7 Tips to Reduce Food Waste
My favorite words these days are: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, and rot! Hell of a list, eh?!
I have these words circling through my brain every time I go to purchase or toss ANYTHING nowadays but especially when it comes to food. Do you know how much food is wasted in the US each year?
- 40% of the US food supply is thrown away each year
- That’s 80 BILLION pounds of food
- That is enough food to fill 730 football stadiums or approximately $162 BILLION
Food is the single largest component in US landfills.
If you can imagine, wasting food has GINORMOUS environmental repercussions. Because I can’t nearly sum up the science I’ve researched, I am going to quote it here:
“While the food waste movement across America is gaining momentum, it needs to pick up speed to help tackle one of the globe’s most pressing problems: climate change. Wasting food has irreversible environmental consequences: it wastes the water and energy it took to produce it, and generates greenhouse gases — 7 percent of the world’s emissions9 — like methane, carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons, which contribute to global warming. Food that sits decaying in landfills also produces nitrogen pollution, which causes algae blooms and dead zones. According to the World Wildlife Federation, the production of wasted food in the United States is equivalent to the greenhouse emissions of 37 million cars. If Americans continue on the same path of food loss, the environmental impact could be disastrous.”
So what do you say, let’s waste less food together!
Here are 5 tips to help you get started:
Tip #1: LABEL EVERYTHING
This doesn’t have to be fancy at all! Seriously, I just use masking tape and a permanent marker. Write what is in the container and the date you put it in there. This goes from leftovers to cleaned + washed veggies. Whatever is in a container gets a clear label – this applies to food you may have purchased in bags already as well.
For example, if you bought arugula from Trader Joe’s, put a piece of masking tape on it with it’s expiration date clearly marked. This way you’ll have a friendly reminder every time you see it, it needs to be eaten!
Labeling everything from ingredients to leftovers will make it very obvious to you what needs to be used up first, which leads up to Tip #2.
Tip #2: UNDERSTAND AND BE FLEXIBLE WITH THE TERMS “USE BY” + “BEST BY”
- Use By gives us an idea of when a food should most likely be consumed by. It’s usually used on more perishable items such as meat or dairy.
- Best By means the food is at its best up to that date but can still be eaten after it.
Please note that these dates are completely arbitrary and are picked by the manufacturer. It is simply their best guess as to how long the product will be at its peak.
So trust your senses – not these terms! If your milk has a use by date of two days ago but still tastes + smells fine, you should be okay in drinking it. If it smells sour or tastes off, toss it. If you have pasta in your pantry and the best by date was last month but it tastes fricken’ delicious upon cooking, eat away!
I know so many people are scared of these terms and choose to throw food away rather than trusting themselves to know better. But you do know better, you are a smart cookie! That’s why I say you might need to be more flexible and keep an open mind, most foods are good for longer than we are led to believe.
Tip #3: PLAN AHEAD
Wasting food isn’t really that complicated – we just make it harder than it has to be. Planning your weekly menu – breakfast, lunch, + dinners – can go a long way in not wasting food. The process of planning ensures you buy only what you need, it’s a beautiful thing. Check out my blog on meal planning + prepping to get the most out of grocery shopping.
Sort of on that same note, check in on your fridge + pantry daily, see what needs to be eaten and get it on the menu as soon as possible. If you planned to have meatloaf tonight but realize your chicken needs to eaten, switch it up! Having a plan is a great start to wasting less and being flexible in that plan will make all the difference.
Tip #4: USE WHAT YOU HAVE + GET CREATIVE.
I think as Americans we’ve gotten so used to convenience that when it comes to cooking, if we don’t see something we want to make right away, we just order! I get it; I’ve been there. But it’s a nasty habit.
Get more comfortable with cooking by actually cooking more! Play around with ingredients and recipes. Lean on cookbooks for ideas but don’t feel like you have to follow each and every recipe to a T. Books like The Flavor Bible can really help too – if you have a few ingredients and aren’t sure what to pair them with, look it up! This book provides oodles of pairings per ingredient, giving you endless ideas to work with.
Tip #5: USE THE WHOLE VEGGIE!
This might be my biggest pet peeve ever and it is a HUGE issue in the food industry. Professional and home chefs alike have a tendency to only use the broccoli florets but not the stem. Or when it comes to herbs, they only use the leafy portions and not the stem. I could go on and on about all the parts of fruits + vegetables we choose not to use…for NO REASON.
Broccoli stems are filled with just as much flavor as broccoli florets. I think the stems of herbs taste even better than the leafy parts! Seriously, use the stems in your blender to make sauces and dressing and use the leafy part of the herb for topping off your favorite foods. Did you know potato skins have more nutrients than the inside of a potato? Did you know you could eat the flowers from zucchini plants or the leaves from sweet potatoes
Tip #6: PORTION LEFTOVERS
This is a big one in our house. Instead of putting a whole batch of soup in a big container, I will portion into individual serving sizes and label each + every one of them. Admittedly it takes a little more time up front but it really does help us waste less.
Instead of digging around in the fridge trying to figure out what to bring for lunch or having to portion out soup at the end of a long day, my hubby and I can just grab a serving size of whatever leftover we want and be on our merry way. Plus, if we don’t eat the leftovers in a timely manner, they are ready to freeze for future use. It’s a win-win.
Tip #7: COMPOST
I’ve talked about composted many times before on my IG and have even mentioned it in a few blog posts here and there. I’m a huge fan and so is our garden!
First off, skip the kitchen counter compost bin. They are super tiny, fill up fast, and constantly have you going out to empty it. I’d recommend a tumbling composter that you keep outside. Then, just keep a bowl on your countertop when you cook and discard any food scraps you’re not using to the bowl. When the bowl is full, empty it outside in your tumbling composter, give it a few spins, and head back inside till next time.
By spring you will have a gorgeous compost to spread all over your garden and trust me, your plants will love it! Once we started composting, our gardens grew to a whole new level 🙂
Getting more comfortable in the kitchen, cooking more often, learning how to use all parts of the veggie/fruit/animal, planning ahead, labeling everything, being more flexible with expiration dates, composting, and finding pride in using up what you have rather than ordering in are all small steps that lead to great habits in wasting less.
If you have any questions or comments, join the RylieCakes community on Instagram to get in on the conversation. We’d love to hear from you!
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