How to save food and avoid waste
A EPA report published last year revealed that 35% of the US food supply is wasted. This translates into annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 42 coal-fired power plants, not including emissions after food is buried. There are two main ways to reduce food waste: food salvage (for example, delivering restaurant leftovers to homeless shelters instead of throwing them in the trash) and prevention (buying less or using food that is left behind). in your refrigerator before it becomes waste).
While some environmental issues simply need to be tackled on a systemic level (one enthusiast cannot deploy a fleet of electric buses for their city all at once), food waste is an issue we can tackle at home: we all play a part in creating the problem. While a lot of waste occurs before the food reaches us, a 2020 study found that the average American household wastes 31.9% of its food each year. This is the amount we can control.
What can you do to eliminate food waste?
Tip #1: Set a goal to reduce food waste. Many of these steps have to do with using psychology to help you reduce food waste. It’s important to start by changing your mindset and setting a clear goal that you can stick to. You’ll be less likely to waste food if every time you’re tempted to pick up an old wasteful habit, you remind yourself of your goal.
Tip #2: Buy less food. The best way to prevent food waste is to buy only what you need. There are several approaches, and you need to know which works for you.
Option 1: Make a meal plan. Whether you’re cooking for yourself or your whole family, it helps to know what you’ll be cooking in any given week before you hit the grocery store. And instead of having something different for every meal, you can make it easier on yourself by cooking large amounts of food at once. If you know you’re going to have salads for lunch, tacos for a few dinners, a stir fry for a few dinners, and grandma’s roast recipe this weekend, you’ll know exactly what you need at the grocery store. and you will make sure to use all the ingredients within a week. Try EPAs tips to get you started. It’s ideal for busy professionals or students, parents, or anyone else who doesn’t have a lot of time or energy to cook every day.
Option 2: shop the European way – every day. My partner can’t imagine predicting what he’s going to eat a full week in advance, so while I’m putting together a meal plan for our breakfasts and lunches, he goes to the grocery store to get the ingredients we need. need for dinner most nights. This is great for those of us who aren’t raising kids or caring for other family members, who are prone to food cravings or are bored with a meal plan, who have more time in the evening or really like to cook every evening. It’s also probably not an option for anyone who doesn’t live in an urban center, with several grocery stores within walking distance.
Tip #3: Use the food you have. Once food is in your home, make it a priority to use it. Here’s how:
Food preparation. The biggest obstacle to using the food you have is usually time – if you come to the end of a long day at work and you’re hungry for dinner but haven’t cooked anything, you might be tempted to order takeout. In the meantime, the food in your refrigerator becomes a little less fresh. Save your wallet and your food by taking the time to prepare key ingredients or entire meals at the start of the week.
Organize your kitchen to make it easier to use your food. I love having fruit visible in my kitchen, so I remember to grab an apple or a clementine when I want a snack, rather than reaching for a non-perishable (and possibly less healthy) item in my pantry. Another key organizational tip is to use the first-in, first-out (FIFO) method when storing food in your refrigerator. Put newer and newer purchases at the back and bring older purchases to the front. This will help you prioritize eating older foods before they spoil.
Mix things up. Trade in your recipes to use what you have instead of buying more ingredients. My favorite swap? When I found out I was allergic to celery, I had to find an alternative source of crunch in my favorite recipes. I always have carrots in my fridge, so I tossed them into my chickpea salad and ended up liking them better. You can do the same with most recipes. And if you can’t find an exchange, just search for “replacement for [ingredient]” and you will find plenty of ideas online.
Use every part of your food. Too often we get rid of perfectly good parts of our food – stems, seeds, bones, etc. – simply because we don’t know how to use these parts. FoodPrint has tons of ideas to help you start saving your leftover produce. And here is a simple bone broth recipe to take your chicken dinner to the next level.
Saturdays are for stir fries, stews, salads and smoothies. Every week, I inevitably end up with ingredients that I didn’t have time to use. The easiest way to use them without getting super inventive or buying more ingredients is to create a stir fry, stew, salad, or smoothie. Almost any fresh ingredient you have can be used in one of these dishes.
Tip #4: Make your food last. If you have a varied diet and try complicated dishes, you may not be able to use everything you buy at the grocery store in any given week, and that’s fine. Or if you live far from a grocery store or just don’t have time to shop each week, you don’t have to settle for eating packaged, highly processed foods. You just need to know how to make your food last a little longer to avoid waste.
Know how to preserve different foods to preserve their freshness. The New York Times created a useful table detailing how to store some of the most common product types. Printing it out and sticking it to your fridge can help you keep track. The EPA has also published its own useful guide. And if you come across a food you’re not sure about, a quick internet search should solve that problem.
Know how to read labels. The “Sell by”, “Best before” and “Best before” dates on labels are unnecessarily confusing. Conclusion: these dates do not all mean that your food is unsafe to eat. Until this system improves, here is a guide to help you understand the meaning of these labels to avoid throwing away perfectly safe food. the FoodKeeper App can also help you determine how long foods are safe to eat.
Know how to use foods that are past their prime. Lots of food can still be used creatively, even if you would have thrown it away the old-fashioned way. Kale or wilted spinach might not be perfect for a salad, but they’re still perfectly good for any casserole or smoothie. Chop stale bread and roast it to make croutons, or grind it further into breadcrumbs instead of buying breadcrumbs from the store.
Freeze anything you won’t be using at the same time. If you live alone and can never make a loaf of bread yourself in a week, separate what you are going to use and put the rest of the loaf in the freezer. Soups and other foods that can be made in bulk also freeze well, so you can easily reheat them for a quick meal later without committing to eating the same thing all week.
Tip #5: Share your food. If you have food that’s nearing the end of its edible lifespan, invite a friend over for dinner or throw all your leftover veggies into a big stew and share it with your neighbor. If you’re going out of town and a friend is going to watch the house, encourage them to help themselves to food from your fridge rather than throwing it away before you leave. Just make sure you don’t replace your food scraps with theirs – that only works if it saves them a trip to the store.
Finally, compost what you can. Even when we are aware of food waste, we are not perfect. And some food scraps are just that: inedible scraps. This is where compost comes in. PIRG Education Fund Report 2019 found that composting all organic waste – including food scraps and yard scraps – could eliminate nearly a third of all materials sent to landfills and waste incinerators in the United States. That’s a lot of greenhouse gas emissions that could be eliminated by properly composting food scraps.
From kitchen worm bins, garden cups, curbside compost pickup to drop off points, there are many ways to compost. Every community has something different, and you’ll need to do some research to find out what yours has to offer and what works best for you. If your community doesn’t offer curbside compost pickup (which would work like trash and recycling pickup), look for private haulers, community gardens, farmers’ markets, or grocery co-ops in the area. region that accept compost deposits. If you can’t find options like this or prefer to do it all yourself, check out the resources below to find out how.
Food waste and composting resources:
love food hate waste – A UK-based consumer education project that provides helpful tips for storing food so it lasts longer, a handy tool for calculating proper portion sizes and more
save the food – A tool from our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council that has a lot of the same information as Love Food Hate Waste, plus a calculator to show how much money food waste is costing your household
How to make kitchen compost – If you don’t have a garden or are worried about attracting critters, here’s how to install a composting system in your kitchen
How to make garden compost – General information and checklist to help you get started
FindACompost.com – Find where you can put leftover food or other materials for compost
Image: Healthy Foods in Storage Containers by Alicia Bruce | CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 US | Licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/legalcode