If you have children at home, trying to cut back on food waste may seem like an impossible endeavor!
Kids can be picky eaters with very changeable tastes, their eyes are often bigger than their bellies, and they can stubbornly refuse to consider eating something “new” you’ve put on their plate. What’s a parent to do when, day after day, perfectly good food ends up in the garbage?
Many of us in the Tommy’s family have kids at home, and we’ve been brainstorming ways to share our love for sustainability with them. In addition to modeling waste-cutting strategies like shopping from a grocery list and saving leftovers, here are some super tips for how to teach kids not to waste food.
1. Start a family food-waste challenge
Kids love games, and when your family sets a goal to see how much food can be “rescued,” they’ll not only enjoy counting and measuring the food that isn’t going into the trash but also coming up with ideas for how to waste less. Be sure to set a family reward for when you reach your goal!
2. Limit snacking before dinner
If your children want an after school snack, make sure it’s a portion controlled healthy treat. Kids who snack mindlessly and without supervision tend to eat more, and that can negatively impact how much they eat at the dinner table.
3. Make food fun and easy to eat
How often have you thrown away half a banana or an apple with three bites taken out of it? Cut fruits and veggies into bite-size pieces and store what doesn’t get consumed in the refrigerator for the next day. Read our recent blog post for kid-friendly snacks that you can make in advance and share when needed!
4. Reduce portion size
Young children will waste less food when served smaller portions. For older children, let them help themselves to food but discourage overloading their plate. If they are still hungry after finishing what they’ve taken, they can have a second helping.
5. Save the leftovers
Leftovers can be re-purposed for lunch, and side dishes and entrees can be given new life in a different recipe the next day. Are you looking for creative cooking ideas for using leftovers? Visit our Recipes section!
6. Pack lunches strategically.
While most food waste occurs at the dinner table, it also can happen at school during lunch.
Encourage your kids to bring home what they don’t eat so you can talk with them about why certain foods weren’t consumed.
7. Teach your kids about food.
Beyond shopping at the grocery store, most children (and many adults) don’t have a good understanding of where food comes from and the work that’s required to produce it. Here are a few fun, family-friendly activities to try:
- Visit a local farm to learn about crops and animals.
- Plant a vegetable or herb garden.
- Plan and cook meals together.
- Start a compost bin.
- Explain what happens to food when we throw it away.
8. Be a good role model
If we want our kids not to waste food, it’s important to be a good role model and make sure we are setting a positive example. Children follow our words and actions, so when we say things like, “That apple is perfectly fine, and we’re not going to waste it. Let’s save it for a snack later on.” and “I’m going to eat the leftover veggie pot pie for lunch, would you like some too?” we’re modeling the behaviors we would like them to develop.
With a little commitment and persistence, the suggestions above for reducing food waste at home are very attainable. Not only will these tips help you save money at the grocery store, but they’ll also give your children the tools they need to value food, not waste it.
Do you have tips and strategies for cutting back on food waste in your house or for teaching kids about food? Share them in the comments section and on social media!