8 Ways to Reduce Food Waste That Will Help You Save Money
A lot of people don’t realize how much food do they waste. It doesn’t seem like much – one moldy loaf, half of a carton of spoiled milk, not a big deal, right?
But let’s look at the numbers. According to Natural Resources Defense Council 40% of food in US goes uneaten and ends up in a trash can, be it leftovers, moldy vegetables or anything else. Let it sink a little. Almost half of the produce people buy they just throw away!
Doesn’t it sound crazy to you? We all are always trying to save money for different goals and at the same time we are being so wasteful with our food!
So, what do those 40% mean? It means that the average family of four wastes $1,345 to $2,275 worth of food each year. Do you like the idea of throwing away $2,000? Me neither.
Think about it on a bigger scale, after 10 years it would be $20,000! I definitely know better ways to spend this amount of money.
One more reason to waste less for me is to contribute to preserving natural resources. You probably can imagine, with so many people on Earth, how many resources we use to feed all of them. And then imagine that almost half of that goes to waste.
So, if you want to spend less money and contribute to better environment, let’s take a look, why this is happening.
Why do we waste so much?
The first big reason for this is the fact that we tend to overload our shopping carts. It might happen when you go grocery shopping hungry, without particular plan, or maybe there is a sale, or maybe something just looks very pretty.
And the other part of this problem is that we use only a part of all that produce and don’t preserve the rest. Think about it: how many times did you buy cabbage, use some for your coleslaw and then it would be just sitting in your fridge slowly dying?
One more reason of food waste is that sometimes people overserve themselves and their family. They just can’t finish those big portions and half of it goes to trash.
And the last problem is that many of us don’t understand expiration dates, those “best before” and “sell by” labels. When we see a yogurt that expired yesterday in our fridge we just throw it away without double thinking.
Now, as you can see, there are many reasons why do we waste so much, so let’s think how to can we stop doing that, or at least significantly reduce the amount of food we waste.
How to stop:
Before you go shopping make a meal plan for the week, make a grocery list and then stick to it. It will not only save you from impulsive purchases, but also will save you a lot of time during the week, as you will not have to think about what to make for dinner.
And don’t forget about your leftovers: take them for lunch to work, make a new meal, or freeze for later. Things like soups, casseroles and many others are very convenient to freeze and then use later in the week.
Keep an eye on things that are going to expire soon
Put them in front of other things in the fridge and try to use them first. Notice if something routinely goes bad very often – maybe you’re buying too much of it, when you don’t actually need to.
Here are some ideas for you what to make with fruits and vegetables that are about to go bad:
- Cucumbers, peppers, garlic, and onions can all be fridge-pickled (I use this recipe for peppers all the time), it will prolong their life in the fridge, just make sure to eat them within a few weeks or so.
- Berries, strawberries, apples, raspberries, and so on can be turned into a delicious homemade jam. You can try different fruits and add spices for all kinds of amazing flavor combinations.
- Herbs can be frozen into ice cube trays with olive oil to use anytime you need some oil in your pan.
Or if you don’t feel like cooking right now…
Freeze things that are going bad soon
Later you can use your frozen fruits in smoothies, you just need to wash them and cube before freezing. You can also freeze bananas for banana bread. Mash them first, to save some time when you finally get to baking.
Sometimes when I buy too many vegetables I wash and cut them to use in soups later.
Things like milk, cheese and many others are also freezable, use this page to check how long can you store them and write the dates on bags.
Check your refrigerator temperature
According to Consumer Reports the ideal fridge temperature is 37 degrees, but not all the fridges are made equal, so if you feel that food in your fridge goes bad pretty quickly, maybe you should set the temperature a little lower.
And don’t stuff the fridge as it needs proper air circulation to properly cool your food. If it’s packed tightly, some of the goods may not have a chance to be cooled and would spoil faster than they should.
Expiration and sell-by dates are a guideline
But they are not a rule. If the packaging says the yogurt will expire today at midnight, it doesn’t mean that it’s not safe to eat tomorrow.
The reason why manufacturers put those dates on the package is because during this time the product will definitely keep its quality and later it depends on many different factors.
I’m not asking you to eat spoiled food, just use your common sense. If something looks or smells suspicious – stay away from it. But if the food looks fine to you, and it just expired – probably it’s still okay.
Store food properly
You can find a lot of information online on how to keep your food fresh. Did you know that you should keep tomatoes on the counter and not in the fridge?
And if something needs to be stored in a cool and dry place – remember to double check if the place you’re storing it in is actually cool and dry. This way you won’t end up with soggy cereal that no one wants to eat.
Whatever you buy, try to use everything. For example, broccoli stalks are just as good as the florets, so you can cube them and serve together with the florets.
If you use the whole pumpkin for soup or a pie – save those seeds so you can roast them later for a perfect snack.
Make smaller portions
If you notice that people in your family struggle to finish food on the plate – don’t beat yourself for being a bad cook. Maybe the portions are just too big for them?
We all tend to be overly generous with our families, but maybe would be better not to overserve them? And if someone is still hungry they can always go for seconds!
Try to implement these little changes in your life and watch your bills go down! And also, you can be proud of yourself for contributing to food waste reduction.
What do you think, do you and your family tend to waste food? What are your methods to prevent food waste? Tell me in the comments!
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