Family meal planning is a painstaking process. If I do it regularly, I lose my mojo and get bored by the repetition. If I don't, food goes to waste, we get too much takeout, and maybe we have one creative meal (if one of us has energy!)
Recently I was standing in front of my refrigerator, like you do, eyeing a half-wilted bag of salad greens and doing half-baked calculations of how much money we waste on eating out, when I was hit by a lightning bolt of inspiration. I BET CHATGPT CAN HELP WITH THIS.
It seems like AI writing tools exploded onto the scene this year, and while it may be obvious how it might put starving artists and writers out of work…most of us have completely overlooked how incredibly helpful it can be for everyday life.
I think of it like a Google-curator. Anything that might have taken me hours to research, notate, and compile before (hello, out of town trip planning) now takes mere seconds. Generative AI basically contains the entire internet, so when you ask it a well-thought-out question, it can scan, compile, organize and spit out an answer faster than you can type “zero waste” in the search bar.
ChatGPT 🤝 Zero Waste
So, faced with another week of dinners to figure out, I asked ChatGPT if it could help.
And by darn, if it didn’t congratulate me on my resourcefulness and tell me exactly how I might use it to plan meals around what I already have…thereby saving money, reducing waste, and feeding my family fresh and healthy food. Ok fine, it didn’t congratulate me but I felt really, really smart regardless.
So I’ll just go ahead and tell you exactly what it said:
Here's How You Use ChatGPT To Reduce Food Waste
1. Inventory Your Ingredients:
Start by making a list of all the ingredients you currently have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer. This can include perishable items like vegetables and dairy as well as non-perishables like pasta, rice, and canned goods.
2. Compile Your Preferences:
Think about your dietary preferences, any dietary restrictions, and the number of meals you need to plan (e.g., breakfast, lunch, dinner). If you have specific ingredients you want to use or avoid, make a note of those as well.
3. Ask ChatGPT for Ideas:
Now, you can interact with ChatGPT to help you come up with meal ideas. You can start a conversation like this:
- "I have these ingredients: [list your ingredients]. What can I make with them?"
- "I want to make a meal using [specific ingredient]. What are some recipes?"
- "I need a recipe for a [meal type] that is easy to make with minimal ingredients."
4. Follow-Up Questions:
Be prepared to provide more information or clarify your preferences. For example, if ChatGPT suggests a recipe with an ingredient you don't like, you can ask for an alternative. You can also ask for recipes that require minimal additional shopping.
5. Get Creative with Substitutions:
If you're missing some ingredients for a particular recipe, ChatGPT can help you find suitable substitutions based on what you have on hand. For instance, it can suggest alternatives for spices, vegetables, or protein sources.
6. Meal Planning and Scheduling:
Once you have a list of meal ideas, create a meal plan for the upcoming days or week. Make sure to schedule meals that use perishable ingredients earlier to reduce waste.
7. Portion Control and Leftovers:
Consider portion sizes to prevent overcooking and generating leftovers that may go to waste. ChatGPT can also help you find creative ways to repurpose leftovers into new meals.
8. Save and Organize Recipes:
If ChatGPT provides you with specific recipes, you can save them in a digital or physical recipe book for future reference.
9. Minimize Food Spoilage:
Pay attention to the expiration dates on perishable items and try to use them before they go bad. Use proper storage techniques to extend the shelf life of ingredients.
10. Learn and Adapt:
Over time, you'll become more adept at using what you have on hand efficiently. ChatGPT can be a valuable resource to help you expand your culinary skills and reduce food waste.
I am 100% asking ChatGPT what to do with those half-wilted salad greens tonight, and I’m confident that this is going to eliminate so much stress around meal-planning for my family. Considering that food waste is a huge contributor to climate change, this is one small way that doing the eco-friendly thing feels like a huge win for us. So don’t walk, run to your kitchen, and let the bot do the rest!
Happy (zero-waste) cooking,
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