Want to be a more awesome vegan? Stop wasting food!  »

I confess: I am a chronic food waster. I go to the grocery store, the farmer’s market, the co-op with the best intentions. I plan out healthy, cost-effective meals, reuse my containers for bulk purchases, bring my own bags, and check out feeling smugly superior—I can’t help that: I am  vegan. It ends, though, when my week gets crazy and instead of produce, I eat ramen and/or cucumber maki. My kale sits neglected in the fridge, probably commiserating with the past-their-prime carrots that were so beautiful at the market 12 days ago. Every couple of weeks our fridge hits critical mass and I clean it out, berating myself for all the food I’ve wasted, vowing to be more careful next time.

Autumn, now that it’s finally come to the Bay Area, is a good time to take stock (and make stock—har!) and get back into good habits after those lazy crazy hazy days of summer. The temptation to eat ice cream three meals a day is fading—though the temptation to eat pumpkin cinnamon rolls three meals a day is growing—and it’s not as fun to sit outside and drink beer all day, now that it’s getting colder and grayer. Oh, outdoor beer, how I will miss you…but I digress. Autumn is a good time to get your shit together, so why not start by vowing to quit wasting so much food?

According to Francis Lam’s Salon article, Americans throw out one quarter of all the food we grow. Think about your grocery budget for the month, and then divide it by four. Chances are, unless you’re way better than me—in which case I don’t want to hear about it—that’s how much money you’re throwing in the garbage by chucking uneaten food. CRAZY, RIGHT? Lam also includes seven tips to help you stop wasting food. Some of them aren’t vegan-friendly—like the one about eggs where he tells you to use up all your about-to-go food by making frittata—but the concepts are all pretty easily veganizable—make vegan frittata. The list is hardly exhaustive, however, so I thought I’d give you a few of my tips, and then open the floor to you all for your best anti-food-wasting strategies.

  1. Stews and curries are your friend. I buy a lot of veggies with specific recipes in mind, and when my schedule changes and I’m no longer able to make what I’d planned, the veggies sit, neglected in my fridge. I end up with big loads of about-to-go vegetables that probably wouldn’t be that great on their own or in salads, and that’s why soups and stews, especially curries, are so awesome. You can add extra veggies to almost any soup, stew, or curry recipe, so pick your favorite and then just throw all your old veggies in there. You’ll be upping nutritional content and avoiding waste.
  2. Fruit crisps/crumbles are your friend. This is pretty much the same principle as the first tip. Got a bunch of fruit you need to use up in a hurry? Chop it up, add some thickener (flour, cornstarch) and some sugar, throw it in a pan with crisp topping (oats, sugar, cinnamon, Earth Balance), and bake it.
  3. Smoothies—I tend to use frozen fruit for my smoothies, but really, you can use just about any kind of fruit (I don’t recommend citrus, though). Throw some greens in there if you want to be super healthy.
  4. Get a good set of food storage containers. I’m cheap, and as a result, I still don’t always have enough containers to store my leftovers, which leads me to either chuck things because I don’t have anywhere to put them, or to store them improperly and chuck them later. If I was smart, I’d get my ass to Ikea, where you can get giant container sets for a few bucks (you can also get nicer, fancier ones for more $$$, but honestly, the plastic ones with the blue lids work fine).
  5. Get a good lunch set. Both my husband and I suck at taking leftovers to work (which then increases the chance that they’ll end up being chucked later). Largely, I think, because we’ve both resisted buying good lunch sets to take food to work with us. This is one of those things where if you spend $25 or $30, you can get a great, durable bento or tiffin or other kind of lunch container set. I tend to balk at the price (I’m cheap! I already said so!), but when you consider that it will pay for itself if it prevents you from buying as little as three or four lunches, that’s pretty reasonable. If you’re in the Bay Area, Rainbow Grocery has a nice selection, or you can find things online (check out To-Go Ware or this site).

That’s what I’ve got. What about you guys?

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