Most people don't realize how much food they throw away every day — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce. About 95 percent of the food we throw away ends up in landfills or combustion facilities - more than 35 million tons of food waste each year. Once in landfills, food breaks down to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change.
Benefits of Reducing Wasted Food
- Saves money from buying less food.
- Reduces methane emissions from landfills and lowers your carbon footprint.
- Conserves energy and resources, preventing pollution involved in the growing, manufacturing, transporting, and selling food (not to mention hauling the food waste and then landfilling it).
- Supports your community by providing donated untouched food that would have otherwise gone to waste to those who might not have a steady food supply.
Ways to Reduce Wasted Food
Planning, prepping, and storing food can help your household waste less food. Below are some tips to help you do just that:
- By simply making a list with weekly meals in mind, you can save money and time and eat healthier food. If you buy no more than what you expect to use, you will be more likely to keep it fresh and use it all.
- Keep a running list of meals and their ingredients that your household already enjoys. That way, you can easily choose, shop for and prepare meals.
- Make your shopping list based on how many meals you’ll eat at home. Will you eat out this week? How often?
- Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping and buy only the things needed for those meals.
- Include quantities on your shopping list noting how many meals you’ll make with each item to avoid overbuying. For example: salad greens - enough for two lunches.
- Look in your refrigerator and cupboards first to avoid buying food you already have, make a list each week of what needs to be used up and plan upcoming meals around it.
- Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
- It is easy to overbuy or forget about fresh fruits and vegetables. Store fruits and vegetables for maximum freshness; they’ll taste better and last longer, helping you to eat more of them.
- Freeze, preserve, or can surplus fruits and vegetables - especially abundant seasonal produce.
- Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.
- Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold.
- If you like to eat fruit at room temperature, store in the refrigerator for maximum freshness then take what you’ll eat for the day out of the refrigerator in the morning.
- Prepare perishable foods soon after shopping. It will be easier to whip up meals or snacks later in the week, saving time, effort, and money.
- When you get home from the store, take the time to wash, dry, chop, dice, slice, and place your fresh food items in clear storage containers for snacks and easy cooking.
- Befriend your freezer and visit it often. For example, freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time. Cut your time in the kitchen by preparing and freezing meals ahead of time.
- Prepare and cook perishable items, then freeze them for use throughout the month.
- Be mindful of old ingredients and leftovers you need to use up. You’ll waste less and may even find a new favorite dish.
- Shop in your refrigerator first! Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
- Have produce that’s past its prime? It may still be fine for cooking. Think soups, casseroles, stir fries, sauces, baked goods, pancakes or smoothies.
- If safe and healthy, use the edible parts of food that you normally do not eat. For example, stale bread can be used to make croutons, beet tops can be sautèed for a delicious side dish, and vegetable scraps can be made into stock.
- Learn the difference between “sell-by,” “use-by,” “best-by,” and expiration dates.
- Are you likely to have leftovers from any of your meals? Plan an “eat the leftovers” night each week. Casseroles, stir-fries, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are great ways to use leftovers too. Search for websites that provide suggestions for using leftover ingredients.
- At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them to make your next meal.
- At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.
If You Can't Reduce Wasted Food, Divert It From Landfills
- Nutritious, safe, and untouched food can be donated to food banks to help those in need.
- Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away.