I really hate food waste, so it’s no surprise I wrote an ebook about it. As someone raised in a traditional Italian family, I was always taught to eat everything on my plate and save the leftovers for later.
Not everyone shares these ideals though. In fact, 40 percent of food is wasted in America alone. Where does it all go? To a landfill. There, it cannot properly decompose so it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s 30 percent more potent than carbon dioxide. As you might be able to guess, all this food waste is a huge contributor to climate change.
But why would anyone throw out good food, you ask? Plenty of reasons. Grocery stores will toss any food they cannot sell by a certain date, instead of giving the food to people in need. But consumers are at fault too: Every time you throw food in the trash, including the odds and ends of food, you’re contributing to food waste.
Let's put an end to food waste once and for all. Here are three ways to reduce food waste.
Photo by Ella Olsson on Unsplash
Planning out your meals will help you avoid purchasing food on impulse. Impulsive shopping decisions lead to getting items you may not even eat. This results in produce sitting in the back of the fridge and rotting.
Instead, go to the grocery store with a plan in mind. The best way to do this is by creating a meal plan and grocery list before heading to the store. Sit down with a piece of paper and write out the meals you’d like to eat over the week. Write out each recipe you’d like to make over the course of the week so you know what to expect. Then, check your house for the ingredients to those recipes. Do you have any ingredients at home already? If so, great! You don’t need to buy those items. Any ingredients you don’t have, add to your grocery list. I call this shopping your kitchen first
Once you get all the items you need for the week ahead, it’s a good idea to come home and start meal prepping some items. Cook some rice, cut some vegetables, prepare some chicken: Whatever it takes to make your life easier throughout the week. I like to go shopping on Saturday with my meal plan and grocery list in mind, then prep some food ahead of time on Sunday.
Storing your food properly can really extend the life of your produce. A lot of people don’t realize not all produce items go directly in the fridge. Produce can actually be quite finicky, and there are even some items that shouldn’t be stored together at all.
Generally speaking, you should always consider temperature, lighting, proximity and humidity levels when storing food. Food is very sensitive to these four things, so understanding what your produce items need will help them last longer.
Here are some items that should be kept in the fridge at 40 degrees F or lower: Grapes, apples, berries, cherries, broccoli, carrots, leafy greens, green beans, cauliflower, and asparagus. Keep squash, melons and tomatoes on the counter, but away from direct sunlight. Potatoes and onions should be kept in a cool dark place. Let avocados, pears, nectarines, plums and peaches ripen on the counter, then store them in the refrigerator.
Whatever you can’t eat, such as onions skins, strawberry tops and peach pits, should be composted. There’s no reason to throw food scraps into the trash. If you do, they’ll still produce methane in a landfill. I recommend investing in a compost pail and keeping it on your counter. Just add your food scraps to it over the course of the week, then take it to your local farmers market. Most farmers markets are more than happy to take food scraps off your hands. They use it to make life giving compost that acts as a soil conditioner for crops.
For more ways to fight food waste, be sure to check out my ebook, How to Reduce Food Waste. It’s loaded with tips, tricks and recipes to make you a certified food waste warrior
Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me.com, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on MindBodyGreen, Green Matters, RecycleBank and several other publications. Get her ebook "How to Reduce Food Waste" to learn how to become a food waste warrior today.