You may have been hearing a lot about “food waste” on the news and internet in the past year, and it’s no surprise why. Food waste is an epidemic worldwide, with up to a third of the planet’s food produced for consumption being wasted in various levels of the process, from the farm to your dinner table. 

Along with the economic cost of food waste (over $1 trillion annually), this daunting level of waste affects the environment, our global food security, and your pocketbook. Here, Rory Brown, a food blogger from Charleston, shares five manageable steps you can take in your shopping, storing, and consuming habits. By taking these steps, you can begin to see the savings add up while knowing you are doing your part to help protect our fragile environment.

1. Plan your shopping ahead

Running into the grocery store without a plan often results in a shopper coming home with too much or not enough. How many times have you thought, “I may have an onion at home, but I’ll buy one just in case”? Planning a week of meals, too, can ensure you only buy the food you need and don’t end up with a bunch of kale that goes to waste because you thought it might come in handy. 

By planning — checking your pantry and refrigerator before setting off to the store and making a detailed shopping list — you can minimize the chance of accidentally buying more than you need and wasting your money.

2. Store produce properly 

You bought a beautiful head of lettuce to find it slimy and wilted just a couple of days later. Properly storing produce, keeping it dry, and in the right section of the fridge can help its longevity and ensure you have juicy, unbruised berries and crisp green lettuce until you’re ready to use them.

For snackable veggies like bell peppers and carrots, it may prove convenient to wash, dry, chop, and store them in airtight containers, so they’re easy to grab and eat no matter how busy you are. Too often, the best-laid plans to eat healthily go awry thanks to busy schedules or just plain laziness. Preparing and storing ahead will help you avoid junk food and minimize food waste. 

3. Prepare only what you will eat… or ensure you eat your leftovers!

Are your eyes often bigger than your stomach? Overestimating portion size is a common problem that leads to wasted food when you prepare meals and cannot finish them. Warm dishes like pasta, pizza, potatoes, and meat can be reheated for leftovers the next day (if you plan to eat them), but other foods, like breakfast items, salads, and fish, often go to waste because they don’t store well. 

Think twice before starting dinner and ask, “will I finish this tonight or tomorrow?” If the answer is no, consider cooking a smaller portion.

4. Freeze, can, or blend produce that’s coming to its end

Berries going soft, spinach wilting, too many tomatoes in your CSA box? Don’t trash your excess produce — freeze, can or blend it. Dozens of websites teach how to can or freeze fresh produce at its peak for delicious meals months later, and you can toss just about any combination of fruit into a blender for a delicious, refreshing, healthful smoothie. 

5. Donate extra non-perishable items to food banks

Time to go through the cupboards. If you’re sitting on twelve boxes of spaghetti noodles or a can of soup, your vegan cousin left that you’ll never eat, bag up unwanted or excess non-perishable items to donate to your local food bank. The saddest dilemma surrounding the food waste epidemic is that while billions of pounds of perfectly edible food are wasted every year, one in six of our neighbors in the US goes hungry. By donating food that would likely go into landfills, you are helping feed those in need and minimizing your carbon footprint.

Innovators worldwide are coming up with brilliant ways to help reduce food waste on the farm, in the delivery process, and in the grocery store. Still, you may not have known you can do your part to minimize your contribution to a severe problem facing our planet in your kitchen. Follow these five steps, and you’ll find yourself wasting less, helping the earth and those in need, and even saving some money.

About Rory Brown

After spending the first 40 years of his life in the United States, Rory Brown to focus on the quality of life and began living internationally. He now spends his time in Lake Como, Italy, Sydney, Australia, Charleston, South Carolina, and Kauai, Hawaii. His appreciation for simple health food that embraces local traditions of excellence has earned him credit among farm-to-table communities everywhere he goes.

Rory Brown began his career as a technologist and has always focused on healthy lifestyle choices. His well-researched lifestyle writing has increasingly focused on living life to the fullest each day throughout the world.