Food waste is a big problem.
In the U.S. alone, nearly 40% of the food supply is wasted every year. (1) Which holy cow is a lot. Tossing out edible food is not just a waste of money, it also harms the environment.
Discarded food is sent to the landfill where it rots and produces methane gas, the second most common greenhouse gas. In other words, throwing out food contributes to climate change.
Even just following one tip in this article will help. Remember every little bit helps.
I have tried really hard to stop wasting food in my house. I feel like throwing away food is essentially throwing away money. I also want to help the planet.
It can be hard to make sure you eat all of the food that you have. Food sometimes gets forgotten when it is in the farthest reaches of your fridge, freezer, or pantry.
I have been trying to follow these tips outlined here. I am definitely improving and am finding that I am throwing away less food. I eventually want to eliminate food waste in my family completely.
How to Stop Wasting Food
1. Buy Only What You’ll Eat
And finding good deals on food makes it tempting to overbuy. But if you end up throwing away the extra food that you bought, it is not a good deal at all.
2. Eat Leftovers
I have had a love/hate relationship with leftovers. I love being able to have a second meal that is ready to go and I don’t have to make something.
But not all food tastes good as leftovers. Sometimes food gets soggy, mushy, or weird tasting after sitting for awhile waiting to be eaten as a leftover. Or it looks a little gross or smells a little funky.
So, I typically fall in the camp that comes up in the next point, mainly because I don’t want to be trapped with leftovers I don’t ultimately want to eat. And then they might get tossed out, wasting food.
3. If Eating Leftovers Fail, Don’t Fix Too Much Food
If you really can’t get on board with eating leftovers, then prepare less food. Only make enough food that your family will eat for that day. That way you will end up with no (or very little) food waste.
4. Keep Food Visible
If food gets pushed to the back of the fridge, then most likely it will spoil and will need to be thrown out. Keep food that may go bad quickly where you can see it.
And to go along with that, keep food in clear containers so you can easily see what is in there. Also, label the containers with the date that it was made. Then you can keep track of what needs to be eaten and when.
5. Keep Your Pantry Up to Date
After shopping, it is easy to just slide the new boxes into your pantry. This sends the older items to the back. This can lead to expired, stale, and dried-out foods. To prevent this, rotate food so the oldest food is always in the front ensuring it gets eaten before going bad.
6. Understand Expiration Dates
There are so many confusing terms that companies use on food labels to let the consumer know when a product will most likely go bad, such as “sell by” or “best by.” The truth is that most food that has just passed its expiration date is still safe to eat.
So what do the different terms mean?
- “Sell by” = Used to inform stores when the item should be sold or removed from the shelves. Food is still safe to eat after the given date when using this term.
- “Best by” = Suggested date that you should eat the food by. And with this term, food is safe to eat after the given date, as well.
- “Use by” = Food may not be at its best quality after the listed date. This is the best term to follow.
The best thing that you can do is to use your best judgment when trying to decide if a food that is barely past its expiration date is still safe.
With a little bit of effort, you can reduce your food waste. This will save you time and money. And allow you to help take off some of the pressure of Mother Nature.