For us singletons living alone out there, and hey, there are a lot of us—27 percent of U.S. households to be exact—cooking for one can result in a lot of wasted food. Food packaging sized for bigger households, recipes designed to feed families, and confusing expiration dates all make it difficult to create properly portioned meals for one without wasting food and money. But with a few smart strategies, it’s possible to stop throwing cash down the garbage disposal without resorting to eating frozen Lean Cuisines every night.
Reducing food waste isn’t just a pocketbook issue. On average, we Americans waste 40 percent of the food we produce. That’s a waste of not only money, but also of precious land, water and energy. And when that waste ends up in a landfill, it creates methane gas, a greenhouse gas that is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Ready to start cooking for one with less waste? Here are some tips I’ve tried for making delicious, healthy and unique meals without throwing half of it in the garbage. Try a few and see what works best for you.
1. Keep a Food Waste Journal
If you’re serious about wasting less food, keeping a food waste journal is a great first step. By getting a clear picture of what gets wasted—and why—you’ll be better able to decide where you could adjust your habits. (Are you always throwing out bread? Freeze half a loaf when you get home from the grocery store.) Habits are tough to break, so a journal will also help you be mindful and pause before you toss. The UK’s Love Food, Hate Waste campaign offers a free downloadable food waste diary. (Or, just keep a running list of those mushy bananas or moldy lasagna squares in your notebook or phone for a week.)
2. Seek Out Single-Serve Recipes
Sure, you can try to cut down a “serves 4-6″ recipe to a more manageable size, but the results aren’t always as good—or you’re left with half a can of tomatoes that ends up going bad before you can use the rest. Luckily, plenty of great cooking sites offer recipes designed with single folks in mind. Here are some good ones: PBS, Delish, Food Network and EatingWell.
3. Prep Once, Eat All Week
Despite what I wrote in tip #2, there is a place for family-size recipes in the single kitchen. Cooking one large staple item, like a pot roast or whole chicken (yes, a whole one!), can feed you all week and allow you to get creative with leftovers. On Sunday night I make a big dish that can be re-invented for dinners throughout the week. This week I went with a Southwestern chicken casserole. With minimal ingredients, only two pieces of cookware and quick prep time, this was a fantastic choice. I didn’t adjust the portion size, and I was able to use the leftovers to make tacos on Tuesday, lettuce wraps on Wednesday and a soup on Thursday. One casserole fed me all week, but I didn’t feel like I ate the same thing every day.
Here are a few other great "Sunday staple" recipes. I’m partial to dishes that require minimal prep and clean-up time. After all, I’m the one doing all the work!
Crock-pot rotisserie chicken from the Lean Green Bean
Adobe glazed turkey meatballs from SELF Magazine
Whole-wheat couscous with shrimp from MyRecipes.com
Butternut squash risotto from Simply Recipes, a great vegetarian staple to use throughout the week.
4. Make a "Big Salad"
For weekday lunches, I usually make a big salad Monday morning and add to it throughout the week so it doesn’t feel like I’m eating the same salad for lunch every day. My go-to salad usually includes kale, shredded brussels sprouts, pomegranate seeds, edamame and goat cheese. I also make a big jar of dressing with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard and lemon, so assembling my salad each morning is easy. On Monday night maybe I’ll cook two chicken breasts and use the second one in my salad the next day. Or in the morning I’ll chop up leftover fruit from my granola and toss it in my base salad.
Bonus tip: Cover the salad bowl with a damp paper towel in the fridge to help keep lettuce fresh and crisp.
5. Shop at Farmers Markets or CSAs
I like to gather my weekly greens from a local farmers market. At a farmers market, I’m able to buy just the things I need, and I get fresh, beautiful produce, which makes me more motivated to cook it. I definitely think twice before I throw away an heirloom tomato grown by a local farmer compared to a kind of mushy one I grabbed from the supermarket. A CSA (community supported agriculture program) is also a good option, but many are designed with families in mind. See if you can buy a half-share, split it with a friend, or shop as you go instead of getting a big box every week. And when you do go to the grocery, try some of these strategies, like using a basket instead of a cart, having a snack before you go, and avoiding bulk purchases.
6. Get the Right Storage Containers
You may have some awesome leftovers, but they might go to waste if you don’t have the proper means to keep them fresh or transport them to work for lunch. I love Glad to Go containers; they have separate compartments for dressing, and they are easy to wash and re-use. Adult lunch totes are becoming more and more popular, as well. I like BUILT’s Gourmet Getaway Lunch Tote.
7. Learn the Truth About Food Date Labels
How many times have you watched your yogurt expire when it feels like you JUST got it? It turns out it might not have been “expired” after all. Dates on food labels can be confusing, to say the least, and don’t really have anything to do with food safety. "Best-by," "use-by," "best if used by," or "use before" are voluntary, unregulated terms that tell you how long the product is likely to remain in its highest quality when unopened. A "sell by" date is the manufacturer’s suggestion for when the grocery store should no longer sell the product, but doesn’t tell you anything about how long it’s safe to eat. Milk, for example, will typically be safe to drink for about a week after its "sell-by" date and if you freeze it, even longer. Learn to trust your eyes and nose and utilize the site StillTasty which lists almost every type of produce imaginable with proper fridge, freezer and pantry shelf life explanations.
Remember that freezers are a magical thing, food can stay fresh in there forever! Well, almost forever; uncooked chicken, for example, can stay safe to eat for almost a year. Just make sure to label your freezer packages with contents and a date.
8. Find Your Favorite "Kitchen Sink" Recipes
Single or not, we all end up with leftover portions of veggies and meat that aren’t enough for a meal on their own. But with a few base recipes or techniques up your sleeve you can give new life to that quarter onion, half can of beans, and handful of shredded cheese. Sauté a few veggies into an omelet, simmer chopped chicken into a soup, or toss everything into a quick pasta dish. Plan to have one of these “kitchen sink” meals once a week, then save all your scraps in one area of the fridge. For me, it takes some of the stress out of cooking and is a fun challenge as well. If you need some ideas, check out our Kitchen Sink Pinterest board.
9. Swap Food with Friends
Make a big meal, invite your friends to bring a dish, and have containers ready to send everyone home with leftovers. That way you all get to try out new recipes and avoid eating the same thing over and over again. Trade off on hosting duties, share the love and minimize waste!
After all this talk about of us poor single people having to adapt to the hard knock life of cooking for one, let’s not forget about the perks! Cooking for yourself means you can be adventurous, selfish even, since you don’t have to please a variety of appetites and dietary restrictions. Be proud of your single self, take a risk and try something new. And, for all you Flight of the Conchords fans out there, I’m not crying—I’m just cutting onions for a lasagna … for one.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.