Did you know Americans waste 40% of the country’s food supply? That’s $161 billion dollars (219 lbs.) in perfectly good food thrown out each year. Per household, $1,600 is wasted in produce alone. EVERY YEAR. For financial reasons as well as moral and environmental reasons, it is a very good idea to reduce food waste in your home. Here are 8 good ways to do it.
Make a Meal Plan
Every weekend, take a little time to draw up a meal plan for that week. That means you should plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner (plus dessert if you like to eat it) each day, taking into account the serving size you’ll need for each meal. Remember to leave out meals you’ll be eating out.
You can turn this meal planning into a group activity if you leave with other people. For example, if you have a family, you can call a family meeting and let everybody have their say about the week’s menu.
Based on the meal plan you prepare, create a large ingredient list that accurately accounts for the meals you will eat that week. When you go to the store, buy precisely that. That way, you won’t have a bunch of leftover ingredients that go to waste.
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Understand Expiration Date Terms
“Best if used by,” “sell by,” and “use by” dates do not mean the same things. “Use by” is the only one that indicates a time after which consuming the food may have adverse health effects. The other two are simply approximate guidelines for when the food will reach its peak and start to taste a bit stale.
In fact, many foods remain at their best for much longer than the “best if used by” date suggests — the only reason that specific date is on there is that the manufacturer did not really do its research.
The best way to determine whether most foods have expired is by smelling and looking for signs of age. If you can’t detect any, the food is fine to eat.
Use your freezer. Most foods, including produce, can keep indefinitely when frozen. In fact, they will stay fresher in the freezer than if kept in the fridge. So if you’re not going to use an ingredient in a recipe on the day you get it, then freeze it! It’s an easy way to avoid rotten food that needs to be thrown out.
Keep a lot of Tupperware containers. They are very cheap if you buy them in bulk, and they are a super-easy way to keep leftovers.
Lots of the food we waste is the cooked food we do not finish during meals. If you have Tupperware to store the food in, you avoid throwing it out, and you have ready-to-eat snacks on hand at all times.
Use Soft Produce
Just because produce is soft or even slightly brown does not mean it is past its prime. Actually, somewhat overripe produce like that tends to be even better in smoothies, soups, and other dishes that involve mashing up the produce.
Produce is the most common food product people throw out when they don’t actually need to, so learning to maximize its use is a huge step in the battle to reduce food waste.
Serve from the Kitchen
When someone in your house prepares dinner, it should be served onto plates on the kitchen counter, and then the dishes should be brought to the dining table.
Keeping the food in the kitchen rather than leaving it in front of the diners saves table space. But more importantly, as far as the mission to reduce food waste is concerned, it makes it a lot more likely, the food will be boxed up in Tupperware and stored away after the meal.
When the food is kept on the table, it can cause overeating and is more likely to be thrown away with the rest of the leftover food on the table after the meal is over.
Learn how to can fruits and vegetables. Like we said, produce is the most often-wasted type of food. And since canned produce stays fresh pretty much forever, canning large bunches of every kind of produce you can think of is an excellent way to have produce whenever you need it while avoiding any food waste.
Check out this guide on canning produce.
Start a Compost Heap
If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of excess yard space, a compost heap is one of the best ways to turn wasted food into something positive for the environment. Remember that just because you don’t want a given food doesn’t mean no one does.
You can compost all kinds of uneaten food from eggshells to vegetable peelings to table scraps. You don’t need a lot of space, but you do need to start the heap on bare earth.
Here’s a guide on how to keep a compost heap.
Follow these steps to reduce your food waste and have a much less negative impact on the world around you.
The magnitude of food waste in this country is absolutely staggering. Check out this long video for some mind-boggling statistics.