Wondering how to tackle the kids and food waste conundrum? You’re not alone.
We’ve been working hard on reducing our food waste and are a lot better than what we used to be( although there is probably room for improvement!). But one area where we really struggle with, as parents, is dealing with toddler leftovers.
Toddlers and young kids are notoriously fussy eaters. Although our daughter isn’t as fussy as some (although she does have her moments!), she doesn’t always finish what’s on her plate. I try to reuse what I can to a point. However, I do draw the line at half-chewed food or food that has already been reheated and then not eaten. I feel so guilty at throwing it in the bin. Ahh, kids and their food waste.
Typical lunchtime leftover – uneaten omelette
Negative Food Associations
When I was little my mum wouldn’t make me leave the table until I had eaten everything on the plate. I can vividly remember being about six and sitting there for what felt like hours trying to eat some golden wonder potatoes which I absolutely hated (and still do!). I was in tears and gagging with every bite. Have you had golden wonder potatoes before? They are very dry and floury, and my mum used to boil them for us. Even though Wikipedia says you shouldn’t boil them! I still feel sick at even the very mention of them and their vile dryness!
On top of this, my primary school favoured the same approach to food waste. You weren’t allowed to go outside and play until you had eaten everything. My school used to serve disgusting hamburgers (aah, the eighties, when hamburgers were considered nutritious meals for children!). Consequently, until switching to vegetarianism, I was probably the only meat-eating young person who did not like burgers! I also have terrible associations with rice pudding and anything similar.
While my parents and school were only doing what they thought was best for me at the time, I don’t like that I’ve got such bad feelings associated with some foods because of this approach to food waste. I’ve only relatively recently started eating cauliflower after many many years of avoiding it like the plague.
Our Relaxed Approach
Consequently, we have quite a relaxed approach to my daughter’s eating. We provide her with nutritious food and let her eat as much or as little as she likes. While I hope this will help avoid future food hangups, it’s not great for our food waste situation!
So parents who have been there before, how do (or did) you cut down on your kid’s food waste? Offer food in smaller portions? Reduce snacking? Or do you just accept it as necessary waste? Or perhaps we’re being too liberal – do you insist they clear their plate?
Something I am interested in is bokashi. I found this article on bokashi quite useful – has anyone else had a good or bad experience with it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on kids and food waste. Perhaps you’re a clear your plate proponent? Or is it just me or do you avoid certain foods after being made to eat them as a kid?
Looking for some green parenting tips? Here are my best tips to help you raise an eco baby.
This week is Climate Week and in recognition of this, I thought I’d share some green parenting tips. The great thing about these tips is that as well as helping the planet, you’ll save yourself some money too.
What I do want to acknowledge is that it is hard being a parent. Sometimes it feels that others are judging you on your parenting decisions. Breast vs. bottle; dummy vs. non-dummy; the list is never-ending. So the last thing I’d want is for anyone to feel like they’re being judged just because your kid wears disposable nappies or has a thing for plastic dolls! My tips, therefore, come with zero judgement on whether you implement them or not.
My Top Green Parenting Tips
The following green parenting tips are by no means prescriptive. The thing I’ve learned most about being a parent is that you have to do whatever works for you. These things work for us. Maybe some of them might work for you too, but if they don’t then that’s ok!
1. Accept Help
The first of my green parenting tips is to get a head start and start being a green parent before you’ve given birth! Put pride to the side and accept any offers of help.
When I was pregnant a friend gave me a load of her old maternity clothes. This was a total lifesaver, because who wants to buy new clothes that you can only wear for a few months? Other friends gave us their old car-seat, Moses basket, steriliser, sheets, and toys. My sister gave us a massive bag of clothes from zero months to age three that my niece had long since grown out of.
We were amazed and so grateful for all of the help and items given to us. Babies grow so fast. And for the first year especially, babies grow out of their clothes in months. Most of the things given to us were in mint condition. We’ve also saved all of our daughter’s things that she’s grown out of. Either for another baby or to give to friends, depending on what the future brings us.
If you don’t have any friends or family with older babies/toddlers/kids then mine Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, and the freebies section of Gumtree. You’ll be surprised at what you can find on there!
Reusables are good for the environment. And I loved using washable nappies. It wasn’t a hassle in the slightest. It was just a case of putting everything in the washing machine and then hanging it up to dry. No late-night dashes in the rain to the shops to buy nappies because we’d run out. No carrying home bulky packs of nappies. And definitely no stinky bins full of discarded nappies. We just put a wash on every time we started to run low. So convenient!
Reusables can be prohibitive as the initial investment in reusable nappies is high. We spent £200 on washable nappies. If you can afford the upfront cost, then you do end up saving a heap of money. This is because buying disposable nappies and disposable training pants for at least two and a half years soon adds up, especially if you have more than one child. A cheaper, more accessible option is buying nappies secondhand from Facebook selling groups.
3. Resist Cheap Tat
Now that we’re at the toddler stage, we’ve got to the point that whenever we go to the shop my daughter asks for a little plastic pocket money toy. The thing is 9 times out of 10 the toy lasts two minutes before she gets bored of it. Or it breaks. Or it gets lost down the back of the sofa. This means you end up with a mountain of plastic rubbish.
To be a green parent, I say no. This saves plastic and saves money. At the moment I find promising a trip to the park instead works miracles at diffusing a fraught temper, or perhaps a snack!
4. Buy Secondhand Where Possible
I recently bought my daughter’s bed secondhand. I also try and buy secondhand clothes as much as possible, either in charity shops or through eBay (some eBay top tips here!). Children grow so quickly and things like clothes may only be worn a few times before being given to the charity shop or sold online. It helps stop perfectly fine items from going to landfills and saves money.
5. Use Public Transport Where Possible
Another green parenting tip is to try to use public transport. I do try to use the bus where possible. Kids are fairly portable. Up until the age of 18 months, I predominantly used our Ergobaby carrier* to get about (absolutely invaluable if you travel mainly on buses).
With baby carriers or slings you can go anywhere and don’t have to worry about there not being a space on the bus for your pram. Now my daughter’s older and mostly walking, however, she does still need a daytime nap. As such, I now use a small umbrella buggy that folds up at the flick of a lever for quick and easy bus access.
I have made some really good friends on the bus that I wouldn’t have met whilst travelling alone in a car. And without being prompted my daughter always says “thank you” to the driver as we get off the bus!
6. Eat Less Processed Food
We’re trying to eat as little processed food as possible. We’re batch cooking instead. Chilis, soups, curries, dahls, pasta sauces, etc, you name it and it’s probably in our freezer. Alternatively, the requisite parts are in our fridge ready to be cooked up! Batch cooking your own meals from scratch cuts down on food packaging, cuts costs, and is healthier for you too.
We’re also heavily into our slow cooker. One of us can pop the ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning and switch it on. By dinner time, a delicious home-cooked meal is ready for us. It’s been life-changing. Here are some great slow cooker recipes to try.
It’s not always that easy, especially after a long day at work. Or a day of keeping a toddler entertained and keeping the house vaguely tidy. So we do slip up occasionally. Especially when we’ve exhausted our supply of frozen meals. I don’t feel guilty, I’m no eco-perfectionist.
7. Eat Less Meat
My partner and I are both long-term vegetarians (no meat or fish for us). Whilst vegetarianism works for us, it might not be for everyone. If you don’t want to go vegetarian, then cutting down on the number of days that you eat meat is a good approach. The Meat Free Monday Twitter stream always has some good recipe suggestions if you’re struggling for ideas.
8. Eat All Together
As soon as we started introducing solid food to our daughter at six months old, we made a point of all eating the same things. Up until the age of one babies shouldn’t have salt in their food. Therefore no gravy, soy sauce, or stock cubes should be used. And honey should never be given to a baby under one in any form – cooked or uncooked.
To get around this we either cooked one meal then seasoned our food separately. Or we cooked the same thing in separate pots, omitting salty items such as stock from our daughter’s pot. After the age of one, it’s less of a problem. And as we cook a lot of our meals from scratch we know that there is not much salt in our food.
This approach helps reduce food waste. Leftovers easily become lunch. Batch cooking saves time and money. And I don’t have to cook separate meals every night, also cutting costs.
9. Drink Water
In the name of green parenting, my daughter gets juice only as a special treat when we’re out. It’s sugary and bad for your teeth. It comes in plastic bottles or cartons. And it has to be transported across the country. Water is free and comes from the tap. What’s not to love!
10. Do You Need A Big House?
We currently live in a 1.5 bedroomed maisonette. We are currently looking to move to something a little bigger. However, by bigger we mean maybe 2 bedrooms and a box room for my partner and me to work in, and pursue our hobbies in.
We don’t need a four bedroomed house. Bigger houses need more furniture and require more energy and money to heat. I always think it’s a bit daft to heat a big house that you don’t need. Living in a small space means you tend to acquire less junk!
I love the Small & Cool posts on Apartment Therapy – such good inspiration for living small!
11. Make What You Can
The last of my green parenting tips is to make all that you can. I’m not particularly crafty. I have my moments but I wouldn’t call myself a crafting wizard, so I don’t make my own clothes or anything like that. However, something I am good at is making our own fun without having to resort to buying plastic toys.
A walk in the park, jumping in puddles (a particular favourite), a walk along the beach, animal spotting, feeding the ducks, making things from junk, etc, are all fun things to do with your kids that don’t require making any purchases. Your child also benefits from spending quality time with you and having fun experiences. Hattie at Free Your Kids has a ton of good ideas in her archive of how to make your own fun with kids.
I’ve probably missed a load of ideas on how to be a green parent. Share your green parenting tips in the comments below!
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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