Ending Food Waste through Meal Planning

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This Q&A is brought to you by Alison Mountford, co-founder of Ends+Stems, a meal planning service to save time and reduce food waste.

Headshot of Alison Mountford
Alison Mountford
Alison Mountford is the Founder and CEO of Ends+Stems, a meal planning service designed to reduce household food waste and stop the effects of climate change. Alison turned 15 years of professional chef and entrepreneurial experience into a solution to help eliminate both weeknight dinner stress and food waste in one clever step.

Fighting food waste: why is it important and how can you get started by planning your meals better?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

TL,DR:

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Ends+Stems impact in terms of pizza


  1. Tell us about Ends+Stems and why you decided to tackle food waste.

    Ends+Stems is a meal planning service designed to help people make easier decisions about dinner and grocery shopping in a way that also educates and inspires them to waste less food. For many years, I had a meal delivery business and a catering company. My desire to reduce food waste first came from a very logical financial place - spend too much on food purchases and the catering company doesn't survive.

    But, after 10 years, I sold that business and starting learning more about the huge environmental impacts of food waste, and that most comes from our own homes, not farms or restaurants. I thought, having a background in helping people get dinner on the table and manage food in their own homes, I could also make it easier for them to reduce food waste at home!


  2. What informed your approach to building Ends+Stems?

    Ends+Stems began simply as an informational Instagram feed. Soon, people were writing in for ideas, recipes, and more resources. I was excited to help and I also wanted to start another business. I polled over 1000 home cooks for their stressors, questions, and concerns and from their feedback designed Ends+Stems. It's been a long process and the meal planning service was live for about 15 months before COVID hit.

    At first, things were really slow, because I tell people how to grocery shop and we were all scared to go to the store! But soon, I was able to offer more panty item recipes and as people cook more at home, Ends+Stems is even more relevant.

    Most recently, I've started hosting virtual cooking classes as part of the membership and separately for some corporate clients!


  3. Many people see sustainability as only accessible to wealthier people. What do you say to that?

    I think that's quite accurate much of the time.

    Making sustainable choices can be expensive and time consuming. Specifically regarding food waste, folks without a food budget are often the ones wasting food without a second thought. If half of a cucumber sits in your fridge a day too long and doesn't look perfect, do you eat it? Or do you toss it because a new only costs "only $2.49"? Do you eat your leftovers or get takeout because you "don't like leftovers"?

    This is exactly why we also need systemic change to deal with climate change rather than putting all of the responsibility on the individual.

    All of that said, reducing food waste is accessible to everyone because eating what you buy saves money and does not require any new equipment. Just a plan and follow through. If you eat something you've already brought home - boom! Potential food waste reduced and money saved.


  4. What are some limitations and challenges with using Ends + Stems?

    The most passionate users love that we help them decide what's for dinner. Removing the paralysis of choice is a favorite feature, but if you're a very picky eater, you may not get that benefit. We list substitutions on every recipe but that doesn't work out quite as simply depending your tastes.


  5. Tell us more about why Ends+Stems is unique.

    I've been a professional chef cooking in thousands of homes for almost 2 decades. I've specifically dedicated my career to helping people make dinner time easier at home, after a long day, with all of the demands facing a modern family. Because of this background, I can write recipes that help you time the meal and learn to become a better cook without your even realizing that's what's happening.

    Ends+Stems is also the only meal planning service that puts reducing food waste front and center - we have a "What's In Your Fridge Recipe Finder," are a member of 1% for the Planet, and have an impact calculator. Currently, the Ends+Stems community has saved the carbon equivalent of 2 million slices of pizza from rotting in the landfill and releasing methane!


  6. There are so many companies that claim to provide a better approach to meal-planning — why should we trust yours?

    Any amount or method of meal planning is great! By making a plan, writing a list and shopping from that list, you will reduce food waste and save yourself some stress and time in the kitchen. I have more experience meal planning than most of my competitors and most others are not professional chefs. But, you should use a method that works for your family and helps find recipes and resources that truly support you.

    We offer a 30 day free trial to see if Ends+Stems can do that for your or not. We also send out additional tips, tricks, recipes, and ideas through social media channels and our weekly newsletter.


  7. What is one thing you wish more people understood about the movement for a more sustainable future?

    Voting! Funding the causes I believe in! On social media, I've diversified my feed to support and listen to as many different perspectives as I can uncover and help amplify. I try to take their advice and follow the calls for action.

    My family will talk about our impact and values and we try to make sustainable changes at home one step at a time; usually that looks like omitting paper napkins, buying in bulk, reusing any plastic bags that come in, picking up litter, etc.


  8. What is one thing you wish more people understood about the movement for a more sustainable future?

    That it's not optional! We have to drastically revamp how we operate as individuals, as a country (as a globe!) and the sooner the better.


  9. Any advice for people who are new to the fight against climate change or aren't sure what their place is?

    It's not a zero sum game, so get started however you can and be kind to yourself if you slip up. We need both individual behavior change but also systemic change - so your actions matter but not so much that you need to be a perfectionist. It's about building up a more sustainable lifestyle and also culture and voting with your dollars and then on ballots. Choose one or two places that seem inspiring to you and take baby steps to get more confident. You can add on new methods as you go!

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

💌 Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 3,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Thank you! You're signed up for the fight against climate change. Make sure you add us to your contacts or mark our welcome email as important so we stay in your primary inbox instead of your promotions tab.
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"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter." - Meghan Mehta, Google