Food waste makes up nearly a third of the trash sent to landfills. This statistic alone gives us pause before we even begin to consider the millions who don’t have enough food to eat. You and your family can help reverse this by making a conscious effort cut down on food waste. With these five steps, you can begin to make a positive dent in an unsavory problem.
1. Shop smart
Plan out your meals for the week before you go grocery shopping. Make a detailed list, and stick to it. Remember to avoid impulse purchases (not shopping while hungry is sure to help) and buy only the exact quantities you’ll need. Purchasing grains and nuts from the bulk bins and only buying loose produce are great ways to cut down on excess. If you’re not sure of the right amount of food to buy, get into the habit of writing down what foods you end up throwing away so you know to avoid buying that much in the future.
2. Preserve food you can’t immediately use
When you shop, pay attention to expiration dates. To keep track in your refrigerator, make a habit of putting the newest foods toward the back of the fridge and moving the older items to the front where you’ll see and use them. If you know you won’t be able to use something before it expires, figure out the best way to preserve it. Store chips, cereal, or other items that have the tendency to go stale, in airtight containers. When fruits start to get too soft, toss them in smoothies, and when greens begin to wilt, add them to soups. You can freeze bread, flash freeze fruits and vegetables, and even take up the vintage arts of canning and pickling to avoid throwing food away.
3. Use your leftovers
Vow to eat your leftovers from dinner for lunch the next day, no matter how tempting a trip to the local cafe may be. Consider gifting leftovers from big meals to friends or coworkers if you can’t possibly finish them. Another great idea: Set aside one night a week to make a meal just from food you have in your kitchen – no additional ingredients allowed.
4. Get creative with food scraps
Make produce go further by using all its parts. Stop peeling potatoes, leave the skin on cucumbers, and cook broccoli stems along with the florets. If this isn’t possible, save vegetable peels in a freezer bag, and when the bag is full, make vegetable stock. Pureed vegetable scraps can even be used in vinaigrettes. Take note of what scraps you’re consistently throwing away, and figure out how to reuse them!
When all other methods for reusing your food scraps have failed, compost! Fruits and vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds (and coffee filters), nut shells, and grains can all be composted. There are a number of ways to compost, from vermicomposting with worms to creating a simple garden compost pile, you’re sure to find a method that works for you. But the onus to reduce your family’s food waste shouldn’t rest on your shoulders alone.
Fun stickers are an effective way to remind kids to compost (via RecycleReminders)
Take steps to make composting a family effort. Consider turning composting into a game for your kids. Reward them for composting their food scraps with small prizes. Stickers and buttons from Team Compost can remind your kids that recycling food waste is just as important as recycling any other material.
Being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to be a hassle. You can find simple ways to engage all of your family members – even the little ones – in reducing their impact, starting right in your kitchen.
Guest post written by Monica Burton