If you had an extra $370 in your pocket, how would you spend it? Would you donate it to charity? Finally buy that fancy new blender? The possibilities are endless, but back to that money. What if I told you that’s how much the average American loses a year on food waste? I don’t know about you, but that’s a lotta dough I’d rather be spending on a vacation.
Last week Gina McCarthy, the U.S. Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stopped by the Good Housekeeping Institute to talk about the EPA’s goal of reducing food waste by 50% by 2030. It’s a lofty goal, but the change starts at home and luckily there are countless easy ways to help. You can start by looking in your trashcan. No seriously, go look — and take note of all the food waste you see. Not a lot? Kudos to you. For the rest of us, here are the five simplest ways to reduce food waste in our very own kitchens, just in time for Earth Day.
1. Shop Your Fridge
How many times do you do a grocery run before checking your pantry and fridge stock first? I’m guilty, for sure, but over time I’ve learned that nothing feels as good as using up every single thing in my fridge. So, always do a quick inventory before shopping. Even better, make a list. Write down what needs to be used up each week and plan meals around those ingredients. A humble can of beans, half a bag of quinoa, or a tin of tuna can be made into a hearty and delicious meal in no time. Another handy trick: When you buy new food from the store, bring all the older items in your cupboards and fridge to the front. Then there won’t be any moldy surprises next time you go digging for dinner.
2. Quit Buying Bulk
We love a good deal as much as the next person, but when it comes to food shopping, don’t overload your cart with random stuff you don’t need. Remember, that five dollar bag of avocados is only a steal if you use them all up before they go bad. If you must buy ingredients in bulk, make sure it’s something you’re 100% going to use up or something that can last a long time.
3. Store Your Food Properly
Rotten or spoiled food is the ultimate bummer. The easiest way to avoid food waste is storing your produce in ways that preserves freshness. Here’s a handy guide to choosing storage containers. If you have extra fruits and veggies, freeze or preserve them so you can savor their deliciousness for weeks and months to come. Always store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves. (These fruits emit natural gases that can spoil any produce around them.) Foods that languish, like broccoli, cauliflower and celery stalks, should be eaten first. Got a lotta berries? Wait to wash them until right before you eat them to prevent mold. And virtually any fruit and vegetable can be frozen and added to smoothies.
4. Cook Smarter
Does your recipe only call for half an onion? First of all, that recipe needs to get its act together. Secondly, save the other half for soups, stews, and scrambles. That gorgeous bunch of carrots from the farmers’ market? Save the tops and make a pesto. Here are even more delicious ideas. When you’ve exhausted your culinary muscles, your last ditch effort should be composting, which leads to the next tip.
5. Compost (or have someone do it for you)
Simply put, compost refers to organic material that can be added to soil to help grow plants. What do we mean by organic material? Fruit and veggie peels, eggshells, tea bags, fruit pits, and the like. Basically everything you’re used to chucking in the trash. Here’s a handy guide to composting at home. And if you live in a small apartment, the thought of food scraps on your counter can seem like a nightmare. Just freeze ’em (like this) and find a local compost drop, like a community garden or farmers’ market. Below are some helpful links to help find a drop off near you: