Food waste is no new issue for the U.S. or other developed countries throughout the world. For many years, we as a society have taken our resources—water, coal, oil, food—for granted. The amount of food that is wasted in the United States alone is staggering. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated in 2010. This number is larger than any other category of material waste recorded by the agency’s municipal waste management division.
Food waste poses significant economic and environmental consequences to our society as whole. There are numerous ways in which socially and environmentally conscious families can reduce the food waste within their homes and reduce their foodprint on our precious Earth.
One of the biggest contributors to household food waste has to do with the way in which we purchase our food. When we go grocery shopping, many of us buy in bulk. While grocery shopping can no doubt be a drag, purchasing a ton of items all at once typically produces more food (and money) waste in the end. The more items you buy, the more likely it is that things will go bad.
The best way to stay on top of your food waste is to make weekly trips to the store for the things you will use that week. Creating a carefully planned out grocery list is a great way to reduce potential waste as well. Plan out your meals ahead of time and make sure you get only the items you need for that week. Consider leaving a few nights in your weekly meal plan open for leftovers or eating out.
Make Perishables Visible
One of the best ways to keep your perishables (veggies, fruits, etc.) from going bad without you realizing it is by making them more visible. Place older food items at the front of your fridge and cupboards and newer items towards the back so that you have a better idea of what you need to use.
Don’t push those older items to the back when you put newer items in—they are sure to get lost back there and go bad. Rotate around your fridge so that you can easily reach the things that need to be used more quickly. Also, once something is rotting or going bad, it can speed up the rotting process in all the food products around it. This will help you notice when something is going bad so that you can get it out of there before it decays the rest of your produce.
Consider Your Portions Wisely
As Americans, we are used to portions that are far too large for one sitting. When you we go out to eat, our plates are always at least two serving sizes. This overcooking mentality can lead to a lot of food waste. Consider how large of a meal you actually need to prepare. Plan it out. Cook the meal today and plan to eat the leftovers in two days. This is the best way to not let those tricky leftovers go to waste.
Also, when you are serving a meal, try to put smaller portions onto the plates. By serving less food at one time, you can significantly cut back on the amount of food you toss in the trash at the end of dinner. Give small portions with the mindset that if someone is still hungry they can go back for more.