5 Ways To Waste Less At Your Next Cookout

As we roll into the last holiday and unofficially official weekend of summer, odds are at least one cookout is on your itinerary. Here are a few tips to help keep your garbage in check!

1. Buy food that is fresh/local (instead of packaged or frozen).
Building a menu around local, organic, seasonal produce, meats and other products can help you avoid unnecessary plastic packaging but also reduces the waste associated with transportation of food.

2. Make it yourself.
Whipping up your own batch of potato salad, pasta salad, buns, salad dressing may not only save packaging waste but also reduces your intake of questionable ingredients.

3. Skip the foil. 
Corn can be cooked in their husks and cut up loose veggies can be grilled on a stainless tray.

4. Use reusables.
Plates, cups, silverware, napkins – you know the drill. 😉

5. Prepare only what you need.
Being a dietitian and always a bit of a minimalist (even before starting on this journey) I’m probably the worst type of party host.  My husband and I would always joke about how little food I would get to serve because I not want to have a bunch of leftovers that might go bad.  Truth is, more often than not too much is served.  Chips, dips, platters of veggies, cheeses, meats and all before the dinner bell rings. Then side after side is presented to be served along some sort of grilled centerpiece. Nobody needs that much food. You can only get but so much onto a plate (which is a good thing) so when there are tons of sides present people tend to take a smaller amount of each in order to eat a little bit of everything. Cookout menus also tend center around foods that are higher in fat (aaaaaand calories), which are filling. Then there is often a whole lot of grazing that goes on as people wait around to eat.

This weekend, consider planning a cookout menu around one main item (or two easy items if you have people with variable food preferences) with 2-3 sides at a reasonable amount based on the number of people you have attending.  For instance, instead of the traditional hamburger vs hotdog scenario consider these either/or alternatives:

– Kabobs with grilled chicken or without
– Beef or black bean burgers
– Pork or chicken BBQ

In all of these scenarios, both choices can utilize the same serving medium (buns, kabob sticks) which reduces the amount of stuff you are having to buy/make and helps to ensuring you aren’t left with bags of unused product.

Then so guests don’t just fill up on appetizers while they wait, try having everything ready to eat soon after your cookout’s start time. This may be tricky if people tend to trickle in but could allow you to eliminate appetizers all together. Or for a unique twist, consider having a bowl of freshly prepared salad (with homemade dressing) for people to serve themselves while they visit and wait.  For those who don’t eat beforehand, it can still be enjoyed with dinner.

Reducing the number of foods being prepared and planning your menu to in a way that cuts down on waste is a win not only for the earth but for your wallet and everyone’s waistline.

Cheers to a fun, moment filled weekend!!

xo, Erica