This is my tale of how I decided to waste fewer veggies in our home.
For years, I bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t get to my fresh veggies before they spoiled. This was disappointing to me not only because I was wasting food, but because it was not cheap in the first place. The pain of wasted food becomes much acuter once you enter into adulthood and have to start paying for your own. (Updated for 2023: with the price of groceries now, the pain is much worse!)
Part of the problem, admittedly, was that I didn’t plan my meals. I didn’t have a strategy for how to incorporate my produce into my daily eating.
Another part was that they just don’t last that long in the first place.
Thirdly, I relegated them to the crisper drawer at the bottom of the fridge. They were bought, deposited and promptly forgotten.
This was a three-point formula of inevitable waste.
Here is an example of what not to do for wasting fewer veggies:
Messy crisper = forgotten veggiesI am pleased to report that my discontent at the status quo chipped away at me persistently enough to activate my search for a solution.
Waste fewer veggies: how it clicked
It all came together for me when I heard a podcast that suggested that putting veggies in glass or plastic bins not only extended their life but also, placing them on the high shelves of the fridge keeps them top of mind. If they are top of mind, they are less likely to get lost in the mess of the crisper drawer until they are brown and mushy.
I eased into it by starting with cilantro — the one that seems to go downhill the quickest. Placing it in a glass bin remarkably extended its shelf life. That made me extremely happy because wilted cilantro is a real shame.
Gradually I eased into doing other veggies too. I haven’t transferred ALL of them to the top, but it is getting mighty close.
Overcoming the challenges
I’ll be the first to admit that reorganizing was difficult.
First of all, using the bin system meant washing the veggies before putting them in containers. That created a wrinkle in my “system” of cramming in a trip to the grocery store either late at night or with barely enough time to put things away before I had to head out the door for something else. In either case, I was too tired or too rushed to wash and dry the veggies in the same block of time in which I unloaded my groceries.
So they were often doomed to obscurity in the crisper drawer.
A mental breakthrough that helped waste fewer veggies
To minimize problem one above, I made a determination to start planning meals a week or two out. That way I had a much better idea of what I would need, and could buy accordingly to minimize waste.
Secondly, I had a realization. If I didn’t have time to wash and dry the veggies for storage immediately after shopping, I could always do it later. For some reason, I had a mental block that suggested I had to do it all at once or not at all. Giving myself the permission to do it later, even sometimes the next day, was a breakthrough for me, small though it might seem.
Sometimes examining the voices in your head that tell you why you “can’t” do something need to be critically analyzed to see if they are actually true.
I took this breakthrough and applied it.
My fridge won’t ever be quite like Panda Express, obviously. But it is satisfying to open it and see this:
That sure is pretty if you ask me.
Even better, however, is our veggie waste has plummeted dramatically, and our actual consumption of them has increased. Win-win-win. Not to mention that this method does indeed keep them fresh longer. At least double the lifetime of hanging out in the bag in a drawer.
One more thing
If that wasn’t enough, the psychology of it, that I learned from the podcast, is that your eyes (or your kid’s eyes) are most likely to gravitate toward whatever is on the top shelf. So if less healthy snacks get demoted lower, the theory goes, they won’t get eaten as much. And if you’re hardcore enough to pre-chop all your produce, they are even easier to grab for a healthy snack. If you’re into that.
Since this habit has made a positive impact on how we rock the vegetables in our house and is saving us money, I wanted to pass it along to you. This has helped us waste fewer veggies and I’m glad.
Do you do something similar or aspire to? Your thoughts are welcome, as always.