According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 34 million tons of food was thrown away in 2010. Food takes up more space in landfills than anything else. The cost of hauling all this discarded food to landfills is huge. The garbage trucks hauling that discarded food produce lots of air pollution. The food rots in landfills, producing methane gas. Families spend their hard earned money on food, only to throw lots of it away, then must purchase more. There has to be a better way.
And there is. There are several simple things you can do to reduce the amount of food you end up throwing away. Here are a few of the things that work well for me.
It may sound obvious, but buy less. How often have you thrown out wilted lettuce, overripe bananas and spoiled milk? Pay attention to just how much of a perishable food item your family eats and cut back on how much you buy. Yes, it seems convenient to stock up every two weeks, but it’s really not if that means you end up throwing some out. Stock up on canned goods and other things that last a long time but plan to shop more often for perishables.
Plan Your Weekly Menu in Advance
I have a recipe for Tuscan White Bean Soup that I love to make. The recipe calls for three carrots and two stalks of celery, though, and of course I can’t just buy three carrots at the grocery store. I have to buy a whole bunch of carrots and a whole heart of celery. I used to make my soup and then I’d end up throwing away the rest of the carrots and celery. Here’s where menu planning helps. Now when I plan to make soup, I plan other meals the same week that call for carrots and celery. That’s the time to make a big salad, or a stir fry, or something else that uses those foods so they don’t go to waste.
Cook Extra and Have Leftovers
If you’ve got an extra carrot or extra bit of onion, you can always just throw it in the soup or casserole (well, that might work better with some recipes than with others). Just make an extra large pot of soup and eat leftovers for lunch, or freeze the leftovers and have them for dinner in a week or two when you don’t feel like cooking.
Mash and Freeze Bananas
When I looked at what food items my family was throwing out on a regular basis, I realized we wasted a lot of bananas. We love bananas and eat them often, but it seems like there are often one or two that get overly ripe and then no one wants to eat them. Sometimes I would make banana bread or muffins with the too-ripe bananas but I don’t always have time to do that. Then I realized that I could mash the bananas and then freeze the mashed bananas in plastic freezer bags. It only takes a few minutes to mash a banana or two, and the frozen mashed banana thaws out quickly when I am ready to bake. I’ve also discovered that mashed banana goes well in yogurt.
Save Veggie Bits for Soup
If you don’t want to throw out that last lonely carrot or slightly limp stalk of celery, chop it up and toss it in a container in the freezer. Save your veggie bits for the next time you make soup.
Environmental Protection Agency. http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/organics/food/fd-basic.htm. Basic Information About Food Waste.