Americans are throwing out an astounding $165 billion worth of food every year. That’s roughly 40% of what they buy, and it amounts to an average of $2,200 in food waste per household!1
We’ve all let a loaf of bread go fuzzy, or forgotten about that plastic container full of leftovers in the back of the fridge, and we don’t think much of it at the time. But when you consider that the average person tosses out more than 300 pounds of food every year, it’s obvious that something needs to change.
The money we waste is one thing, but we also have to consider that we’re wasting the precious natural resources used to grow or raise that food too.
The good news is that cutting down on food waste isn’t actually as difficult as it seems, given the enormity of the problem. In fact, just doing a bit more planning is all it takes to reduce food waste and increase the amount of money you save each year.
10 tips for reducing food waste
- Plan, plan, plan. Figure out your meals for the week, check your fridge and pantry, and shop for only what you need to make those meals. A plan will help you avoid buying food you don’t really need.
- Know what you’ve got. Things have a way of getting lost in the back of the fridge or freezer. Every time you put something new in the fridge, whether it’s freshly purchased food or a container of leftovers, write it down on a list so you know what you’ve got. This will make shopping and meal planning so much quicker. Also make sure to label everything you store in your fridge or freezer, and include the date too. Masking tape and a Sharpie is all you need!
- Check your pantry. Periodically go through your canned goods to see what’s approaching the end of its shelf life. Use those items up or donate them right away.
- Use your freezer. If you know your family can’t go through a whole loaf of bread before it goes fuzzy, for example, put half of it in the freezer right away. The same goes for other perishable items that can be frozen indefinitely.
- Get creative. Use leftover ingredients – or leftovers themselves – to create brand new meals using what you’ve already got on hand.
- Don’t over serve. Put less on your plates than you think you’ll actually want. You can always go back for seconds if you’ve finished every scrap.
- Use all the bits. We peel and cut off a lot of useable food. Try to use as much of your ingredients as possible. Save bones for stock, get used to mashed potatoes made with unpeeled potatoes (that’s where a lot of the nutrients are anyway!), and cut up broccoli stems along with the florets, for example.
- Use up your old produce. If those bananas are too brown to be appealing, make banana bread or a healthy smoothie. Bruised apples make great applesauce, overripe tomatoes are perfect for sauces, and wilted vegetables are great in soups.
- Understand food labels. We often throw out food we think is bad based on what the label is telling us. But “sell by,” “best before,” and “use by” all mean something a little different. Visit Greatist to find out more about how to properly read food labels.
- Compost. If there are food scraps you absolutely have to throw out, don’t put them in the garbage can; compost them instead. If you don’t have a municipal composting program that collects organic waste at your curb, learn about how to do it on your own. Composting yields a rich garden supplement that will help your flowers and veggies look and taste amazing! Visit Better Homes and Gardens for more information on how to compost.
Just a few small changes is all it takes to make a big difference. For more tips on how to waste less food and keep more money in your pocket, visit HealthLine.
416897 B CAN/US (03/19)