Here in the United States, we lead the world in food waste by a huge margin. Somewhere near 40% of our food is thrown away before it even makes it to the store, because we have incredibly high standards on what our produce should look like. We demand that our peppers be spotless, our squash free of bumps, our carrots straight as an arrow.
Don’t think you do this? How many times have you been in the grocery store and set your eye on an apple or tomato, but then decided to choose another because it was misshapen or not quite as shiny as the one next to it?
I’m guilty of this every time I go to the grocery store. It’s almost a subconscious reaction, an evolutionary trait to help us survive. But all of the produce choices presented to us are acceptable in this day and age. Unless of course it’s rotting. Don’t choose that one. But that perfectly ripe one that one you decided not to choose?
Yup, that probably ended up as food waste too. And that’s after the rigorous selection process took place to decide what even made it to the shelf!
Recently, I bought a pepper at my local grocery store that had a hole in it. I decided not to put it back because I knew it would end up in a landfill, if not for me. The cashier commented on it, and asked me if I wanted to swap it out. He seemed almost taken aback when I said I would still buy it.
Oh, and of course there is the fact that the average household throws away over $600 in food every year. By reducing our food waste, we can also save large amount of money. Now who doesn’t love that?
There are some very simple changes you can make to reduce your food waste, that barely require any additional effort on your part. Try one or two of them out, you’ll feel better yourself and help to inspire change in others!
- Buy that ugly fruit at the grocery store – You can immediately feel good by knowing you saved it from the landfill. Also, by routinely buying them, the grocery store will see over time that they are not discarding nearly as many blemished fruits and veggies. That spells change.
- Shop at farmers markets or farm stands – While there are still government restrictions on how produce sold at farmers markets should look, you will often find that they are not quite as stringent, and the shapes and colors are not as uniform. This means less food waste! Plus, the farmer’s markets mean that your local food did not have to travel as far, which means less fuel expended. Double win!
- Go shopping with a list – Create a grocery list before you go shopping which has all of your meals planned out, as well as how many of each item you need for those meals. Only need one or two carrots for a recipe? Rather than buying a big bag, grocery stores will often have loose carrots that can be bought by the pound. Bonus: You can also put those carrots in your reusable produce bags, to reduce your plastic usage. I assume you use reusable shopping bags too? Ok, good.
- Eat your leftovers – They may not be the most glamorous, but eating them within 3-5 days is a surefire way to help reduce your food waste. I find that making enough food at dinner to have leftovers for the next day cuts down on time in the kitchen, which means less dishes to do and money saved on eating out!
- Properly store food – Whether it is in the fridge, freezer or pantry, know how to store your food properly to prevent premature spoilage. Invest in some air tight containers, know which food stores best in which fridge compartment, and don’t push things to the back that you are likely to forget about. There are really helpful diagrams all over the internet that indicate what to put where in the fridge, if you are unsure.
- First in, first out – This goes along with number 5. If you toss your newly purchased food into the front of the fridge, and push everything else towards the back, you will likely have some fuzzy surprises waiting for you back there. When you go grocery shopping, put your new items in the back of the fridge. That way, you have to reach past the older stuff every time you want something newer.
- Make a garbage list – Keep a piece of paper on your fridge, and every time you take something out of it that has spoiled, note it on the paper, as well as why it went bad. Were you too busy to cook that night because you worked late? Did you only need half of that bunch of cilantro and had nothing planned with the rest? After a week or two, go through the list and see what changes you can make to prevent it from happening again. Bonus points if you assign a dollar amount to those foods, since money usually helps to put things into perspective.
- Check your cabinets – While you make your grocery shopping list, check what you already have in your cabinets and in the fridge. Do this again before you open a new jar of something, so you do not wind up with two open jars that will both spoil.
- Be honest with yourself – Those four cartons of blueberries for 99 cents each are only a good deal if you can reasonably finish all of them before they go bad. Along the same vein, if you plan to make seven dinners this week, but there’s a chance you might have to stay late at work all week, you will likely set yourself up for failure. Be realistic with your meal planning. Obviously, not everything goes to plan, so having a few easy meals for when you are tired or running late are helpful in more than one way.
- Plan one meal a week to use up those extra veggies – Have an extra carrot, half of a head of broccoli and some extra cilantro? Turn it into a stir fry! Have several eggs, half of a pepper and a bit of onion? Make a breakfast egg wrap. This is where you can really get creative. Fried rice, a pasta dish with lots of roasted veggies, a vegetable soup in the slow cooker, a quiche – there are so many options!
Hope you enjoyed this list. Please share this article with friends, so together we can make a greater impact!
Also, if you are not already, you should follow Ugly Fruit & Veg on Twitter. He is truly making an impact and it is wonderful to watch!