In the United States, we waste an astounding 30 to 40 percent of our food supply each year. Recognizing the problem, many Americans have started to reduce their red meat consumption and choose more sustainable food sources in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. Reducing food waste can make an important impact on the environment, too.
While much of the food waste in America occurs in large-scale food operations, we all can make an impact. Here are five ways to reduce your food waste at home.
Look ahead at your schedule and plan meals according to when you will be home and able to prepare and eat a meal. This can help prevent ingredients going to waste from meals that were never made. Consider when you will be having dinner out or lunch meetings that may have food provided. Weekly themes such as “Meatless Monday,” “Taco Tuesday,” or “Slow Cooker Sunday” can inspire you and help you get organized. Make a grocery list based on your plan and stick to it. Try to avoid buying ingredients unless you have a plan for them.
For example, peeled and chopped bananas and avocados can be frozen for use in smoothies. Tomato paste can be frozen by the tablespoonful for use in recipes that call for just one or two tablespoons. Use ice cube trays or silicon muffin baking cups to freeze leftover cooking wine, coconut milk and broth and stock. Or, double a favorite recipe and freeze the leftovers for a meal that can quickly be reheated on a busy weeknight.
Plan to eat foods with the shortest shelf lives earlier in the week, and save heartier foods with longer shelf lives for later in the week. For example, use tomatoes and leafy green vegetables on Monday, and butternut squash, carrots and sweet potatoes on Thursday. Same goes with meat: eat the fresh salmon before the hermetically sealed package of ground meat.
Make “Fridge Clean Out” Meals
At the end of the week, plan to make a “fridge clean out” meal. This can be flexible, based on what you have left over. Think along the lines of a frittata, stir-fry or fried rice. First, soften any aromatics (garlic, onion, ginger, peppers) you have in oil, then add firm vegetables (eggplant, mushrooms, potatoes) and cook until just soft. Finish by adding any quick-cooking vegetables (tomatoes, spinach) at the end.
For at least one week a month, commit to wasting absolutely no food that you purchase. Challenge yourself to see how creative you can get!