5 Ways to Feed Your Kids and Prevent Food Waste
If you’re reading this, chances are you have the fine job of feeding the children in your life. Did you know that parents offer roughly 20,000 meals to their child between the ages of 6 months to 18 years? Yes, you read that right - 20,000! And that doesn’t include those endless snack requests!
There are so many joys (and admittedly a lot of pains) that come with feeding our children and including them in the process. Coupled with all that food preparation and eating, is all too often, unnecessary and preventable food waste that has a large impact on our climate. We’ve all been there - from the baby who has mastered food throwing, to your toddler who has decided to become a finicky eater, and let’s not forget our complex teenagers with the loveliest comments about food. But did you know that 63% of all the food wasted in Canadian households is avoidable?
While it’s unlikely that you will be able to fully use 100% of the food purchased for your family, there are many strategies you can employ to start to minimize your food waste at home! Earlier this year, I was fortunate to become a Food Waste Champion with my friends at Love Food Hate Waste Canada. Through that partnership, I have been combining education on food waste with my experience as both a Registered Dietitian and fellow parent to share my top tips to help others prevent food waste at home.
Parents take note! Here are 5 money-saving, earth-saving, and sanity-saving tips to be the EcoParent you’ve always wanted to be!
Plan Out Your Weekly Meals
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with meal planning but truth be told, planning family meals can significantly reduce food waste because you’re more likely to be buying (and using) only what you need. To top that, you can absolutely plan meals in a way that includes food for your baby, toddler, preschooler, or teenager so that you’re not having to make separate dishes for all of the members in your family. Besides, who has time for that!?
By the time your child is school-aged, you can include them in meal planning. Begin by simply asking them, “What is one meal you’d love to have next week?”. This is a great way to honor our children’s preferences, teach life skills, and allow for opportunities to make mistakes and learn from them.
Meal planning options are plentiful. Families can create a system that works for their unique household. My top tip is to ensure that you’ve got a vision for what you hope to consume food-wise for the days or week ahead. Having a “rough” strategy keeps you accountable to the perishable items you have at home and allows you an opportunity to love food, hate waste.
Start today with this helpful meal planner!
Freeze and Store!
The freezer is one of your best friends in the fight against food waste. You want to be mindful of typical storage times to maintain food quality, but freezing will keep food safe almost indefinitely! Check out this A-Z storage guide by Love Food Hate Waste Canada for how to store nearly everything to keep it fresher, longer.
When making pureed food for your baby, you can freeze them in an ice cube tray or little silicone pods. If you have ice cube trays on hand, no need to buy something special, but silicone makes it easier to pop the frozen pods out and they also double up as popsicle molds and baby muffin tins!
If you’re long past those baby days, keep in mind that many foods, including staple items, can be frozen without losing too much on the quality end. This includes commonly wasted foods like:
- Most fruit, such as banana and apples
- Cooked rice
- Zucchini (hot tip: shred it and add to smoothies for creamy magic)
Ready, Set, Batch Cook!
One of my favorite ways to spoil my future-self is to batch cook. Batch cooking is intentionally preparing more food than you anticipate needing with the goal of freezing the rest for later. This is where you can put your new meal planning and freezer storage skills to good use!
Apart from helping you reduce waste, you’re also well equipped with an inventory of partial or full meals which means you’ll have a lot less to worry about on busy weeknights.
Some meals we love to batch prep and freeze include:
- Egg muffins
- Shepherd’s pie
- Taco filling
- Daal and other soups
Lean In To Transformers
No, not the toys! Instead, consider stocking up on star ingredients that can easily be transformed for multiple recipes.
- Got ground beef? Use it for lettuce wraps, burgers, and in marinara sauce.
- Got left over chickpeas? Make Chickpea-Toona, add them into a pasta salad, or whip up some homemade hummus.
- Got a whole roasted chicken? Enjoy some chicken wraps, add to a soup, or spice it up for chicken tacos!
The point is to stretch these ingredients and make use of them in new ways. This is also a great skill building technique to teach your child that many ingredients can be repurposed.
Make Time for Family Meals
Research has shown us time and time again that family meals are so important for our growing children, not just from the perspective of nutrition but also developing fine motor skills, and furthering language skills. We also know that eating family meals together encourages children to eat more of what is served and tends to meet their needs for nutrients like calcium and iron.
In addition to sitting down together, consider serving meals family style whenever possible. Family style dining is when you present all of the components that make up your meal on the dinner table. This means, your starch, veggies, protein, beverage - and possibly a dessert - are displayed for your child to choose from. Your child chooses what goes on their plate, and you are the assistant helping plate the food.
Like all things, feeding your family and making small changes that can have a big impact over time isn’t always easy. There are so many more tips and resources created by the team at Love Food Hate Waste Canada to help reduce food waste in your home and practice being the eco-conscious parent you want to be. Enjoy more relaxed and enjoyable mealtimes all while reducing your food waste one plate at a time!
Love Food Hate Waste Canada is here to help us all make the most of the food we love. Through working with businesses, governments, and community groups across Canada, we hope to inspire and empower people to make their food go further and waste less. Find out more about why food waste matters, and the organizations working with us to address household food waste in Canada here: Love Food Hate Waste.