Shmittah and Food Waste: How to Use What You Have and Waste Less

As the Jewish year of 5782 comes to a close and 5783 starts I’d like to give you a reflection on the sabbatical year that is coming to an end.

The sabbatical year, or Shmittah year, is a biblically mandated year of rest for the land of Israel.

It means we don’t plant on the fields in Israel when the land is owned by Jews.

We do this because G-d commanded us to do this, to observe this time off.

It serves several purposes:

1. It forces us to rely on G-d as our food source. If we aren’t doing our own planting we have to have faith that He will provide us with all the sustenance that we need.

2. It requires us to be thoughtful about how we use the resources we do have and not waste them. This has several components and without getting into too much detail we have to think about how we cook our food so there is no waste, what happens when we overindulge and can’t finish everything we serve ourselves, and how to manage leftover food.

For example, any food that is grown in Israel and harvested has a special status and therefore needs to be treated with respect and not just thrown away. So you have to think before you serve yourself. If you serve yourself a portion that is too large, you can’t just throw away the food.

We often don’t think about where our food comes from or where it goes when we don’t use it but shmittah forces us to think about it.

It also forces us to plan accordingly so that we don’t waste or at least minimize the waste.

Going into 5783 does not mean the end to shmittah as anything that grew at the end of 5782 carries over its holy nature into the new year.

You will still need to be mindful of where your food comes from and how you manage it.

So what if you don’t live in Israel – How can you carry this mitzvah over to your life?

A big portion of this mitzvah is the understanding that we aren’t in control.

Even though it seems like we can just plant whatever and eat, there are so many factors that can reduce or diminish a crop’s yield.

Everything comes from the Almighty – we need His grace to shine on us.

That being said, more than controlling this mitzvah is about understanding that we are only the stewards of the earth. I believe G-d is abundant and can do anything but we still have to do our part.

We can’t abuse our resources.

We have to be thoughtful about what we use and how we use it (not just food, but other resources as well).

So no matter where you live, here are 3 tips to help you carry the holiness from this year into next year and beyond:

1. Menu plan

This is KEY to avoiding food waste. It will help when shopping and cooking, saving you time AND money. When you plan ahead, you can better use up what you have and not have to run to the store every day.
Pro-tip: At the end of every month, pull leftovers from the freezer to make room for more pre-made soups or meals next month!

2. Portion control

You can always take seconds, but if you take too much on your plate to start and don’t finish it, it usually ends up in the trash. Better to take a smaller portion and then store any leftovers from the main serving dish to use for another meal.

3. Maximize your food

Think about how you can maximize the food you DO make. For example, make vegetable stock from vegetable scraps and then freeze it in smaller amounts to use in recipes later on. Do you have a recipe that called for lemon juice? Zest a lemon before you juice it and use the zest in other recipes (this can be frozen as well!)

Keeping these ideas in mind and executing them requires organization. Menu planning is a skill you can develop and so is being thoughtful about what you buy so you don’t overbuy!

If you need help with organizing, reach out, and let’s talk about how we can work together so you can waste less! Ready to jump right in? Join the Journey to Organization Membership today- you’ll get access to an exclusive online community, direct access to me, Power Hours, and more to help get you organized and living your best life yet!