Packed with Love
Healthful, Delicious Food with Less Waste
From family dinners to lunches packed with love, plastic packaging helps us waste less food—while making the most of every meal.Watch Shakti buy and prep meals for five
How I Reduce Waste While Preparing Food My Family Loves
By Shakti Shukla
I’m a busy mom living in the Washington, D.C. area, but when it comes to food, my point of view has been shaped by a decidedly global perspective. Although I was raised in the U.S., my parents came here in the ’60s from rural Indian villages. They grew up eating food produced on their land from plants their families grew from seed, and from goats and buffalos they tended with love. Anything else likely came from far away at great expense. Either way, food was precious and not to be wasted. This is the ethos that I was raised in.
I’m not able to grow every sliced cucumber I place in my kids’ bento boxes, but I’m conscious of the journey each cucumber took, from farm to my fridge. It’s a shame to see food go to waste, and I do everything I can to prevent that from happening.
I care about making sure there are resources left for my kids and future generations, so it makes sense for me to get the plastic-wrapped cucumbers over loose ones. I can get three long cucumbers that’ll last for lunches all week, because the plastic wrapping helps them from getting mushy or slimy before I can use them. Those wrappers help keep the moisture—and the crunch—from disappearing.
Tip: If you can’t find individually plastic-wrapped cucumbers, you can keep loose cucumbers fresh longer by wrapping each cucumber in paper towel, then storing it in plastic to help keep air and moisture out.
Between work, spending time with my family, volunteer commitments, our extracurricular activities, church, and seeing friends, I get groceries about once a week. I’ll sometimes need to grab an extra item on my way home from something, but most of our food comes from our big weekly shop. That food gets us through the week, and plastic packaging helps make that happen.
We start most mornings with fresh berries, for quick energy and loads of nutrients. And of course, they’re delicious. I’m able to get berries on the table year-round because those plastic clamshell containers help get them to us without bruising and are easy to stack up in the fridge. Berries go fast in my house because my family loves them, but I still always try to store them on an eye-level shelf near the front of my fridge so they won’t be overlooked.
Tip: Your first instinct might be to transfer berries to your own bowl or container as soon as you get home from the store, but hold on! If those berries came in a vented plastic container (or bag in the case of grapes), the strategically placed holes in the packaging can help control the amount of moisture inside—so the fruit stays fresh longer in your fridge. So be sure to keep berries in their packaging until it’s time to enjoy them.
I’m a fan of squeezable bottles of condiments—ketchup, mustard, even mayo and relish come that way now. When we’re having an easy hotdog dinner I can let everyone dress their own dog without accidentally taking more than they need. And that’s important, because when you’re feeding five people, you go through a lot. Not only do these squirt-from-the-bottom plastic bottles make it easier to get the last few dollops, but they don’t shatter if they slip out of little hands.
Tip: It’s tempting to shove the ketchup, mustard, mayo, and relish wherever they’ll fit after a meal. But it’s a drag to have to hunt for them all over the fridge next time. Keep your condiments together in one spot—either in the door of your fridge or a designated bin—and return them so they’re handy for the next time.
When those condiment bottles do become empty, we try to do our part to help the environment by rinsing them out and placing them in our curbside bin for recycling. And that goes for lots of other plastic food packaging, such as milk and juice jugs, yogurt and sour cream containers, beverage bottles, and more. (You can check out iwanttoberecycled.org to find out what’s collected for recycling in your community.)
Tip: To make plastics recycling even easier, try keeping a small bin right in the kitchen to store your recyclables and keep them organized. There are many different styles that can save a lot of space and serve as a helpful reminder to recycle. Just be sure the whole family knows that only clean, dry recyclables should go in there.
The food I make for my family is not only healthy, but it also brings us together and keeps us connected to one another on a daily basis. There’s nothing more precious than that. And I love that with just a little help from plastics, I can make the most of all my family’s meals—and every moment we spend enjoying them together.
Want to prepare some of Shakti’s mouth-watering meals and snacks? Plastic packaging and cooking tools can make it easier on you—and on the environment. Check out these recipes to find out how.
Even More Ways to Reduce Food Waste
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