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Sustainability and The Home Kitchen

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

In 2013 I had the opportunity to speak at Interior Design's Futuregreen Hospitality Forum, and today my commitment to creating a local and sustainable menu is just as strong as it was then. I regularly source products from family owned regional farms and dairies. And while most people often think sustainability only means buying more expensive products from small farms, it also means decreasing food waste. Here are a few ideas you can use in your own home to save money and improve your personal sustainability effort:

Menu Planning

Not only for professional kitchens, menu planning is essential to minimizing your food waste (and cost!). Here are a few easy steps you can take before your next trip to the grocery store or farmer's market:

  • Inventory your refrigerator! I cannot stress the importance of this vital step enough. How many times have you gotten home only to realize you did have scallions and celery tucked away in the bottom drawer? Make a note of your perishables including what has to be cooked and eaten immediately, what you can incorporate into your meal prep for the following week, and what you actually need to purchase today.

  • Weekly menu and meal prep. Write a grocery list of your proteins, dairy or dairy alternatives, and produce and then commit to meal prepping for the week. Usually, my wife and I will prepare a protein and a whole grain, and then clean and chop some salad greens and vegetables. We choose to pack them separately (see storage below) and assemble them throughout the week. She packs them in a container for lunch the night before, while I tend to throw everything together in bowl for a quick dinner salad after a long day on my feet.

  • Shopping day meal prep. I know for myself it can be very tempting to come home from a shopping trip and use what I just bought to make dinner. A trick I use is take the food I identified in my inventory as having to be cooked immediately, and start prepping it before I head to the store. That way when I get home and am tired and hungry, I can quickly throw dinner on the stove and open up some precious real estate in my fridge.

Proper Storage

Temperature, seal, and cross contamination should all be considered when choosing how to store your food. First off, make sure your refrigerator is at or below 40 degrees, and invest in a stainless steel thermometer (about $3) if you aren't sure. For storage, we choose to keep all prepped ingredients in separate containers mise en place style. This allows for versatility throughout the week, and decreases waste in case one ingredient begins to spoil before the others. We use glass containers with a clasping lid or stand up silicone pouches like these (not a paid product placement, we just really like them!), or we will reuse old to-go containers for a few weeks after a rare night of takeout.

Appropriate Portion Sizes

As a chef, I admit I have a hard time buying and cooking for 2 people. It make take some trial and error, or even a few quarts of soup stored in the freezer for a rainy day, but in the end paying attention to how much you buy vs. how much you eat is well worth it. If you are always throwing away the last of the arugula, buy a smaller container or commit to incorporating it into more of your snacks and meals - I'm thinking in omelettes and on sandwiches off the top of my head. Some items cannot be purchased at the right portion size (cilantro, anyone?). So when you need to buy something that you know you will be left with an excess of, use menu planning above and utilzation of food scraps below to make sure every dollar you spend on food is actually used to feed your family.

Utilization of Leftovers and Food Scraps

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how to clean out your refrigerator to create easy sauces and stocks that can be frozen and kept on hand for future use!

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