50 (Yes, 50!) Easy and Creative Ways to Reduce Your Household Food Waste
Food waste is a big problem worldwide, so learn to reduce your waste and feed your wallet at the same time.
Sure, food waste is costly, but it goes much deeper than that. Think about this, for instance:
- The estimated carbon footprint of food waste is 3.3 gigatonnes.
- Food waste comes in third place for carbon emissions, just behind the United States and China.
- 4 billion hectares of land (28% of the world’s agricultural area) is needed for the production of wasted food alone.
- 3 tons of food is lost or wasted each year — 45% of produce, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global food waste costs the retail equivalent of $1 trillion each year. And it’s estimated that food waste costs the average household $640 annually, and most likely far more if you live in a developed country. While $640 might not sound like a significant price tag, its impact on the environment is devastatingly expensive.
Food waste is a global problem. In order to keep up with the growing population, we need more food. But instead of producing more, maybe we should start by wasting less. The following extensive list will help you take baby steps toward keeping your food out of the trash and in your family’s bellies. Your bank account will thank you, your health will thank you, and the planet will thank you. Win, win, win!
- Shop smart. Always make a list.
- Look through the fridge and pantry before making your list.
- Only buy what is on your list.
- Meal plan.
- Meal plan based on what you already have.
- Only buy ingredients that can be used in multiple dishes each week.
- Skip recipes with unusual ingredients you seldom use.
- Don’t overcook if you don’t eat leftovers.
- Only cook meals after all the leftovers have been eaten.
- Pack leftovers as lunches.
- Get to know proper food storage guidelines.
- Know the difference between “best by,” “sell by,” and “expiration date.”
- Track what you throw away, and don’t purchase it again.
- Only buy in bulk things that store well.
- Try to avoid buying in bulk when possible; it’s a food waste trap wrapped in a pretty price tag.
- Learn food preservation — freezing, canning, pickling and fermenting.
- Meal prep once a week (especially important for fresh produce).
- Learn your family’s food quantities.
- Embrace “scratch it” meals — one night a week dedicated to cooking a meal from scratch using only ingredients on hand.
- Trim off overripe or bruised spots instead of throwing the whole thing out.
- Make veggie stock from peels, rinds and trimmings.
- Wash instead of peel (carrots, apples, potatoes, etc.).
- Keep perishable items in the fridge where you can best see them.
- Rotate your fridge, older items going to the top or front to be eaten first before newer ones.
- Freeze meat unless you’re cooking it that day.
- Use glass, airtight jars for storing literally everything.
- Use parts you normally don’t. Who says you shouldn’t eat broccoli or cauliflower stems?
- Learn to compost.
- Get a countertop compost bin.
- Freeze ripe bananas for baking.
- Freeze uneaten cheese or cheese rinds and make your own macaroni sauce.
- Freeze meat bones until you have enough to make a stock.
- Bulk bake and freeze it. Quick, easy meals and snacks!
- Think about food as money, ie: “This sandwich cost me $4.”
- Make a meal-planning framework and rarely deviate from it, ie: Meatless Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Slow Cooker Wednesdays. Incorporate your family’s favorite meals and only seldom try new, “exotic” dishes.
- Dedicate days to leftovers only.
- Create freezer bag meals right when you get home from the grocery store.
- Write a list on the fridge of what needs to be eaten by when.
- Delay grocery shopping by a few days and embrace your creativity in the pantry.
- Over impulse buys and avoid shopping at isle end-caps where impulse buys live.
- Buy only the things you know you will eat, not those you think you should eat.
- Grow your own produce and herbs.
- Wait to wash produce until you’re ready to eat it to reduce mold growth.
- Don’t store foods next to others that speed up the ripening process.
- Store fruit in the refrigerator.
- Prep food right after a grocery shopping trip. Things like hard-boiled eggs, carrot sticks, celery sticks, peppers and apple slices are more likely to get eaten if they’re ready to go.
- Store prepped product like apple slices in a bit of lemon juice to keep them from going brown.
- Produce past its prime is still perfect for stir-fries, smoothies, soups and casseroles.
- Ask about food serving sizes at restaurants and never order more than you can eat.
- Check your fridge settings. Thirty-nine degrees is the optimal temp for food safety, but studies show most people run theirs too warm, speeding up the spoilage process.
If indicators are true, there will be a serious global food shortage within the next several decades due to population boom. While we don’t all have backyards to grow our own meat, produce, dairy and grains, we certainly can pitch in by reducing food waste to begin with.
What other ways are you reducing your food waste? We’d love to keep adding to this list, so let us know!
Chainey, R. (2015). Which countries waste the most food? Accessed June 27, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/08/which-countries-waste-the-most-food/.
Hoffman, B. (2014). The shocking cost of food waste. Accessed June 27, 2017. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bethhoffman/2014/04/11/the-shocking-cost-of-food-waste/#68cb1680694b.