tackle each week. Once you choose the brand that meet your needs, stick to them. Stores are giant marketing machines and you have to fight back.

Q: OK, I’m sold on wanting to reduce my food waste but I’d still like more help. What can I do?

I’m hosting the #GreatFoodWasteChallenge in 2018, and we’re taking signups now. It will be community supported, with prizes, contests, experts and more. Join us! Get your family, kids, spouse and friends signed up for the #TheGreatFoodWasteChallenge, too! We’re building a community to help and support each other. When your people are on the same page it’s easier! Remember to start small and that it’s not a zero-sum game. Even a little improvement is worth celebrating!

Join me at EndsAndStems.com, follow @endsandstems, and on Instagram and Facebook. And be sure to read my 30Seconds tips! I have a free mailing list with recipes, tips and meal-planning advice!

Renee Herren
I can't wait to chat with Alison! She has such great ideas!
Chef Gigi Gaggero
Me too- she is super informative, and so full of knowledge!
Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds
So excited for this chat! Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Alison Mountford !
Jamie-May King
Can't wait to chat tonight
Toni B
Sounds like a great topic! See you in a few..........

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