Despite our plans, we waste a lot of food, especially in the U.S. According to American Wasteland author and blogger, Jonathan Bloom, we waste more than 40% of the food we produce for consumption. That's just crazy, especially when we consider how many people go hungry.
Reducing our food waste saves us money and creates less hassle in the long run. Here are 8 tips that can help:
- Get organized. Planning both your menu & grocery list ahead of time means you know just what to toss in your grocery cart and won't leave extra food languishing in the fridge or pantry, slowing evolving into other life forms. An additional tip is to keep food organized and visible. Store older stuff in front so it gets used first, and make sure you can actually see what you have so you don't inadvertently buy that 14th can of spaghetti sauce. For those products that most frequently end up in your trash bin, write the date opened (or expiration date) on the containers in marker, or keep a small list in an easy-to-see place on your fridge.
- Practice proper food storage. Food lasts longer when we store it properly. There are plenty of resources that offer suggestions -- just search for "food storage tips" online.
- Embrace the "less is more" philosophy. We already mentioned buying only what you need. It also helps to serve smaller amounts than your family may be used to; that way less is wasted, and the still-hungry can go back for seconds. Also consider buying a smaller fridge (or at least pretending that you did), so that you're limited in how much you can store at one time and thus less likely to build up a supply of food you don't use.
- Share. Sharing meals is delightful and community-building. If you made more than you can eat, box up some extra and share it with a neighbor. For non-perishables, donate to food banks. Don't let ingredients expire: bake up a storm and share the bounty with those who make your life easier (like your postal worker or daycare provider) -- or toss all that near-gone produce in a pot and make soup for your co-workers.
- Get creative. Cook up big batches and freeze part of it for using later. Invent new kinds of dishes with leftovers. Create a "fridge triage box" so you know what's about to expire.
- Compost. When you're left with failing food you can't use any other way, compost it (read up on what can & can't be composted first). Your garden will love those extra nutrients, and you'll save money on buying compost from the store.
- Shop at groceries with responsible practices. This is a bigger picture tip, but an important one. Groceries waste a lot of food. Appearance is important for sales, so as soon as something looks even a little peaked, it's whipped off the display shelf. Where does it go? Ask your grocery store about their practices. Some donate to food banks or other needy causes. Others compost. Ask polite questions and make suggestions.
- Educate yourself & take action. Food waste is a worldwide problem that has significant consequences for people, animals, and the earth. Much food waste happens at the production level, so while we can do our part in our homes, it's also important that we learn more about the broader issues and work to create a sustainable system in which waste isn't even an option.
Resources for more information:
- Dive: The Film
- "Global Food Losses & Food Waste." Food & Agriculture Organization.
- "$500 Million in U.S. Food Aid is Wasted Annually Due to Red Tape and Subsidies." Inhabitat.
- "The Impact of Food Waste on Climate Change and Just About Everything Else." Treehugger.
- Wasted Food
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