Food waste is a huge problem worldwide, with one-third of all globally produced food ending up wasted. Americans throw away about 43 percent of the food they buy, and the organic matter in landfills emits methane, which is a major factor in climate change. We are enticed into wanting our food to look perfect, and we also don’t want to spend much on it. Americans generally spend less on their food compared to other nations, and because of that, many people don’t value it or think much about throwing it out. So what can the average person do to fight back? Here is a list of ways that you can reduce your food waste right now.
Start meal planning
This may seem like common sense, but it is one of the easiest and most important things to do. Plan out your meals in advance, and then make a detailed list of ingredients you will need. Then, when you get to the store, stick with the plan. This will help you avoid buying too much food. Plus, it also saves you time and money at the store. If you buy only what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all. Also, be sure to check your cupboards and refrigerator before going to the grocery store or farmers market, so you don’t buy things you already have on hand.
Store and prep properly
It is easy to buy fruits, vegetables and other perishable items and then forget about them. But if you store and prep everything properly, it can significantly help you reduce your food waste. When you get home from the market, take the time to wash and prep your fresh food, then store it in containers for easy cooking and snacking. Put items you plan to use in the next day or two in the fridge, and put the surplus in the freezer.
If you cook too much or have extra after going out for dinner or enjoying takeout, save your leftovers to enjoy later. Invest in quality food storage containers, because they will keep your food fresh for longer. Come up with a labeling system to help you keep track of how long the leftovers have been in your fridge. Almost half of extra restaurant food alone is thrown in the trash instead of boxed up and taken home, so learn to love leftovers for the sake of minimizing food waste.
Watch your portions
Speaking of restaurant leftovers … they occur because restaurant portion sizes are significantly larger than they should be. You can’t force restaurants to give you a smaller portion (although you can embrace the leftovers), but you can control your portions at home. Large portions have made their way into many kitchens, leaving more opportunities for food waste. Use smaller plates when you prepare food at home, and then save the leftovers for later. If you notice that you are constantly making too much food, cut down your recipes.
Ignore expiration dates
Expiration dates contribute to tons of wasted food each year, but you might be surprised to learn that expiration dates on food mean absolutely nothing to consumers. Except for baby food, expiration dates, sell-by dates, guaranteed fresh dates and use-by dates are all used by manufacturers and have nothing to do with government regulation or any kind of set standard. This means that a lot of food isn’t spoiled, even though it has gone past the expiration date. Trust your senses of smell, sight and taste. Unless the food has obviously spoiled, don’t be so quick to throw it out.
Most people don’t realize just how much food they throw away on a daily basis. By taking just a few easy steps, you can reduce your food waste, make a major impact and help conserve resources for future generations.
Images via Shutterstock