Ingenius Ways to Prevent Food Waste!
Guilty of food waste? If so, you are not alone. From that moldy loaf of bread to the forgotten ground beef with that awful stench, food waste is a common occurrence in American kitchens.
Instead of continuing to discard food, as the guilt compounds, there are key things we can all do to prevent food waste.
- Do not plan too far out. Even though it sounds appealing and appears organized to do a big monthly shopping, do not write the entire menu out for the month and then shop for everything. Why? Food products, in particular meats, seafood, and produce, spoil quickly. While planning is optimal, shopping 2 to 3 days in advance will guarantee a fresh menu.
- Shop frequently and buy less. Frequent trips to the grocery store helps to ensure freshness. The key is to buy smaller quantities to create less waste. However, it ultimately saves food wasters money and provides security that what one is buying is indeed garden, shelf, or refrigerator fresh.
- Serve fresh. Purchasing and serving fresh foods helps to reduce foodborne illnesses, where food spoilage leads to contamination.
- Shop with a list. The trick to prevent overspending on frequent shopping trips is to stick to buying solely what is on your list. It is helpful to keep a running grocery list of essential items you need to buy to prepare meals.
- Shop full and avoid impulsiveness. Always shop on a full belly, too, so you will be less likely to impulse buy. Purchasing extras can lead to food waste, so be prudent.
- Use what you have defrosted. Therefore, you are thinking…I will buy it now while it is on sale and freeze and prepare it later. Makes sense, right? Not always. Freezing too much food can backfire! Why? People forget to defrost things on time, or they may defrost something and forget to use it. Once defrosted, use meat and do not refreeze.
- Do not forget frozen food. Forgotten freezer food is easily subject to freezer burn. Dehydration and oxidization can destroy the flavor and scent of the meat. In addition, for a freezer to run efficiently, there are rules about how much volume it can handle and proper temperature settings.
- Wrap foods properly. If you wish to freeze meat, understand that the butcher paper that holds your meat will not protect it. It will need an adequate rewrapping. Discard the original packaging and seal meat in freezer wrap. Get rid of excess air and use freezer tape to close. Then, pack the wrapped meat in a moisture-resistant freezer bag to keep it fresh.
- Date and label contents. Use a permanent marker to note the content and date it was frozen. Many people throw things away because they cannot remember what it is or how long they have had it. For best quality freshness, do not freeze meats longer than 3 or 4 months.
- Gage longevity of produce and set a limit. Fresh fruit and vegetables remain in abundance in spring and summer seasons. It is easy to go overboard buying colorful produce, which are at their peak of freshness. However, periods of ripeness may be short-lived. When things go bad quickly, we discard food. It is important to understand how long foods remain fresh and to limit our purchase of quick ripening fruits and vegetables.
- Know how to handle and store food. First general rule, with exceptions, is to leave refrigerated produce in its original packaging or wrap it loosely in a plastic bag. Second basic rule is to remove room temperature fruits and vegetables from any packaging. Leave them loose to prevent early maturation. Also, know how long meats generally last. For example, raw ground beef stored in the fridge remains at its freshest state for only 1 to 2 days.
- Observe expiration dates. Using meats by the sell-by-date is acceptable; but many do not taste great towards the end. Some people will use the meat shortly after the sell-by date; however, this is ill advised as the meat may become slimy or take on a bad smell, which indicates a problem. Never eat questionable or expired meat. Do not overbuy or things will go bad before you can use them.
- Know how many people you are serving. Lots of food waste can occur from inadequate planning. This happens when you cook for 20 people, and only 10 invited guests show up for dinner. Know who is coming and carefully gage the amount of ingredients you will need.
- Do not go overboard. You might be tempted to cook large quantities and store it, thinking you will eat it later in the week. Nevertheless, leftover food in the fridge creates clutter and can be lost or forgotten. Unidentifiable moldy food in the plastic ware is usually the result. Be reasonable.
- Share with those in need. If you enjoy cooking, consider delivering meals regularly to an elderly person in your neighborhood who may be in need of a home cooked meal, rather than allowing prepared food to go to waste.
- Keep an organized refrigerator and freezer. A neat and clean refrigerator will make it easy to find and use what you have. Labeled packages will keep wrapped foods from becoming mystery meals.
- Read directions carefully. Often, people make mistakes when cooking due to rushing or failing to read directions. It is an utter waste of time and food. Always read directions through before beginning and pay attention to quantities.
- Use the timer. Quit burning the bread in the oven! Watch what you are cooking in the kitchen. Pay particular attention to the temperature settings and always set a kitchen timer.
- Know what you have at home. A woman in the grocery store was buying an abundance of seasonings since she could not remember which ones she had at home in her pantry. To prevent the repurchase of inventory, carefully review what is in the fridge, freezer, pantry, and spice rack before making your list and shopping.
- Prepare recipes using leftovers. Whenever possible, plan a menu around leftovers that you already have in the fridge, freezer or pantry. For example, if you have cooked chicken and broccoli, toss with prepared pasta, and top with grated cheese. Alternatively, for dessert, turn leftover bananas into a cake, muffins, or loaf of bread. Not only does this trick save you money, it pushes your creativity in the kitchen and may transform you into an inventive and top-notch chef.
- Do not underestimate your level of fatigue. If you work hard Monday through Friday and prepare meals frequently, it is understandable that you may want to take it easy on the weekends. If you tend to buy groceries with the intention of cooking on the weekends, but usually end up eating out instead, this may lead to food waste. Look for patterns like this to avoid wasteful trips to the grocery store and spending money on things you end up not preparing.
- Waste less water. According to an article published by the Los Angeles Times in 2014, it takes 660 gallons of water to make a burger. This statistic includes irrigation of the grains and grasses in the feed, plus water for drinking and processing. Thus, the production of one pound of beef requires 1,799 gallons of water. When we discard food, we also waste the water used in its preparation. The same article explains that an astonishing 18 gallons of water is required to produce one apple. Think about that the next time you are tempted to throw one away.
- Split it. If your produce store, warehouse market, or grocery store sells big bags of carrots and apples, but you will only use a few, buy stuff with friends and split it. Bulk packages are often a good overall value and can help you save money while shopping. Sharing works well for items like strawberries that do not last long, and for pricey meat and giant bags of potatoes. Divvy up the goods to stretch the dollar and create less waste. That way everyone wins, including the environment!