According to the EPA, in 2019, a whopping 66 MILLION tons of food waste was generated, and more than 60% of that ended up in landfills. Because decomposing food dramatically contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, we must learn how to reduce food waste at home.
If you’re reading this, you’ve already got a fire burning within you to achieve this goal, so let’s dive into these five quick and easy tips that anyone can implement today.
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Tips for Cutting Down on Food Waste
Tip #1: Plan meals in advance.
Planning your meals is a great way to cut down on food waste and buy only what you need. It helps in a couple of ways.
- If you’re anything like me, you may find yourself teetering on the edge of buying too much food. But if you plan your menu for the week, you’ll know exactly what you need and be less likely to buy excess food you may not use.
- You’ll use ingredients more efficiently because when you plan meals ahead of time, you’ll know what you can use where. For instance, if you buy a bunch of vegetables, you can use half of them for a stir-fry and the other half for vegetable soup.
Try writing up a meal plan for at least a week and see if you buy less food than before.
Tip #2: Store food properly.
Proper food storage can help promote food safety, extend the shelf life of your food, and reduce spoilage. Here’s how to help prevent food waste for refrigerated goods:
- You know to keep perishables in the fridge. But be sure it’s also set at the right temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria that causes spoilage. This is at or below 40° F (4° C).
- DO NOT leave perishables out at room temperature, especially meat and poultry, for more than TWO hours.
- Store meat and dairy in the correct compartments: meat in the bottom drawer and dairy products on the top shelf.
- Fruits and vegetables all have different storage requirements. For example, tomatoes and avocados should be kept at room temp while lettuce, berries, greens, celery, carrots, etc., should be kept in the fridge. Be sure to keep your apples separate from other produce as the ethylene gas they release could spoil other veggies more quickly.
Use air-tight containers: Dry goods like pasta, rice, and cereal should be stored in air-tight containers to prevent moisture and air from making them stale. Use glass jars when possible for a more sustainable kitchen.
Wrap foods properly: Wrap foods like meat and cheese in eco-friendly, air-tight wraps. Be sure to remove as much air as possible from the packaging to prevent oxidation and spoilage.
Tip #3: Use leftovers creatively.
My daughter is not a big fan of leftovers, and if you get sick of eating them, sometimes you can use the ingredients to create new meals or snacks.
This is a great tip for reducing food waste and ensuring all the food in your fridge finds its purpose. Plus, you’ll save money. A real win-win.
Here are some excellent ways to make edible food even more palatable than it was before:
- Rice. Leftover rice from your casserole can be used to make a bowl of fried rice.
- Chicken. It can be repurposed into chicken salad, chicken stew, or a chicken and veggie stir-fry. Or use it to make a sandwich or sub. And chicken bones make an outstanding soup stock.
- Steak. Leftover steak can look unappetizing. But if you cut it into thin strips, it makes a mean stir-fry.
- Vegetables. There are an endless number of ways you can repurpose leftover vegetables for healthy meals. From creating a cold, blended soup to tossing together ingredients for a yummy quiche, take a look at these seven mouthwatering ideas from The Spruce Eats for inspo.
- Fruit. Almost any fruit about to spoil can be turned into a delicious and healthy smoothie or used to make frozen fruity popsicles. Some fruits like banana or pumpkin can be used to bake bread and muffins. You can even cook them in a saucepan and use them as a pie topper.
- Freeze your leftovers. If you have too many leftovers and insufficient time to figure out what to do with them, it’s okay to freeze them for later use. Just be sure you keep them in portion-sized containers so they don’t have to be all thawed out at once.
Tip #4: Use all parts of the food.
Your trash can will fill up quickly when you toss out what you think isn’t edible food. But so much food waste occurs when you do this, particularly with fruits and vegetables, as well as herbs.
To help with reducing food waste at home, here are some great ways to make use of every part of your food item:
Vegetable scraps. Onion peels, carrot tops, and celery leaves can be used to make some downright heavenly vegetable-based soup stocks. Just add your veggie scraps to a pot of water and simmer for a couple of hours. Strain out the solids and use the stock in your favorite soups, stews, and anything else that requires broth.
Fruit peels and pulp. Fruit pulp often contains about 75% of the fiber as well as tons of nutrients. When you peel fruit or remove the pulp of certain fruits, you can use it to make homemade juice or smoothies. Simply blend it up with some water and sweetener, and if you prefer, strain out any solids. You can also add the juice you make, or the pulp, to other recipes like baked goods. Just be careful not to consume any toxic seeds, like those that come from apples or cherries, among others.
Broccoli and cauliflower stems. Broccoli and cauliflower stems get so much hate! But they’re wonderful and so delicious when roasted. Give it a try next time. Just cut the stems into bite-sized pieces, toss them with oil and your favorite seasoning, and roast in the oven until tender. For me, it typically takes about 20-25 minutes at 425.
Herb stems and leaves. The leaves and stems of certain herbs can be used in your dishes. Herb stems can be added to stocks or soups for flavor, while herb leaves can be used as a garnish or in recipes like pesto.
**Just be sure not to eat the toxic leaves and stems of certain vegetables, such as rhubarb and tomatoes, to name a few. Also, rosemary, thyme, and oregano stems are often tough and thick but should be safe to flavor stocks.
Stems that are safe to eat include cilantro, dill, parsley, basil, and mint.
When you make use of every little bit, your foods are actually more flavorful, in addition to reducing food waste and getting more value out of what you buy.
Tip #5: Compost your food scraps.
To reduce waste of food (and actually make a difference in how much trash you throw out overall), composting is a super simple and cheap method for cutting down on wasted food.
And the good news is that you don’t need a lot of space to do it.
You can compost food scraps or surplus food in your backyard or from the comfort of your own kitchen.
Reduce Food Waste at Home – Some Final Thoughts
Eliminating the amount of food you throw out is pretty easy when you implement these tips. And it’s a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, save some money on your grocery store bill, and even cut down on the amount of trash you haul out each week.