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By Vicky Payeur

In 2015, I became aware of the consequences of my lifestyle and overhauled my daily habits, going from overconsumption to minimalism. Back then I bought everything in huge quantities, such as family packs, even though I lived alone. I also bought vegetables and food that I ended up having to throw away untouched. I was wasting a lot of food and a lot of money. Then I changed my habits and started shopping more responsibly. For starters, I considerably reduced food waste in my kitchen, which is one of the first things you can do to reduce your environmental footprint. It is interesting to know that according to the environmental non-profit Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is the third step on the list of actions to fight climate change! If the environment is important to you, it’s an essential step to take. Over the past six years, I’ve developed these five tips for almost entirely eliminating food waste in my kitchen and thereby reducing my environmental footprint.

1 – Empty the fridge before grocery shopping

Easier said than done! We often go grocery shopping the same day every week, even if we have leftovers from the previous week. Over time, we accumulate little containers of leftovers at the back of the fridge. Then we forget about them because of the fresher, more interesting foods we just bought. Waiting until the fridge is almost empty before you go shopping is a simple way to avoid waste!

2 – Plan your meals and make a shopping list

Every week, I take half an hour to organize my meal plan for the week. Not only does this considerably reduce the amount of food I waste, but it also makes meal times a breeze. I write down the meals I want to make during the week on a piece of paper, along with the ingredients I’ll need. I also check my pantry and freezer to see what ingredients need to be used up soon. Making a grocery list prevents overconsumption and helps you buy only items you really need during the week. I always give myself a little wiggle room for one or two spontaneous purchases while I’m shopping. I also plan out my weekly meals based on the groceries I bought. That way, I can prioritize meals that include fish, raw meat or vegetables that have a shorter shelf life—anything that needs to be eaten quickly. Here’s an example meal plan: Monday lunch: Baked fish and vegetables Monday supper: Asian soup with bean sprouts, broccoli and tofu Tuesday lunch: Chicken quesadillas and vegetables with salsa Tuesday supper: Salad with eggs, nuts and raw veggies You get the idea.

3 – Make leftover soup every week

This simple meal saves a lot of vegetables from the trash. Plus, it’s healthy and great for a quick lunch. Add a sandwich or crackers and cheese and voilà, you’ve got a full meal! I often make my leftover soup toward the end of the week when the fridge is starting to empty out. I look at which vegetables I have left and go online to find a recipe. You can add leftover mushrooms to a hearty vegetable soup! If you’re looking for a recipe, just enter your ingredients in a search engine. For example: tomato, parsley, potato soup recipe. You’re sure to find something!

4 – Chop and freeze fresh herbs and vegetables that you won’t use right away

You will never waste fresh herbs again with this tip. When I’m preparing herbs for a recipe, I prepare the entire bunch all at once. I pour a bit of olive oil into an ice cube tray. Next, I add the fresh herbs and cover them with more olive oil. I throw the tray in the freezer for a few hours and then put my herb ice cubes into a freezer bag. Now you’ll have your herbs all ready to go for next time! I do the same thing with vegetables that can be frozen. When I know that I won’t eat them before they go bad, I cut them up and store them. This way, I always have a few vegetables in the freezer to add to a curry, soup, broth, stew or whatever!

5 – Reinvent your leftovers

When I cook a meal and there are leftovers—whether it’s sausages, rice or vegetables—I store the ingredients in separate containers. I find it easier to reuse leftovers when they’re divided up rather than frozen in one container! This also makes it easier to improvise. That way, you can throw a sausage into a frittata, add cooked potatoes to a vegetable stir-fry or use up some tomato sauce on a pizza. It may seem complicated and time-consuming at first, but if you start doing just one or two of these things today, you’ll notice a difference. After all, the most important thing is not to be perfect, but just to improve! You can significantly reduce your environmental footprint by reducing food waste in your home. Which leftover will you reinvent today?