When our parents told us to clean our plates because people are starving all over the world, they had good intentions. And they were right — people are starving all over the world — and the statistics are frightening. More than 821 million people in the world go to bed hungry (which translates to one in nine people), the World Food Programme reports.
Another terrible reality is food waste was found to be at 30-40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. alone in 2010, which corresponded to 133 billion pounds of food, per USDA research. Food waste is also one of the biggest kinds of waste in landfills and generates billions of tons of environmentally-harmful greenhouse gases.
Some people might argue the “clean your plate” mentality contributes to over-eating issues. So, how do we strike a balance and make a conscious effort to reduce food waste at home without stuffing ourselves? Some easy tips for cutting food waste are listed below.
Food waste can begin at the grocery store when you buy more than you need. Some ways to avoid this: make a daily or weekly meal planner, stick to a grocery list, and avoid impulse buys. Also, stick to recipes and buy exactly what you need. For example, buy two carrots instead of a bunch of pre-cut sticks or four oranges instead of a bag. Doing these things will help you avoid buying more than you need.
Keep family size in mind when figuring food amounts. If you’re single, you don’t need a dozen muffins, for example, and you may not need the buy-one-get-one-free bread special (unless you’re planning on freezing some). Buying a lot might fill your fridge, but it doesn’t do any good if half of what you buy goes bad before you get around to eating it.
“Use It Up” First
Once you get the food home, it’s important to become more waste-conscious. There are several things you can do to help prevent food waste. First, use older or open products that are nearing expiration dates first before eating food just bought at the store. Checking expiration dates and planning meals around those items before you go to the store to buy more food also helps reduce waste. Do this for items in the fridge and freezer and implement a “use it up” policy to use these items first.
Tracking what you eat often helps you stick to a diet or healthy eating plan. Tracking all the food you throw away also helps you become more waste-conscious. Write down everything you pitch and have family members do it, too. When you see what you’re tossing out, you might find ways to cut waste. For example, like freezing portions of food before you put it on your plate.
Eat Leftovers, Repurpose Food, and Cut Portions
Eating leftovers is one of the simplest ways to cut food waste at home. However, many people don’t do it. Make a commitment to eat leftovers or repurpose them to make a new meal. Use leftover veggies to make soup or stew, for example. Make barbeque sandwiches out of leftover roast beef. Another important tip is to reduce portions when you cook or the portion size on your plate to avoid over-eating or throwing out what you can’t eat. Whatever you can’t eat, freeze. Or, if you have a lot of a recipe left, consider sharing it with a friend or family member.
Storing food properly to prolong its edible life is another key to reducing food waste. Store perishable items like cereal, crackers and chips in airtight containers. Also, learn the proper ways to safely store food in the refrigerator and freezer to maximize its lifespan and reduce waste. Click here for easy-to-follow instructions from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).