Food waste has become one of the most pressing social and environmental issues facing our generation. For regular consumers like you, taking steps to stop food waste at home is the most effective way to fight back. If you aren’t sure where to start, try following these ten easy tips on how to reduce food waste:
Food waste is any consumable item thrown away or left to rot rather than being eaten. The majority of food waste occurs before it ever even reaches consumer pantries and refrigerators. For example, many commercial farms will discard “abnormal” looking produce, even if it is entirely edible and just slightly different from the standard.
Similar issues exist among consumers. Many at-home cooks find themselves throwing away pounds of food that could have been eaten with proper planning. Consequently, food waste is terrible for the environment and a waste of money. So, do yourself and our planet a favor by becoming more mindful of what you throw away. Additionally, supporting eco-friendly companies is a great way to cut down on waste before it gets to the consumer level.
Now that you know what food waste is, let’s talk about some ways to reduce it at home and on your own:
Do you know how they say you should never go to the grocery store hungry? Well, it’s true. Always plan ahead before you go to the grocery store or market to know what foods to get for the week. Having a list will help you not over-buy and leave you with less excess food that could potentially go to waste.
Once you purchase your ingredients, take time to prepare the recipes and meals you have planned. If you know you’re going to have a busy week, prepare and cook your food ahead of time. Having prepared homemade food on hand will help you avoid eating out and keep you from wasting the ingredients sitting in your fridge.
If you are the kind of person who keeps their bacon in an open plastic bag or has tons of plastic-covered plates sitting in the fridge, you need to invest in proper storage. High-quality reusable food containers and heavy-duty ziplock bags are essentials in every kitchen. This type of storage helps keep food at the correct temperature and away from airborne contaminants. Proper storage will make your food last longer, so you’ll have more time to enjoy it before it spoils.
Just because something isn’t fresh anymore doesn’t mean it can’t be used! Brown bananas can be turned into banana bread. Rock-hard bread butts can be ground up and made into bread crumbs. Cream past the “best by” date is still weeks away from going rancid. Stop throwing things away just because they aren’t fresh!
Best by dates, in particular, is something everyone should start to ignore. Many items are still perfectly safe and okay to eat well after their best by date. Best by is when the manufacturer is telling you it is freshest – not necessarily an expiration date. Use common sense and a little creativity rather than instantly throwing food in the trash.
Keeping your kitchen organized will help you see everything you have, making you more likely to use items that are already in the fridge. When you add new items to your kitchen, be sure to put them behind your old things. Bring everything that needs to be used first to the front to remind yourself not to let them go to waste.
If you find yourself with a surplus of a food item, try preserving it! Apples can be turned into applesauce, apple chips, or even apple butter. Extra veggies can be pickled, canned, or frozen. See a good sale on meat? Try dehydrating your own beef or turkey jerky. Preserving foods by freezing, drying, canning, or pickling makes them last longer, so you can take your time to enjoy them without worrying about creating waste.
Instead of throwing away your food scraps, find creative ways to use them! Vegetable scraps can be used to make healthy bread, juices, and healthy snacks. Even leftover bones can be used to cook up a nutritious bone broth. Each time you cut the end off a carrot or debone a chicken, stick those scraps into a container in your freezer to use later.
If you make too much for yourself to eat in one sitting or buy too much to-go food, make sure to eat your leftovers. Wasting already cooked food is just as bad as wasting uncooked ingredients. Don’t leave leftover food to rot in the back of your fridge.
Pleasant restaurants choose only the most aesthetically pleasing ingredients. As a result, restaurants are some of the primary offenders contributing to the food waste problem. Cooking at home helps reduce food waste and helps you use everything you have in your kitchen.
Remember those scraps we mentioned earlier? Well, the ones you can’t use can go in the compost. Finished compost is terrific for adding essential nutrients to your garden soil. This technique of regenerative farming can help you grow even more food right in your backyard.
Food waste is a serious issue, but the problem could be solved with a little bit of effort from everyone. As consumers, the most direct way to make an impact is to reduce food waste at home similar to how we try to eliminate plastic. Which means eating out less, planning ahead more, and learning to love your leftovers. Follow these simple methods of avoiding food waste, and you can reduce your carbon footprint and your monthly grocery bill as well!