zero-waste home || meal planning + grocery shopping

I mentioned on Instagram that I would be talking about zero-waste soon and now the time has come!

We seriously started implementing zero-waste practices within our home probably eight months ago. I can’t remember how we first began, but I think it might have been when we decided to purchase bamboo toothbrushes after reading about how many plastic toothbrushes end up in landfills and in oceans. I suppose we were slowly, and perhaps subconsciously, already doing zero-waste practices, but that’s the time frame when we decided to purposely and intentionally choose to practice that habit.

It is an adventure that I am very eager to continue journeying because I think it would be awesome to one day say, “Our family creates minimal to zero waste each year.” Now I know that seems a bit lofty and unattainable, but I want to strive for that anyway to get as close as we possibly (and satisfactorily) can!

Embarking on the journey to zero-waste has been a natural progression from everything else we have chosen to cultivate within our lifestyle. Constantly educating ourselves on the ways in which we can impact people and nature, make a difference, and create change, this is just another area of our lives where we want to be more responsible and intentional.

The first area in our home that I want to talk about is meal planning and grocery shopping. This is an area that has evolved a lot over the last few years and I think we’re finally starting to get the hang of it! I hope that by sharing some things that we do to make this task a little more manageable, you’ll be able to use these tips and implement them in your own way.

Step One: Set a Day

Designating one day of the week for grocery shopping helps to create a routine for your week. Likewise, designate a day to meal plan for the following week. Now I know life happens, so doing these tasks the same day each week isn’t always going to work. And that’s okay. Be flexible. The point is to help establish a rhythm for yourself.

Our grocery day is on Wednesday. It used to be Thursday, but now that I have choir rehearsal Thursday evenings, we switched grocery day. Shopping on the weekend is a big no-no for us so we avoid it if we can. And yes, sometimes there is an additional trip to the store during the week for a few necessity or perishable items. My husband does most of the grocery shopping after work since it’s nearby, but if we have to stop at another store or two for other items, those errands are sometimes done on a day other than “grocery day.” In terms of meal planning, I like to do it the day before grocery shopping.

Step Two: Meal Planning

As much as I would like, actually taking the time to sit down and plan meals just doesn’t work. I blame the kids 🙂 Instead, I’m usually thinking of things as I go about my day, writing them down as they come to mind.

Two big practices that have helped me meal plan lately are 1) a dry erase board and 2) Trello.

We have a big dry erase board in our kitchen and it’s a very visual way to plot out our days, weeks, and month with events as well as meals. Only within the last month since becoming vegan have I planned out breakfasts and lunches. I used to just plan dinners, as breakfast was usually the same each day and lunch was a smorgasbord of whatever was in the fridge. But let me tell you, planning those other two meals was a game changer. Its so easy now to know what we are eating all day: we can all reference the board for the next day’s meals which allows us to work together to prep anything that might need to be done, and my husband doesn’t have to search for what to pack for lunch the next day.

Plotting things out on a dry erase board is good zero-waste practice. Likewise, instead of writing down grocery needs on a piece of paper and then taking it to the store, using the Trello app on my phone allows me to create a checklist for everything I need. While shopping, I can easily check off items as I add them to my cart. If you’ve never heard of or tried Trello, I really recommend it. It’s a fantastic way to organize your life!

Here is an example of our weekly meal plan. I will say this: sometimes I switch the meals during the week if one day I find myself too short on time to prep what I had planned or if I’m not in the mood to eat a specific meal that day. You don’t have to stick to the meal plan you create! Always give yourself flexibility especially since life can be unpredictable. We designate Tuesday nights as taco night and Friday nights as pizza night – just another way to make things a little easier for me. All meals are vegan and I have shared a couple with you in detail below.

Speaking of recipes, since becoming vegan, Minimalist Baker has been my go-to site for easy recipes. She never disappoints! The recipes below taken from Minimalist Baker are indicated by (MB). Please ask about any other recipes you may be interested in and I will be happy to provide them!

Recipe One: Chia seed pudding topped with homemade granola, coconut flakes, oats, and frozen blueberries

Overnight chia seed puddingrecipe (from Minimalist Baker) –

You will need:

  • 1 ½ cups almond milk. We used rice milk instead.
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds

  • ¼ cup cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder. We haven’t tried it this way yet.

  • 2-5 Tbsp of maple syrup if not blending (can sub 5-9 pitted dates if blending). I chose not to blend

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ½ tsp cinnamon (opt)

  • ½ tsp vanilla extract (opt). We have tried both ways and the vanilla does flavor it up!

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients except sweetener to a bowl and whisk vigorously. Add sweetener to taste.

  2. Let rest overnight in fridge or at least 3-5 hours.

  3. Serve chilled with desired toppings.

Homemade granola recipe:

You will need:

  • 4 cups rolled oats

  • 2 cups nuts

  • ½ cup dried fruit

  • 1 cup flaked coconut

  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted

  • ¼ cup maple syrup

  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 tbsp favorite spice

  • pinch of sea salt

*Recipe notes: I have made this granola numerous times with lots of variations. I like adding chia seeds for additional nutrients. If I don’t have oil on hand, I sub for ¼ cup of honey. Nut choices that we have used in the past: slivered almonds, walnuts, pistachios; dried fruit choices: raisins, dried cranberries. I have also added cocoa powder before. Feel free to get creative with nut/seed/fruit/spice combos!

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients together

  2. Bake granola at 350 on parchment-lined cookie sheet until golden brown (about 15 mins)

Recipe Two: Apple-Oat Pancakes topped with walnuts, coconut flakes, banana slices, and maple syrup

Apple Oat Pancakes recipe (from Forks Over Knives) –

You will need:

  • 1 small apple, chopped

  • 2 cups oat flour*

  • 5 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • ½ tsp cardamom

  • ¼ tsp sea salt

  • 1 cup plant milk

  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

  • 2 tsp vanilla

*Recipe notes: oat flour is made by pulsing oats in a food processor. 1 ¼ cup of oats equals 1 cup of oat flour. We have also substituted 100% white whole wheat flour in place of oat flour and the pancakes turned out just as well. We have also subbed frozen blueberries in place of apples. Another delicious topping is warm blueberry compote.

Directions:

  1. Combine oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt in a bowl and mix well

  2. Add plant milk, vanilla, apple cider vinegar, and 1 cup water and whisk until well combined

  3. Add apple and stir to incorporate. Let batter stand to thicken. *May want to add milk or water to thin batter as you work through it

  4. Slice bananas. Serve with maple syrup

Step Three: Grocery Shopping

Now that you’ve meal planned, you know exactly what items you need! I usually go through each meal, taking note of what we have or what we need, and jotting them down on my Trello board list. I like to organize my list based on where things are located in the store so that it’s easier for whoever is doing the shopping. It saves a lot of time doing it that way (if you can).

Shopping Gear:

+ jars: if we are refilling our tea stash, I take glass Ball jars to the store with me and tare them. No waste is produced because I’m using my own jars.

+ tote bags: whenever we go into the grocery store (or any store, really), we always take our set of tote bags. We got a shopper set from Ecobags and really like using them. We actually plan to buy more tote bags soon. My husband also has their lunch bag. We wanted something that was a neutral color and I’m so glad we came across these because they are exactly the kind of reusable bags we want.

+ cash: we have been paying with cash the last few months and that has been a great way to stick to our budget.

There ya have it! I think I covered everything about our meal planning and grocery shopping process. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch about specific recipes or resources. Happy planning! Happy shopping!

Warmly,

Ashley

2 thoughts on “zero-waste home || meal planning + grocery shopping

  1. abbeycoseattle says:

    I love this! I have also embarked my family on a zero waste mission this year and am trying very hard to uphold it. We have switched over to all glass snapware to eliminate plastic bags, have our reusable grocery bags for shopping, and I try to entirely skip produce bags. Places that package produce up in plastic containers drive me crazy!

    Like

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