I recently watched the documentary Wasted! and I have to say – it was great to see many well known, admirable individuals, break down our food waste problem and talk about real working solutions. The film highlighted the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy in parts to really explain how each portion would work to reduce the roughly 31% (133 billion pounds) food waste we currently generate.
Pare down the amount of food that you purchase, portion control, and reduce the excess overall.
Feed the Hungry People
When there is left over food, get that food to people. Whether it’s donating the food to a food bank or taking leftovers over to a family member, work to get that food eaten.
When the food isn’t consumable for humans, send food waste to animals.
Send food waste to plants that can turn it into energy.
Send the food scraps to the earth to turn into rich soil.
As a last possible resort, should food go to the landfill.
Food waste has been an ever growing problem for a while. Not only is the amount of food that enters the landfill a problem, we also have to consider the resource depletion that goes into said wasted food, food insecurity across the globe, and how that food is contributing over 18% of the total greenhouse emissions coming from landfills. It’s nuts. Realizing that we already make enough food for everyone on this planet makes me sick to think anyone goes to bed hungry. We can do better.
Sadly, more than 40% of food waste comes from the consumer. This is food scraps, food that’s expired, and even food that just didn’t get eaten on dinner plates. We like to quickly blame wasteful farming practices and businesses for the waste they generate but we first need to assess our own habits to see if we aren’t just as wasteful.
6 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
Shop Your Pantry and Fridge
It’s important to utilize and use food you already have on hand. Find the food that’s been sitting at the back of your pantry or the food in the fridge that is on the verge of expiration so that it gets used instead of wasted. Keep a basket in the fridge for “use first” produce, keep a list on your fridge of food that will go bad first, or even utilize an app that keeps expiration dates organized like Fresh Pantry.
I will sometimes pull all of the items out of my pantry and meal plan based on what I have. I make it a game to see just how empty I can get my cupboards without buying much food. I have a weird competitive side.
Having a plan keeps your grocery lists concise and to an “as needed” basis. If I go to the store without even an inkling of what I’m making for the week, I typically buy a lot of food that doesn’t get utilized properly. I end up wasting food and wasting money. Winging it at the grocery store might work for some of you but it does NOT work for me. The only “winging” I do is for produce. I go to the farmer’s market to purchase what is in season and I then incorporate that into my weekly meal plan.
Cook with the Scraps
There are many parts of food scraps we could be using and eating. Not only think about this in a “waste” way but think about how utilizing food scraps in meals can stretch your dollar! Use those broccoli stems, eat those carrot tops. There are many ways we can incorporate those parts we’d otherwise toss into our meals. Check out my article: 16 Ways to Use Produce Scraps for more helpful ideas on how to cook with produce scraps.
Store your Food Properly
Make sure your produce is stored properly so that it does not go bad quickly. Put carrots and celery in water, store your greens in the crisper, and make sure your potatoes and onions are stored some place dark and dry. Also, start freezing leftovers you know won’t get eaten. I like to freeze leftover lasagna to reheat later for my work lunches. Freezing ensures the foods’ longevity. Your freezer is your best friend when it comes to food preservation in a pinch.
Have leftovers or an over abundance of food? This tends to happen to me especially during harvest when my garden is overflowing with food. Instead of letting food go to waste, share it! Send food to your neighbors, friends, or family members. There’s even an app called OLIO that makes food sharing even easier.
Compost or Feed Animals
Of course there’s going to be food we inevitably cannot eat and will waste in some form. That’s life. Instead of tossing said food, think about donating your food to someone with chickens or consider starting the composting journey. This ensures that the food will return back to the earth in some way rather than getting sent to a landfill. I have an article HERE on how to build your own backyard compost and another article HERE outlining what you can and shouldn’t compost.
How do you reduce food waste?