Americans throw out about 14% of the groceries we buy. In the UK, it’s estimated that 8 billion pounds worth of food goes to waste, which equates to a third of total purchases.
And in your household? Those are scary stats that are echoed in many other countries around the world.
People complain about rising food costs, yet waste food daily. Does that make sense?
And, did you know that, unless you are feeding your food waste directly to animals or composting it, all trashed food typically ends up on landfills thus producing the greenhouse gas methane, on top of all the damage and landfill that the excess packaging and transporting causes?
I’ll add another problem here – we’re teaching another generation to waste, to not be efficient and to care be oblivious about how their daily patterns and habits affect themselves and others. We can change, and we can be better teachers and stewards starting today.
Here are keys to become more conscious and more organized for ourselves, and a better steward to our very cool planet, while saving money! How great is that?!
9 Plus Ways to Stop Wasting Food
1. Inventory, Declutter and Organize What You Have – What’s in your cupboards? Fridge? Freezer? Pantry? We tend to buy more and waste food because we don’t know what we have to begin with. Get a notepad and take stock of what you have. Categories will include: meats, veggies, fruit, dairy, prepared meals, canned foods, etc. While you’re taking your inventory you may of course be tossing some things as you’ll find you forgot something in the back and it’s rotten, rancid or growing parts unintended!
TIP: From your inventory, don’t buy another thing until you plan meals from what you already have that needs to be used up, especially opened products and fresh fruit/veggies.
2. Use Grocery Stocker Techniques – Move perishable foods, like dairy products with the nearest expiration date and leftovers to the front of the fridge and cabinets, store the newer items behind the older ones. Use labeling to mark containers for all to see when it was cooked, when it should be used by, etc. to help out too. (No, you don’t need a fancy labeler for this! Just a piece of scratch paper taped to the side or top of the container is fine!)
TIP: Perishables can be repurposed! If you have strawberries, bananas, etc. that are just not going to get eaten soon enough, including bread, rolls and leftovers, put into zipper bags and freezer suitable containers and freeze. Use fruit and veggies in smoothies later! Breads can be used anytime for anything again.
3. Use Your Inventory for Your Shopping List — Place your inventory notepad on the fridge with a list of the basics in your categories. Scratch off items as you use them (keeping you from overbuying).
4. Buy Realistic Quantities — Don’t bulk buy when there’s no way you and your family, which may have dwindled over the past year or more, can possibly eat. You are NOT saving money!
5. Cook Realistic Quantities – Don’t cook for eight when there’s only two or three of you. You don’t need the leftovers or calories. Or, if you’re really into leftovers, great! (I like leftovers!) But then make sure to a) plan to eat them soon and, or b) freeze them - with a label!
6. Plan Ahead — Not only on your food list, but meal plan as well. With a meal plan you know exactly what you need and are not buying haphazardly.
7. Food Shopping Tips
a) Don’t shop on an empty stomach - you’ll tend to buy more and items you normally wouldn’t “crave” or impulse buy.
b) Shop more often and buy less - you’ll buy and eat the food more quickly and consciously in a plan, leaving less opportunity to find that later in the week you don’t want that great selection anymore and it’s decaying every second.
c) Buy only what you will definitely eat - you know what your eating habits are, you know what you really like and don’t like, buy accordingly. If yours is not a great diet then make only one change a week and eat it right away before you fall back into your old patterns and it rots one more time.
d) Set a budget - a budget in any area of our spending life limits our unconscious spending. Thinking through your purchases is not a sign of poverty or confusion, it’s a sign of discernment and healthy decision making for what you really want and need.
8. Use Your Freezer – There are very few foods that can’t be frozen for future thaw and use. Buy extra meat (getting a better price), split it up and freeze it right away for future use. Break apart loaves of sliced bread and freeze 3-4 pieces in a baggy to use when you’re ready. Be sure to regularly review your freezer contents and LABEL them so as not to risk freezer burn creating more wasted food!
9. Eating Out Tips — When you know you’re going to eat out, carry a “doggy bag” with you. I do! I keep some in my car all the time “just in case” too. Why waste more containers and bags to the landfill for a small leftover when you can take in your own zipper bag, plastic or glass container in which to haul it back home for another great meal? Restaurants overfeed us, but we can make a meal or two more out of it saving money and enjoying it again, while keeping food and packaging trash from the landfill. You can also NOT biggie-size your orders and ask for 1/2 orders.
Bottom line? Food is a wonderful thing and how nice to have so many choices! Enjoy it while being organized and efficient with it.