Globally, we waste about 1.3 million tons of food every year, which equals to about $1 trillion of wasted or lost food. Food waste in the United States is expected to claim about 30 to 40 percent of our entire food supply. On average, American families throw away 25 percent of the food they purchase each year, costing a family of four about $1,365 to $2,275 annually. Water, energy, land, labor and other resources are used to create food that ends up in a landfill, where it generates methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
But food waste is also bad for your wallet. All the money saved by clipping coupons and buying in bulk may be offset by wasting the food you’re working so hard to save money on. Here are some ideas on how to cut down your food waste:
1. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN
Know your menu ahead of time and buy the right quantities. A meal plan and a detailed shopping list helps you buy the right amount of food and know how you’re going to use it, helping to limit how much will spoil before you eat it. Bonus: When people plan meals they tend to eat more healthfully.
READ MORE > A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO MEAL PLANNING
2. KNOW THE SHELF LIFE
While some fruits and vegetables last all week long (such as kale and grapefruit), others spoil in a few days (like ripe avocado and raspberries). Do your research so you know how much to buy and when to plan to eat it.
3. CONSIDER FROZEN
We’re not talking TV dinners here. Many wholesome ingredients, including meat, poultry and fish, are great to buy frozen. While we all want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables, with freshness comes perishability, making them the most commonly wasted food products. Peas and corn are excellent for freezing because they have low water content, making their texture remain more intact when freezing and defrosting. Kale, collards and other greens also freeze well. Frozen berries are a great option in any recipe where the berries get cooked or whirled, such as in your morning oatmeal.
4. KEEP A CLEAN FRIDGE
This is easier when you’re not buying too much in the first place. Make sure to place your leftovers in a highly visible area of your fridge so you know what needs to be eaten and what foods are about to go bad.
READ MORE > HOW TO SPRING CLEAN YOUR PANTRY
5. FREEZE EXTRAS & LEFTOVERS
Plenty of foods, including fruits and vegetables, are excellent for freezing and eating later. Soups, casseroles, bread, raw meat or seafood, cooked rice or pasta and butter are the best options for freezing. Many small fruit and vegetable bits are worth freezing for adding to smoothies. These include peeled bananas, sliced avocados, berries, spinach, cauliflower, winter squash and zucchini.
6. USE AS MUCH OF A FOOD AS POSSIBLE
When you think you’re done with an ingredient — think again. The zest of lemons and oranges can make an excellent garnish on salads. Chunks of fruits or vegetables can flavor your next glass of water or be mixed with grains and used to create a stuffing. Bread can be turned into croutons. Watermelon rind can be used in a cole slaw or pickled.
7. TRACK WHAT YOU THROW AWAY
Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of what you’ve tossed. If it’s your third time this month throwing out a particular ingredient, reconsider how much you are purchasing or make more realistic menu plans. Tweaking your grocery list each week maximizes your grocery budget while minimizing food waste.
Following these tips to reduce food waste, save all that hard-earned money and eat better.