This month’s blog is focused on helping you reduce food waste. We are all guilty of finding uneaten leftovers or moldy strawberries in our refrigerators. The EPA estimates that about 68 percent of the wasted food we generated—or about 42.8 million tons-- ended up in landfills or combustion facilities. By managing food sustainability, we can save money, reduce waste, and help our communities. You have heard the saying: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle; the same applies to food. Here are a few tips on reducing food waste in your home.
Reduce Waste by Meal Planning
By simply making a list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time at the grocery store. If you only buy what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all.
- 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. The more convenient meals become, the more likely you are to make them.
- At the end of the week, if you see items that were not used, be sure to label and freeze them for future use. Items such as bread and fruit can go straight to the freezer. Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month.
Use your leftovers to make casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies. There is no shortage of leftover recipe ideas on the internet.
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, vegetable pieces can be sautéed for a delicious side dish, fruit can be turned into vinegar, and chicken scraps can be made into stock.
- After you roast a chicken (or pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery deli), don’t toss those bones. The carcass and scraps are exactly what you need to make stock. Check out our blog on making homemade chicken stock.
- Use fruit scraps to make scrap vinegar. To make this, fill a jar with the scraps, add a spoonful of sugar, pour water just to cover, secure a lid or cloth, stir daily, wait and strain. The naturally occurring bacteria on the fruit will transform the fruity water to slightly alcoholic, then vinegary. At that point strain the vinegar and use it.
While spoiled food cannot be consumed, they can be recycled. On the flip side, if you have food that you know will not be consumed before going bad, donation is a viable option. It is important to know the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates. Date labels are about quality, not safety, and products do not have to be discarded after the date if they are stored properly. In fact, most food banks donations are past the dates listed.
- Composting: Much of the garbage thrown away by households, cafeterias, and supermarkets is composed of recyclable food scrap. When this organic waste is sent to landfills or the oceans, they not only consume space but also release methane, adding to the greenhouse emissions. Composting is one of the most undemanding and eco-friendly ways to recycle your food waste. We explain simple solutions in a recent composting blog.
- Donation: Make a difference in your community by donating unused food to local food banks. Every community in the country is home to families who struggle with food insecurity. Many of these households do not qualify for federal nutrition programs and must rely on their local food banks for support.