I’ve revamped my dietary plans and now I have goals for greener grocery shopping. The last thing I’d like to focus on is preventing food waste. 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:
Use all parts of the food
Did you know you can make a delicious vegetable stock with the parts of the produce you don’t eat? Vegetable scraps are often discarded, but you can boil them to make a healthy and delicious vegetable stock to be used for soup or other recipes. I always put the cut bits, stems, peels, etc. in the compost bin, but it never occurred to me that I could boil these as well to make a healthy stock. According to seriouseats.com you can use most vegetable parts, but not all. Avoid broccoli and cauliflower because it can make the stock bitter. You should also make sure you’ve washed all the dirt off the peels. But you can use the skin, top, roots, and peels of most vegetables. Just place in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Strain out the liquid and you’ve got stock!
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.
Store your food correctly
Did you know if you store onions with other produce, it’ll cause them to spoil quicker? Or if you put vegetables and fruits in the same crisper, the fruit can cause the vegetables to rot faster? Knowing how to store your produce can help you keep it longer. I found a fantastic video by Sweet Simple Vegan that covers how to store fruits and vegetables. It never occurred to me that I’ve been storing my produce wrong for so long!
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. Having a meal plan ready for the week, can help you determine what you’ll need. Meal planning is something new to me, but I’m trying to be more organized in the kitchen in order to avoid food waste. Also, take an inventory of what’s already in your pantry, so that you don’t buy duplicates.
Eat less meat and dairy
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.
Donate what you don’t eat
Food is one of the most needed items at charities, especially around the holidays. There are some items, however, that local food banks cannot take. Do not bring opened food or cans that have been punctured or dented. Make sure you check expiration dates before you bring in items to donate. Some food banks take expired items, but it’s always good to call and ask first. The best items to bring are canned goods and foods that don’t require refrigeration like apples, potatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.
Let’s make this the year we waste less food!