72 billion pounds of food goes to waste each year- a staggering $218 billion- while 50 million people go hungry. Did you know that almost half of all fresh produce is thrown away? 20 billion pounds of vegetables and fruits are plowed under or discarded. Think about how much water it took to grow that produce! Want to read more? Click here.
The EPA uses the term “wasted food” instead of “food waste” for food that was not used for its intended purpose because it conveys that a valuable resource is being wasted, whereas “food waste” implies that the food no longer has value and needs to be managed as waste.”
For our intents and purposes, let’s think about the food in our homes and the food we consume or waste when we go to a restaurant.
Some useful tips:
1. Making a list before you go to the grocery store can help, that way you don’t purchase items you don’t need.
2. Organize your refrigerator. When you know what’s in there, you won’t buy something you already have.
3. Know what is in your pantry. It’s helps with planning which helps with food waste.
4. Check expiration dates. Sell by, best by, use by. To learn more, click here.
5. Cook in batches. If something is on sale but you know you can’t eat it all before it spoils, make a big batch, and share or freeze for another day. Perhaps your neighbor wants to join in!
6. Buy misshapen fruits and veggies—they are most often wasted.
7. Glean. Do you have a tree full of lemons, or apples, or persimmons? Donate them to your local food bank or share with neighbors or organizations. Here is one site about gleaning.
8. Food storage. Store items correctly to have them last longer. For more information, click here. Personally I prefer to store food in glass containers. You can see what’s in the container, and glass doesn’t leach harmful chemicals.
9. Some foods give off ethylene gas while ripening that promotes ripening in other foods, which you might not want: bananas, cherimoyas, honeydew, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, pears, plantains, green onions, and more. To learn more, click here.
10. Share your harvest or meal. For me, I love to cook and bake, and yet I don’t need a dozen muffins. I bring them to my neighbors, who are thrilled, and they give me figs or lemon, or tomatoes, etc. It’s fun!
11. Preserve—don’t be intimidated—it’s really not difficult. Options are canning, dehydrating, making big batches of marinara and freezing, on and on. To learn more, click here.
12. Turn items into art supplies. OK, this one might not be of interest to everyone. Egg shells, baked and dried, can be crumbled and used to mix with paints to add texture to art. Coffee grounds and tealeaves can also be added to paint to add texture. This saves you purchasing something to do this—and the cost and packaging that go with it.
13. Use coffee grounds to fertilize your plants.
14. Save vegetable trimmings and store in the freezer to make stock. Don’t save strong flavored veggies scraps like broccoli stems or cabbage leaves.
15. Broccoli stems can be cooked, pureed and added to your next batch of guacamole—Broccomole!
16. Save the seeds! The primary example is pumpkin seeds.
17. Well, it has to be said—overeating. Keep your serving sizes in check.
18. Left over holiday cookies? Crumble, dry and store for use in your next cheesecake crust.
19. Eat leftovers for lunch.
20. Know what is the most perishable. 1-2 Days: berries, eggplant, herbs, lettuce.
2-4 Days: beet greens, corn, cucumbers, green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, radishes, spinach, yellow squash. 4-6 Days beets, cauliflower, celery, citrus, cucumbers, ginger, pears, peppers, zucchini. 7+ Days: apples, cabbage, carrots, garlic, onions, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squash.
21. Don’t wash everything as soon as you bring it home. Mushrooms and berries do better when cleaned/rinsed right before using.
22. When you purchase food that is not in season, it travels a long way to get to you, with lots of opportunity for damage. Eat locally and seasonally as much as you can.
23. Don’t buy Romaine hearts. The outer leaves are thrown away!
24. Don’t buy baby carrots. Big carrots are whittled down to make those little carrots. Buy whole carrots and cut them yourself.
25. When you go to a restaurant, bring home a doggie bag.
26. Store food you don’t eat often but like to have on hand in the freezer. I store bread in the freezer, and get out what I need, as one example.
27. Compost food scraps. Food waste put into landfills creates methane, a greenhouse gas. If you have your own garden, compost your scraps, if not, perhaps you have a community garden close by that composts and would take your scraps. To learn more, click here.
28. If you make your own almond or other nut milk, save the nut meal, and add to your next batch of muffins.
29. Don’t go through buffets at restaurants, as you’ll be tempted to load up your plate, and then not be able to finish the food.
30. This organization, Green Change, offers lots of useful tips.
31: Store nuts and seeds and nut and seed butters in the refrigerator. The fats can turn rancid over time.
32: Make your own face and hair masks and other skin products using food scraps. For ideas click here.
33. Don’t forget about purchasing frozen vegetables and fruits. They are nutritious and can be helpful to have on hand without risking food waste.
Perhaps I have saved one of the most important topics for last, which is where all of the above begins. Our food supply chain. How does food from a farm ends up on your plate: production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal. Many people have lost the connection of land to food. Have you picked strawberries for eight hours? Have you thought about the farm workers who spend hours and hours toiling in the fields to bring you fresh food and produce or working in slaughtering plants? If you eat meat, fish or eggs, have you thought about the animals that died or lived in cages? Please don’t waste one bite. What about truck drivers who drive overnight to bring food to your local store? The list goes on. To learn more click here and here and here.
Whether we are setting an example for our children as to what to eat or if we’ve committed to reducing food waste, our families, friends, and communities might very well pay attention to our example. Better yet, perhaps they’d like to become involved. Share this article with them, and try your best to reduce food waste. Imagine if we all did.