It’s never a good feeling scraping a half eaten plate of food into the trash or throwing out a container of rotten berries. But it may be even a bigger problem than you think. Estimates say as much as 40 percent of the United States food supply is wasted. Here are some ways you can reduce food waste by making sure it ends up on the table and not in the trash.
Looking for more ways to have a positive impact? Here are 11 more ways you can reduce food waste in your own home!
1. It all starts with a list
Planning menus and making a shopping list makes it possible to plan your purchases around store sales and coupons. It also means you’re only purchasing food with a plan. No impulse purchases means less food waste.
Being prepared saves money, too. Discover even more ways to save money at the grocery store!
2. Utilize food scraps
Do you throw the ends of the bread loaf into the trash? Is your compost bin full of veggie scraps? Start thinking creatively about how you can utilize these scraps. Grind bread ends and stale bread into breadcrumbs. Bag up veggie scraps in the freezer until you’re ready to make a soup stock.
Are your pantry items collecting dust? Put them to use with our delicious recipes straight from your pantry!
3. Mix-and-match dishes
There are recipes with very little wiggle room and then there are base dishes that you can go crazy with. Add dishes like stir-fries, quesadillas, and salads to your repertoire to use up whatever you’ve got in the fridge.
4. Store food properly
Food can last a lot longer when you store it properly. Transfer cereal, crackers, flour, and other grains into airtight containers. Leafy greens typically do better when wrapped in a paper towel and stored loosely in a large plastic bag.
Not relishing the thought of using plastic? Check out 8 ways to store your food without it!
5. Don’t be a slave to expiration dates
“Sell by” and “Use by” dates are typically guidelines rather than a hard fast rule. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will be inedible if you buy it the day after. Use expiration dates as a guide along with your best judgment to determine when an item belongs in the trash and when it belongs on your plate.
6. Freeze more
Before food goes bad, get it in the freezer to buy you some time. The key is packaging it properly. Avoid freezer burn by taking meat out of its packaging, wrapping it in plastic wrap or a waxy coated paper, and then sealing it in an airtight layer of foil. Serious meal freezers may want to invest in a vacuum sealer for optimal freezer life.
What’s better than a homemade freezer meal? A freezer meal that’s made in your slow cooker!
7. Maximize fridge efficiency
Keep your fridge between 38 to 42 degrees. Adjust refrigerator crisper drawers so you’re storing produce at the right humidity level. Test the seal of your fridge by closing the door on a piece of paper. If it pulls through easily, then your fridge may not have a tight seal.
8. Take leftovers to work
Leftovers make the best lunches. They’ve already been paid for, the food is already made, and you’re able to use up what you have on hand. Invest in an insulated lunch bag — nowadays they come in messenger bag and tote styles that won’t look like you stole your kid’s lunch bag for the day.
9. Rotate shelves
Grocery stores constantly rotate their shelves so the oldest items are always moved to the front. Stock your pantries and fridge the same way so that items nearest to expiration are always in the front ready to use.
10. Buy in bulk only when it makes sense
You can get some of the best deals when you buy in bulk. But if you buy three pounds of ground beef only to throw out half, it doesn’t matter what kind of deal you’re getting, you’re throwing away money. Have a plan. For example, one night can be burgers, another tacos, and the third spaghetti and meatballs.
11. Don’t throw away “ugly” produce
A lot of produce goes to waste because we only want to eat the perfect, unblemished pieces. A little wilt on your spinach or a few brown sunspots on your fruit won’t hurt you. In fact, in the case of the sunspots, it typically makes for a sweeter fruit.
12. Keep it organized
When you can see what you have, it’s easier to use what you have. Keep your pantry and fridge organized so they don’t become a bottomless pit. Use clear containers so you can quickly assess your stock at a glance.
Need some refrigerator organizing inspiration? Check out these fridge organization secrets!