Americans need to find a way to reduce food waste. We toss out too much food each year. In fact, according to the USDA, Americans waste 30-40% of our food supply each year. Yet, many people go hungry every day because they don’t have enough food. Now I’m not saying that people won’t go hungry if we reduce food waste in our homes. That issue is much more involved and complicated than a one solution fix.
Still, it’s a shame that we waste so much food. In the home, that equates to a larger food bill overall and lost nutrition that even others could potentially benefit from. Think economics. If we reduced the amount of food we wasted, we would probably purchase less food. More supply generally leads to lower prices. Wouldn’t it be nice to see food prices go down, especially for fresh produce, so more people could better afford those foods? I think it would be.
How can we reduce food waste in the home? I know it’s something I need to work on, and I wager that many others need to work on it as well. How often have I thrown out leftovers that were never eaten, expired milk because I bought more than we needed, or usable scraps from chopping vegetables? Lots of times. So, in order to work on this in our home, I sat down and decided on five ideas that can make a difference. Maybe you already do these things. But if you don’t, why not pick one or two of these and start reducing the food waste in your own home.
Plan a Weekly Menu
The first thing to do is plan a weekly menu. Doing this helps you formulate a useful shopping list. You can also be sure to use food items you already have on hand. If menu planning isn’t your thing, at the very least, have theme nights, like fish on Friday, pasta on Monday, chicken on Tuesday – you get the drift. Having a menu in place gives you a heads up on what you’re going to make and what you need to make it. If you need ideas to help you get started meal planning and meal prepping, see my post here on Meal Prep Ideas for Busy Families.
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Shop with a List
Although closely tied with a weekly menu, a shopping list is important all on its own. Before shopping for groceries, go through your menu and see what you need to prepare the planned meals. Then, check your pantry, fridge, and freezer and write down those things that you don’t already have. Or cross off those that you do have. Don’t forget to check staples like milk, eggs, or oil. After that, you’re ready to go shopping. And buy only what’s on your list – unless you have a teenager at home whom you can call to check how much milk or bread you have on hand (not that I’ve ever done that). Shopping with a list keeps you from buying things you already have. And that decreases the likelihood of you throwing it out because you bought too much and couldn’t eat it all before it spoiled.
We eat leftovers all the time at our house, but I know a few people who won’t touch them. Try to do your best and eat them up. Leftovers, if properly stored, make an easy, quick-to-make meal. What’s more, some dishes are even better the next day since spices and flavors have more time to blend. So instead of tossing your leftovers, eat them up.
Repurpose Your Leftovers into New Meals
Ok, I get it. You don’t like leftovers. So how about making something new with them? People do that all the time with other things, why not food? Try making a frittata with leftover roasted vegetables; or add them to a casserole, or top a salad, or stir into a soup or stew. How about toasting the ends of a loaf of bread and then processing them in a food processor to make bread crumbs; or cut them into cubes, season, and toast to make croutons? Use leftover pesto as sandwich spread or dip. Use the odds and ends scraps of vegetables by making a simple vegetable stock that you can freeze or use immediately for soups and stews. Make banana bread out of overripe bananas. Add leftover greens to smoothies. Top a pizza or fill a quesadilla with other leftovers. Really, the possibilities are endless.
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Utilize Your Freezer
Another option is to make better use of your freezer. Leftovers can be frozen in individual containers for use on another day. Do you have berries that look like they might spoil soon? Freeze them whole or mash and freeze in ice cube trays for smoothies. Fresh herbs can be chopped and frozen in ice cube trays as well. Dice extra green pepper and freeze in a small container for use later on when you need to add a little chopped pepper to a dish. Peel and freeze overripe bananas for use in smoothies. Be creative and use your freezer. Just don’t forget what’s in there.
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I know there are even more ways to reduce food waste. How have you done this in your own home? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!