Here in the U.S., we waste a shameful amount of food. I’ve seen estimates that we waste between 30 and 40 percent of the food that we produce. While of course some of that waste happens during processing, in restaurants, and even on the farm, the part that we as individuals can control is how much food we personally waste.
Wasted food is wasted money, and what’s worse is that the food waste that we send to landfills breaks down to produce methane, a greenhouse gas that’s far more harmful than CO2. Luckily, from your shopping cart to your kitchen and even when you’re eating out, there are lots of ways that you can waste less food to save money and protect the planet.
Related Reading: 6 Ways to Revamp Your Leftovers
Do you feel a pang of guilt when discover a container that used to contain food but now contains an alien life form in the back of your fridge? Check out some simple tips on the next page to help you reduce the amount of wasted food that you have to toss!
10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Tip: Of course, even with the best intentions, sometimes you still might end up having to toss some food. Meat, dairy, and fatty foods can’t go in the compost bin, but if it’s possible to compost your food waste, you’re at least diverting it from the landfill!
1. Rearrange your fridge. Did you know that different parts of your refrigerator are ideal for storing different sorts of food? Check out this graphic showing how to organize your fridge to make your food last longer!
2. Find a grocery auction. Grocery stores yank food from their shelves when they pass the sell by date, but that date is only a guideline. Some grocery stores are now auctioning off past-due food that’s still probably safe to eat.
3. Rearrange your fridge again. So, you’ve got everything on the right shelf or in the proper drawer. Now, see what food looks like it’s going to spoil the soonest, and move that to the front of your fridge. You can do this in the pantry, too. When you can see the food that you need to eat first, it helps you plan your meals around those, especially on busy evenings.
4. Look for recipes to use food before it spoils. When you’re planning supper, make a list of the food in your fridge and pantry that you should probably eat in the next few days. Then, hit the Internet! Sites like Epicurious and All Recipes have advanced searches where you can look for recipes that include a specific ingredient or even a few specific ingredients.
5. When you’re out, split a dish. Restaurant portions are often crazily huge. Next time you eat out, try splitting a dish with a friend instead of ordering a main course all to yourself. If you’re still hungry, you can always order an appetizer or splurge on dessert!
6. Embrace leftovers. Whether it’s half of that giant restaurant meal or leftovers from supper earlier this week, include leftovers in your meal planning. You can reheat and eat them as-is, or try mixing it up! For example, you can use leftover roasted veggies to make soup or a sandwich instead of eating them on their own.
Related Reading: 10 Ways to Get Plastic Out of Your Kitchen
7. Make a meal plan. On the weekend – or whenever you have some time during the week to plan and shop – sit down and plan out that week’s meals. You’ll have a much easier time at the grocery store this way, and with a plan in place you’re less likely to have excess food in your fridge. When you’re planning your week’s meals, also check out what’s already in the fridge and pantry. Try to incorporate anything that’s approaching the use by date. This also helps you avoid buying duplicates of ingredients that you already had in the fridge.
8. Make a list. Do you tend to forget about leftovers until it’s too late? Give yourself a visual reminder. Put a list on the fridge or even on a chalkboard in the kitchen with what leftovers you have. Think of it as a menu for those days that you’re too busy to cook.
9. Donate it. Once every month or so, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your pantry. You can clean out some clutter, and check the expiration dates on the food there. If you have canned goods or other packaged food that’s nearing its expiration date but you’re afraid you won’t eat, you can donate that food to a local food bank. Hurrah for reducing waste and helping folks in need at the same time!
10. Opt out of the clean plate club. You might feel compelled to eat those last bites of pasta, because you don’t want to waste them, but don’t remember! Eating food that you’re really too full to enjoy is just as wasteful as throwing it away. Having a few bites of a yummy dish leftover in the fridge can make a nice snack if you’re in a hurry later in the week.
What do you guys do to reduce food waste in your home? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!