According to a study by the UK-based Waste & Resources Action Programme, each year, about one-third of food is wasted. And in America, that number is estimated at more like 40%. We all know the impact that waste and greenhouse gases have on the environment, but food waste also takes a toll on our global economic health. This problem contributes to annual spending over $400 billion. That's not very appetizing. Of course, food waste happens for various reasons. We eat out a lot, we fail to cook food before it goes bad, or we support institutions that aren't sustainable. While we're a far way off from ending the food waste epidemic, here are a few simple steps to eat more, save more, and waste less.
1. Portion control
In America, we're all about big. Big cars, big houses, big portions. But bigger is not necessarily better. When you eat out, sometimes portions are double (or even triple) the size of what you would normally eat at home. Instead of stuffing your face to clean that plate, split your meal in half and take the rest home. Not only will you feel less full, but you'll get to relive that delicious meal the next day. A lot of people know they should do this but just get overwhelmed by the restaurant experience. Plus, drinking alcohol can make us more willing to eat more. Sip water, eat, enjoy. Don't overindulge just because it's there.
2. Consider a food-delivery service
For those that don't trust themselves with portion control, it may be a wise option to try a meal-delivery service. Services like HelloFresh ship you pre-portioned ingredients to cook food at home. It's affordable, nutritious, and provides variety. You also won't have to worry about being wasteful when you have everything you need.
3. Be creative when reusing leftovers
Leftovers get a bad reputation, but some of our favorite meals involve leftovers. Instead of chucking them, take a survey of what you have in the fridge. Those peppers and onions will go nicely in a frittata. Eggs are the magic ingredient to making pretty much any leftover work. Or, you can always try a creative salad. Here are some ideas to get you inspired.
4. Don't buy more than what you need
Many shopaholics have this problem: They go into a store and totally veer off course when there's an unexpected sale. But you must complete your assigned mission. Do it the old fashioned way. Write a list and get only what you see on that list. Don't go food shopping when you're hungry, because you'll likely bring home more than you bargained for.
Do not underestimate the power of your freezer for items that you think were just never meant to be frozen. You can freeze cookie dough, bagels, and even cheese! Pasta, fruit, and soups can also be frozen. This is a great way to buy time without sacrificing flavor and quality.
6. Use the right storage
A lot of us throw stuff out because it's fuzzy or moldy. It's a good idea to not eat rotten food, we agree. But there are other ways to prevent food from going sour. Invest in good air-tight storage containers and zip-tight bags. Always write the date on something that you are stowing away, and what it is. Many of us just have dozens of unidentified foods wrapped in tin foil that we don't touch for ages.
7. Don't trust all expiration dates
If stored correctly, you'll probably be able to get a few extra days of freshness out of food past the expiration date. This is just a guideline that the manufacturer puts in place to suggest peak freshness. Just because something is not at peak freshness doesn't mean it will make you sick. For more on expiration dates, read this.
Do you have a can of cranberry sauce that you got for Thanksgiving but know you're never going to eat? Don't throw it out! Donate it to your nearest food pantry. Do a sweep of your own pantry and donate any non-perishable you don't need. It's better off in the mouths of people that will enjoy it.
9. Sharing is caring
When you've made a huge stew and need help getting through the leftovers, don't pile your plate higher. Share with the community. Invite over some friends, neighbors, or family to help you knock it down. And enjoy some quality bonding time as well.
Food waste is something we can easily reduce when employing a few simple changes. And it can not only help save the planet, but save you money in the process.
For more on how to spend less on food, click here.
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.