By: Mary Pat Baldauf
Did you know that American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy? For a family of four, that adds up to a loss of between $1,365 to $2,275 each year. In addition to being bad for your pocketbook, there are many other negative implications to food waste: it pollutes our air, wastes valuable natural resources, creates public health concerns and costs a lot of money.
If there is any good news about food waste, it is that as individuals, we can implement small changes that make a big difference in the amount of food we throw away each year. Here are ten easy ways you can reduce your food waste and perhaps even save some money in the process:
- Shop smart. Plan meals, use grocery lists and don’t shop when you are hungry. This way, you’re less likely to buy things you don’t need and that you’re unlikely to actually eat. Also, check your fridge/freezer/pantry for the things on your list to be sure you aren’t buying duplicates of items that you already have.
- Practice FIFO or First In, First Out. When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front of the fridge/freezer/pantry and put new products in the back. This way, you’re more likely to use up the older stuff before it expires.
- Designate one meal each week as a “use it up” meal. Look around in the cupboards and fridge for leftovers and other food that might otherwise get overlooked. Challenge yourself to create a meal using those items; there are actually televisions shows created around such challenges.
- Store better. If you regularly throw away stale chips/cereal/crackers, store them in airtight containers so they’ll last longer.
- Compost! Start a compost pile in the backyard or even under the sink, and convert food waste into a useful resource.
- Split the dish. If eating out, split a dish with a friend so you don’t waste half of the giant portion sizes found at many restaurants.
- Take home leftovers. If splitting meals isn’t your thing or your dining companion is getting something you don’t like, those portion sizes don’t have to be wasted. Just ask to take leftovers home, and you’ve got yourself a free lunch the next day.
- Understand expiration dates. Expiration dates don’t always have to do with food safety; rather, they’re usually manufacturers’ suggestions for peak quality. If stored properly, most foods stay fresh several days past the “use-by” date.
- Serve small amounts. Serve small amounts of food with the understanding that everybody can come back for more once they’ve cleared their plate. This is especially helpful for children, whose “eyes are usually bigger than their stomachs.” Any leftovers can be cooled, stored in the fridge and used another day.
- Freeze! If you only eat a small amount of bread, freeze it when you get home and take out a few slices a couple of hours before you need them. Likewise, batch cook foods so that you have meals ready for those evenings when you are too tired to cook.
Have you ever thought about the implications of food waste? Which of these tips are you willing to commit to? Do you have other suggestions?