Wasting food — we’ve all done it, one way or another. You find yourself constantly throwing away moldy containers of leftovers that you meant to eat two weeks ago. You toss out countless fruits and veggies that have spoiled because you never got around to using them. You even throw away unopened foods that have passed their expiration date because you completely forgot you had them hidden in the very back of your pantry. This never-ending cycle for many American households is what contributes to 40% of all food and beverages thrown away every year on average, according to The Natural Resources Defense Council.
This means that each family is not only wasting an incredible amount of food, but they’re also wasting their money, roughly $2,275 annually per family! Wouldn’t you rather spend that on something you actually enjoy? With these 6 helpful tips to help curb food waste, you’ll be saving your way towards that vacation in no time!
- Start Making Lists
One of the best and most common ways to stop wasting food is to start at the source: The grocery store. We tend to buy things on a whim. If something catches our eye, it’s easier for our minds to wander off and forget exactly why we even came to the store in the first place, turning “just a few things” into “I think I need a cart”. By focusing on only the items on your list, you can bypass any aisles you don’t need to visit and go straight for what you need.
Not only does list-making help with grocery shopping, but it can also help to show you exactly what you tend to throw out every week and why. Try keeping a log of everything you throw away. Is it mainly extra food being scrapped from your plate? Is it spoiled fruits and veggies? Expired items? Or leftovers you forgot about? Seeing the types of foods that are being wasted on paper and the reason behind it can help you change up your habits in the future.
- Only Buy the Amount You Need
Grocery stores such as Publix and Whole Foods are always willing to split packages of items for you. Only need half of a melon, a 4-pack of chicken breasts or even half a loaf of bread? Even if you need an odd number or have a special request, most stores will do their best to accommodate you.
- First In, First Out
Try keeping your fridge free from expired foods or forgotten leftovers by implementing the “first in, first out” strategy. Place newer items with longer expiration dates towards the back of the fridge, and put older foods in the front so that they’re easily accessible. Sometimes the main problem with wasting food is that you just didn’t remember it was there! By keeping foods that need to be consumed ASAP in plain sight, it’s easier to remind yourself to eat them before it’s too late.
- The Freezer Is Your Friend
If you know that you won’t be getting around to cooking or eating something, most items can be stored in the freezer until you need them. Meat, fish, fruits and veggies, and even bread can be preserved. Cooked leftovers like pizza or chicken can only last 3 or 4 days if kept the fridge. When stored in the freezer, however, they can last anywhere 2 to 6 months! Fresh steaks or poultry can last even longer, ranging from 9 month to an entire year!
- Save Your Scraps
Scraps may seem insignificant, but they can really add up. While doing all of your cutting and chopping, start saving your trimmed ends or peels from vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms and potatoes. Place them in a large freezer bag and store in the freezer, adding to it as you collect over time. Once you’ve accumulated enough, they can be used to make vegetable stock perfect for soups and sauces. Meat lovers, you can also save chicken and beef bones to add to your homemade stock!
- Get Creative and Reinvent Leftovers
Have a leftover chicken breast and a bowl of rice? Mix them together with some fresh peppers and onions for a quick, easy and tasty stir-fry. Made pasta for dinner during the week and have some extra sauce? You can make (or buy pre-made) pizza dough, add some mozzarella cheese and create your own calzone or pizza. This is the perfect way to be creative with your leftovers while also saving time, money, and most importantly, food!
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