I’ve officially started my professional organizing side gig to assist people in decluttering their homes. In the process, I’ve encountered some pantries stocked full of food that will never be eaten. Sound familiar? I, too, am guilty of overbuying, forgetting to cook, tossing leftovers, and wasting food, but I’m determined to make this the year I change my eating habits. According to estimates by the Economic Research Service, nearly 30% to 40% of food gets wasted in the United States. This number is alarming. Nearly half the food produced will ultimately end up rotting in a landfill. This is a devastating reality, and I believe we can do better. Here are some ways to prevent food waste and green up your eating habits:
Familiarize yourself with expiration dates
With the exception of baby formula, the FDA doesn’t have laws regarding expiration dates on food products. The date printed does not always mean the food is no longer safe to eat. Before you throw out what could be otherwise good food, examine it. Is there mold? Does it smell? Is it meat-based (something I would NOT encourage eating past its date). Consumer Reports gives the run down on whether or not expired food can still be eaten.
Commit to the meal
Whether it was cooked at home or ordered in a restaurant, I’m working to resist the urge to toss out leftovers. Restaurant portions are often much larger than they need to be which means the meal will end up in the refrigerator. It’s never as good the second time around, but committing to finishing meals will not only reduce food waste, but it will save money, too.
Buy only what you need
It’s easy to overbuy when grocery shopping. Sometimes I end up with extra food I wouldn’t normally eat because of one ingredient in a recipe. This year, if I have something in my pantry I don’t use, I’ll try to find new recipes to get all ingredients eaten. My goal is to make sure everything is eaten before I go out and buy more.
Plan your grocery trip
There are a few things you can do to green up your grocery shopping. Make a list so you know exactly what you’re buying. Shop local and try to get as much as you can from farmer’s markets. Buy from bulk bins to eliminate excess packaging. Avoid processed foods and opt for natural and organic options.
Eat less meat
A lot of controversy surrounds the meat industry for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is the impact it has on the environment. It’s estimated that the meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gases. Why? Part of the problem is deforestation to make space for livestock. Another problem is that cows and sheep emit methane gas on account of the specialized bacteria in the gut. Carbon Brief gives a good break down of various diets and the impact they have on the environment. By opting for a more plant-based diet or going vegan/vegetarian altogether, we can significantly lower our carbon footprint and be healthier.
Cook more, eat out less
There are many reasons why we should opt for cooking instead of eating out: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, but it’s also better for the environment. Cooking at homes means controlling the portions and not wasting any excess. Safety regulations, though necessary, often result in mass amount of food waste in restaurants. And the best part about eating at home: whatever you don’t eat can be composted!
Do you have a compost bin? It’s super easy. I love having a place to put my kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other compostable items. Composting is also great for gardening. For a comprehensive guide, EarthEasy covers all the do’s and don’ts of composting.
Let’s make this the year we waste less food!