With Earth Day around the corner, it’s a good time to ask yourself—are you doing a better job reducing food waste than you were a year ago?
America throws out more than 1,250 calories per day per person, or more than 400 pounds of food per person annually, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. That’s a total annual loss of $218 billion, which costs the average household of four about $1,800 a year.
Last year Smart LifeBites showed clever ways to reduce food waste, and this year, we’re exploring more ways to stop those refrigerator science experiments from starting in the first place.
Plan, Plan, Plan
It sounds trite, but if you plan the week’s meals in advance, you’re much more likely to use up food you’ve set aside for each meal. Arrange your meals starting with ingredients with the shortest shelf life, such as fresh fish from the store, and then end the week with meals composed of leftovers and pantry and freezer staples, such as pasta with jarred sauce or defrosted pork chops.
Before you go to the store, analyze your week. Will you be home for every meal? How many apples will you really eat in one week? And if you’re shopping at a membership warehouse store such as Costco—can you really consume that 10 lb. bag of oranges before it starts to go bad? Be honest with yourself! Find a friend to split those huge purchases and then you won’t be faced with having to eat oranges twice a day for a week.
Freeze to maintain freshness
If you buy preservative-free bread and store it at room temperature in your pantry for a week, of course it’s going to grow mold! Read the labels; a brand might recommend storing an item in the refrigerator or freezer to preserve freshness. For instance, salted butter can be frozen for up to a year to maintain maximum freshness, but is safe to eat much longer.
Ward off pantry pests
Freezing can also kill potential pests: It’s a good idea to freeze all dry goods, especially bulk items, for 48 hours to kill any pests. Once you take your dry goods out of the freezer, bring them to room temperature and then store them in airtight containers. (Zipper lock plastic bags don’t work unfortunately.) If this seems like a lot of work, it’s nothing compared to having to rid your pantry of “pantry moths,” otherwise known as Indian mealmoth larvae, which will infest everything from dog food to dried fruits, cereal, nuts, bread, pasta, flour and spices. One infestation could wipe out an entire pantry’s worth of food!
Wrapping up leftovers
Store half-used produce in airtight containers in the refrigerator to help preserve them. For instance, the best way to store a leftover half onion is to wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or an air-tight plastic bag in the fridge, where it can last up to two weeks. Also, the rule of thumb is to not wash your fruit and veggies until you’re ready to eat them or cook with them. Take lettuce out of its plastic bag and wrap it in a towel or paper towels before storing it in the refrigerator
Buying from the bulk foods section is a great way to save money and reduce waste. Need one cup of quinoa flour for a new recipe, why spend $10.99 for a 22 oz. bag, when you can scoop out exactly what you need for a fraction of the cost? Again, don’t get lured in by the bargains on high-quality products; it’s only a deal if you can eat it before it goes bad. Food such as nuts and nut butters can go rancid if you buy too much and don’t use it up in a timely fashion or it’s not stored in a cool, dry place.
Many people are understandably confused by the expiration dates on foods, because aside from infant formulas, there are no national standards. Here’s a quick rule of thumb: Best before date: If you’ve passed this date, the food is still safe to eat as long as it’s been stored properly up to this point. All this means is that the manufacturer ensures the food will be at its best quality up until this date. Use by date: This means that the food is safe to eat up until this date but not after. Any food purchased with an date that’s expiring must be consumed or frozen immediately. If frozen, the food must be cooked and consumed as soon as it’s defrosted.
A little prevention goes a long way to reducing how much food your household wastes every year. How is your household throwing out less food this year? Share your ideas with us!
In honor of Earth Day, Crispy Green and Biena Snacks have collaborated on an exciting giveaway. Just visit Crispy Green’s facebook or Instagram pages to find out how you can win a month’s supply of Crispy Green’s Crispy Fruit and Biena’s Chickpea Snacks (both of these grab-n-go snacks have a very long shelf-life…so no worries about food waste! 🙂