You could be throwing hundreds of dollars down the drain each year by throwing food away. Here are 9 simple tips on how to reduce food waste at home. Your wallet and the environment will thank you.
It's noon on Saturday. You get home from the grocery store with your newest bounty. But before you can put everything away, you have to go through your fridge and pantry to throw away all the expired, stale, and rotten food. Does this sound like you?
I get mad every time this happens. Yet I do it again and again. But I'm not alone. It is a worldwide issue. According to the EPA, Americans threw away 38 million tons of food in 2014. And 95% of that ended up in a landfill.
If food waste worldwide was reduced even 25%, it would be enough to feed almost 1 billion people. These numbers are crazy! It definitely got me thinking about how I can reduce food waste at home. Here are some simple tips to help!
Check Before You Buy
I don't know how many times we've gone on one of our epic shopping trips only to find out that we bought multiple items that were already in our pantry or fridge. Keeping an organized pantry and fridge will help you know what you already have. Make a shopping list and double check that you don't already have the items on your list.
Be Smart About Buying in Bulk
Don't get me wrong. I LOVE Sam's Club and Costco. They have free samples, like maybe some awesome cheese popcorn, and just have to have it. And of course I need 50 single serving bags. Yet 6 months later, I throw away 35 bags of expired popcorn.
Be smart about bulk purchases. Look at the expiration date. Can you realistically eat it all before it goes bad? One option is to split the purchase with someone else. That way you both save money and lower your odds of wasting food and money.
Don't Go Sale Crazy
So I'm walking the aisles of the store. OMG! That bag of lettuce is only 99 cents! I better get 3! Two weeks later I throw away 2.5 bags of nasty lettuce. Sound familiar?
This one goes back to your list. Plan your meals ahead and stick to the list. Of course there are exceptions. If you see a phenomenal deal on something you will definitely eat before the expiration date, then by all means stock up. In our house it is peanut butter. You will NEVER find an expired jar in our house.
Freeze Extras and Leftovers
I was so excited to get my new Foodsaver for Christmas. I've used one for years and it was time to upgrade. If you've never tried one, I suggest you give this one a try. FoodSavers vacuum seal your food. This reduces freezer burn as there is no air in the bag. It also greatly extends the shelf life of frozen food.
Speaking of freezing – did you know there are a ton of things you can freeze? You can freeze milk cheese, eggs (out of the shell), avocados, most other fruits and vegetables, herbs, chips, broth, yogurt, and many other things.
Some things like avocados will lose some texture after freezing….but they are still perfectly fine for guacamole. Also, do yourself a favor and invest in some quality ice cube trays. You can freeze milk, yogurt, broth, and herbs in water in the ice cube trays. You then have pre-measured amounts you can pop out of the tray when you need them.
Composting is a great way to reduce food waste at home. It also saves you money and helps the environment. Composting reduces green house gasses, helps control soil erosion, and keeps biodegradable items out of landfills. Be sure to check out this list of things you can compost and things you shouldn't.
Think in Actual Dollars
I'm a money guy. The first thing I think of as I throw something away is how much it cost. I am literally throwing money away. Think about the actual cost of the food that ends up in the garbage. Remind yourself of what else you could be doing with that money. Reducing your food waste will quickly add up. You can even give yourself a reward with all the money you'll save.
Look Past Attractiveness
According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, over 40% of the food grown or produced is never eaten. One major offender is attractiveness. Think of your perfect banana. It is a certain shape, color, and size. What happens when it isn't?
If you see it at the store in less than perfect condition, you don't buy it. If it looks that way at the farm, it isn't sent to market. Why is that? Because farmers know everyone wants that perfect looking fruit or vegetable. They won't send something to market that will probably get rejected.
So what can you do? Be sure to eat your perfectly good fruits and veggies at home even if they look a little imperfect. You can always make banana bread, apple sauce, or tomato soup. The end product tastes just as good whether or not that apple or banana was perfect.
You can also give farmers a break and buy less than perfect produce. Check with your local market. You may be able to buy less than perfect produce at a discount. That way you can save money on the front and back end! It will be cheaper up front and won't end up in your garbage later.
Have you ever seen the cooking show Chopped? Chefs get an eclectic basket of ingredients and have to make an awesome dish. So why can't you do that at home? Get creative! Look at what items you need to use up and figure out a recipe that will use them up. You will waste less and come up with some fun recipes in the process.
There are many needy organizations dedicated to helping the less fortunate. AmpleHarvest.org has a great food pantry locator. You can donate the items you won't use before they expire to a great cause. You could also bake up a tasty treat and donate it to a local nursing home. The residents would definitely appreciate it.
What are you favorite tips for reducing food waste at home? What would you do with all the extra money you would save by throwing out less?
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