Limiting Waste While Grocery Shopping is ESSENTIAL Right Now

You can’t have missed the great toilet paper shortage of 2020.

Well, that’s not all we seem to be “short” on. Rice, eggs, milk, bread, canned soup, beans, pasta, peanut butter – they’re flying off the shelves as people all over the country anticipate shopping like our pioneer ancestors. 

Although we’re assured that there’s plenty of food available and grocery stores will continue to be restocked, empty shelves and rising prices have many of us thinking about revising our shopping strategies.

Sort of like when our pioneer ancestors would make a monthly trip down to the closest town and load up on essentials.

But you see, even before the crisis, we were incredibly wasteful shoppers. 

Even though 23.5 million Americans lack access to fresh produce, we waste 43% of the food that we buy (much of which is still edible). As a nation, we spent about $144 billion on food every year that we don’t end up eating.

That means there’s a disconnect somewhere – we’re either buying too much that we don’t need, not buying the right things, or wasting food that we think has gone bad when it hasn’t. 

And during this global crisis, it’s doubly important that we’re careful and deliberate in the ways that we shop for our families.

Let’s go over some simple tips to help you not only reduce waste, but shop effectively.

Buy Foundational Foods in Bulk 

Most dietary guidelines suggest that carbohydrates make up 45-65% of your daily caloric intake. 

And when we’re planning dinner, we often think in terms of: meat, vegetable, and starch/carb/base.

To limit packaging waste, save you money, reduce your trips to the grocery store, and focus on foods that won’t go bad, make sure that you’re buying these items in bulk:

  • Pasta (whole wheat, lentil, vegetable, black bean, quinoa, brown rice are all great options – try to avoid enriched flour pasta.)
  • Brown rice/basmati rice
  • Couscous
  • Frozen riced cauliflower
  • Potatoes (stored in a basket for better ventilation, in a cool, dark, humid place)
  • Steel-cut oats
  • Popcorn

Additionally, consider buying frozen veggies in bulk instead of making weekly trips to the grocery store for fresh produce. 

Not only do you limit your own household’s waste when you don’t get to eat that broccoli in a timely fashion…

But in a lot of cases, frozen veggies are healthier than the produce you see in the aisles. They are usually frozen at the peak of their ripeness, and don’t travel as far to reach your grocery store.

Load Up on Long-Lasting Items

Avocados tend to go bad very quickly. Spaghetti squash, on the other hand, can last two weeks or even longer, if you don’t mind blemishes.

In fact, here are 10 fruits and vegetables with an extra-long shelf-life to focus on:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Winter squashes
  • Apples
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Lemons
  • Celery

And 10 fruits and vegetables that ripen and go bad quickly:

  • Berries
  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsley
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Peaches

Avoid Buying Frozen Meals

Although it can be tempting to stock up on frozen meals, there are two main reasons you shouldn’t…

  1. They take up way too much space in the freezer and during this time, you’ll likely want to use most of your freezer space to store frozen veggies, frozen fruit, bread, and frozen meat, like:
    1. Tilapia filets
    2. Salmon filets
    3. Ground beef/chicken/turkey
    4. Chuck roasts
    5. Chicken breasts
    6. Pork shoulders 
  2. Frozen meals are typically much higher in sodium, trans fats, sugars, and preservatives. It’s critical that you maintain peak health so that your immune system is as equipped as it can be – especially now. That’s not to say you shouldn’t cook your own meals and freeze them… Just try not to stock up on pre-cooked meals at the grocery store.

Keep in mind how many family members you have to feed. 

When you grocery shop, try to shop for food for no more than two weeks at a time, so that you don’t restrict others’ access to the supply chain.

And remember… since we’re doing so much extra shopping, come to the store prepared with cloth totes and mesh bags, instead of using the store’s supply of plastic bags.

Being conscious and purposeful in your grocery choices works out better for your family, for the supply chain, for your wallet, and for the environment.

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Dr. Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling author and film maker. Taoist Abbot and Qigong master. Husband and dad. I’m here to help you find your way and be healthy and happy. I don’t want to be your guru…just someone who’ll help point the way. If you’re looking for a real person who’s done the work, I’m your guy. I can light the path and walk along it with you but can’t walk for you.