Most people don’t realize how much food they throw away every day — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce.
Turns out, about 40% of our food ends up wasted, and about 95 percent of that ends up in landfills or combustion facilities. In 2014, we disposed of more than 38 million tons of food waste. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
There’s a lot we can do as mindful consumers to cut back on wasted food. By managing food sustainably and reducing waste, we can help businesses and consumers save money, provide a bridge in our communities for those who do not have enough to eat, and conserve resources for future generations.
Tips to Reduce Food Waste:
Keep a list of meals and their ingredients that your household already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose, shop for and prepare meals.
Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home. Will you eat out this week? How often?
Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals.
Include quantities on your shopping list noting how many meals you’ll make with each item to avoid overbuying. For example: salad greens – enough for two lunches.
Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have, make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.
Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
Find out which fruits and vegetables need to be refrigerated and which don’t to help them stay fresh longer.
Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables – especially abundant seasonal produce.
Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.
Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold.
If you like to eat fruit at room temperature, but it should be stored in the refrigerator for maximum freshness, take what you’ll eat for the day out of the refrigerator in the morning.
When you get home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
Befriend your freezer and visit it often. For example,
Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time.
Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing and freezing meals ahead of time.
Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month. For example, bake and freeze chicken breasts or fry and freeze taco meat.
Shop in your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons, beet tops can be sautéed for a delicious side dish, and vegetable scraps can be made into stock.
Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates.
Are you likely to have leftovers from any of your meals? Plan an “eat the leftovers” night each week.
At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for or to make your next meal.
At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.
I hope these tips are helpful as we enter the season of abundant produce! Next time you open the fridge or grocery store door, be mindful of how much food you can consume and how to minimize your wasted food.
Blog post written by Trainer, Sarah Oliver
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