Waste Less Food

Helpful tips to help you save more food…and money.

This post comes from our blog intern, Emily.

Food waste is more of an issue than most of us know. I recently read an article in National Geographic (which I highly recommend you read) and was shocked to learn how much food we throw away. I am certainly guilty of wasting more than necessary, and feel it’s time to make more of an effort.

“Across cultures, food waste goes against the moral grain. After all, nearly 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger. But according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we squander enough food — globally, 2.9 trillion pounds a year — to feed every one of them more than twice over. Where’s all that food — about a third of the planet’s production — going?  In developing nations much is lost post-harvest for lack of adequate storage facilities, good roads and refrigeration. In comparison, developed nations waste more food farther down the supply chain, when retailers order, serve, or display too much and when consumers ignore leftovers in the back of the fridge or toss perishables before they’ve expired.”

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“Supermarkets have always been free to set their own standards, of course, but in recent years upscale grocers have started running their produce departments like beauty pageants, responding to customers, they say, who expect only platonically ideal produce: apples round and shiny, asparagus straight and tightly budded….It’s all about quality and appearance,” says Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods at the Food Marketing Institute. And only the best appearance will capture share of the consumer’s wallet.” Some of the produce that doesn’t capture share will be donated to food banks or chopped up and used in a supermarket’s prepared meals or salad bar, but most of US grocers’ excess food is neither donated nor recycled.”

This is just a small glimpse of how much food is really being tossed out. Globally, 46 percent of fruits and vegetables never make it from farm to fork, just because it’s oddly shaped, imperfect or “ugly”. The US alone wastes 30 to 40 percent of its food. Our supermarkets’ cosmetic standards are a little ridiculous, yeah?

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It’s Earth Month, and what better time to start doing your part! Wasting less food is not convenient and it does take a little getting used to. But you CAN make a difference — to the planet and your wallet — by reducing your own waste. Here are some tips!

Start at the source. Your kitchen. Browse your cupboards, pantry and fridge often (especially before heading out to get groceries) to take note of what you already have. What I’ve noticed works most effectively for reducing my food waste is making a fool-proof list and being a smart shopper. It is a little time-consuming, I admit. My week goes much smoother, my produce rarely goes bad, and I save money by taking the time to plan out my meals. It just works. On shop day I gather my recipes/ideas for meals throughout the week, keeping leftovers and lunches in mind. When I prepare a grocery list with ingredients, quantities and details included, everything is used by week’s end, eaten fresh and, most importantly, I feel really great. This helps to keep me from over-buying and giving in to extraneous temptation. If I have delicious meals planned for the coming week, I don’t reach for the extra crap. Go to the store with a plan and attack it. After you get into the routine, you’ll be amazed.

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Shop often and small. Produce isn’t meant to last for much longer than a week. It’s fresh, without preservatives, and alive. Be conscious of how much produce you think you are really going to eat (I’ve been there… saying I will eat salads every day or buying too many avocados that go bad before I eat them). But I LOVE vegetables, and 3/4 of my shop consists of them. By now, I’m familiar with how much fresh food I eat weekly, and I usually know just by perusing my cart if I’ve overdone it. Sometimes I have to stop at the store more than once a week if I’ve used up all my veggies, but I prefer to make the trip for freshness rather than letting things go bad and tossing them (and my money).

Use resources like Still Tasty and FoodKeeper to see if your foods are still edible. Familiarize yourself with their shelf life. Know the difference between sell by, use by, best by and expiration.

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Freeze food. Many perishables can be frozen. Like bread, desserts, tortillas… Make extra of what you’re already cooking and freeze it for another time! Soups, stews, sauces, pies, chilis and meats all freeze well. If you know you won’t be eating it within the next few days, store it properly and put it in the freezer.

Shop the salad bar and prepared foods section in your grocery. If you don’t have the time to cook or are grabbing a meal on the go, many grocery stores reduce their waste by taking the imperfect foods and chopping them for the salad bar.

If you think your food is past its prime, it might still be good for soups, sauces, pies and smoothies!

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Shop at farmer’s markets and consider joining a CSA.

Choose loose vegetables and fruit over pre-packaged produce to better control the amounts you need and ensure fresher ingredients.

Separate your ripe fruits from very ripe. Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other produce spoil faster.

– Wash your berries just before eating to prevent mold.

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Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes separately and store fruits and vegetables in different bins.

Eat leftovers and take leftovers home from a restaurant.

– Ask the waiter to hold bread and butter if you know you wont be eating it.

Switch to smaller dishes to control your portions. The standard plate is 36 percent larger than it was 50 years ago.

Give uneaten food a second chance. Transform leftovers by adding them to a soup, a casserole, omelets, throw an egg on top, or make a salad.

Blend bruised produce into a smoothie.

Buy imperfect fruits and vegetables.

Try your hardest not to waste water intensive foods like meat.

Compost!

Juice em’.

Adapt. Adapt recipes to your needs. Learn to adjust your meal and use what’s in your fridge. Base your meals around produce that needs to be eaten the soonest.

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Learn to cook. It’s fun, rewarding, expressive and does excellent things for your health and our Mother Earth.

– Be grateful. Everyone has to eat. Most of us are lucky enough to have choices and the ability to purchase what we enjoy. Appreciate your food and the benefits will be bountiful. It’s harder to waste your food if you love it.

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+What do YOU do to reduce your waste?

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Comments

  1. As a single person, the single most important thing I have ever done to reduce food waste was to find a friend with KIDS who like to eat! She is a co-worker so we swap at work and make good use of the staff refrigerator. She gets a meal or the main course to take home about once a week. I cook full size meals and we split up the food and cost. Part of mine is consumed, part is froze, nothing wasted, ideally. Works wonderfully! I have cut my eating out by 75%! I enjoy cooking more especially because I know a kid some where is going to say, “Ohhh!! Yummy”. The extra benefit is that now I get the chance to eat fresh fruit more often! Also, I can eat 5 slices of fresh bread a week instead of 5 slices the first week and froze bread the next 3 weeks! I keep an IOU list and we square up with the cost. For little things like flour and sugar, I have extra plastic jars containing our “shared” ingredients, works WONDERFULLY! We have a garden together (I’m a farm girl transplant to a condo and she is a NCY girl with a yard – go figure.) Canned our stuff the first year, froze the second year (I bought a chest freezer finally). Will do a combo this year. I really LOVE the share concept! I do miss France’s fresh fruit and veggies market – also cheese, eggs, fish, …etc oh my! And I fully miss the opportunity to purchase small amounts fresh, on the street, daily at the same price as bagged! But the share concept helps conquer that problem. Bon Appétite!

  2. Yes – Composting is so important! I think it is worthy of its own article. People know little about compost donations.

  3. We bought chickens a couple years ago and we have not wasted any veggies, greens, or herbs since. The chickie-girls will gobble them up. If I know that something is about reached its end, and I cannot eat it in time, they get a treat. We garden as well, and they eat the split tomatoes, the bug-bitten veggies, the berries that are a little too ripe, and anything I will share with them. Chickens are excellent partners in eliminating food waste.

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