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Navigating Food Waste with a Neurodivergent Brain


Let's delve into a notable, and all-too-familiar hurdle that arises when navigating food and eating with a neurodivergent brain (ADHD, Autism, OCD, or any other flavor of neurospicy). You probably know it: the cringe-worthy and dreaded experience of guilt, frustration, and self-judgment that often shows up in response to finding (or avoiding) that rotten broccoli, moldy bread, container of something unrecognizable, freezer-burned chicken, and SO. MUCH. MORE.

It's an experience often marked with spirals of negative self-talk, echoing "WHY does this keep happening!? WHY can't I get a handle on it!? What's WRONG with me!?" And despite earnest efforts, genuine intentions, and constant attempts at pushing those thoughts to the back of our minds (and refrigerators), the issue remains stubbornly present.

So, it's time to talk about the shame monster that haunts so many of us day after day after day: FOOD WASTE๐Ÿ’€๐Ÿฅฌ


The refrigerator holds all our deepest, darkest food waste secrets, and the freezer is where food goes to die. #IfYouKnowYouKnow 


๐Ÿ‘‰๐ŸฝDo you have a drawer in the fridge carefully hiding the rotting, but previously fresh produce? 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐ŸฝDo you have frozen meals from 1991 tucked somewhere just out of sight (and mind) in the blackhole of your freezer? 


Let’s be real. You either:

๐Ÿšซ Never really had a plan for the 5 pounds of produce you bought at the store, but you hoped that by adding it to your grocery list and bringing it home, you might actually use it


๐Ÿ˜ด  You had a plan, but when it came time to execute, you just didn’t have the energy, capacity, motivation, or bandwidth to make a meal out of the scratch ingredients you so carefully procured. Either way, based on past experience, you may have known that you would find it weeks later, taking up valuable space in the gravesite of your fridge. Been there. โœ… Done that. โœ…


And you know that Tupperware of leftovers waaaay in the back that’s creating a new ๐Ÿฆ bio-ecosystem that you just can’t seem to throw away? And then, when you’ve just about had enough of the state of your fridge (or you have a friend coming to stay with you), you end up throwing out the Tupperware with the “what even was in this??” ๐Ÿ˜ฑleftovers. Sound familiar? Not just me?


Why is Food Waste Such a Thing for ADHDers?

Well, newsflash, ๐Ÿง  ADHDers often waste a lot of food. We buy food without having a plan for what to do with it. We forget what we have in the fridge. The food we have doesn’t sound good. We feel too overwhelmed or exhausted to make, use, or eat the food we have. We buy things impulsively that aren’t tasty and don’t satisfy us. We can’t handle the texture of the leftovers or reheated food that we ended up with… the list goes on and on. It’s an unfortunate tax that we pay for living with the neurotypical brain that we do.


We know, it suuuuucks to throw away food. It can feel:

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ Like a moral failing

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ Like a conflict with our values

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ Like a financial blunder

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿฝ Like just one more reminder of how “bad” we are at adulting ๐Ÿ˜ญ

OUCH! No wonder we avoid thinking or talking about, or dealing with anything related to food waste. 


I used to hold onto food for way too long because I felt terrible getting rid of it, and then it would just continue to sit there…and sit there… and sit there. I would avoid the fridge, the counter, or wherever future food waste could be found. Over time, I also realized that this strategy of avoidance didn’t feel good, definitely wasn’t helping me with nourishing my body, and was actually making the problem worse.


So, would you like to know some systems, tools, and strategies have helped me navigate food waste (imperfectly)? Read on my friend. 


โš’๏ธ5 quick and ADHD-friendly tips for reducing food waste:


Pick the TOUGH Fresh Produce ๐Ÿฅ•

  • Hardier vegetables last longer and are less likely to rot and go to waste. When planning meals, consider using kale, broccoli, carrots, or cabbage, especially for meals you plan to have later in the week. 

    • Having them in EYE-SIGHT in the fridge is a game changer! Think of adding a “fresh veggies” BIN in your fridge that is eye-level, easy to access, and attracts your attention!

    • On-the-counter potatoes, squash, and onions are ready to cook weeks after buying! Yay for ADHD-friendly hardy produce!


Freeze the RIPE Fruit ๐Ÿซ

  • If you buy fruit and it starts to get too ripe, cut it up (peel first, if needed) and throw it in a designated “frozen fruit bag” and keep it in the freezer for easy smoothies.
  • I also just LOVE snacking on frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries, mango YUM). Pro Tip: place a bowl on top of a mug of steamy tea and give it a moment to thaw for divine texture and added sweetness. It never gets old (literally)!
    • And remember, without systems in place, the freezer can be a place where food goes to die. Schedule in a freezer clean-out once a year. Invite a friend, join a Neurished body-doubling session, or create the most amazing playlist to help you follow-through! You might find some treasures that are still good to eat, and you will make space in the freezer so you can actually SEE who’s attending the party in there. 


Take Advantage of FROZEN VEG ๐Ÿฅฆ

This isn’t your grandma's frozen peas, carrots, and corn! This is next level goodness from the freezer that can be added to anything you dream up/cook up and NEVER meets its untimely end in the fridge. 

A couple of go-to favs include:

  • Frozen Spinach that you can throw into…
    • A morning smoothie
    • A cheesy spinach pasta sauce 
    • A hot chili/stew/soup
  • Green peas (that are not just for when you have an owie) can be added to:
    • A tray of mac and cheese
    • A pot of rice
    • A bowl of savory oatmeal (recipe available in our next Newsletter!)
  • More ideas and video “how to’s” coming to the Neurished Membership March 2024!



  • If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist! Try keeping an inventory list (maybe with a magnetic whiteboard) of perishable foods and hang it on the fridge. 

    • Cross things off as you use them, and add more on as you buy them. 

    • Don’t try to track everything in your fridge… just the things that will likely go bad quickly if you forget about them. 

  • Another tip is to get a permanent marker, attach a magnet to it, and any time you put something new in the fridge, write the date on it. That way you don’t have to think too hard about whether or not it could possibly, maybe, by some miracle still be edible. 


A Fridge SPRING CLEANING Revamp?! ๐ŸŒท

Feeling that spring cleaning momentum within you? Cleaning out your fridge gives you a fresh start. It makes the invisible visible (which can then get tossed or placed somewhere easy to see). 

Move the fruits and veggies OUT of the produce drawer! I know that might sound counterintuitive, but if you can put them in a plastic bin on an eye-level shelf, in the front, for easy viewing and access, you are more likely to actually utilize those things (or get rid of them before they grow arms and legs).

Similar to the freezer clean-out, it can be helpful to schedule this task into your calendar a few times each year. And again, those body-doubling (Get Sh*t Done) sessions in the Neurished Membership can be a perfect tool to help you get this DONE!

Feeling overwhelmed by that idea? Want some ADHD friendly tips on how to reorganize your fridge? We’ve got you! 

Gain valuable insights and tools from our Guest Expert workshop led by Kailey Adkins, which offers invaluable kitchen organization systems and hacks! You can get instant access to the replay of this amazing workshop when you join our Neurished Membership



Forgive yourself. Give yourself permission to not be perfect, and to tolerate the discomfort of food waste. Beating yourself up won’t solve any problems. Need some support for practicing self-compassion? I love Kristin Neff’s guided 5-minute Self-Compassion Break



Real talk: despite having access to various helpful tools and systems, I sometimes still find myself discarding food more often than I would prefer. I wish this wasn’t true, but the truth is: being human, and particularly a neurodivergent one, means I will likely never get to a place where I don’t EVER waste ANY food. Cue all the kind and self-compassionate thoughts. 

While implementing small, achievable changes has undoubtedly made a difference, I've come to the understanding that shifting my inner-narrative (and mindset) and pushing back against self-criticism are equally, if not more important and impactful. 

Whenever I do waste food, I make a conscious effort to identify what I could do differently in the future. Sometimes these adjustments work out brilliantly, and that's fantastic! Other times, they don't, and that's okay too.

And, I'll leave you with this… I always remind myself that there are numerous other ways to be an eco-warrior, some of which might align better my neurodivergent tendencies. The goal isn't to "fix" our brains. The goal is to find tools and systems that support our brains. Your brain is doing the best it can - can you give yourself permission for that, in itself, to be good enough?


๐ŸŽ‰ Here are some of Wise Heart’s favorite tools for...

storing food ๐ŸงŠ

reducing food waste ๐Ÿ—‘


being kind to the environment ๐Ÿซถ๐Ÿผ


๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ Souper Cubes - reduce the clunky disorganization in your freezer, so that you can easily see and reach what you need! I use these for everything! They are dishwasher safe too - woohoo! 


๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ Food Huggers - food grade silicone food savers, to extend the shelf life of food, after it has been opened or cut! These can get cleaned in your dishwasher! 


๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ Durbl - food grade silicone storage bags, so you don’t have to buy and throw out plastic ziplocs! Bonus? They can go in the freezer and the dishwasher! Use code WISEHEARTNUTRITION for a discount at checkout!


๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ Eco Lunch Box and Planet Box - easy to clean, eco-friendly, and eye pleasing “tupperware” products for your food on the go!


๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ Goldilock’s Goods - beeswax wrap to keep your food fresh, without the plastic waste! Use code THE_ADHD_RD for 15% off your entire order!


๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿฝ Sweet Gum - Swedish dish clothes are perfect for wiping down the counter, cleaning up spills, and washing dishes. Think of all the paper towels (and trees) you can save! Use the code THE_ADHD_RD for 15% off your entire order. 


**When you purchase something using the links provided, I get a small affiliate commission, at no additional cost to you! Win-win! I only share products that I use (and love) in my own life, and I seek out brands that align with my values, both personally and professionally.**  

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