Excessive food waste is an enormous problem both environmentally and economically. It is estimated that as much as 40% of food produced never gets consumed. There are many simple strategies individuals and families can implement to significantly reduce the amount of edible food going uneaten into landfills. This article explores 7 practical ways to cut down on wasted food.
One of the best ways to avoid overbuying food is to plan menus and grocery lists based on what you know you will eat. Taking inventory of what ingredients, you already have at home prevents duplicate purchases. Meal planning also allows you to incorporate different items throughout the week rather than let things go bad in the fridge. Only buy what you need to minimize excess.
Where and how you store food impacts its lifespan. Produce like fruit tends to last longer when kept out of plastic bags in the crisper drawers. Store bread, crackers, and chips in airtight containers rather than bags left open. Label food storage containers with dates and use a FIFO (first in, first out) system so older items get used first before spoiling. Frozen fruits and vegetables can last months when frozen right away if not eaten fresh.
The freezer is a powerful ally in the fight against wasting food. Many foods like cooked leftovers, baked goods, and extra servings can be safely frozen for weeks or months. Freeze items in portion-sized sealed bags or containers. Soups, stews, and casseroles often taste even better when reheated from frozen. The freezer helps preserve quality and extends the shelf life of food that may otherwise go bad before being consumed.
It’s easy to let wilted produce or food past its prime goes to waste. However, many items can still be used when creatively cooked down or transformed into other dishes like sauces, batters, or breads that disguise their age. For example, overripe bananas are perfect for banana bread while tomatoes past their fresh-eating prime make delicious pasta sauce. Things like carrots and celery can be roasted or simmered into soups and stews.
It’s all too common for leftovers to get pushed to the back of the fridge, forgotten, and eventually tossed. Make an effort to either finish leftovers within 3-4 days or properly freeze portions for later. Reheat leftovers completely and don’t forget about them tucked away. As an added incentive, plan a “leftovers night” each week where you purposefully eat up old items to prevent waste.
When despite your best efforts some food spoils before being consumed, there is still no need for it to go to waste. Many food donation programs exist where unserved food can benefit those in need. The Desert Mission Food Bank in Palm Springs, California collects unserved banquet food from hotels and restaurants that would otherwise be tossed to distribute to feeding programs serving vulnerable groups. Local food pantries and soup kitchens also accept unopened, non-perishable donations to nourish others in the community. Give extra edible food new life rather than letting it rot in the garbage.
Fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, nuts, and nutshells are all suitable for home composting rather than trashing. Setting up an outdoor compost bin or worm farm allows food scraps to break down naturally into nutrient-rich humus that can then be added back to the soil as fertilizer for gardens or landscaping. This diverts biodegradable waste from the garbage to put it to better ecological use. Many municipalities also offer curbside food scrap composting pickup services.