We’ve all bought more produce than we needed on a shopping trip only to end up throwing it away before using it all. Wasted food can hurt more than just your wallet; old produce and leftovers typically end up in a landfill. In 2017, American’s threw away 38.1 million tons of food, according to the EPA. This waste ended up in our landfills.
Aside from saving money, reducing food waste also reduces methane emissions, conserves energy, and supports the community. Interested in learning how to reduce wasted food? Here are some simple changes you can implement to make the most of your produce and reduce wasted food.
Meal prep isn’t just for athletes.
There are two things you should never do when going grocery shopping: Shopping while hungry and without a plan. Buying in excess at the grocery store is not only expensive, but it’s also incredibly wasteful. When you purchase more than you need, you’re taking resources away from others in your community, and these resources are quite likely to go to waste.
By researching healthy recipes and planning your weekly meals ahead of time, you’ll know exactly what you need when entering the grocery store. When compiling your list, think of how many people you’ll be feeding and how often you’ll be eating at home. Planning ahead means no more overbuying.
Storing produce properly will increase its shelf life.
Improper storage is one of the leading causes of food waste, specifically for produce. The way you store your food greatly affects its shelf-life. Even if you purchase the freshest produce possible, if you don’t store it properly, it’ll perish quickly.
Understanding the factors that affect food’s freshness will help you remember how to best store each product. Airflow, humidity, and temperature are three crucial factors in produce storage. When certain fruits and vegetables start to ripen and age, they release natural gases that actually speed up the aging process. Without proper airflow, these fruits and veggies will go bad much faster than you’d expect. It’s also important to know which types of produce keep best at room temperature and which will stay freshest in the refrigerator.
Use everything you can.
Composting is an effective way to avoid throwing away any food scraps. Learning the art of composting will give you the chance to reduce your carbon footprint by decreasing the amount of trash you’re sending to landfills—it even gives you a perfect fertilizer for starting your own home garden. It’s important to learn the ins and outs of composting before you begin. This way you can make sure your composted scraps are decomposing efficiently and you aren’t attracting any unwanted pests.
Making homemade broths from unwanted leftovers is a great way to avoid throwing out useful ingredients. Plus, you’ll end up with a flavorful and aromatic base that can be used in several different recipes. Potato skins, carrot peels, celery tops, and many other veggie scraps make for a delicious at-home broth.
Have a “leftover night.”
Some people look down on leftovers, but the truth is, leftovers are time- and money-savers. Did you make a family dinner with way too much food? Store the uneaten dishes and use them for tomorrow night’s dinner. You could even repurpose different parts of the meal to create a new dish altogether. Making the conscious decision to save uneaten meals rather than tossing them will not only help you reduce wasted food but save time too. As heating up leftovers from the night before allows you to skip the hours-long preparation process for dinner.
Remember, the freezer is your best friend.
Fruits like bananas and berries can be frozen to be used for smoothies later on. Bread can be frozen to avoid the growth of mold, and it can be thawed and used when needed. You can also pre-make meals for the week, freeze them, and thaw them when you’re ready to eat them. This way, you can make sure to use up all your ingredients during the meal prep process, and then you know you have healthy meals that are ready-to-eat with no waste.
When freezing foods you’ll want to make sure you have the right containers and packaging. Improperly storing items in the freezer can end up in freezer-burnt, unusable food. In order to avoid wasting freezer-friendly foods, you’ll want to make sure they are sealed tightly in containers and not kept for longer than necessary.