Food waste is a significant problem in the United States. In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that Americans waste about 103 million tons of food, equating to about 30-40% of our food supply. In monetary terms, the average family of four in the United States throws away about $1,500 of food waste each year. Throwing out leftovers or unfinished dishes here and there might not seem significant, but it adds up to not only a monetary loss but a waste of food that could go to others in need.
There are other significant consequences to food waste. One of those is climate change. When food is discarded, it is sent to landfills to rot. As it rots, it produces methane gas, a common greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. So not only does food waste affect our economy and society but our environment as well!
Looking at these statistics may feel overwhelming. However, you and your family can avoid contributing to these consequences by reducing food waste. Here are a few ways you start reducing those steps.
It is said to never shop for groceries on an empty stomach. You often end up buying more food than you need and end up throwing away things that spoil before you can eat them. Instead, plan out a weekly shopping list with your partner and kids. Then when you get to the grocery store, make sure you stick to it and avoid deviating.
No matter how much your child wants a snack or treat, remind them that they helped you put the grocery list together and that you all need to stick with it. This will teach your child to control their impulses and avoid buying more than you need.
Avoid Buying In Bulk
Buying food in bulk can seem like the most cost-effective solution to feed your family. Often, grocery stores offer deals when you buy oversized packages of certain types of food. It can be a tempting option, but the food often spoils before you can finish it and ends up getting tossed. Avoid buying into those deals unless you are sure your family will be able to finish it.
Use Scraps Creatively
Though your food may be past its prime, it may still be good to use in other dishes. For example, you can use expired bananas to make delicious banana bread or bake bread pudding using stale bread. Any wilting veggies can be cooked into a frittata, casserole, or soup. Bruised apples can become homemade applesauce. There are lots of ways to get creative with it!
Plan A Night for Leftovers
It can be easy to leave leftovers forgotten in the fridge. Over time, it goes bad, and you throw it away. Plan a leftovers night instead of piling up excess meals in your fridge. You’ll end up saving money in the long run and avoid buying and eating more food than you need.
You can also use leftovers in other dishes, such as stews or casseroles. Putting the excess into a clear glass container can also help you remember that it’s still there.
It’s easy to pile food onto your plate when you’re starving, but if you don’t end up finishing everything, it can go to waste. Instead, serve food in smaller portions. You can always get up to get more, but you can’t always put food on your plate back in with the other leftovers.
However, it’s more than okay to leave leftovers on your plate! You can always pack it away and make it a meal or snack for another day.
Take Inventory of Your Food Storage
When things are shoved into the back of the fridge or freezer, you might end up buying double of ingredients you didn’t know you had. Before you shop for ingredients, take inventory of your refrigerator, cupboards, and pantry to see if you already have what you need.
Compost Food Waste
It can be difficult to eliminate food waste completely in any family, no matter how hard you try. However, instead of tossing it in the food bin, you can compost it. Composting is turning your leftover food into food for your plants. By composting the waste your family produces, you can create an herb or vegetable garden and reduce your carbon footprint while eating fresh, homegrown veggies!
Store Food Properly
One of the biggest reasons food spoils so quickly is that it is not stored properly. Many people don’t know how to store fruits and vegetables correctly, and the produce ends up ripening prematurely and spoiling quickly. Vegetables like garlic, onions, cucumbers, potatoes, and tomatoes should not be in the refrigerator because they will ripen too quickly and end up spoiling before you get to eat them.
Other fruits and vegetables produce more ethylene gas than others that causes food around them to ripen faster. Here are some of the foods that emit ethylene gas as they ripen:
- Green onions
Foods like apples, potatoes, peppers, berries, and leafy greens are sensitive to ethylene. Keep these sensitive food types away from those producing ethylene gas to prevent premature ripening and spoilage.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.