Food is what draws family, friends, and co-workers together; it is one of the main attractions at an event or holiday party. Shared meals are a great way to celebrate and bond, however sometimes we can over do it. What many people don’t realize is that uneaten food is the primary contributor to our landfills. In fact, nearly 40% of food produced in the world is thrown away or wasted. Many people also don’t consider that disposing uneaten food causes a much bigger problem than wasting money. Discarded food is sent to a waste landfill, where it rots and molds, then produces methane gas, a very toxic greenhouse gas, ultimately resulting in climate change.
Caring about our planet and environment is very important for our health and most importantly for our children’s health. Take a moment to review a few tips on how to reduce food waste.
Shop with Sense
Typically people will buy more food than they really need. Even though bulk shopping may seem convenient and efficient, research proves that this shopping method leads to more food waste. To avoid discarding uneaten food, try making more frequent trips to the grocery store. Try to use all the food you purchased from the previous trip to the grocery store before making another trip. Lastly, bring a grocery list with you to the store and only buy what you need, this will help with impulse shopping and ultimately reduce food waste.
Proper Food Storage
Improper food storage is a big contributing factor in food waste, especially with fruits and vegetables. Surprisingly, storing fruits and vegetables properly can be a bit tricky, and if stored incorrectly, can lead to premature ripening and rotting produce.
For example, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, and onions should be left out at room temperature and never be stored in the refrigerator.
It is crucial to separate foods that produce more ethylene gas from those that don’t, this is a great way to prevent food waste. Ethylene promotes ripening in foods that will lead to spoilage. Food that produces ethylene gas while ripening include: bananas, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, pears, and green onions. It is essential to keep these foods away from ethylene-sensitive produce, such as potatoes, apples, leafy greens, berries, and peppers to avoid premature spoiling.
Eating the Skin
Typically people will remove the skins from fruits, veggies, and even chicken before eating them or preparing meals. Many people don’t realize that most of the nutrients are located in the outer layer of produce and chicken. For example, the skin of an apple contains so much fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In fact, recent studies have identified a group of compounds present in apple peels called triterpenoids. They act as potent antioxidants in the body and may have cancer- fighting abilities. Chicken is also packed with nutrients, including vitamin A, B vitamins, protein and healthy fats. There are many benefits in all types of produce skins including potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, mangoes, kiwis, and eggplants. Not only is the skin healthy and delicious, its efficient and reduces food waste!
Blend up a nutritious smoothie with fruits and vegetables. It may not be appetizing to consume the stems, ends, and peels of produce in their whole form, but adding them to a smoothie is a great way to add nutritional value. The stems of greens like kale and chard are packed with fiber and nutrients, the tops of beets, strawberries, and carrots also make a great addition. Try including fruit and vegetable peels, wilted herbs, overripe bananas, and chopped broccoli stalks.
Flavor your Water
Surprisingly, most people don’t drink as much water as they should, usually because it’s flavorless. Fortunately now you can increase your water intake and reduce your food waste impact at the same time.
One of the easiest ways to increase your water intake is to give it some flavor. Use peels from citrus fruits, apples, and cucumbers, mint, and berries also make excellent additions to your water.
After finishing your water, toss the leftover fruit into a smoothie for a zero-waste nutrition boost.
Overeating is a common problem in America. Maintaining healthy portions will not only keep you in good shape, but it will also reduce the amount of food you waste. Being mindful of how hungry we actually are and much food we place on our plates are great ways to reduce food waste. It’s always better to take a small portion in the beginning and come back for seconds rather than scrape wasted food into the trash.
Expiration Date Knowledge
It may be a little confusing when shopping for dairy and produce these days because there are so many different labels that read “best by”, “sell by”, or “expires on”. What do they all mean and why are there so many different terms?!
The USDA or the government doesn’t regulate these terms or regulate the appropriate dates to follow for spoilage. Typically, this task is left for the grocery stores to determine spoilage dates. The truth is that most food just passed its expiration date is usually safe to eat.
“Sell by” is used to inform retailers when the product should be sold by or should be removed from the shelves. “Best by” is a suggested date informing consumers of when they should consume their product by. Neither of these terms mean that the product is unsafe to eat after the marked date.
While all of these terms may seem vague or uncertain, the best term to follow is “use by”. This term means that the food may not be at it’s best quality past the marked date.
There are so many ways that you can help save the environment by reducing reusing, and recycling food waste. Even effortless changes to the way you grocery shop, cook meals, and the way you consume your food will help reduce your impact on the environment.