Monday, August 27, 2012

Resist food waste

Courtesy of the Natural Resources Defense Council

I hate wasting food. It makes me sick when I put food in the trash that I spent hard-earned money on. Yet, I do it. We all do it. And according to a study from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away food to the tune of $165 billion per year. Nearly half of all food goes in the trash in the U.S., and a family of four throws away about $2,275 of food each year.

Not only does all of this waste destroy the land, put copious amounts of methane gas in the air, and waste water and energy, it eliminates calories that could otherwise feed millions of hungry Americans.  And while there are many contributors to this issue, including grocery stores and restaurants, we all have a responsibility to reduce food waste in our homes.

While I continue to work on reducing and ultimately eliminating food waste in my home, there are several things I’ve done over the years to adjust my behaviors and bad habits to keep it at a minimum.

Plan meals for the week and create a grocery list
Every week I review the grocery store circulars, plan my meals for the week and build my grocery list around those recipes and any other must-have items (milk, eggs, cheese, etc.). I stick to only buying items on the list, even if it means passing up a great deal. I mean, is it really a great deal if we throw half of it away?

Freeze perishables and defrost as needed
Though not possible for everything, I freeze meats, fresh fruit and butter to extend their life. I simply defrost and use as needed throughout the year.

Take leftovers for lunches
I mentioned in a previous post that my husband and I take leftovers for lunch nearly everyday. In fact, I plan my meals accordingly so that meals that create leftovers are weekday meals and non-leftover meals are reserved for weekends. Not only does it ensure we use up more food, it saves us tons of money on takeout and pre-packaged items and is a much healthier option.  

Check expiration dates often
Every few weeks I do a quick inventory of the fridge to make sure I know which items are nearing their expiration. Then I plan meals the following week to use up those items.

Don’t use expiration dates as your throw away guide
This was the hardest habit for me to break as I was a nut about throwing anything away that was past expiration. But I’ve since learned that those dates mark freshness, not food safety. I’m still extra cautious when it comes to expiration dates, but instead will smell or taste food first. If it’s holding up, I hold onto it.

Buy less
This was easy to do once my husband and I shifted our consumption to humanely-raised and mostly organic foods. We simply can’t afford to buy a lot! But for most Americans, the thought of being comfortable with bare cabinets or empty shelves in the refrigerator can be downright unnerving. Try taking a couple short trips each week to the grocery store to replenish perishables instead of one major trip every few weeks. Try starting with fewer perishables and, if you run out, go buy more instead of stocking up and throwing away uneaten items.

Eat less
It’s simple math. If you buy less, you eat less. And if you eat less, you’ll buy less. Easier said than done, but most waistlines could use a little trimming. At a minimum, work on eating less animal products like meats, dairy and cheese which are the most costly to the environment to produce and waste, and the most costly to your wallet.

What are some of your best tips for reducing food waste?

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  1. We discussed this in the Open Thread last week. Wasting food really drives me insane!

    I refrigerate and freeze a lot of stuff in order to keep it as long as possible. I also shop frequently.

    1. Lesley, thanks for your comment and for sharing this thread from last week! Really interesting to hear others' comments about how they're working on this issue. Wasting food drives me crazy too. It's one of many aspects of the blessings and abundance we experience here in America that makes me cringe.