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.