72 billion pounds. That’s the amount of food that gets thrown away in America every year. Why does this matter? Doesn’t it just decompose in the landfill? It actually does not. In landfills, organic waste (food) doesn’t have the right set of conditions to properly break down and instead it ends up releasing methane, a greenhouse gas which is even more potent than carbon dioxide and contributes to the global rising temperatures. This is why it’s crucial to learn how to reduce food waste. Read on for some easy tips!
Plan out your meals
Pick out a few recipes for the week, know how much you need to make for it to feed everyone in your household and then make your grocery list, including the amount you need of each item (i.e, “1 pound of potatoes” instead of just “potatoes”). Having a list and a plan will help prevent you from making impulse buys or purchasing too much of an item that will inevitably just end up spoiling
Set your refrigerator to the optimal temperature
According to the FDA your refrigerator should be set to 40° F or below and your freezer should be set to 0° F. Adhering to this will help prevent early spoilage of food.
Buy portions that are realistic for you regardless of packaging
Avoiding plastic waste isn’t always the best course of action in the grocery store. For example, let’s say you’d like to buy celery, but you’re just one person who lives alone. It may actually be more eco-friendly for you to purchase the pre-cut celery sticks that come in a plastic container than to buy a whole bunch of celery, which you inevitably won’t finish and will end up in the trash.
Extend the life of your food by understanding expiration dates
“Use by”, “sell by” and “best if used by” dates don’t indicate a hard cut off. Many foods can actually be consumed past these dates according to the USDA. We simply need to look for signs of spoilage before consuming. Does the food give off an odor? Is the texture or flavor odd? Is there mold? If the answer is yes, discard it (compost if you can), but if not, that “expired” food is probably ok to eat today. And tomorrow. And maybe even the next day. The confusing expiration language leads people to prematurely discard perfectly good items resulting in an abundance of food waste. Luckily the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute are trying to make the language more clear, which could be a big win in the prevention of food waste! (more information here)
Conduct a food waste audit
For two weeks, write down what food you throw away and why (did dinner plans change? Did you forget to check your fridge before grocery shopping and buy something you already had? etc.). Next, write down the cost so you understand how much money you’re “throwing away.” This should help you better understand why you’re wasting food and how to prevent it going forward.
Reduce food waste by storing food properly
Properly storing your fruits and vegetables can lengthen their lifespan by days, if not weeks. For instance, did you know that you should store apples on their own? Or that you shouldn’t actually keep tomatoes in your refrigerator? Discover more food storage tips here!
Use “ugly” fruits or vegetables
Just because produce looks ugly, doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. You can use “ugly” fruits and vegetables to make smoothies, or chop them up and cook them to use in burritos or tacos.
For more food waste content and other sustainability tips, join the Mostly Eco Challenge here!