Last week, I ordered a book called The Waste Free Kitchen Handbook from Amazon (my local bookstore couldn’t get it within a month because it’s backlisted), and it arrived yesterday — wrapped in plastic. I shook my fist at the gods.

The book itself wasn’t wrapped in plastic, but the Amazon packaging was all plastic, a big padded envelope for a reasonably hardy paperback. Foolish me.

It occurred to me that plastic is like germs, if you could see them. It’s almost impossible to keep them from coming into our homes. Everything we buy, almost everything we touch, has plastic in it or on it or around it. If plastic were germs, we’d be sick all the time. Sorry to extend the metaphor, but plastic is a germ to our planet.

Anyway, the Handbook is pretty good. The first part covers the statistics about food waste (it’s horrifying how much is wasted, mostly post-consumer), and the second part covers meal planning. The rest is a reference guide on the best ways to store and use perishable goods, ideas for using food that doesn’t look pretty anymore but is fine to eat, and portion guides.

Right off the bat, the best idea I got was to change the way I do meal planning (And let’s be honest; it’s mostly me doing it). Currently, I make a dinner menu and then basis my grocery list of that menu, plus whatever we ran out of during the week. That results in overbuying because I plan elaborate dinners that I bail on or that certain people (minors) declare “gross” before I make it so I scale it way back.

The new meal planner, shown above, is based on what is already in the house. The stuff in blue is what we have that we can eat; below it, ideas for what to make. Every meal gets planned — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — and the last column shows what we need. I will be a lot less this week, given how much food I realize we have in the house.

And while this food plan is about not wasting food, rather than avoiding plastic, I can see how it will be easier to buy fresh and bulk, shop at the meat counter instead of the meat section (to avoid the Styrofoam tray) and generally be more thoughtful about our food. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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