Food waste adds up, quick. In fact, trashed groceries add up to nearly $161 billion lost annually, in the United States alone. This figure does not include the environmental resources that are wasted growing the food that’s thrown away. Food waste contributes billions of tons of greenhouse gases, a major culprit in climate change, and needlessly consumes land and water resources.
An estimated 133 billion pounds of food goes to waste every year, and much of it is edible and nutritious when it is discarded. As many as one in six Americans suffer from food insecurity, so reducing food loss by just 25 percent would be enough to feed more than 25 million people every year.
With a few thoughtful changes, reducing waste can begin in our own kitchens, here are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of food wasted in your home and help save the environment, and your hard earned dollar.
How to reduce food waste with 7 small changes
1. Shop Smart.
A wise woman once told me to never go to the grocery store hungry - it helps avoid impulse buys. By planning ahead, making meal plans for the week and creating lists, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need or are unlikely to consume. As a result, you’ll spend less at the supermarket and ultimately contribute to reduced food waste.
2. Use It All
Shopping smart helps you reduce the amount you buy so you should have less waste, but plans can change. Designate one meal every week to consuming the things that will soon go bad. Rather than cook a new meal, check the cupboards and fridge for leftovers and other food that might otherwise get overlooked and spoil. Monitor what you do throw out. Tossing half a loaf of bread each week? Try freezing half of the loaf when you bring it home so it doesn’t go stale before you’re able to eat it. When you plan your meals each week, you can start with the food that spoils the fastest so you get the most nutrition and the most from your dollar. Curious how long produce keeps? Check out this great list from Oh My Veggies!
3. Store Food Properly
Massive amounts of food are lost simply due to improper storage. When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge, freezer and pantry and put the new products in the back. This way, you’re more likely to use up the older stuff before it expires. Label food storage containers with the date so that the foods can be used within a safe time. Store chips, cereals, crackers and snacks in airtight containers so they stay fresher longer. Prolong the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by soaking them in a 1:3 vinegar to water mixture before storing.
4. Compost and Grow
Composting is a great way to reduce waste and create a healthier, more sustainable garden. While you can compost the peelings of most fruits and vegetables, eggshells and coffee grinds, avoid adding meats, dairy, or oils to your magic mixture.
There’s also a number of fruits and vegetable scraps that can be re-grown right after their use in the kitchen is complete. For example, celery, leeks, garlic and green onions can propagate quite easily by simply being added to a bowl of water.
5. Juice It, Can It, Jar It, Boil It, Save It
Preserving food doesn’t have to be intimidating, and all those uneaten fruits and vegetables don’t have to go to waste. Produce doesn’t have to be tossed just because it’s reaching the end of its peak. Add softened fruit to smoothies, add wilting vegetables to soups and broths, or simply juice them for a quick nutritious treat. Jarring and canning is a great way to preserve vegetables so you can enjoy them in the offseason.
6. Donate What You Don’t Use.
When you do buy too much or something you don’t end up using, don’t just toss it. 41.2 million Americans live in food-insecure households, so local food banks are always gathering and distributing food. Once a month check your cupboards and drop off some bags with anything you don’t need. This not only helps you reduce food waste, it gives you an opportunity to pay it forward and help people at the same time. Check out the Food Rescue Locator to find a donation center near you.
7. Mindfully Dine Out
We all enjoy going out for dinner. Some of us go out often while others reserve dining out for special occasions. Restaurants account for as much as 15.7 percent of food waste generated worldwide each year. Not to mention all that waste generated from to-go containers, bags and drink cups.) Reduce waste when eating out by splitting a dish or taking your leftovers to go. This stretches your dollar and that delicious food goes unwasted.
Looking for more ways to reduce your carbon footprint? Check out this link for more ideas to make your lifestyle a little more environmentally friendly.