Many individuals don't realize the amount of food they are wasting each day, from spoiled produce to uneaten leftovers. According to a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, around 94% of the food that gets thrown away winds up in combustion facilities or landfills. There were 38.1 million tons of disposed of food waste in 2017. But, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) says everyone can play their part in contributing to the national goal for food waste reduction to decrease food waste by 50% by 2030.
Benefits of Reducing Food Waste
There are many benefits of reducing food waste, including:
- Lowering your carbon footprint and reducing landfill methane emissions.
- Saving money from purchasing less food.
- Supporting your community by offering untouched, donated food that otherwise would have ended up being wasted.
- Conserving resources and energy, preventing pollution that's involved in manufacturing, growing, selling and transporting food.
Ideas for Reducing Food Waste
Some ways you can reduce food waste at home are:
- Plan Your Meals
Making a weekly meal list can help save you time and money and allow you to consume healthier food. If you purchase no more than what is on your planned meal list, you will be more likely to use it all and keep it fresh.
Some things you can do are:
- Maintain a running list of ingredients and meals your household already favors. That will allow you to easily select, purchase and prepare meals.
- Create a shopping list around the number of meals you plan on eating at home and account for any days you plan on eating out.
- Check your cupboards and refrigerator first to prevent you from purchasing food you have already.
- Before you go shopping, plan your meals for that week and only purchase the items you require for those meals.
- Only purchase what you will need and plan on using. Buy in bulk to save money if you can and know you will use all of it before it goes bad.
- Eat Out
When you eat out, request smaller portions to avoid wasting leftover food on your plate and to keep you from overeating. Or, instead of leaving leftover food on your plate, ask for a takeaway box so you can bring the leftovers home.
- Use Your Freezer
You can store quite a bit of food in your freezer, and this will keep it from spoiling until you are ready to eat it. There is also a "FoodKeeper App" you can use to learn information on how long you can store various items in your freezer.
- Save Leftovers and Eat Them
If you have food leftover because you cooked too much or ordered too much while eating out, save it, and make sure you eat it. Put a label on your leftovers to help you keep track of the length of time they have been in your freezer or fridge and incorporate your leftovers into your weekly meal plans.
- Keep a Food Tracking Journal
Maintain a waste log to keep track of what you are tossing out, which can help prevent you from continuing this habit. You might even want to attach a dollar sign on the food you throw out. That will help you see the actual "money" you are losing.
- Use "Ugly" Fruits and Veggies
These are the vegetables and fruits that are imperfect, maybe bruised a little, or have brown spots on them. But they are still good. These fruits or veggies are perfect to put into a healthy smoothie or soup.
- Use the Two-Hour Rule
Do not leave perishable foods out for more than two hours at room temperature, for safety reasons. Refrigerate all leftovers within a couple of hours of eating them.
- Donate Unused Food
You can donate safe, untouched, and nutritious food to food banks to help feed people in need. You can also compost food waste instead of tossing it out.