Snarling 12wbt: slashing waste, plastics and stress levels


One of the big perks of meal planning over the last week is that is has brought into sharp focus an issue that has plagued our household (and driven my waste-conscious husband crazy).

We have a massive problem with plastics and wasted food. Our shopping routine before now went a little something like “loiter the aisles of coles buying random ingredients with no plan or list”. This led to loads of annoying outcomes, such as:

  • Wasted food. Every week I would throw out at least a quarter of the food we’d bought because of poor planning and over buying – meaning that produce would go off before I had a change to use it. David is very conscious of waste – he grew up in a home where you just did NOT throw away food (and my grandma would be pretty upset with me for the amount of wastage that has gone on, having grown up in the depression). Over time this has become a source of real angst for me but poor organisation, tiredness, and not stopping to think about what will actually be cooked and when has meant the problem has gone on and on.
  • Use of plastic bags. A lack of organisation of everything to do with eating in our house has meant that I wind up doing almost all of the cooking because I just refused to plan. The lack of a plan meant that I was magicking up meals out of my head largely on a whim every few days and not cooking to recipes. This meant that my husband, who has Aspergers and *needs* order and clear direction to function happily, could not really contribute to cooking or shopping because everything was locked in my head. The result? Shopping was incredibly stressful, because he didn’t know what we were buying or why. It was an inexplicable mystery (to me and him!). We often wound up in a fight. My therapist suggested we just shop online, and for the longest time that has seemed like a good solution. But the cost to the environment of letting someone else shop and deliver to us, has meant PILES and PILES of plastic bags, because we were unable to use our reusable ones. We also use zip locks to store food in our fridge. I don’t really like rigid stacking systems because we have a small fridge and a combo of containers and bags makes fridge tetris heaps easier. Also, I’ve been using zip locks each day to take my lunch to work because spillage and mess is the worst.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve made an appointment with myself to do my grocery shopping in person and use my cloth bags. You have NO idea how good it felt to not bring home a swag of plastic again.

And a small miracle happened this week. We did the shopping and we didn’t have one single argument. It was actually fun. We smiled and cracked jokes. Because there was a shopping list, we divided it up beforehand and went our separate ways with purpose, and before I could blink it was over and for the first time in a long time we had emerged from Coles without marital disturbance. David noted that shopping on a Saturday evening was a great time of day to go, because it was very quiet and few people were there.

David has said he’s willing to start taking his lunch to work as well, to eat a bit healthier and more sustainably financially. Like me, he hates mess and spillage. So I’ve bitten the bullet and ordered us some goodies from Planet Wise Inc to store our lunches and food – a US company that manufactures reusable wet bags and storage bags. I’ve got a wet bag in chevron gray and yellow coming – whee zigzags! – and David has a houndstooth wet bag winging it’s way to him. I also ordered six of the gallon size reusable clear zippered bags for storing produce in our fridge, which we will combine with reusable containers. Everything is washable and the lip of the bag pops in, so it stays open and dries well in the air.

As for food wastage and the labour of cooking? Because we’re now cooking to a plan, and we know how much food to buy, there’s way less wasted food getting chucked in the bin. I hope we can become even smarter with that over time – freezing what we don’t use. I’m keen to keep thinking and refining systems so we’re wasting as little food as possible. When so many folks don’t have enough food to eat, chucking food away is pretty gross. And a waste of the money we work hard to earn.

Best of all, the recipes and plans mean I can just give David my 12wbt password and it opens up like a treasure trove for him – so now he can contribute to meal preparation with the structure he needs to feel happy and secure. I can see now why what we were doing before would have felt like a huge stressful question mark, and it created SO much conflict between us. Being able to practice his cooking skills with lots of time to think about it in advance, with a format to fall back on, means I can do less cooking which takes heaps of stress out of my week too, and addresses the massive gender disparity that often goes with domestic labour around food preparation.

So, thanks to the meal planning tools of the 12wbt, lots of good things are happening to reduce stress, reduce waste, and it has really gotten us thinking about our abuse of non-reusable plastics and packaging. We’ve gone from a mounting pile of plastic bags to cloth that doesn’t cost the earth. Hooray! I hope we can keep it up, and keep enjoying the flow on benefits of ordered food systems to our relationship. I can already feel the difference!


About laketothelight

Feminist. Tea drinker. Cat snuggler. Canadian marryer. Queer. Fat. Lover of movement. View all posts by laketothelight

2 responses to “Snarling 12wbt: slashing waste, plastics and stress levels

  • Diana

    A few comments on your post. Firstly, the Tupperware fridgesmarts will keep your produce fresh a lot longer than bags because different produce has different breathing needs. I appreciate what you mean about the smaller fridge and the tetris effect. My director stores all her little jars, etc. in the bottom crisper of the fridge as her produce is in fridgesmarts. I have gone one step further and removed one crisper and replaced it with a fridgesmart of equivalent size. I keep apples, oranges, etc. in that one, just as i Used to in the crisper but they keep better this way. I am intrigued by your washable lunch bags. I think I have seen them before, probably in Tampa. Sounds great.

    David and cooking: When he was old enough to help with the cooking, we used to sit down on a Sunday night and decide who was cooking what during the week. Aside from the year that Caitlin was in Gr. 12 and cooked almost all the suppers when I was working, the times that David and I did that, worked so well. Much better than the years when I would straggle home late and nobody would have cooked anything or David would have just cooked for himself. (we used to have a policy of whoever came home first could cook the meal but it sort of disintegrated.)

    Actually when David was a preschooler, he helped me cook a lot. He liked knives.

    Sometimes I thought maybe i should be disturbed by the face that I let my little kid handle a knife, but he was good with it.

    As far as overbuying goes, I am still struggling with that. For years we had kids in the house, and everything that got bought disappeared with astonishing speed. Now I am trying really really hard to remember that even if something is on sale, and I used to always buy that food when it was on sale, that maybe we don’t need it, or won’t be home long enough to eat it or we already have some…..

    I tossed a nearly full tub of miracle whip ( a salad dressing something like mayo, but with some sugar and vinegar in it so it has a tang) as it had gone off, then I tossed an unopened jar of salsa because we couldn’t find a best buy date and It seemed to me it had been in our storage area for a really really long time. (eg. it is possible that some newer salsa got purchased and eaten instead of this one…) As you know, both B and I are bothered by having to do this, so I will be trying even harder to buy smaller, or not at all. As it is, I am trying to remember to write the purchase date on the canned and bottled foods I buy.

    Having grown up in a time where my grandparents were products of the depression, and my parents wasted nothing as well, I grew up being careful with food. My mother had had food poisoning when she was in nurse’s training (turkey stuffing at Christmas in the residence) so I have been very careful about how long food is stored for, etc. But I also grew up in a place very far from bigger towns and cities, so was used to having a huge deep freeze, a root cellar, a cold room downstairs where a lot of our food was stored. In our house here, we have two deep freezes and they are mostly full. We really don’t need that much food here. We live in a town, with a grocery store and several times a week are in the city where there are multiple stores. I prefer to do one or two big shops though, rather than stopping every week. It cuts down on the impulse buys. For instance, tonight I planned to stop and just buy onions and some fruit. But I had forgotten to eat my apple or take a break this afternoon so I was starving and also bought some cheese and a cheesy bun to eat on the way home. and some books for Charlie. Because you know, the supermarket had board books on for 33% off, just imbetween the bread and the dairy….gack!

    I have been making an effort this winter to NOT buy food, to try and use up what we have here, instead of buying new food and storing it on top of the old food (in the freezer). But then we do still go to Costco…..but not as often, I hope. I also get a “local and fresh” food delivery once a month or so, which is like having the farmer’s market come to you–you order online and it is delivered on a certain day. The food is amazing but not cheap. There is a town about an hour away where someone has started making homemade Italian pasta. I had some last night, from my most recent delivery (mushroom ricotta ravioli) and it was one of the best things I have ever eaten. Better than most restaurants I would say. So I guess if I look at it as being like eating out, like treat food, then it is cheaper than going out. I love eating out but it has gotten so expensive and if you don’t have a good meal, it is very very disappointing.

    I am so glad that you two are working out a more evenly divided system. David is just as capable of making a meal after work as anyone. If he has a plan to follow, I am sure that would be right up his alley. I know that the days that I know what i am going to make are much better than days I don’t. As they say, fail to plan, plan to fail. I know if I don’t have a plan, it will be frozen pizza or some kind of prepared frozen stuff from Costco. I love that too, but so much fat and salt! Just so unhealthy. d

    I am learning better how to cook for two. I basically only cook two or three times a week. I made taco meat one day, and that did us for taco salad for supper and for two lunches for me and actually today I had leftover taco meat with whole wheat pasta and home canned tomatoes for my lunch. I have been having the pasta with the tomatoes and cheese for some of the days’ lunches. I also made a big pot of rice one day, as a side dish with some meat that we ate that day. Now i Have had fried rice for supper and will probably have another kind of rice dish yet. Maybe the last of the taco meat with beans and rice. I try to make my leftovers dovetail into each other, but sometimes it is a case of eating the same meal for four meals or so if B is not home or not interested in what I have cooked. I have also been making lots of different soups lately. I love soup.

    Food. I could go on and on, but anyway, I won’t. Enjoyed this post!

    • laketothelight

      Loved your comment Diana! I find using the tupperware you sent combined with ziplocks really effective in our small fridge. We use some of the tupperware in the cupboards too though as it makes finding things and pulling out a whole bunch of stuff at once SO much easier.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: