Most of us don’t realize just how much food we waste or throw away on a daily basis. At grocery stores, we keep an eye out for discounts and deals on just about every other item, including foods. But, we do not think twice or do not realize when wasting food, most of the time.
In the United States, food waste is estimated between 30–40 percent of the food supply.1 Nearly half of the food produced is being wasted. If you do not want to contribute to this anymore but not really sure how to go about it, here are some easy ways to avoid wasting food, starting right at home.
1. Be Practical While Shopping
It sounds simple, but shopping practically is an important step to reduce food waste. It is always a good habit to check what’s in your refrigerator before you head to the supermarket. This way, you avoid buying foods you already have. Also, it may help to shop when you are not hungry so that you don’t toss in too many products (mainly junk foods) into your shopping cart.
2. Pay Attention To Expiry Dates
Expiry dates are important because they are a measure of the flavor and quality of the products. Checking this will also help you store the products and not throw them away sooner than you want to. If the dates confuse you, here’s how you can understand the labels.2
- “Use by” dates appear on those foods that go stale very quickly (in a few days). It can be dangerous to eat these foods past their dates.
- “Best before” dates appear on those foods that have a longer shelf-life. Eating these foods may not be dangerous but they can lack quality.
3. Store Food Correctly
For some, grocery shopping is a once-a-week- activity. You purchase fruits and vegetables in bulk so that it lasts the entire week. But, whether you it in bulk or not, storage is the key. Avoid storing foods in plastic as it speeds up the process of ripening. Follow these 3 general rules to keep your produce fresh:
- Store at room temperature: If you decide to eat your fruits and vegetables within 3 days from the date of purchase, store them at room temperature. However, remember to store them away from direct sunlight.
- Store in a cool, dry place: Storing the produce in a cool, dry place like the basement is a good way to keep them fresh for a longer duration. Ensure that the basement has proper ventilation.
- Store in the refrigerator: When you store produce in the refrigerator, use cloth bags instead of plastic ones. Also, keep them in the closed compartments or drawers as the open areas draw moisture out of the produce, causing them to rot faster.
Note: Always store meat on the bottom shelf of the fridge because water from the meat an fall on other foods and result in spoilage.
4. Avoid Crowding The Refrigerator
You are probably familiar with the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” This is particularly true when it comes to storing food in the refrigerator. A crowded space will only leave food in the refrigerator for too long, long enough until it is no longer good to eat.
Keeping your refrigerator organized can help sort this problem. When you purchase new foods, push the old ones to the front so they are visible and used first.
5. Keep A Check On The Serving Portions
Avoid massive portions of food when you serve your friends and family. This can help with two things – you can control food wastage and avoid unnecessary weight gain. Serving just enough is a good habit. In case you are hungry for more, it doesn’t hurt to get up for a second helping.
6. Save And Eat The Leftovers
It is possible to serve small portions of food on a plate, but it is not possible to cook the right portions to avoid wasting food, especially if you have some guests over. In such cases, the best way to avoid food waste is to save the leftovers and eat them later. Follow these tips to make the most out of them:
- Cool down the leftovers as soon as possible, within 2 hours.
- Freezing the leftovers may allow you to preserve their quality and flavor. Use refrigerated leftovers within 2 days.
- Defrost leftovers completely either in the fridge or in the microwave.
If your leftovers are too much to store in the refrigerator, share some with your friends and family.
7. Try Preserving Food
Pickling foods is one of the best ways to reduce food wastage. It is a means of preserving food and storing them for as long as possible. You can pickle just about anything – fruits like lemons and peaches and vegetables like beets, carrots, and cabbage. You can serve these colorful, salty treats to your kids for snack time, too.
8. Support Your Community
Not sure what to do with the excess food, be it bought or homemade? Just donate the untouched, good-quality food to charities. You thus reduce food waste while helping those without a steady food supply.3
9. Compost The Food Waste
If you have a backyard or a garden space, you can avoid wasting food by composting it. Composting food scraps can help in two ways. It reduces the amount of organic waste that goes to the landfills and brings down the production of methane – a strong greenhouse gas that may contribute to global warming. It also acts as manure to your soil. For city dwellers with no garden space, counter-top compost bins may be helpful.4
There are several ways you can reduce, reuse, and recycle food that you prepare at home and the tips mentioned here are just a few you can begin with. Small changes you make to the way you shop, cook, and eat foods can have a positive impact on reducing food waste.
|↑1||U.S. Food Waste Challenge, FAQs. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑2||How to store food and leftovers. National Health Services (NHS).|
|↑3||Food Waste Reduction and Recovery. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.|
|↑4||Composting. Your Energy Savings, Australian Government.|