According to National Geographic contributors Samantha Cohen and Eric Estroff, Americans throw out an average of $165 billion of food every year. Not only is excess food waste a problem for people’s wallets, it also has a detrimental effect on the environment and makes it harder for food to reach those who really need it.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can reduce the amount of food you have to throw away. Following these seven simple tips to reduce food waste will result in an eco-friendly and money-saving kitchen.
1. Plan Your Meals Out
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says one of the most effective ways to prevent excess food waste is to plan your meals out ahead of time. That way, when you’re at the store, you’ll know precisely what you need to buy and what you can leave on the shelf.
Avoiding a shopping cart full of excess food that you don’t need is a great way to start reducing your overall food waste. The less you buy, the less you could potentially waste.
The ChooseMyPlate website is a great place to start – it offers tips to help you plan your meals as well as a handy weekly template you can fill in.
2. Purchase and Use “Ugly” Produce
According to the U.S. FDA, “ugly” produce is fruits and vegetables that have physical imperfections but are not spoiled or rotten. Many shoppers pass over this produce in favor of more attractive-looking fruits and veggies, but you can buy these so grocery stores don’t throw them out.
There are even some companies that sell or deliver this “ugly” produce right to your door – resulting in savings for you as well as preventing food from being thrown away.
In this case, looks are only skin-deep. There are plenty of ways for you to utilize fruits and veggies that might not be appealing to the eyes in your daily meal prep. For example, blending these products together into a smoothie will result in a nutritious and tasty drink, and it won’t matter what the fruit looked like beforehand.
3. Prepare A Meal Using Excess Food
Ugly fruits aren’t the only food products you can reuse. Brittany Anas of Eat This, Not That! says that one of the best ways to use food that is about to go bad is by creating a stew.
Another quick and tasty tip: If you have any carrots or bananas lying around, you can create desserts like carrot cake and banana bread. Freeze these desserts to make them last even longer. Be creative and do some quick internet searches to find easy ways you can use up your groceries.
Besides stews, you can create casseroles, soups, bowl-style meals and more to help use up extra food – especially produce – you have lying around.
4. Remember to Store Food Correctly
Another great method to avoid wasting food is by correctly storing the food you buy in your fridge or pantry.
The U.S. EPA says – and you probably know from experience – that different produce must be stored in different ways for it to stay fresh. For example, some types of fruit, such as bananas and tomatoes, give off natural gases that will make other nearby produce spoil. For that reason, the EPA suggests storing these products by themselves.
Another way you can make your food last longer is by storing it in the freezer. The FDA says freezing items like fruit, bread, shredded cheese and meat can preserve them until you are ready to use them for your meal prep.
Jillian Kubala of Healthline offers this tip: Going a step further by placing prepared meals in the freezer. When you’re ready to indulge in your favorite culinary dish, simply take it out of the freezer and heat it up.
5. Avoid Overstocking Your Fridge
Having a well-stocked fridge is always a benefit for meal prep. On the other hand, having an overstocked fridge can quickly lead to products going bad. The FDA suggests designating a section of your fridge for food products that you know are about to go bad. That way, you’ll be tempted to use those products first, and they won’t go to waste.
Kubala advises that you avoid buying in bulk for most food items. While it may be tempting to have a generous supply of your favorite snack on hand, if you don’t end up using all of that stock by the time it goes bad, that’s a lot of food that ends up wasted. That said, if you’re getting a better deal by buying in bulk and it’s something that won’t go bad, buy away!
6. Consider Making A Meal Out Of Leftovers
Reusing leftovers is another great, obvious way to reduce food waste. If you end up throwing out the leftovers from a dinner you had a few nights ago, that’s not only food wasted, but money as well.
Consider finishing off a meal the night after you purchased or prepared the meal in the first place. If you don’t feel like having the same meal twice in a row, simply store your leftovers in the freezer to save them for later.
You can also switch up the leftovers you have (the basis of meal-prepping). For example, if you had roasted chicken with mashed potatoes the night before, repurpose that chicken into a pot pie or shredded BBQ sandwich later in the week. Get creative and think of ways you can not only save food, but money and time.
7. Donate Your Excess Food
If you can’t think of anything else to do with your excess food, consider donating to a local shelter or food pantry. Local communities are filled with families who do not have access to a steady supply of food. The food that you don’t plan on using could make a world of difference to them.
One thing to remember: Don’t donate food that’s expired or damaged. Food pantries likely won’t be able to use it and it sends a poor message. If it’s beyond repair, you might just have to pitch it – and make note so you don’t buy that item again!
Save Even More at Minster Bank
By trying these methods to reduce your excess food waste, you’ll not only be saving some green for your bank account, but helping to make the environment a bit greener as well.
It’s no secret that saving money can help you plan for your future. Let Minster Bank help with one of our financial tools, like the Saving For College calculator, Saving For Retirement calculator and more.
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