Food waste is a global problem. Nearly one third of the world's food — that's 1.3 billion tons — is wasted every year. Big box grocery stores and wasteful food suppliers may contribute to the problem on a larger scale, yet each household who throws away uneaten food has an effect. Luckily, individuals and families can take easy, thoughtful steps to reduce food waste for the benefit of the environment and our pocketbooks. Here are some tips to get started.
1. Reflect on what goes to waste each week
Are you an ingredient-buyer who lets fresh produce get mushy in the fridge, completely untouched? Or are you a leftovers-neglecter who tosses week-old casserole after it’s past its prime? Either way, identifying just what food waste you are producing can help guide you to becoming more resourceful and realistic about what you and your family eat. If purchasing pre-chopped or pre-made foods fits your lifestyle, that’s okay. Not everyone has the time or energy to continuously prepare foods from scratch each week. Know thyself.
2. Organize your shopping trip
Having a grocery list and sticking to it is super-simple common sense, yet we may not always adhere to it. If making a thorough, 7-day meal plan isn’t your thing, at least shoot for a list of 1-3 recipes you plan on cooking in the week ahead. List your ingredients and exactly how much of them you need to buy. Only need 1 cup of brown rice for a recipe? Get comfortable in the bulk bin section of your grocery store. Especially if you are trying out something new, this section can be the one thing preventing extra, unused ingredients spoiling in your pantry.
3. Research how to properly store different foods
Once you get home, you may mindlessly store your haul without knowing the best way to preserve certain foods. Some produce can be frozen while other fruits and veggies wilt more quickly if chilled, for example. You can even extend the life of your foods by storing certain items together – or, conversely, by separating some foods. Here’s an infographic with the basics of storing your groceries to extend their shelf life.
4. Schedule time to prep and cook food – and stick to it
With New Year’s resolutions still holding fast, we may be inspired to eat more whole foods and recipes from scratch. This means more time spent in the kitchen preparing ingredients. While this does wonders for our health, it may also be a source of stress. Just like you schedule time to go grocery shopping – or any other important task – also schedule time to chop, peel, store, and otherwise prepare your whole foods. When dinnertime rolls around, gazing into the fridge will reveal neatly stacked, ready-to-go ingredients, instead of an extra hour of work.
5. Keep an inventory of your pantry
Some bloggers are notable for doing a pantry cleanse, which involves digging deep into the reaches of their supplies and uncovering forgotten food items. While this can be a creativity-inspiring experiment, it also means we do not truly know what is hiding in our cabinets. Finding a way to keep a record of what we have on hand nixes the chances of items expiring without our knowledge and keeps us accountable to the privilege of having food at our disposal at all times.
6. Plan a ‘kitchen sink’ meal every week
Still have a quarter of an onion, a few limp carrots, and a few leaves of kale laying around at the end of the week, without a destined dish? Plan one meal before your next grocery store trip that can use up your leftover ingredients. Some easy dishes for throwing miscellaneous foods together include stir fries, burritos, bowls, casseroles, wraps, and pastas. Also, if you have a chunk of cucumber or other pet-safe foods leftover these can serve as nutritious snacks for our four-legged friends and will prevent excess food from ending up in the trash.