We’ve heard it all before — the lifestyles we lead, the products we buy and the foods we eat can have detrimental effects on the planet. From the amount of meat we consume to the fruits we buy out of season, our collective food-purchasing decisions and modern agricultural systems are one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. The scale of the global sustainability crisis is so large that it can be daunting to eco-conscious individuals. What can only one person or family do that will make a difference?
The answer is simple: meal planning! Meal planning may seem like an odd defensive tactic to adopt in the fight for our planet, but planning the purchasing and preparation of food can have a major impact on a household’s waste, water and carbon outputs. In honor of National Nutrition Month, here are four ways to shift to a healthy meal-planning habit that can make you a more sustainable eater.
1. Planning meals means fewer last-minute decisions. Reducing overall over-consumption has been named one key factor in the shift to dietary patterns that will sustain the planet while continuing to feed the world’s growing population. Planning meals in advance, shopping with a list and preparing pre-planned meals can reduce over-purchasing, over-spending and over-eating.
2. Meal planning means less wasted food. How many times have you found a sad, moldy bag of vegetables or fruit in the back of the refrigerator and thought, “How did I forget about this?” Meal planning decreases food waste by eliminating the buying of foods that are not planned as part of a meal and will only be lost and forgotten in dark crisper drawers.
3. Meal planning allows for more creativity — meaning more plant-based meals! Devoting one day or even just one meal a week without animal products can have a profound collective impact on the environment. Don’t know where to start? Planning the week’s meals in advance will allow for more kitchen creativity than standing in front of the refrigerator on a Meatless Monday after a long day at work. Instead, have a family meal-planning brainstorm to search for or create one to two vegetarian meals for the week. Good for you and good for the environment!
4. Planning meals means zeroing in on local seasonal harvests. Shifting to sustainable, seasonal and local eating becomes easier with a little planning! Stock up on and freeze produce when it’s in season to enjoy all year-round and avoid the high off-season prices. Not only will you have the best tasting frozen berries in the winter, but your wallet will thank you for it!
Shifting to an intentional food-purchasing mindset is the first step to sustainable eating — and meal planning is the tool to ease this transition. Have fun planning new and creative meals with different seasonal ingredients and flavor combinations and pat yourself on the back for putting Mother Nature in the forefront of your food philosophy. Happy planning!