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!