Many people have asked me about composting. I know I seem like the kind of person that would do this, but it’s just not in my blood. I am however, super mindful of the amount of waste we produce each day. Over the summer my daughter and I visited my best friends farm in upstate NY that is completely “off the grid”, where they eat the vegetables grown in the garden and compost the waste. I am always inspired being in this magical environment so far away from the pounds of garbage and “recycling” we produce on a daily basis. Did you know that 91% of plastic winds up NOT being recycled (according to National Geographic)? It is amazing to me that my friend and her family leave their farm after the entire summer with one tiny bag of waste, yet most of us produce bags of waste every single day. Where are we going wrong? I decided to do some research on this topic and what I found was astonishing.
On a global level, approximately 33% of all food is either lost or wasted. Think about the resources that went into creating that food. We are talking almost 25% of the entire worlds fresh water down the drain. Also, did you know that up to 40% of food in the United States does not get eaten at all? YIKES
We live in a time where enough food is produced to feed every human on this planet, yet more than 800 million people go hungry every day. Hearing these incredibly daunting stats may lead you to feel helpless. However, you can make a difference. I have learned that most food waste occurs at the consumer level which means US. There is plenty you and I can do if we work together.
By making a conscious effort to reduce food waste – here are some of the benefits that will come from those actions: 1. Shield the planet from greenhouse gasses emitted from food that rots in landfills. 2. Reduce the labor, water, and energy that goes into food production. 3. Save money by purchasing less.
With that said, here are 7 straightforward strategies (simpler than composting) to reduce food waste:
1) Don’t be “penny wise & pound foolish”
Buying in bulk is a “feel good” decision at the time but not always the best choice. It’s not really a deal if the food you purchase ends up in the garbage. While it might mean extra trips to the grocery store, try to buy only what you need and what you will eat.
2) Use “FIFO” (first in, first out)
Try to plan your meals using what you purchased first. If it’s impossible to tell what you bought when, consider organizing your fridge so that the top shelf contains the foods that you need to use up right away. Anything you buy afterward can be stored on lower shelves or drawers. Label your shelves or create some “use me first” sticky notes to cut down on the detective work.
Tip: The best part about overripe veggies is that you can efficiently make them appealing by stir-frying them, incorporating them into a casserole, or blending them into a hearty soup.
3) Use your freezer
Freezing food is an excellent way to save produce from going bad as well as preserve nutrients and have a go-to meal available when you want it most. One common misconception is that meals that have been frozen don’t taste as good. However, as long as you store food in airtight containers or wrap items well, you’ll prevent “freezer burn”.
Tip: Create a system to ensure you’re actually using up foods that you store in the freezer in a timely fashion.
4) Don’t judge a food based on looks only
If we celebrate body positivity, we can extend that concept to the food we eat! Just because fruits and vegetables might not fit their conventional form doesn’t mean they’re lacking in taste or nutrition. Companies like Misfits Market, Imperfect Produce, and Hungry Harvest rescue irregularly shaped produce that might otherwise be discarded. We can also choose fruits and veggies that are likely to be rejected and thrown out by grocery stores.
Tip: Not every blemish or bump indicates rotting. You can always slice off the damaged portion and salvage the majority of a fruit or vegetable.
5) Serve less – go back for seconds if needed
If you’re at a buffet, catered event, or at your own dinner table, take a smaller portion than you think you can eat. You can always go back for seconds. I have always believed in eating “family style”. Allow people to serve themselves. Not only does this prevent wasting food, it also reduces any possibility of overeating out of fear of throwing away food.
Tip: Leave serving bowls and platters in another location and have people serve themselves before sitting down. If they’re still hungry, they can always get up for more.
6) Have a dedicated “leftover day.”
As nice as it is to consume a fresh meal each day, it’s not always realistic with hectic schedules. Building a leftover day into your week will save time in the kitchen while ensuring that you make full use of all that you cooked.
Tip: Make it into a creative experiment – and get the whole family to help! See what kind of meals you can create with leftovers by using them differently than you did the day before.
7) Pack it or donate it.
Holidays and special occasions (think weddings) can be notorious for food waste. If you happen to be hosting a large gathering, consider getting the food packed for friends and family or contacting a local organization that collects leftover food for donation.
Tip: You can also do this at a restaurant. Pack the leftover food to consume later or donate them to someone in need.
We are approaching the most wasteful time of year with the holidays right around the corner. Let’s all make a commitment to each other to be mindful of our waste – not just food waste. We can think “globally” and act “locally” with one simple step at a time. 🙂