Many people are becoming increasingly aware of their daily food waste. Food waste occurs through food going bad in the fridge, expiring in the cabinets, or simply being thrown away because someone doesn’t like the taste of it. Fortunately, decreasing the amount of food waste in a household isn’t overly difficult to do. The following guide provides eight tips to implement into a home to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste on a regular basis.
Know What Food is Readily Available
The first thing someone can do to reduce their food waste is to know what food they already have in their home. Many people go to the grocery store without knowing which foods they already have and rebuy items they don’t really need. Instead, taking the time to do an inventory of all items in the pantry, freezer, and fridge before going shopping reduces the chances of buying items that aren’t needed.
Create a Meal Plan
It’s common to go to the store with a general idea of what someone needs or wants to purchase. This often leads to overspending and buying items they don’t actually use. It’s best to create a meal plan before heading to the store. Creating a detailed list of meals someone wants to prepare allows them to purchase the specific amount of each ingredient they need for the recipes they want to create. It reduces the chances of food going bad and allows shoppers to know exactly how much they will spend on each trip. Many grocery stores now have pick up options that allow shoppers to buy the items through an app or online and pick them up in the parking lot. It decreases impulse purchases that can occur when walking through the grocery store.
Portion and Store Foods Properly
In order for foods to last as long as possible, they need to be stored properly. Buying bulk portions of meat and dry goods saves a lot of money on the grocery budget. Unfortunately, if the items aren’t stored properly, they will go to waste and need to be thrown away. Separate meat into reasonable portion sizes and vacuum seal them to ensure freshness. Meat sealed with a vacuum sealer stays good for many months without getting freezer burnt, and there are a variety of affordable home or commercial cryovac machines that can help you do this. The same vacuum sealer can also be used to seal canning jars that can hold dry goods if the proper attachment is purchased. This removes all air from the jar and thus keeps the food from becoming rancid overtime.
Don’t Toss Scraps in the Trash
It’s common to toss scraps in the trash when preparing a meal. Place peels and scraps into a freezer bag to store in the freezer. Once a good amount is collected, place them in a large pot and cover them with water. The scraps create a vegetable broth after a few hours to use in cooking other meals.
Create a Compost Bin
Once the broth is complete, the scraps don’t need to go into the trash. Drilling holes into the lid of a plastic container allows it to be used as a compost bin. Place the scraps, paper and leaves from around the yard. Shake the bin once a week and within a few months there will be compost readily available to fertilize plants in the yard or around the house.
Store Leftovers Properly
Putting leftovers in containers and placing them randomly in the fridge often leads to them going bad and being wasted. Instead, consider getting dissolvable labels to place on each container. The exact item stored inside of the container and the day it was stored can be easily labeled. Designating an area to store leftovers helps to make items easier to find and decreases the chance of food going to waste.
Use Leftovers in New Ways
Many people toss leftovers in the trash because they don’t enjoy eating the same foods night after night. Fortunately, leftovers can be used in many different ways. Leftover chicken is great for making quesadillas, leftover vegetables are great for making soups and leftover pastas or rice can serve as bases for different meals, such as fried rice or spaghetti. Think outside of the box to decrease the food waste in the kitchen.
Designate One Night a Week for Leftovers
A great way to use up leftovers before they go bad is to designate one night a week as leftover night. Have everyone in the family choose a leftover item they would like to have for dinner. This helps to clean out the fridge and ensures that everything prepared is eaten rather than being placed in the trash. It also gives the family a break from having to prepare food and the amount of clean up that has to take place after the meal is complete.
Preserve Foods to Decrease Waste
Many people think that preserving food is overly difficult to do. It actually isn’t though. Food dehydrators and freeze dryers make it easier to preserve foods for long term storage. Both a freeze dryer and dehydrator simply require someone to fill them with the foods they want to freeze dry or dehydrate and wait the appropriate amount of time. Once the items reach the proper dryness, they need to be stored in airtight containers. There are Mylar bags that work great for this. Simply place the items in the Mylar bags, place an oxygen absorber in the bag and seal it. The items stay in the same condition for years to come. It allows someone to have food readily available if emergency situations occur and reduces food waste dramatically.
Reducing the amount of food waste that takes place in a household requires everyone to be on board with the concept. If there are children in the house, it’s a good idea to discuss how food waste impacts the environment and what changes the family would like to implement to decrease their direct food waste. This can encourage kids to participate in coming up with creative ideas for using leftovers, get them interested in food preservation or simply inspire them to make other changes in their lives to be less wasteful and more conscientious about their impact on the environment.