Food waste has become a problem for Americans.
You may be noticing your own food waste, as the summer produce you find appealing at the supermarket sits wilting in your refrigerator.
Did you know that 40% of food produced in the US is wasted each year?
We throw away an estimated 25% of the food that we buy, which is about 20 pounds of food per person each month.
A family of four throws away almost $1,600 a year in spoiled food.
Can we afford to keep doing that? Certainly we have better uses for that money!
What can each of us do to reduce our own food waste?
Reducing Food Waste
Being aware of the ways your family creates food waste is the first step toward reducing it.
This may take a little detective skills to watch what gets thrown away the most in your house.
Do you throw away leftovers?
Do you cook for kids who don’t eat what you make?
Do you overcook creating excess at the dinner table?
Do you buy produce that looks delicious at the store including fruits and vegetables that spoil before your family can eat them?
Tips for Keeping Produce Fresh Longer
- Buy what you realistically expect to eat that week. Also, if you buy from local farmers you can help to reduce produce left in the field because it may not be perfect!
- When you come home with produce, cut up into snack size pieces and package into single serving baggies for everyone to grab a snack. When the produce is convenient to eat, it will not go to waste waiting for someone to prepare it. Pre-cut produce spoils faster so buy it whole and cut it at home to keep it fresher longer.
- Wash berries before you are ready to eat them to prevent mold from spoiling them.
- Store produce separately to reduce the effect of gas from one type to another. Fruits give off gases that can cause other produce to ripen too quickly.
- Store your produce in the right place – pantry, refrigerator or counter. Learn more about where to store produce with this dowloadable guide, Storing In-Season Produce, so that it stays fresher as long as possible allowing you time to eat it without adding to your food waste. I discuss how long you can expect to safely keep different types of produce in Produce Storage Tips.
- Use specially designed produce containers that can help prolong the shelf life of your produce.
- If you have excess vegetables, cut them up and freeze to use later in stews, soups and casseroles.
- Cut up extra fruits that may be bruised or over ripe and freeze to add to smoothies and shakes.
- Cook the amount you need without leftovers if you know your family won’t want or have a chance to eat the leftovers before they spoil. Calculate portion sizes for each family member and cook what you need.
- Keep track of what produce is on hand and plan your meals around what you have available.
Ways to Reduce Waste While Helping Others
Reducing our food waste will benefit us with lower food cost over time because when we throw out food, we throw away money.
We are throwing away $144 billion a year in the US!
We also help the environment when we are able to decrease the amount of food waste we send to the landfill.
You can divert your food waste away from the landfill and create compost to feed your plants, including your own garden, to create more food for your family!
There are ways that you can benefit not just your family or the planet, but others who may be food insecure (not knowing from where their next meal will come).
- There are many programs underway that are trying to shift the food wasted to those people who are food insecure. You can help with your donation of food, time or money.
- If you are going on vacation and unable to use the food in your refrigerator or pantry, share with family, friends or neighbors.
- Donate unexpired canned foods to a food bank, especially if you have food on hand that will expire before your family will be able to eat it.
- Donate your own garden’s bounty to food banks in your community.
- Ask your supermarket produce manager if they donate their produce to local food pantries instead of throwing it out. You can advocate for others.
Focusing some attention on reducing our own food waste is important for us all.
It shouldn’t take long to do some of these things, but it will pay dividends.