Most of us have a limited amount of money to spend on our weekly food shopping.
We realize we can make our food dollar stretch when we plan ahead for the week and shop with the sales.
The cost of fresh produce – a rainbow of fruits and vegetables – can quickly add up and push our budgets over the edge.
Once we get the food home from the supermarket, how much of our carefully selected choices never end up on our plate?
How much food do you end up trashing because you never got around to washing and cutting it so that it can be cooked and eaten?
Do you inadvertently let foods pass their expiration dates, including milk and pantry staples?
Wasted food is wasted money most of us can’t afford.
Food Waste – A Growing Problem
Greater than the waste of our hard-earned money, is the cost to the environment when we waste food.
How big a problem is food waste really?
Do you realize Americans waste 60 million TONS of food a year?
Can it be true that we throw out 50% of the produce we buy? Experts say this is because we don’t like ugly or bruised produce and want only the most perfect specimen.
The amount of food being thrown out costs the food budget of a family of four $1,600 a year.
Do you wonder what happens to the food we throw away not just in our own kitchens but in restaurants, the grocery store food never sold, food refused due to imperfection, the harvest left in the field to rot and at other points of the food chain?
Food that ends up in the landfill from any source will decompose and produce methane which is a green house gas potentially polluting our environment. Some of this food could have fed hungry people who need the nutrition.
Storage Tips to Avoid Waste
Reducing the amount of food we add to landfills when we throw out our spoiled bounty isn’t as difficult as you may think.
Reducing waste by even a small amount will help our budgets and the planet.
Here are some tips to improve food storage so that you will waste less.
- Some produce is best kept on the counter, including bananas, unripe melons, unripe pears, unripe peaches, eggplant, onions, potatoes, and fresh basil, while others, such as ripe avocados, apples, berries, grapes, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cut tomatoes, and greens prefer the refrigerator.
- Baking products like packaged mixes and flour will last longer in the freezer. Hint: you may want to put in air tight containers to avoid moisture damage.
- Some produce needs to be washed right before you use it instead of when you bring it home to prevent spoilage, such as apples, berries, grapes, mushrooms, and greens. Lettuces like to be wrapped in a damp cloth/paper towel in an airtight container in the cold. (Wilted lettuce can be revived in ice water) Download this Storage Guide for In-Season Produce.
- Most foods and leftovers can be put into the freezer to prevent them from spoiling before you get to them including fresh produce. Produce will survive better when parboiled or blanched before you move it into the deep freeze. You can chop them into smaller pieces to add to your recipes later. Don’t leave them there too long, some things should be eaten within a week and others in a month, so stay organized. Always label and date the packages for food safety. Download this Produce Storage Guide to help you know how long your produce will stay fresh!
- Be aware of the expiration dates on your food products including the difference between sell by and use by dates. Food doesn’t necessarily have to be discarded once it passes the sell by date as it should once an expiration date is reached.
- Always store food in your pantry or refrigerator with the oldest products up front so that they can be used first.
Tips to Avoid Food Waste
There are several things we can do in our own kitchens to reduce our food waste. They don’t take much effort and just a few extra minutes each week for a big payoff.
- Make a shopping list and stick to it, buy only what you will use that week.
- Rotate pantry staples so oldest is in the front to be used first.
- Eat it before it wilts or prepare it for the freezer to use later.
- Plan to eat your leftovers and make dinner once a week from foods you stored in the freezer.
- Only cook what you need to avoid excess.
- Store food properly using the tips above.
- Share what you can’t use with someone who will use it, including friends, family or local food pantry before you have to waste it.
- Less than perfect or ugly produce that isn’t spoiled can and should still be eaten – it is still nutritious!
- Take home a doggie bag and eat a good lunch the next day.
- Can you compost your food waste and use in your gardens? Using a food disposer at your sink can reduce the amount of food entering the landfill although putting it to use in the garden is more efficient.
- Ugly produce or scraps can be used as ingredients instead of rejected.
- Encourage grocery stores and restaurants in your community to find ways to use excess food instead of trashing it, including recycling used oils from fryers.
- Advocate for those who are hungry by encouraging restaurants, hospitals, caterers and restaurants near you to donate excess food to those in need.
We should consider that when we reduce our food waste, we can save money because we eat more of what we already paid for and brought home.
Many of us who pay for our garbage by the load can save money by throwing out one less bag of waste each week.
Making use of previously unused surplus foods especially from grocery stores to feed the hungry in your community helps everyone.
Not to mention, how we lessen the burden in landfills and reduce methane emissions into the environment when we control our food waste.
There are many good reasons to make small changes to waste not, want not.