13 Practical Ways to Avoid Food Waste
Wasted food is wasted money, and according to the EPA, Americans disposed more than 35 million tons of food waste in 2013 alone! Want to do more to avoid food waste in your home? Here are some steps that you can take:
Start With a Realistic Meal Plan
Look at your schedule for the week, and plan meals that fit that schedule. If you're going to be busy Wednesday night, don't plan an elaborate dinner that you won't have the time or energy to make. The ingredients will just end up sitting in the fridge, while you grab take-out or a bowl of cereal.
And if you always eat out one night a week, make sure you build that into your plan, too. You only need to plan seven dinners if you'll be eating seven dinners at home.
Document Your Waste
For the next month, write down everything that you throw out (including anything that you put down the disposal). Then, analyze your list to figure out what you could be doing better. Do you need to buy less of something? Are there foods that you no longer eat? Are there things that aren't lasting as long as they should? Do you forget about your leftovers until they've grown fuzzy?
Store Foods Properly
Know the Shelf Life
Make sure you're not throwing foods out before you should. Learn what "use by" and "sell by" dates really mean and how to determine when something has gone bad:
- The Shelf Life of Refrigerated Food
- The Shelf Life of Frozen Foods
- The Shelf Life of Pantry Foods
- Is It Safe to Eat Eggs Past Their Expiration Date?
- How to Tell If Eggs Are Still Good
- How to Tell If Baking Soda Is Still Good
- How to Tell If Baking Powder Is Still Good
- How Long Is Yeast Good For?
- Is It Safe to Eat Freezer Burned Foods?
Make the Most of Leftovers
Save Your Scraps
Preserve Your Excess
Inventory Your Fridge
Peek in your refrigerator every couple days to remind yourself of what's in there. Check the expiration dates on foods, and move items that need to be used first to the front, where they'll be easier to spot.
To keep foods from being overlooked, try to put the same things in the same spot week after week.
Switch to Powdered
Always tossing out partial cartons of buttermilk, heavy cream or another dairy product? Switch to the powdered version, and you'll never throw out a carton again.
Right-Size Your Purchases
Match your usage habits to your purchase habits. Buying in bulk only makes sense, if you eat a lot of something (and will be able to use it up before it goes bad). And it's smart to buy the smallest package of a food or brand that you're trying for the first time.
Shop at Home
Don't Be a Picky Eater
Moldy produce needs to be tossed, but bruised, blemished or overripe produce is perfectly fine to eat. Give fruits and veggies a second look before you decide to chuck them.
Feed It to Your Animals or Compost It
Pass your table scraps on to your pets or add them to your compost pile and turn them into soil.