Let’s face it, food keeping is not a skill most of us intentionally took the time to pursue. When we had the opportunity to learn from our parents and our grandmothers, we never paid much attention. Perhaps we had other more compelling interests to attend to. We would just add a food keeping habit here and there, as we moved along. As we assumed more responsibility for setting up our own households, we hoped our habits will be perfected into skills. Maybe not exactly perfect, but applicable to our lifestyles. So we just carried on, day in day out.
Our food habits mostly work for us. Except when we draw the line on how much food we waste as a result. According to FAO, West European and North American consumers throw away between 95 and 115 kg food a year . In addition to the ethical price of wasting food, there is also a monetary price tag attached. UK families deplete about 720 GBP per year, while the cost of wasted food in the US adds up to 1,500 USD per household annually.
At CozZo, we zealously collect and analyse information on food management and behaviours that leads to food waste. Based on these findings, we have developed a product that can assist you in everyday food handling routines. But we believe that for best results, it is essential to tweak our food skills. So here are 7 cool food habits that will make your whole kitchen experience more sleek, fun and stressless. You will also waste far less food as a result.
Food Habit #1:
Start Keeping an Inventory of Your Pantry
It sounds daunting, we know. Inventory management seems like the most boring job in the world. But it is actually pretty cool as it creates order and gives your kitchen a sleek, tidy look. Inventory is the vital first step that keeps you from overstocking. Do you really know all the things that are in your pantry? The pasta, rice, lentils, cereals, the canned tomatoes, corn, beans and tuna, pickles and frozen vegetables? And spices! God knows how many packs of thyme you keep bringing home, just in case! Not knowing what you already have at home, turns every grocery shopping into a guessing game. Returning home with two bags of groceries and realising you are missing cooking oil is a real cooking turn off.
Taken an hour off, to sort your spices into small jars and handwrite a label for each one. You will be proud how pretty they look. Then check them off in our CozZo Pantry List. It just takes a tap per item – super fast and easy. Continue with all the bigger packs and jars. Don’t forget the olive oils and the different kinds of vinegar, condiments, the tea, and coffee. You can do it all in less than 10 minutes. You will immediately feel relieved and in control of your pantry. Doing a regular inventory is probably the single most important food habit that will dramatically improve the way you run your kitchen. It will make you mindful of the whole process, which is the foundation for wasting less.
Food Habit #2:
Learn to Shop with Intention
Intention is the opposite of impulse. Impulse buying is what you do when you don’t have a clear idea about your meal plans for the next several days. You just pick random stuff from the store shelves and fridges. Maybe several types of cheese and some cold cuts. Perhaps some grapes and some tomatoes and also lettuce salad. Or maybe some zucchini and kid’s favourite fruit yoghurt. Not necessarily things that add up to ingredients for specific meals. You go home with a fridge worth of stuff, yet nothing specific to prepare as a meal.
We all know, that hunger is a bad advisor, so don’t take your hunger with you to the store. You will end up being tempted into all sorts of treats that are over and above tonight’s meal concept. Not having a plan and a list to match will make you vulnerable. All shrewd brand merchandisers count on precisely that – tempting you into purchases when you don’t have a clear intention in mind.
Check your pantry inventory on CozZo. Come up with your meal concept for tonight. Add the products you miss to the shopping list and stick to your plan with intention. You will be fast and you will be efficient. When you are light on your credit card and on your grocery bags, you end up with less stuff to waste. Shopping with intention is a food habit with a direct link to less food waste at home. The less random food you purchase, the less random food you will have to eat up or alternatively discard.
Food Habit #3:
Join the Fridge Minimalist Movement
The minimalist movement that has been around for a while now and it is spreading to the fridge. We just love the look of a tidy, bare and clean fridge.
With the advent of modern, giant size refrigerators, we have developed blind faith in our Cooling Boxes. We’ve adopted a habit of overstocking our fridges to the brim. Then we expect our food to keep fresh until we come along to use it. But fridges are just that – cooling boxes, not magical machines that will keep our food fresh forever. If we forget what we own in terms of food we let it go bad. A full fridge is much harder to manage in time.
CozZo app helps you keep track of everything you bought for the fridge with precise expiry dates and warning notifications. But you still need to figure out what to do with all the food you own. So, adopting a minimalist fridge style is both super cool and practical in maintaining an instant overview of perishable food supplies. Fridge minimalism is not a food habit that everybody will easily buy into. However, every experienced cook knows that “less is more” is a rule which goes a long way in the kitchen.
Food Habit #4:
Be Realistic About Your Cooking Enthusiasm.
We strive to be better versions of ourselves. We like to see ourselves as perfect cooks preparing versatile, healthy and delicious dinners for our families each and every night. So with this self-perception in mind, we hit the stores. We come back home, full of groceries for various dinner ideas we have for the week ahead, but totally exhausted from the shopping spree. So we just shove everything into the fridge hoping to come back for cooking tomorrow.
However, tomorrow we are held back at work. Then by the time we are home, we just have the energy to order some Thai. On Tuesday there is this birthday party we totally forgot we must attend, so cooking is postponed. When we finally get to cook on Wednesday, we just have time for preparing one meal and a salad. So by Thursday evening our meal planning intentions and provisions are totally off schedule. We are no longer sure what were all the things that we bought on Sunday. We overstocked on food supplies and overestimated our cooking enthusiasm and energy. Guess where part of the stuff will end? Correct, in the bin.
We need to admit to ourselves, that we only have the energy and motivation to cook several times a week. And this is more than enough! It is better to be pessimistic and shop accordingly, without overstocking. We all need to be kinder to ourselves by accepting us for who we are, instead of constantly striving for perfection. Adopting a realistic view of how often we are in fact able to cook is an important food habit that will have an overall effect on the way we run our kitchens.
Food Habit #5:
Don’t be a Fool for Recipes
The cooking industry is on the rise. We are bombarded with thousands of names, brands, video tutorials, blog posts and articles all promising you the perfect lasagna and the original Ceaser’s Salad recipe. But remember, recipes are just someone’s take on how to prepare a dish. Despite their celebrity status, this take may not match your taste for flavours and spiciness or portion sizes. By all means, if you are unsure of what exactly goes into a dish, consult for key ingredients. Don’t feel obliged to run out to buy brown rice, if you already have basmati in your pantry. If you prefer the taste of leaks to onions the dish will probably suit your taste much better. If the recipe says butter, but you are lousy at cooking with butter, there is no reason that you shouldn’t saute with olive oil.
If the ingredient list says 4 carrots, but you bought a bunch of 5, 1 more carrots won’t spoil the taste of your stew. It will, however, save the carrot from facing a forlorn death in your fridge. Our best advice is to read 2-3 recipes on a dish so as to grasp the general principle. Then close the instructions and go on to create your own version. Emancipating oneself from the tyranny of recipes is a food habit that is not only a step towards a wasteless kitchen but a vital leap towards your personal cooking confidence, empowerment and creativity. You are on your way to becoming a master cook.
Food Habit #6:
Keep Cooking Simple.
With a booming celebrity chef culture, it is also easy to get carried away with over complicated recipes. They require effort, energy and time. Just facing the prospect of tackling another compound recipe depletes our motivation to even get started. But in her words of wisdom, the Queen of all celebrity chefs, Julia Child, comforts us that “cooking well doesn’t mean cooking fancy.” Mrs Child was the living proof truth that it is never too late to teach yourself to cook well: “I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” She teaches us not to be intimidated and to embrace kitchen disaster with nonchalance. “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude,” says Ms Child. Because “with enough butter, anything is good.”
One great resource to get you inspired with a simple dinner meal philosophy is StoneSoup. Jules Clancy, a former food scientist turned author and simplicity lover, proclaims her superpower is the ability to “simplify” recipes without sacrificing flavour or resorting to processed crap.” She only writes recipes, which are in fact guidelines, with 6-ingredients or less. The best thing about her guidelines is that they also include ‘variations and substitutions‘ to suit your dietary requirements or missing ingredients.
The simpler you keep your dinner preparation, the more often you will have the energy, time and motivation to pull together a proper meal. The more you cook, the less you are likely to squander ingredients you have bought but not used, or overstocked. Teaching yourself the art of simple cooking, is a food habit that leads to binning less food and enjoying more family meals together.
Food Habit #7:
Turn Dinner into a Sacred Family Ritual
The benefits of family dinners, confirmed by numerous research, cannot be overstated. Kids that have regular meals with their families are found to have better academic performance (including language acquisition and literacy development) better self-esteem, a greater sense of resilience, lower risk of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, lower likelihood of developing eating disorders and lower rates of obesity.
If that is not enough, family meals allow parents to regularly perform their parental duties of being aware of and monitoring their children’s moods, behaviours and activities with friends. Gathering together at the dinner table provides a regular structure and routine to a child’s day, which increases his or her sense of security and improves well-being.
Above all, dinner times provide a sense of family unity and identity. It is an opportunity to transmit family values and attitudes. Shared dinner time creates a sense of togetherness and a meaningful opportunity to enjoy one another’s company in a relaxed setting after the hassle of the day is over. It’s a perfect arrangement to conduct daily communication and bonding.
Try to adjust your busy family schedule so as to have shared family meals at least 3-4 times a week. Make it a device-free time (and yes, this means no CozZo updates either). Add festive touches such as flowers, or bright napkins or even candles to turn dinner in a special and anticipated event. The more often your family sits down to share a meal together, the more likely you have cooked and eaten the ingredients you have bought. The more efficient you will be in managing your kitchen, the less waste you will generate. Having regular dinner meals is the ultimate household food habit that is not only the foundation of healthy family routines but is also a greatly satisfying and pleasant way to draw closure of the day.
We at CozZo believe that improved household management skills lead to reduced food waste. We also believe that smart technology can help us be more mindful and in control of the whole process of kitchen management. When we are in control we feel less stressed and much more positive about the whole food management experience at home. And best of all, we reduce our negative foodprint!
I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food…
– Julia Child