How to Waste Less Food
How often do we throw away uneaten leftovers, spoiled produce or food products past their use-by date? Americans waste about 40% of all food produced within national borders – that's more than 1,400 calories per person per day, or 31 million tons of rotting food every year. The environmental impact of the world's food waste is staggering.
The creation and subsequent disposal of food waste accounts for 25% of the United State's total freshwater consumption, and requires an investment of 300 million barrels of oil annually. Additionally, each ton of food waste creates approximately 4.2 tons of CO2, and rotting food produces methane gas, a toxin 25 times more potent than greenhouse gases. Here are ten easy steps to make the most of your food and minimize waste:
- Watch portion size: Fill your plate with only what you'll eat. Estimate small; it's easier to take a second helping than to return food from a half-eaten plate.
- Buy fresh: Only buy produce for the next 3-4 days, or a week at the most. If you run out of an ingredient, just pick up more on your way home from work.
- Check the date: The store's "sell by" or "freshest before" label indicates when an item is at the peak of freshness. If your milk or eggs have passed their expiration dates, don't throw them away. Eggs stay fresh for a month in the fridge, and milk can be safe up to five days after its "use by" date.
- Recycle food scraps and compost: Set up a compost bin for organic food scraps; you'll reduce waste and provide excellent soil for your garden.
- Use the freezer: When you cook a large meal, freeze extra portions for meals later in the week or month.
- Make a list: Create a weekly meal plan, and write down a grocery list of what you'll need for the entire week. Your organization will pay off in smaller grocery bills, easy meals, and reduced food waste.
- Get creative with leftovers: Make tasty snacks and stews out of scavenged refrigerator items; turn stale bread into croutons and bake old bananas into a delicious bread.
- Avoid bulk shopping: Only buy what you and your family will eat, or team up with a friend to go halves on large bags of produce and other groceries.
- Easy packaging: There are plenty of freezer-safe glass and BPA-free plastic food storage containers on the market. Stock up on sets with universally matching tops for extra convenience, and you'll never have to struggle with disposable plastic wrap or freezer bags again.
- Doggie bag it: Restaurant portion sizes are larger than most people want to eat in one sitting. Consider ordering an appetizer as a main course, or split an entree with a friend. If you have leftovers, always ask for a doggie bag.