• It seems that more than ever people are concerned about what they eat and where their food comes from.

    That’s a good thing right? Maybe. Of course, we should choose the foods we like and know are good for us. But what happens to the food that you turn your nose up at or throw away? That food that isn’t used – whether it is edible or not, goes into the landfill and has a significant environmental impact. It is estimated that food waste in landfills contributes to more than one-third of methane emissions in the U.S. alone.

    There are many areas in the food production system where food waste can occur, but I want to address what WE can do as individuals. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have much control over how crops are grown or how the grocery stores handle the food.

    Today, food manufacturers and growers are doing their part in helping to reduce food waste so that the food grown reaches our table should we choose to buy it. I am grateful for this because if I had to grow and raise my own food, I would starve in about a month.

    Now after, or even WHEN, we purchase food – we are in control of what happens to the food. Of course, we eat it. Why would we buy food to just waste it or throw it away?

    Forty percent of the food in the United States is never eaten. But at the same time, one in eight Americans struggles to put enough food on the table.
    https://www.nrdc.org/issues/food-waste October 2017

    But, it happens all the time. We often use our pantry or refrigerator as an intermediary, a temporary storage place to keep the food before it is tossed out, but it would just save time if we just had a trash container on the other side of the checkout at the grocery store. Go shop, buy the food and throw it away. Ridiculous, right?

    But that is what happens to a certain extent.

    Overall is it estimate that WE, the consumer, waste food in the following ways:

    Download the free one-sheet listing the FIVE things YOU can do to REDUCE FOOD WASTE

    1. Overstocking
    2. Preparing more than is needed
    3. Unwillingness to consume leftovers
    4. Spoiled food from not being consumed

    As a society, we love to buy in bulk. If you are having people over for dinner or a party, you want everyone to have what they want and make sure there is plenty to go around.

    Some people are picky about leftovers (no judgment: I am one of them). As a result, I have gotten better at preparing just the right amount for three servings (I took practice). We have two-servings for dinner and my husband has lunch tomorrow.

    And the worst is when food is spoiled. This can be the result of things going missing in the fridge (there is something organic in the back of the vegetable crisper, but we aren’t sure what it is); leftovers being left over a bit too long; buying too much and it going “bad” before it can all be consumed. And even discovering that the sweetened condensed milk bought last year for the holiday baking season and wasn’t used, can “turn” after 11 months in the pantry. Who knew?

    Here are FIVE things you can do now to reduce your food waste in the home:

    1. Shop your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry first.

    Before heading to the store, double check what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. You may have what you need already and it is hiding in the back somewhere. I found TWO jars of salsa in my pantry since I forgot to check if I really needed it. (Not that this is a bad thing, but some things don’t last so long.) You may discover two bottles of ketchup, three containers of Ranch Dressing and one completely unopened bottle of vinegar in the pantry.

    1. Shop for what you NEED.

    Sometimes the lure of better unit pricing (buying in bulk) is appealing and it seems like it will save you money. Buying toilet paper in bulk is a no-brainer. But, will you and your household really EAT the 5 pounds of bacon before it starts to “turn”. Sometimes buying the smaller unit/size is a better deal since there will be less waste. Once the gallon of milk was consistently going bad before we would finish it, we realized it was better to start buying the half-gallon instead.

    1. Have and use LEFTOVERS.

    Pack leftovers into individual serving containers for easy grab-and-go lunches or snacks. Date them (label maker, dry erase marker, post-it note) so you know how old it is. Designate a day of the week as “Leftover Night” to make sure everything is cleared out in a timely manner. If you are not a fan of left-overs, then start making appropriate portions. It may take practice and the amount may seem small at first, but less is good.

    1. “Use by”, “Sell by” and “Best by” are GUIDELINES from the manufacturer and related to quality only (at least in the U.S.).

    People will often see that the date is passed and toss it. Just because the date is passed doesn’t mean that the food isn’t necessarily safe (unless it is already opened). Those dates on the food are related to quality as determined by the manufacturers. These dates are not related to food safety are not required by Federal law. Obviously, if there is mold or items smell “funny” it would be better to let it go.

    If an item has a date that is from a couple of years ago…let it go.

    1. Store items, especially fruits and vegetables, in the right place.

    Not all produce needs to go in the refrigerator. Many can be left at room temperature and where they are more likely to be seen, eaten and will taste much better. And, they won’t be forgotten in the crisper drawer in the fridge.

    For a cheat sheet about where and how to store produce, click here.

    And, of course, there is an app for this (both FREE and available for Apple and Android) “USDA FoodKeeper” and “Is My Food Safe?”

    For a one-page, download of the FIVE WAYS YOU TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE click here.