It’s happening right now in refrigerators across America: Lifeless lettuce, moldy muffins, squishy squash and festering fruit – all headed toward the trash.
I hate wasting food and I’m guessing you do, too!
Statistics show the typical American family wastes 25% of the food they purchase. Let that sink in.
That’s a big ol’ chunk of our food budget but it also has a larger, global impact. About a third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. That’s approximately 1.3 billion tons annually. If we could get that food to those who need it, we’d go a long way toward ending world hunger.
But there’s not enough space in this post to solve world hunger. So, let’s start small.
My aim isn’t to make you feel guilty about throwing out a brown banana but to offer strategies for wasting less food, like making banana bread or a smoothie.
The best way to eliminate food waste is to always make a weekly meal plan. Period.
Start by looking in the fridge and freezer to see what you have that needs to be used.
Next check the grocery ads to see what’s on sale and build your plan around that.
Buy only what you need and when you get home put your groceries away promptly to maximize safe storage.
Stock up only on items that have extended shelf life.
Make produce productive.
Divide produce into three categories.
1 – Spoils quickly (fresh spinach, salad greens, berries, and avocados).
2 – Lasts three to five days (broccoli, bananas, soft skin squash, collards, tomatoes, melons).
3 – Stays fresh a week or more (cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, kale, carrots, onions, apples, citrus).
Use your weekly meal plan to make use of produce at its peak. You can preclude spoilage by purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables.
Know before you throw. Manufacturers employ the “Use By” and “Sell By” dates to determine peak quality, but they also use them to guarantee speedy turnover on grocery store shelves. Ka-ching.
Masses of perfectly good food are discarded because people think food automatically goes bad “poof” on that date. Untrue. Trust your nose, particularly with dairy. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and sour cream can be perfectly fine past the sell by date. But remember what Mom says – “When in doubt, throw it out”.
Here’s a great website that gives you accurate info about expiration dates and food safety. Bookmark this site and use it frequently!
Make friends with your freezer. You can freeze just about anything. Add marinades to meat before freezing so they marinate as they thaw. Use muffin tins and ice cube trays to freeze small portions. Fruit scraps can be frozen and saved for smoothies. I keep a large zip top bag in my freezer to hold vegetable scraps that would otherwise go in the trash or compost. Then I use the scraps to add delicious flavor to homemade stocks and broths.
Love your leftovers. Try to cook only as much as your family will consume each meal. Alternatively, you can intentionally plan leftovers for lunch or an “encore” dinner. Bonus points for multi-meal planning like roasting a chicken and making soup with the leftovers.
No one wants to throw a quarter of their grocery budget in the trash, I know this. But if you find yourself making the fling of shame – these five easy tips will get you back on track in no time!