Three Best Ways to Reduce Food Waste: Shop Smart, Cook Smart, Compost Smart
Every time I clean out my fridge or pantry, I'm appalled. As conscientious as I try to be about my food budget, I still find myself wasting more than I should. I'm not a hoarder, but I do hate throwing things away. To me, it's just like burning money, and who has money to burn? I certainly don't. That's why I'm trying to stick to these three smart strategies for wasting less food.
The first trick is to buy what you actually will eat. I've gotten pretty good about taking stock of what's still in the fridge before I go to the store. I never get around to thinking about recipes before I grab a shopping cart, but I have finally stopped buying double or triple of something, just because that's what I always buy.
Plus, I try not to be motivated by what's supposedly on sale. Would I buy it if it weren't on sale? If the answer's no, I still skip it.
Timesaver Tip: No time to even make a list? Take a picture of what's inside the fridge or in the pantry with your smart phone.
#2 - Cook Smart
I usually try to make a bit more than I and my family can eat at a sitting, just to save time when prepping another meal. I'm a big fan of leftovers, either reheated or combined with other ingredients. And if I find stalky veggies, like celery or rhubarb or even carrots, wilting, I just pop them in a glass of water. It only takes an hour or so before they're revived and ready to eat.
Timesaver Tip: Make twice as much as you need for one meal, then freeze the leftovers for a later date. Check the freezer regularly so you don't lose track of what's in it. At our house, I pull out the leftovers Friday night to eat on Saturday when everyone is busy with household chores, sports, and other family activities.
#3 - Compost Smart
Many communities are dealing with food waste by encouraging people to compost more. Ideally, people would compost their food waste in their own backyards, where they can use their finished compost on their own plants. If that idea appeals to you, here's a quick guide to how to get started composting at home.
Timesaver Tip: Using a composting barrel or bin spares you the need to make your own, and it's pretty quick to spin a barrel rather than have to dig compost into a pile.
If you just don't like the idea of composting your own waste, maybe you're lucky enough to live in one of the 180 communities that have started picking up residents' compost and treating it in an industrial compost facility. My town is going to start picking up our food waste for composting in 2014. I'll let you know how that goes. You can also check out this directory to see if community composting is available where you live. UCan Products has produced this nifty kitchen compost bin, along with biodegradable bags to put the compost in to keep everything tidy.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, people waste about 30% of the food they buy. That means we're wastinge 30 cents of every dollar we spend on food. By shopping, cooking and composting smart, you'll save all that money - and do the planet a little favor, too.
Want more ideas? King County in Washington State has started this Facebook page offering creative tips to help people waste less and recycle more. Why don't you add your own suggestions to theirs? They've also pulled together a terrific list of resources on their web page here.