Did you know that every year, about a third of the United States food supply is wasted? Almost a quarter of wasted food is wasted in private homes, and the majority of this food ends up in landfills. Food in landfills creates methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Since 10% of Americans do not have reliable access to food, food that ends up in landfills is also a human rights issue.
In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency set an ambitious goal: cut food waste in half by 2030. They are calling on you to do your part! The great thing about decreasing the amount of food you throw out is that it is a win-win: good for the environment and good for your wallet. This article will introduce some tips for saving food. For more information, check out the resources below.
Plan your meals before grocery shopping to avoid wasting money on food you won’t eat. Try different meal planning strategies to find out what works for you. Some people may find it helpful to plan out all their meals and snacks for the week and make a grocery list based on those. If this is your first time incorporating meal planning, try starting with only a few meals per week. For example, you can plan your dinners for the week in advance and buy ingredients for those. Other people may prefer a more flexible approach, making a grocery list based on staple foods they can use in many different meals and snacks. Whatever you choose to do, take a moment to really think about what and how much you need before you go to the grocery store.
Store Products Safely
By storing food correctly, your food will last longer and you will throw less food out. The first step is easy: check that your refrigerator temperature is 40°F or below and your freezer temperature is 0°F or below.
Next, make sure you are putting away your groceries as soon as you get home. Time at room temperature can make dairy, meat, produce, and other perishable items go bad more quickly.
You can also use the FoodKeeper App, which can be downloaded to your phone or used online. With this app, it is easy to look up the best ways to store and handle many types of food!
Reorganize Your Refrigerator
Use the power of sight! To encourage household members to reach for older items first, put them at the front of the fridge. Put newer items, or items unlikely to spoil soon, toward the back of the fridge. You can also use a specific section of your refrigerator for food that will go bad soon and plan meals and snacks around those foods.
Understand Expiration Dates
According to the FDA, many items can be used past their “sell by” or “best by” dates, so there is no need to throw them out just because of the date printed on the box. Instead, use your judgment to decide if food has gone bad or not. If your food doesn’t look right, smell right, or taste right, do not eat it. Changes in color, odor, or texture can be hints that it should be thrown out. To learn more, check out this guide from the FDA on “How to Cut Food Waste and Maintain Food Safety.” Please note that older adults should be especially careful about the safety of their food.
Think Big Picture
These are all important steps you can take to reduce food waste in your household, and they can have a big impact. However, it is important to keep in mind that most wasted food is wasted by companies, mostly in the industrial and foodservice sectors. In fact, the industrial sector wastes 40% of the food wasted nationwide. If you are interested, you can look up advocacy efforts in your area to reduce food waste by businesses.