What is Food Waste?Food waste happens for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes we buy more than we need, it goes bad because of improper storage, leftovers get thrown away, or we may cook too much. This happens more often than you’d think as about 40% of all food in the United States ends up in the garbage instead of our stomachs. This not only wastes the food that never gets consumed, but it also wastes the resources used for producing, packaging, and transporting the food from growers to our homes.
Tips To Reduce Food WasteUnfortunately some amount of food waste is inevitable, but there are ways for us to reduce it! Read on to find out how you can help reduce food waste in your own home!
Store your food properlyMany of the foods we buy when grocery shopping need to be stored differently to maximize their lifespans. Some things to can consider when storing food include:
- Storing raw foods below cooked foods to avoid leaks falling into ready-to-eat meals.
- Label your leftovers with the date they were cooked so you can keep track of how long they've been in the fridge.
- Knowing what foods need to be frozen, do best in the fridge, or should actually sit out. There are some helpful charts to help you figure out what produce goes where.
- Using reusable sealers like silicon bowl/can covers to keep out air, and help your food stay fresh longer.
Expiration dates can be misleadingAlthough paying attention to expiration dates is important, they can also be misleading. A large percentage of food waste happens at home when food is thrown out due to misleading “best by” dates. Here are some ways you can reduce food waste if you’re confused by the dates:
- Try to use your senses to judge food rather than the expiration date. Your eyes and nose are good at judging when food is still safe to eat, even if it’s a couple days after the date. Put those senses to work!
- Avoid buying more food than you can realistically consume before it goes bad.
- Refrigerate your peeled/cut fruits and vegetables, and consider freezing perishable items that you may not be able to use before they expire. Just remember to check the freezer.
Photo: Lakota Gambill
Shop local and seasonalShop local and seasonal at your local farmer’s markets! Both are great ways to reduce food waste, help your communities, and practice sustainable food shopping. Shopping locally and seasonally:
- Reduces the need for long-distance food transportation or artificial growing conditions, which reduces our overuse of and over-reliance on fossil fuels.
- Helps local farmers sell their produce directly to consumers, meaning it’s fresher and you have more time to cook and eat it before it goes bad.
- Is healthier for you! Seasonal foods grown with the sunlight and temperatures they’re used to are more nutritious and flavorful, meaning they’re better for you and the planet. You can use the Seasonal Food Guide to see what’s in season near you!
Photo: Community Farmers Markets, Atlanta
Compost!Instead of throwing away your food scraps, consider composting them! This is a great way to reduce waste as composting reduces the volume of stuff going to landfills, which are already overflowing, by turning food scraps into usable soil. There are a bunch of ways to begin and you can start by:
- Looking up your city’s local composting programs! The city of Boston offers multiple composting options (for our Boston readers), but a quick internet search should help you find what you’re looking for.
- Creating a countertop composting bin to collect food scraps until you’re ready to drop them off at a larger composting site. Use it to collect everything from fruit and vegetable peels, to coffee grounds, and eggshells.
Photo: Larisa Stefanuyk/iStockphoto/Getty Images
Donate Excess FoodConsider donating your excess food if you know you won’t be consuming it. There are tons of organizations, like food banks or shelters, that accept donations all year round! Find your local food bank here, and check what kind of donations they accept! Some other benefits of donating excess food, in addition to reducing food waste, include:
- Helping those in need: Donated food can be used to directly feed displaced communities or individuals who are food-insecure.
- Encouraging sustainability: You’re promoting sustainable practices and setting an example for those around you! You might even inspire others to do the same.
Photo: Cape Cod Times
It’s an ongoing movement
We can’t all be perfect when it comes to reducing food waste; it’s easy to forget that something is expiring soon or end up buying more groceries than we need. The good thing is that there are tons of different strategies to mitigate the food waste problem, like the ones we listed here. Share your favorite way to reduce food waste with us in the comments!