As a food enthusiasts, it breaks my heart to know food goes to waste. According to Feeding America, a non-profit organization aimed at ending hunger, an estimated 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed. More food reaches our landfills than plastic, paper or any other type of solid waste; and the food filling our landfills produce so much methane gas, it has 21 times the global warming potential than carbon dioxide. An estimated 70 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States each year.
Food Waste is an Epidemic
What is food waste?
Be leery of which statistics you go by. The United States Department of Agriculture defines food waste as any portion of edible food, not consumed for whatever reason, INCLUDING, cooking loss and natural shrinkage (for example, moisture loss); loss from mold, pests, or inadequate climate control.
I agree with Nick Saul, author of The Stop. As a director of a food bank in Canada, Nick wrote his book detailing his struggles of operating the food bank, along with feeding hungry people. Nick explains,
“Waste isn’t about not having enough mouths to feed. It’s about inefficiencies and bureaucracy in the food system that see crops tilled under and lost in the production process; other crops that are overproduced as a result of antiquated agricultural policy and incentive programs; a retail system that has overabundance built into its operation model; and individual consumers who buy food with the best intentions, only to have it spoil in the back of the fridge.”
7 ideas for YOU to reduce food waste
Make a shopping list
Each week I read my local supermarket’s sales circular and write out my shopping list. By sticking to a shopping list, you will not buy in excess, therefore, throwing away extra food you did not need, nor plan for.
Making a list also helps with budgeting for groceries. You will have what you need on hand for that week’s meals, which you have budgeted for.
Try growing your own herbs and vegetables
This can save you money because you will be able to trim how ever much of an herb you will need. Grow enough vegetables to provide a crop to you and your family based on that vegetable yield. Consider staggering your plantings. For example, tomatoes will grow all summer long, however, if you have a family of 3 or 4, growing 2 tomato plants early, then planting 2 plants later in the summer, will provide a crop for 4-5 months, depending on your climate.
Build a compost pile
If you do have food to throw away, put it in a compost pile. You will not be able to add meat or certain foods to the pile, but even egg shells can go in and all your vegetable trimmings. Read my article on composting.
A compost pile will help you add fertilizer to those herbs and vegetables your are growing at home. Remember to add your fall leaves to your compost pile, avoiding costly trash bags and curb side pick up of your leaves.
Buy in season and freeze it!
Almost all vegetables and some fruits can be frozen. This allows you to buy items when they are in season. Strawberries and grapes are at their cheapest when they are in season. Both can be frozen and used in smoothies or in cocktails. Tomatoes, corn, peas, squash, zucchini, onions, the list goes on, all these items can be frozen. Invest in a FoodSaver V3240 Automatic Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Kit. There are plenty of books on preserving and freezing, one of my favorites is The Backyard Homestead.
Put perishables in the front
Perishable items should be near the front of the refrigerator, near eye level, so you will see them every time you open the door. Reminding you to use them. You can even date them by writing on the packaging when they purchased.
Understand expiration dates
Those dates on products are not an “it is ok to throw away” date. Those dates are an indication of peak quality for that particular product. Once past the date, the product is past its prime, which does not necessarily mean it has spoiled. Milk has a date stamped on the side of every carton. If the milk has stayed cold and not sat out on the counter, the milk is probably still good for several more days past the date. Judge milk by smell, not by date, before you pour it down the drain.
Designate a leftover night
Everyone has leftovers at some point. Have one night each week as leftover night. This can be one day in the week when schedules are hectic or mom has a late meeting. Everyone can heat up their own serving and hopeful avoid scrapes.
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- Read what is on sale at my local supermarket
- Strategically plan my meals for the week based on the sales circular and what I already have on hand.
- Place recipes for the week on the refrigerator, tagged with which day of the week they will be prepared. More perishable foods are cooked early in the week.
- Sunday is leftover night. I will also eat leftovers for lunch throughout the week.