Given that Earth Day is this week AND we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, has there ever been a better time to think about food waste? Food waste places a huge burden on the Earth and on your wallet, but it’s easy to dial it back with a few simple lifestyle changes. In this post, we’ll share some background on why food waste sucks and share 15 ways to reduce food waste.
By the Numbers
How bad is food waste, really? Here are a few quick facts:
- More than 97 percent of the food we waste goes to landfills? Once there, it is continuously covered with more trash, which cuts off oxygen to the decomposing food. The end result is methane, which is approximately 21 percent more damaging to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide.
- About 21% of our freshwater supply, 19% of our fertilizer, and 18% of our cropland is used to grow food that’s wasted. Technically, we’re not just wasting food–we are also wasting the water that was used to grow it.
- Americans waste roughly 20 pounds of food per U.S. citizen per month!
- In 2010, American consumers wasted 90 billion pounds of food, which represents 21 percent of the total food supply.
Now for some happy news: There are lots of easy ways to reduce food waste. Here are 15 ways to get started.
15 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
- Clean out your cabinets, fridge, and freezer. Yes, this is counterintuitive when the point is to reduce waste, but it’s easier to manage your kitchen inventory when your cabinets aren’t cluttered with jars of dressing that expired 5 years ago.
- Take inventory before you shop. This will prevent you from buying duplicate items that may go to waste later.
- Use a chalkboard or a dry erase board to create a leftovers list. As you wrap up leftovers and place them in storage, write the recipe name, the approximate number of servings, and the date on your board. Cross off the item or update the quantity as you take leftovers from storage.
- Plan your meals based on items you need to use. For example, I might plan a carrot side dish or a stew if I have a bunch of carrots as I sit down and write out dinner menus for the week.
- Do you have fruits that are a bit past their prime? Wash, dry, and freeze them, and use them in smoothies later! Pro tip: Peel your bananas first.
- Help your little guys out. I noticed during a plate waste study in my foodservice rotation that whole apples and oranges were among the most wasted items for elementary and middle school students. Several kids reported that they’d be more likely to eat them if they were sliced.
P.S. Here are some tips to prevent apples from browning, if your kids hate brown apples as much as mine do.
- Sharpen your knife skills (pun intended). The USDA cites excessive trimming as a cause of food waste among consumers. YouTube has hundreds of free videos to help you up your chopping game.
- If you’re throwing out your milk because the “Best if Used By” date has passed, then you’re likely wasting perfectly good milk. Here is a guide to decoding expiration lingo.
- Create a compost pile! Unlike food waste that ends up in landfills, compost does not produce methane gas. It can also help you to grow healthier veggie, fruit, and herb plants at home. Here is some info to get you started.
- Repurpose scraps. From watermelon rind pickles to carrot top pesto to bone broth, there is no shortage of ways to use all parts of your food!
- Pour or measure extra tomato paste, broths, or sauces into clean ice cube trays, freeze them, and pop the frozen cubes into labeled baggies. A standard ice cube tray makes 1-ounce cubes, which equals 2 tablespoons. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of broth or sauce, you would need 8 cubes.
- Shop less (this is an easy one these days!). Some research suggests that shopping 2-3 times per week is less wasteful than fewer, larger grocery missions. That said, if you are someone who frequently impulse buys, or if you get sucked in by sample stations and promo booths, more frequent shopping may create greater waste. Know your grocery habits, and plan accordingly.
- Involve your kids in meal planning. Use phrases like, “we can have carrots or beans with dinner tonight. Which one would you like?” Kids eat more of the foods on their plates if adults consider their preferences.
- Store your food properly! Here is a nifty guide to storing more than 100 different foods!
- Measure out ingredients and follow instructions carefully at least the first couple of times you a new recipe! Poor texture, excessive or insufficient moisture, or overseasoning contribute to food waste in the kitchen.
I’d be lying if I said that we were successful in implementing all 15 ways to reduce food waste 100% of the time, but the extra effort is making a difference in our home!
What about you, friend? Do you need help with this in your home? Click here to book a free nutrition intro.