10 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste at Home
A delicious meal is the last thing anyone wants to waste. Yet the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that between 30 and 40 percent of our food supply becomes food waste—over 41 billion tons of food in 2017 alone!
It may not seem like a big deal to throw away a few overripe bananas, but food waste takes an enormous toll on the economy and the environment, not to mention wasting items that could’ve helped millions of struggling families.
As individual consumers, we can do our part with these ten easy ways to reduce food waste at home:
- Plan your meals
Making a weekly menu and shopping list before every grocery trip helps cut down on unnecessary purchases and accidental duplicates.
It can feel overwhelming to plan out a full week of meals but start by thinking in broader strokes. Make a note to at least grab the basics for quick, last-minute meals, like your favorite cereals, pasta, and canned soups.
- Shop smarter
When you’re in the store, try not to fall for every sale sticker or snack! Stick to your shopping list.
If you’re tempted by a cheap bulk to buy, make sure the items aren’t perishable or that you’ll actually finish them. Buying in bulk seems convenient and less expensive at the time but often leads to more waste.
- “Ugly” is the new pretty
“Ugly” food is perfectly good produce that gets thrown out by the truckload. An obsession with perfect-looking food causes supermarkets and shoppers to turn up their noses at superficial defects when these minor blemishes don’t affect the taste or nutrition at all.
Find the room in your heart (and your cart) for that potato that’s a little lumpy. Your grocery store or a local food delivery company might even offer deals on “ugly” food, so you’ll be saving food and your wallet.
- Use proper storage
A lot of household food waste comes down to improper food storage and spoilage. Your fridge should always stay below 40˚F, and perishable foods should be at room temperature for no longer than two hours.
Hint: don’t throw all your fruit in one fruit bowl! Fruit that gives off ethylene gas as it ripens, like apples or bananas, will cause produce it touches to rot more quickly. Taking reusable produce bags to the grocery store allows you to keep fruit and veg in their individual bags for storage at home, keeping them fresh for longer.
- Keep your fridge organized
Have you ever had to throw out food because it ended up at the back of the fridge and you just...forgot it was there?
Use eco-friendly storage bags to keep your fridge produce organized. Plus, keeping super perishable items like berries toward the front will remind you they’re there every time you open the door.
- Know your sell-by dates
Did you know that just because a product hits its “sell by” date, it doesn’t mean you have to throw it out right that second? Eggs and other products notoriously last a couple of weeks beyond their sell-by dates.
Expiration dates or “best before” dates offer better insight into the food’s freshness, but use your best judgment—rotten food will usually smell or look “off”, and if you’re not sure, you can check online for food safety guidelines about that item.
- Pack your lunch
It’s easy to waste food if you buy a lot of lunches out at work. The types of pre-cooked meals you get from restaurants and chains don’t usually microwave well, so you’re more likely to throw out leftovers at your desk or to have no way of storing them.
Instead, prep your lunches in advance and bring them in packed containers that you can re-seal later. It helps to keep a set of utensils at work, too, so you’re not constantly hunting for single-use forks and spoons.
- Love your freezer
Didn’t get a chance to use up all those hamburger patties? Made way too much cookie dough to bake in one sitting? Wrap the extra and freeze it for the future. Buying frozen fruit and vegetables is also a good way to keep healthy produce on hand without worrying about when it will go bad.
- Use leftovers wisely
The internet offers thousands of stews, casseroles, quiches, and other “catch-all” recipes that are excellent for using up scraps of perishable items. As for your actual leftovers, a great way to store them is by sticking a silicone lid on the bowl after your meal instead of fussing with plastic wrap.
Composting is a more eco-friendly way to dispose of organic matter, which doesn’t break down well in landfills. If you don’t have a backyard, farmer’s markets and community gardens often have their own compost piles that would welcome your food scraps.
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