If you were to do one thing this week to be more socially responsible, what would it be? Perhaps after reading this, you might consider making more of an effort to reduce food waste at home.
If I told you that the added bonus of less food wasted is more money in your wallet, would you do it then? Reducing food waste also conserves energy, saves resources, and lowers pollution. It also means more food can be given to people in need.
Up to 40% of the food currently produced in the U.S. goes to waste. Not only is that absurd, it’s irresponsible too. It’s irresponsible to our own finances. It’s irresponsible to the environment. And it’s irresponsible to the roughly 12.7% of the people in this country who are food insecure. There is more than enough food produced in this country to feed everyone, yet 72 billion pounds of food ends up in landfills and incinerators each year. (Yes, that was billions, not millions.)
So where do we begin? The simplest answer is by being more conscientious of what foods we have, what foods we buy, and how we use them.
More is not always better, and that certainly goes for food. But what about your weekly trips to Costco, you ask? We love Costco too. Just remember that bulk purchases only reduce food waste and save money if the items are used before they spoil.
8 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
We can all take steps to reduce food waste. If not for the purpose of being responsible, then do it for your bottom line. Here are 8 easy ways to reduce food waste by purchasing and preparing only as much as you need:
When you plan a week’s worth of meals, you can take into consideration times when you may be away from home. Meal planning allows more efficient grocery shopping, buying only what you need to make the meals on your list. It also means that you can search for coupons for the items you need. Conversely, if you have a coupon for an item your family uses, you can plan a meal around that purchase. You’ll reduce food waste by having fewer unused items.
Another great idea is to have at least one of the meals on your plan that can be made using non-perishable ingredients so that they can be stored in a pantry or freezer until a later date if your plans should change. Isn’t that a great suggestion?
Make a shopping list.
Whether you meal plan or not, a shopping list will prevent you from buying items you don’t need, as long as you vow to stick to it. You can also keep a list on hand of family favorite meals and their ingredients on your phone for quick reference. You may also find a benefit from including quantities on your list.
Food shop more often.
If weekly meal planning simply does not work for you or your family, and you pass a market on your way home, then shop more often. Decide what your having for dinner that night, and purchase the ingredients you don’t already have on your way home. This also provides added flexibility so that you can see what items may be on sale at your local store.
Understand sell by dates.
Those “sell by” and “best by” labels can be quite confusing. What you need to know is that those dates are not about safety as much as quality. Infant formula is the only food required by the government to have an expiration date. (In my home we go by the rule that if it still looks and smells fine, it’s okay to use if it’s within a reasonable amount of time after the “sell by” or “best by” date.)
You can reduce food waste by batch cooking for the week ahead. This works especially well for parents who work late, as they (or their kids) can easily heat up their own portions and variety from the prepared meals. It reduces energy use too when the oven can be used one time instead of several.
Find another use for produce.
Use or freeze leftovers.
Make a rule that all unused food needs to be eaten before new meals are made. Another great way to use leftovers is by bringing your lunch to work. Meal prep containers like these from EcoNaturell are freezer, oven and microwave safe, are made from glass and even have built-in dividers.
After holidays, do a leftover potluck dinner. One of my girlfriends does this every year on the day after Thanksgiving, and it has become a fun tradition for everyone. Another friend of mine takes all the leftover chocolate Halloween candy every year and adds them to baked goods such as blondies and cookies. Yum!
It’s relatively easy to compost at home. (If you don’t have a compost, there are a variety to choose from here.) It’s especially great for people who eat organic and GMO-free foods, because you’re putting pure nutrients right back into the earth. Food that is composted is not heading to a landfill. By composting you are giving back to the environment as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Less food wasted means more efficient use of your consumer dollars, being socially responsible, and having a lower carbon footprint. It’s a win-win-win! So consider doing one thing this week to be more socially responsible, and make a commitment to reduce food waste at home.
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