There's nothing I hate more than throwing away leftovers or other food we didn't get around to eating. In the US, one third of all food produced is thrown out. Most of this waste occurs at the store and in the home but is also high among fresh product during harvesting and processing. Food waste is the largest component filling up our landfills and producing methane. The country spends millions of dollars each year transporting waste and families spend hundreds on dollars on food that ends up in the trash.
This year's National Nutrition Month theme is Go Further With Food with a focus on reducing food waste. Reducing food waste can save you money, save your local community money, produce less methane gas, preserve your natural resources, and feed more people. We can all do our part to reduce our waste, below are a few simple tips to get started in your own home.
1. Shop your freezer, pantry, and fridge before going to the store.
Towards the end of the week when my fridge is looking bare and I'm running out of fresh produce, I often pull together meals from what I have on hand - canned beans, frozen meats or seafood, frozen veggies, whole grains, etc. It's actually usually pretty easy to do it just takes a little brainstorming. This saves me from going to the store and buying extra food I don't need. It's always a good idea to check what you have on hand so you don't double or triple up on ingredients you may already have.
2. Shop the discounted food section.
I love that more and more grocery stores have a discounted section with 'ugly' produce or foods that are on their way out. I often buy partially moldy strawberries here for just 50 cents or a dollar. I cut off the bruises and mold and make strawberry chia jam or freeze them to use in smoothies, on oatmeal, or to have with waffles.
3. Use vegetable scraps to make broth to use in soups, stews, casseroles, etc.
Unfortunately, I don't have a place to compost at my apartment complex. I do however try to use my vegetable scraps in other ways, like homemade broth. To make homemade broth - boil a pot of water with onion skins, celery ends, pepper stems, and any other type of veggie scrap. Strain out the scraps and use the broth in soups or other recipes later on. It also freezes well. Or try some of these recipes to use your food scraps and reduce food waste.
4. Freeze leftovers before they go bad.
Sometimes a recipe makes more than I planned on and I end up with too many leftovers. Luckily, many things freeze well and can easily be stored and saved for a quick meal later. Anything from meatballs and pulled pork to frittatas and chili all store and reheat well. Also slice your fresh fruit and veggies if they're about to go bad and store in freezer bags to use later.
5. Plan meals for the week and factor in leftovers.
Most weeks I think of 2-3 meals or recipes I want to make for dinner. I'll plan to make enough to have leftovers for lunch too. Planning just 2-3 meals leaves room for flexibility - some recipes will make more than expected, we may go to a friends house or go out one night, etc. - things come up. If I run low on food I refer to Tip #1.
6. Make a list before going to the store.
You've likely heard this before but it really does help to save you money, time, and even food waste.
7. Only buy what you need.
Similar to Tip #6- buy only what you need. Go to the store with a plan to prevent spontaneous purchases that may ultimately be wasted.