Nothing is more defeating than having to throw food in the trash. It genuinely fills me with guilt. Because of my profession as a dietitian I am acutely aware of how many people have limited access to fresh produce so the idea of letting it go to waste feels gluttonous. The USDA estimates that 31% of food goes to waste between retail and consumers which equates to roughly 133 billion pounds of food each year. Shocking right?!
Even if you don’t have the same knee jerk response that I do when it comes to tossing out food I am sure that you could find some benefit to reducing food waste because after all throwing away food is throwing away money. I have put together some of my favorite strategies to reduce food waste so that you can help save the environment and your wallet.
- Use your cooking scraps to make broth. Keep a tupperware container in the freezer and throw any vegetable scraps in it. When the container fills up you can use it to make a vegetable stock.
- Make sure you are storing all your produce properly. I have a blog post here outlining the best ways to keep produce fresh.
- If produce is starting to go bad, use it that day or use one of these strategies to increase its shelf life.
- Fruit going bad? Freeze it to use in a dessert or a smoothie.
- Veggies going bad? Steam then freeze. The frozen veggies can then be used in casseroles, soups or smoothies
- Herbs going bad? Use them to make a gremolata, pesto, aoili or chimichurri sauce. You can also make an infused oil by combining them in a 1:4 (herb:oil) ratio in a saucepan over low heat for 30 min or until fragrant.
- Buy local. Buying from local farms not only helps support your local economy but it means that there is less energy and product waste required for the food to get from the farm to your mouth. A couple extra added bonuses?
- The vendors often use environmentally friendly packaging and you can bring your own bags to make it a plastic free shopping trip
- The produce may have a higher nutrient content and better flavor because it was picked more recently.
- Some produce purchased at the farmers market will last longer because it didn’t have to spend any time sitting on shelves before getting to your house!
- Try pre-planning your meals for the week and make a shopping list based off of the ingredients needed to prepare your planned meals. This will help ensure you are only buying the foods you are actually going to use.
- Soups! This is actually a restaurant trick. Most of the time when you see the “soup de jour” it is really just something the chef through together with all the produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. So next time your produce is starting to wilt use it to make a big batch of soup and freeze any leftovers you have for meals in a pinch later.
- Make sure to stock your fridge and pantry using the “first in first out” rule. This means that the newly purchased food is stored in the back so the older food that is more likely to go bad quickly is stored up front where you can see it and will be more likely to eat it before it goes to waste.
- Save any leftovers by placing them in tupperware, freezing them, and labeling with the date cooked.
- Take inventory before you go grocery shopping to ensure you are not doubling up on things you already have.
- If you need a specific ingredient that you won’t likely use again buy it from the bulk section. Am I the only one who has had a bag of coconut flour in the back of her cabinet for years because I just needed 2 Tbsp for a recipe one time. *facepalm
- Grow your own herbs. I know not everyone has the space, or the green thumb to do this, but if it is an option I would highly recommend it!
- Start composting. Again, I know space can be an issue here but you don’t actually have to do all the work yourself, many cities have local compost drop offs and some even offer services that will come pick up compost from your home! Check out this website to find a place near you!
- If you are purchasing items from the bulk bin bring your own jars or bags!! I know it may seem intimidating the first time but it is so easy!
- To do this you need to “Tare” your jars which basically just means pre-weigh them so that the cashier can subtract that weight from the purchase so that you are only paying for the food. If you do not have a scale at home, most stores with bulk bins will tare your jars for you and just write the weight in pounds on a label or piece of tape attached to your jar! It’s a bit awkward the first time you do it but before you know it you will be sitting on your high horse of sustainability.
If you learned anything from this post on strategies to reduce food waste check out the other posts from my sustainability series on eco friendly kitchen swaps and produce storage tricks.