It was a final goodbye. As I stared down, I thought, “This is it. The last time. There won’t be any more–maybe not ever again.”
And with that, I recently bade farewell to something that’s been a comfort to me for the past year: Premade salads.
(* Insert pause for tears.)
(** Just kidding. I don’t cry over salad. Spilled milk, maybe, but not salad.)
(*** Seriously—kidding about the milk, too.)
Premade salads are among my favorite go-to solutions for healthy eating. Trader Joe’s, Dole prepacked mixes–I can’t tell you how many weeks I’ve taken relief in the convenience of being able to throw together wholesome lunches and dinners with these handy mixes.
If you work full-time, perhaps you know the weight of the dreaded, “What’s for dinner?” question. Or you’ve stood at your refrigerator door like me, already running late for work, wondering how you’re going to throw together a meal from the bare contents on the shelves in front of you. “Maybe I’ll just run to Chipotle,” I think. “Or I’ll impulsively graze the vending machine when my blood sugar is crashing at 11AM.”
Yes–because that’s a good plan.
Premade salad mixes have kept me out of Chipoltle (and other similar fast but expensive ways to conjure up lunch and dinner). They’ve kept me from grazing the vending machine and calling it “lunch.” They’ve rounded out a nice rotisserie chicken, instantly becoming dinner. They make healthy eating easy for busy people.
Premade salads are awesome…except for this one pesky thing
But there’s one unmistakable problem with them: The trash. Plastic bags. Cellophane bags inside the plastic bags. Salad dressing packets. Plastic containers.
There’s a cost to my convenience, and its wages are waste.
Perhaps you think the trade-off of eating healthy is worth a little trash. You won’t find me judging you. I’ve made this trade-off lots of times, and experienced the value of eating healthy. That said, I’ve decided that I don’t want to ignore the waste anymore. Here’s why:
As convenient as they are, here’s why I’m not ignoring the waste from premade salads anymore
First, packaging from food is the largest contributor to household waste. Of the 1.4 billion pounds of trash Americans accumulate per day in landfills, 40% of it’s from packaging. And most of that comes from one-time-use packages from—you guessed it—food. (Read where I got these facts, plus a great list of ideas to reduce trash, here.) When I learned this, I realized that reducing food packaging was the easiest way to significantly reduce the amount of trash I produce. So I’ve adopted it as a mission, and have been slowly saying goodbye to packaged food since.
Currently on my hitlist: The salads.
Second, I believe the trade-off of eating healthy vs. creating trash is a false one. I absolutely can still eat healthy. I just can’t do it conveniently. I fully confess that this is the hard part. I can make my own healthy salad mixes, but it takes discipline and time. And I’m already exerting discipline in so many other areas of my life that a part of me wonders, “Is this sacrifice really worth it? It seems so trivial and rigid. In light of everything else, does it really matter?”
Here’s my challenge to myself: To decide that Yes, it really matters. Small choices matter. They add up. In a culture that praises convenience and indulges wastefulness, going against the grain is hard. Especially when it includes tiny decisions about things like packaged salad mix. But trivial decisions aren’t trivial when they accumulate over days, weeks, and years (just ask a smoker with lung cancer).
But enough about that. Getting rid of premade salads is just one thing on my list of food-packaging to ditch. Curious to see the full list? It’s coming soon.
Also, the colorful coleslaw you see above is chopped red cabbage, radish and carrots. It took me fifteen minutes to make (it’d be much faster if I had a food processor’s help) and lasted for almost two weeks of lunches. Not bad, right?