When you were a kid, you were probably told once or twice to “eat all your food, there are starving kids.” While it may have been to encourage you to eat the peas you were pushing around your plate, there is a reason behind it. According to the national Stop Food Waste Day initiative, 40% of all produced food in the United States ends up wasted. With 1 in 6 Americans being classified as “food insecure” and the major environmental impact of food waste in landfills, doesn’t this seem like a huge waste?
Think about the last time you went grocery shopping—when you got home and started putting your new groceries away, how much did you throw out because it wasn’t eaten in time and went bad? What about the last time your family went out to eat, how much food was left over on your plate that you chose to not take home and eat the next day?
In a 2012 report from the National Resource Defense Council, it was determined that the average American throws away 300 pounds of food each year (the average American household throwing away $2,200 of food each year).
10 Tips to Stop Food Waste
- Make a weekly meal plan and grocery list. By planning ahead of time what you are going to eat each day, you can create a corresponding grocery list. But the real trick is to stick to that list! This can help prevent you from buying unnecessary products that aren’t part of your meal plan, and that may go bad before you are able to eat them. Plus, this can save you money and all that time you spend talking about what’s for dinner—you’ll already know!
- Simplify meal planning from the start. Meal planning can help you to utilize ingredients more than once throughout the week. This helps you to use up food items instead of throwing them away later. Before heading out to the grocery store, check what foods you have, and design weekly meals utilizing those items and picking up the missing ingredients from the store.
- Master the art of freezing. Most of the fresh foods that you buy can be frozen any time before its “use by” date. When you are ready to eat it, simply set it out to thaw (the appropriate way). Freezing different meats, vegetables and fruits is extremely easy and can prevent these fresh foods from rotting before you get to it on your meal plan. Additionally, making freezer meals has become more and more popular lately. Check out some freezer meal recipes that you can prepare in advance for a “rainy day!”
TIP: Be sure to set things, like raw meat, in the fridge to thaw out, not the countertop!
- Store your food the right way. Did you know that different foods should be stored differently, helping to keep them fresh longer? That’s right! Check out this complete guide from Real Simple Magazine on how to store common groceries!
- Do your part in saving water. When you throw out food, you are also essentially wasting the water used to produce it. So, it is our responsibility to look for other ways that we can save our planet’s most important resource! When cooking, look for ways to reduce the amount of water you use. For example, when making pasta, reuse the water that you used to cook the noodles in the spaghetti sauce to help thicken it up. Anytime that you are boiling your food, use just enough water to cover the food. Not only does this help save water, it also helps preserve more of the flavor and nutrients in the food you are preparing!
- Revive your veggies. Don’t give up on that wilted lettuce just yet—it can be revived! Soak wilted leafy greens in cold water for 5 – 10 minutes and it can become crisp again!
- Find other uses for those overcooked foods. Did you know that you can use overcooked vegetables in soups or even make a vegetable broth with them? But remember, there is a difference between overcooked and burnt. Go ahead and toss those burnt foods away because the dark brown foods may be carcinogenic.
- Freeze airtight. When you freeze food in a baggie, be sure to squeeze out any excess air as it can lead to more freezer burn. Things like bread have very little moisture so if you aren’t going to eat the entire loaf before it molds, wrap it up airtight and freeze it!
- Don’t go b-a-n-a-n-a-s over brown fruit! If your fruit is turning brown, don’t throw it away! Fruits, like bananas, can be frozen and used for baking. So instead of tossing that entire bundle of bananas that you didn’t use, freeze it and make banana nut muffins this weekend! Or, you can simply cut out the bruised portion. (Mold can also be cut out of hard and semi-soft cheeses, as it cannot penetrate far into the cheese.)
- Small kids get small portions. Instead of dishing out the same portion you eat to your kids, start out with small portions. Later, when they are hungry again, you can always give them more. Not only will this reduce food waste, it can also prevent unhealthy weight gain.
- Get creative! If something in your fridge or pantry is about to expire, use it up! Think of a way to use it before it goes bad instead of throwing it away and buying more food. Pinterest is an excellent resource when it comes to finding recipes to use up food that is about to expire!
National Stop Food Waste Day
Several groups came together to tackle this global problem including Compass Group, FoodTank, ReFED and Eatable. Together, they created National Stop Food Waste Day. If you are interested in learning more about preventing food waste in your own home and taking the stop food waste pledge, visit their website at www.stopfoodwasteday.com.
2018 National Stop Food Waste Day is Friday, April 27. This year, join me in pledging to reduce food waste in your household by implementing one or two of the tips above.