Avoid Food Waste and Save Money
Food waste is a huge problem in America. Schools, farmers, companies, and you lose money every week when you throw food away. This food costs money out of your pocket, but also costs the grower or producer money as well. It is very expensive to grow and produce the food our country needs to survive. But we don't think about that as we are tossing the produce that rotted in our fridges or the half of the take out meal that was too much for us to eat in one meal.
But let's concentrate on how food waste affects our bottom line. How often do you shop for food each month? Do you make a weekly trip or is it every day. There are positives and negatives to either option, but how often you shop directly affects how much food you throw away. If you go to the store less frequently you are more likely to use what you have on hand, rather than buying new. If you shop every day or so, you will most likely use what you just purchased, not the food sitting in your fridge from the last trip.
But when you shop less frequently you have to be careful with the produce you buy. Berries will not last a week or two in the fridge. If you buy a week's worth chances are good that you will be throwing away half of the berries after they rot before you can eat them. It is a bit of a challenge to avoid all or even almost all food waste. I can't imagine that there is anyone that never throws anything away. From moldy bread, to freezer burned meat, to rotting veggies, food (unless ultra processed) has a life span and we (me included) can't always eat everything by the deadline. So what can we do to avoid food waste? Here are some tips that work for me.
First, make a plan. Having a plan for your meals will help you avoid buying random items at the store that you don't know how to use. Having a plan will mean you are more likely to eat the food you buy.
Second, know yourself and your family. Only you know what types of food you eat. Don't buy food that you won't eat. If you are trying something new, don't buy ten of the item, start with one. If only one person in the house eats bananas, don't buy a huge bunch. You can split bunches of bananas and just purchase what you need.
Third, place smaller portions on each person's plate. You can always go back for more, but I personally don't like to save food that has already been on someone's plate. Especially with kids as they mess with it, taste it and put it back on their plates, etc. Starting with less ensures that you can save more in the end.
Fourth, don't cook too much food unless you have a plan for it. I have accidentally made way too much of something and it wasn't very fun trying to eat it all in a few days. We get really sick of foods after the second or third time eating it in a week. Some meals I double and freeze half right away though. It all goes back to the planning and knowing your family's habits.
Fifth, package leftovers right after the meal. Either plan to use them in the next couple of days (lunches or leftover night) or stash in the freezer until you have enough for a leftover night next week.
Sixth, we have become obsessed with dates on packages, time frames in which something will still be good, etc. We need to trust our eyes and noses more when it comes to determining if something is safe to eat or not. American's have forgotten how to do this. No you don't want to take chances, but everything doesn't automatically go bad after three days in the fridge and milk is still good after the "sell-by" date, as are most dairy products.
Seventh, take care of your food properly. Don't leave food sitting on the counter for hours after cooking, or in hot cars, etc. There are also some things you can do with produce to make it last longer. Wrap celery in tinfoil, stand asparagus up in some water, store potatoes in cool dark places, keep tomatoes away from apples, etc. Find out the correct way to take care of the foods you buy and then do it. You will be amazed at how much longer it lasts when taken care of correctly. If you can't eat what you bought right away, see what can be frozen for later use. Freezing food greatly prolongs it's life.
Eighth, become aware of your and your family's eating habits and pay attention to what food gets thrown away. If you pack lunches for kids, ask them periodically if there is anything they don't like. Have them bring home whatever they don't eat so you get a better feel for what they like and dislike and how much they eat at school typically. With four kids I know this is a guessing game, but as a lunch mom at one school I see so much food thrown away it is unreal. I try to encourage kids to take the stuff they don't like back home with them and tell their mom that they don't like it. This will save her some frustration and money in the long run.
I challenge you to keep track of how much food you throw away in a week or even a month. Then figure out how much that money cost you. Throwing away uneaten food is just like throwing away your hard-earned dollar bills. I really don't like throwing away my money, how about you? See if you can go a week without throwing away any food. It is hard! But it can be done if you use these tips to help you.