It happens in households across America on a daily basis. Someone opens the fridge, peers inside and declares there is absolutely nothing to eat. Not long after that, fruit that is far past its prime, something moldy and expired condiments end up dumped in the trash. Americans throw away more than a third of our food each year. That’s a crazy amount of food, and the folks at Smarter say that it costs each household more than $1,000 each year.
If the impact of throwing away food is larger than you thought on your wallet, the same is also true for the impact on the environment. Not only is there the trash from the food, there’s also the waste of the water and energy it took to produce the food and bring it to market.
The solution is to waste less food, but how? Here are some simple ways to reduce food waste in your home from Smarter with a few I’ve learned along the way, added for good measure.
Frozen is Your Friend
If you are not sure if you will make a dish that calls for certain produce, buy frozen instead of fresh. Studies have found that frozen can be just as nutritious as fresh, if not more because the produce is frozen almost immediately after picking.
Don’t use Drawers in the Refrigerator for Perishables
Out of sight, out of mind is often a primary cause of produce going to waste. If you forget you purchased fruits and veggies because they are buried in a drawer, switch it up. Put your producer in glass containers with paper towel to absorb moisture and store them on the fridge shelves instead. Use your drawers for something else! (I find that a loaf of bread fits just fine in the drawers and stays protected from less-than-gentle teens.)
Make a Smoothie
If fruits and veggies start to look a little mushy and on the verge of going bad throw them all into the blender with some plain yogurt and ice cubes. Texture does not matter when you are grinding everything up and the entire family can benefit from this waste-free breakfast or snack that is packed with vitamins and minerals.
Meal Planning and Prep
Instead of cooking throughout the week, do all your prep work on the weekend or on one weeknight and store your ingredients in containers already sliced and diced for convenience. With your recipes pre-planned, you only buy what you need, not what you might use.
Buy Loose Produce
Buy your produce loose instead of in bags where you cannot really see what is inside. Open containers of fruit and do not be shy about swapping out pieces that are already moldy or looking rotten. If you do not, your entire purchase could be bad the day after you buy it.
Divide and Conquer
You might have thought that one of your fridge drawers was for fruits and one for veggies, but that is not actually how you should split up your product. Some produce gives off a gas called ethylene and other fruits and vegetables can ripen faster when exposed to it. So, keep sensitive foods like apples, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, summer squash and watermelon separate from other produce to prolong freshness.
Make Friends with Leftovers
I confess that my family and I are not great at eating leftovers. They end up getting thrown out more than they should. They are less of an issue when I’m better at the aforementioned meal planning. I also just need to remember them, and that leftovers can be great, whether for lunch the next day or incorporated into a new dinner. Talk with your family about food waste and make it clear that leftovers are meant to be consumed. Ask them for ideas. Maybe your teen is willing to eat them as an evening snack.
Check Expiration Dates
Take a few extra seconds when grabbing an item off the shelf to check the expiration date and make sure that you have time to use it before that date.
Have an abundance of something? Share it with friends, neighbors, teachers, the mailman. I love when you can take action that is good for both the environment and your soul.
Invest in Tech
There’s lots of help available when it comes to cooking, meal preparation and delivery services. There’s not so much assistance, however, when it comes to tackling food waste. Try out one of the online food delivery services so you are only getting the ingredients you need and not impulse buying at the market. And, consider outfitting your refrigerator with the FridgeCam, a retrofit and cost-effective product which gives you never-seen-before access to your fridge remotely via an app for your smartphone.
This post isn’t sponsored. I just thought that these tips from Smarter were worth sharing, particularly during Earth Week and learning up to Earth Day on April 22nd.
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