During any given week, your family probably throws away a lot of food. Whether it’s the lettuce that went bad in the refrigerator or the dinner leftovers that you simply didn’t eat, food waste is a major issue in most households. There are ways to help curb food waste, though, and they are all pretty simple solutions. Here are 10 steps you can take now to help cut down on food waste.
Only Buy What You Need
One way you can cut down on how much food you waste is to only buy the food that you need. For example, if you are going to the store, check your cabinets, fridge, and pantry when making your list. This will help you to avoid over buying, and crowding up your food storage with items you don’t currently need. This also helps to free up room in your bank account, too, since you aren’t buying unnecessary products!
Plan Your Meals
Meal planning is a great way to reduce food waste. If you know ahead of time what you are going to make for each meal, you will find that you actually consume most all the food that you purchase, since it is part of your meal plan. Most people who meal plan also factor in leftovers for at least a couple of meals each week, which means you throw out less, too. I know that if I make a pan of lasagna for my family of 5, we’ll get at least 2, maybe 3 meals from that one pan. If I put that on the meal plan for the week, I know that the main dish for one dinner, and a couple of lunches will come from that. You’ll find that by planning your meals out, you make less impulse purchases at the store, and only buy things that you will eat or cook. This also leaves you with more money in your wallet!
Cook in Bulk
Cooking a lot of meals at one time can definitely help you to waste less food. If you’re making a casserole, why not make 2 or three, and freeze the extras? You can pull them out at a later time when you need a quick meal, or have a busy night ahead. The hard work is already done for you, just pull it out and bake. You aren’t really using any more time or energy to make several of an item than making one.
Chop The Scraps
You can save the parts of fruits and veggies that you don’t eat and freeze them for later use. For example, when I make stuffed bell peppers, I chop up the tops, and throw them in baggie, then put them in the freezer. The chopped pepper pieces make a great add in to omelets, soup, or fajitas. And, they cost me nothing extra, since they were scraps from peppers I used at another meal.
Don’t Toss Overripe Fruit
One of the biggest ways people waste food is by throwing out fruit that looks too mushy or ripe. It can be like tossing money down the drain. Before you pitch that fruit, consider slicing and freezing it for later use. You can put it into pies, smoothies, or other dishes, and it being a little discolored or mushy won’t matter. Berries, bananas, peaches, and apples are all fruits that bruise or get mushy easily, but freeze really well.
Take those food scraps that can’t be eaten and toss them into the compost heap. This is where you put whatever parts of the food that can’t be eaten. The compost will go into your garden bed, and help to grow a new crop of fruits and vegetables, so actually every part of the food is being used or consumed. If you have never made a compost pile, they are very easy to do and will work wonders for your garden.
Re-Use Cooking Oil
I remember my grandmother keeping a container of grease on her stove top. She used it to coat skillets, fry chicken, and several other foods. Then, when she was done, she’d strain it and put it back into the container. As long as your oil hasn’t gone bad, most non-hydrogenated oils can be used several times before being tossed out. One tip: be sure to store it in a sealed container to keep it from spoiling.
Got Stale Bread?
You don’t have to toss bread that is going stale. You can use it for bread puddings or French toast, or even chop it up to make your own croutons for salads. You can also do this with bread crusts, if your kids won’t eat the sandwiches with crusts on. Just cut them off and use them for something else. If you catch day-old bread on clearance in your local bakery, you can freeze it and use it later. I will often buy several loaves of day old bread and freeze them for this very reason. It’s also cheaper, because these loaves are usually marked down significantly.
Share With Others
Another way to combat food waste is to share your abundance with others. If you have a lot of canned goods or non-perishables, you can donate those to your local food pantry. Is your garden making way more produce than you can eat? Share with friends and neighbors. Many elderly people love fresh garden food but aren’t able to physically garden anymore, and would love a basket of summer vegetables.
Get Creative With Cooking
When I was a kid, we would have “chef’s variety” nights from time to time when we would have a random selection of different dishes. This was a way for us to use items from the pantry without them going to waste, and still have a delicious meal. If you get creative, you can come up with some non-conventional dishes that will help you to eliminate a lot of your food waste. There are even websites I found that let you enter the ingredients you have on hand and gives you recipes using those ingredients.
If you implement even a few of these ideas, you can drastically reduce how much food you waste. We probably all waste more than we think, and this is something we should all be more diligent about trying to monitor. What does your family do to reduce food waste?