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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By Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.