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The single person's zero waste guide to sustainable eating

BY Susan Marque

16th Aug 2023 Food Heroes

The single person's zero waste guide to sustainable eating

Fighting food waste is a daily struggle for single people, with costly consequences for budgets and the planet. Here's how to save food if you cook for yourself

One thing the planet could use less of is waste. Food waste in particular. If it goes into the landfill, it breaks down and creates methane gas, which then contributes to climate change. Nobody wants any more melting ice caps or extreme heatwaves.

While it might not seem like making a change in your own fridge will do much, each act towards making things right does add up.

"If food goes into the landfill, it breaks down and creates methane gas, which then contributes to climate change"

I often hear from singles, couples, or anyone who cooks for one or two, that they would rather go out to eat. When they buy food to cook, it often spoils before they use it all, or they simply toss out leftovers due to boredom.

Here are a few tips on how to use up produce and eat well with less waste.

1. Don’t make a whole recipe

Woman cooking two portions of salmonReduce food waste by adapting your recipes for smaller portions

If you don’t love leftovers and cook for yourself or one other, look for recipes that only make one or two portions at a time.

There are some moments when you need to make the entire batch of something, but often it’s easy to at least cut the portions of each ingredient in half, or even less.

2. Use your freezer

If I make a whole pan of lemon bars or biscuits, for example, I’ll eat one or two the day I make them and freeze the rest. Then I can take one out anytime I’m in the mood.

I also like to freeze cookie dough to make a freshly baked cookie or two easily. I admit, the cookie dough is nice to have in there as an uncooked treat too.

"I also like to freeze cookie dough to make a freshly baked cookie or two easily"

Another great way the freezer comes in handy is to have some items, like frozen roasted corn kernels or frozen kale, that are easy to store for many months. You’ll find them in your local shop ready to go.

Imagine that you come home hungry and that’s all you have. You can toss some of each into a pan with a protein, add a little seasoning or sauce, and you have a super quick meal.

3. Learn one new recipe a week

No matter if you are a seasoned chef or only know how to make ramen noodles, everyone can benefit from creating one new recipe a week.

It gets you out of food ruts and gives you 52 new recipes a year that you know how to make. Building your repertoire gives you confidence and you’ll think of fun options more easily.

4. Get creative

Vegetable stir fry with rice and tofuCooked rice can be saved and portioned out for multiple dishes, including vegetable stir fries

Here’s where the bulk of my advice is. Creativity is key to using up produce and other ingredients. If you make a tofu quiche recipe, for example, it’s easier to make the entire recipe since pie plates are pretty standard and so are most brands of organic tofu.

My advice is to make it crustless, so that the first night you have it warm with sides. The next day, you cut up a slice and toss it into a salad; the third day, put it into a sandwich with mayo, mustard, and pickles; and the fourth day, it can be rolled up with rice and other seasonings into a sushi type roll.

One crustless quiche easily becomes four different meals.

The same principle applies to other foods. Cook up one cup of brown rice in two cups of water, and you can have it with cinnamon, honey, and your favourite type of milk for breakfast. Then have it as a side with a salad or rolled up into a sushi roll for lunch.

For dinner, add it to stir-fried veggies with ginger and soy sauce, as a fried rice or use whatever vegetables you have on hand with a broth, to make a risotto.

5. Don’t try to be perfect

Vegetable brothUse up vegetable scraps in a broth, which can be added to soups and risottos

When I talk about getting creative, many people get tripped up when a recipe calls for leeks and they only have a brown onion, or a recipe calls for one type of squash and they have another. Many recipes are quite good with similar produce.

While you do need specific ingredients and measurements for certain things, there are far more situations where you can be creative with what you have on hand and make use of every bit of those greens, garlic, etc.

Recipes are just a guide. Often veggie swaps create something even better than the original. That cream of mushroom dish you love might get a revamp as a cream of brocolli—or use up several different vegetables all together.

"Recipes are just a guide. Often veggie swaps create something even better than the original"

Another perfectly imperfect way to use up scraps, such as ends of onions, carrots, celery, broccoli, or corn cobs, is to turn them into broth.

Many of the bits you might be planning to compost can be simmered together for at least 20 minutes. You can create a rich vegetable broth to use in soups, stews, risottos, sauces, and more.

If you have too much of any one item, and don’t want the flavour to take over, remember the freezer.

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