We live in a society that tends to throw things away. In fact, Americans generate about 220 million tons of waste each year. This includes food. If your mom was anything like mine, she used to tell you to eat your food because there were kids in Africa that were starving. But it actually can hit a little closer to home. According to Feeding America, 42.2 million Americans don’t have enough to eat. Think about all those we could help feed, by simply not throwing away as much food.
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) posted an Issue Paper in August 2012 about the amount of food that is wasted by Americans. It stated that roughly 40% of the food grown in the U.S. goes uneaten and is wasted each year. It also says that if we reduce that number by 15% we could feed 25 million Americans for a year.
How can you help? What are the small changes you could make to help reduce the amount of food wasted in your home? You might be surprised by some of the answers.
Make Only What You’ll Eat: Sounds pretty obvious, right? However, how many times do we make an entire casserole and only eat half? Start paying attention to how much food your family is actually eating, and adjust the amount you cook.
Cook From Scratch: This goes along with make only what you eat. By learning how to cook from scratch, you can cut recipes in half and not have to rely on boxed mixes, pre-packaged food, or shortcuts at the store. Not only does this cut down on the waste, but it is also healthier for you. You can control the ingredients in your food as well as the portions. Think about it. You don’t have to make 2 dozen cupcakes, only to have the leftovers sitting on the counter taunting you.
Use Freeze Dried and Dehydrated ingredients: Often times a recipe will only call for a small portion of something. It only needs a ½ cup of cream, or you need 1 cup of chopped produce. Unless you have planned for using the remainder of that product, it will most likely go to waste. By using freeze dried fruit or freeze dried vegetables or dehydrated products, you can cut down your waste significantly. Mostly because the remaining product is going to last a very long time! If you need a ½ cup of corn for your recipe, typically you’d open up a can from the grocery store and the rest would sit in your fridge until you decide to throw it out weeks later due to mold. With Freeze Dried Corn, you just scoop out your ½ cup and seal the package back up. It will still last for months when stored in a cool, dry place. How handy is that?
Eat Your Leftovers: Here’s another “duh” moment. If you do have leftovers after your meal, eat them. Take them for lunch the next day, or repurpose them into a whole new meal. This will also help you save money, since you won’t be as tempted to grab lunch at a fast food chain.
Purchase the “Imperfect” Products: You know that can of beans with the torn label? Or how about the funny looking carrot that reminds you of your 8th grade English teacher? Well, those products may sit until they rot, or expire. Why? Because they are imperfect. We have been trained to think we need to buy the best-looking product, when in reality, that funky carrot, is perfectly fine. It just grew imperfectly. By buying those products that are still good, you can help reduce the amount of food being thrown away before it even leaves the grocery store.
Know When Your Food Goes Bad: Many people unknowingly throw out perfectly good food because they don’t understand the dates and meanings found on their packaged food. Oftentimes you will see a best by date on your products. This is just what it says… BEST BY. It does not necessarily mean that your food is bad, nor that you should throw it out. What it means is that the optimum taste, color, and even smell, can be safely guaranteed until that best by date. Most of the time, your food will last much longer than that date, meaning you can use it and waste less food.
What other ways can you help reduce the food waste in America? Do you have any tricks that help your food to last?