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Food waste is a serious issue in the United States. I wish I could say that my family hasn’t been contributing to the problem but that would be a lie. I’m embarrased by the amount of food that we’ve thrown away over the years. I’m on a mission to reduce our family’s carbon footprint one small, simple step at a time and I’m starting with this issue. Here are some ways my family is working on reducing food waste:
Storing food properly
I’ve recently been learning about the proper ways to store foods to keep them fresher for longer. Like did you know apples and pears should be kept away from other fruits because they ripen the other fruits faster? Or that asparagus should be stored standing up in water like flowers are? I had no idea! Use this handy guide to learn how to store foods properly.
Keeping track of what’s in our freezer and pantry
Keeping track of what food we already have in the kitchen has been difficult. Things get buried under other things in the freezer or shoved to the back of the pantry shelves and forgotten about. Then we buy more while at the grocery store because we aren’t sure if we need it or not. (Friends, we currently have eight bottles of spaggheti sauce in our pantry…) Then, when we are doing our quarterly cleaning out of the pantry or freezer, we find a lot of expired things that we have to toss because we didn’t eat them in time. Anyone else have this problem?
While the goal is to eventually buy less so that we are keeping less in our pantry and freezer, my immediate goal is creating a list of what we already have so that I can see what we need to buy and what we have to use up. Then each week before grocery shopping we can look over our list, cross off what was used that week, and only buy what we need to have on hand for the next week or two of meals. Another idea is if you have something you know your family won’t eat (maybe your family’s diet or your kid’s preferences changed) consider donating that unexpired food to a food pantry.
Eating the leftovers in the fridge
Most of our food waste is due to leftover food that we cooked not being eaten. Sometimes it’s because food sits on the stove too long before it can be put away so we toss it but usually it’s leftovers being put in the fridge and then not eaten. As a child I grew up with “leftovers for dinner night” so we do the same in our home now. I tell the children what their options are and they choose one of the meals we have leftovers of.
How leftovers are put away can make a big difference in whether they get eaten or not. Leftovers make great lunches and I’ve found that I’m more likely to eat them if I put them away in these pre-portioned lunch containers that I can put right in the microwave to reheat and eat out of while I work. Keeping all leftovers together on one shelf in the refrigerator and putting the date on the containers are great ideas as well so you can see what leftovers need to be eaten and by when.
Buying imperfect produce
What inspired this food waste reduction movement in my home was my first order of Imperfect Produce (if you use this link we both get $10 off a box). Imperfect is a produce delivery company focused on fighting food waste by finding a home for ‘ugly’ produce. They source imperfect produce that would have otherwise gone to waste directly from farms and deliver it to their customers’ door for about 30% less than the grocery store. I had found a discount code online and decided to try it out because I wanted to have more fresh fruit and veggies in my home. I spent $17 and had a large box of produce delivered.
I’ve loved trying new recipes with my family, even though I typically don’t enjoy cooking, so that the produce doesn’t go to waste. In the past week I’ve made glazed carrots, parmesan stuffed eggplant, zucchini bread, and ham & green beans. My oldest child and I have enjoyed salads full of fresh veggies and I’ve had fruit as a snack daily. While I don’t know if my inner chef will keep showing up every day (especially with baseball season starting) I’ve found having fresh produce is inspiring me to be creative in the kitchen and knowing that the food I’m using would have otherwise gone to waste makes me happy.
Using an app to discover new recipes for ingredients that need to be used up
Here’s a tip from my husband: When you have items that need to be eaten use an app like Big Oven to find recipes. The app lets you put in a few ingredients you have on hand and then suggests recipes you can make with those ingredients. The SaveTheFood website also has great recipes for food scraps and items past their prime here.
Learning more about expiration dates
For me it’s hard to get past expiration dates and I used to throw things out immediately when the ‘sell by’ date had passed. According to this article though, “Confusion over expiration labels leads 9 out of 10 Americans to toss edible food, which adds up in a big way: a family of four spends up to $2,275 annually on food it doesn’t eat, and as a nation, we throw out $900 million in “expired food” every year.” Yikes. That’s a lot of wasted food!
I won’t tell you how safe things are to eat after “sell by” dates and “best by” dates but here is a great visual from SaveTheFood.com and I encourage you to do your own research before you toss food.
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