Throwing away leftover food is a routine occurrence for most people. The few extra bites on your plate get scraped into the trash after you push away from the table. Cleaning out the refrigerator each weekend usually yields a few plastic containers with nearly unidentifiable contents. If it doesn’t pass the sniff test, into the rubbish it goes. Think of how much you could cut down your personal contribution to the landfill if you took steps to reduce food waste at home.
The impacts may be bigger than you think. According to World Food Day USA, organic waste is the second-highest component of landfills in the United States. As organic waste breaks down, it produces methane gas, which plays a large role in climate change, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Needless to say, reducing the amount of food we waste can go a long way toward reducing our carbon footprint.
There are many ways to reduce food waste at home. Here are a few simple tips to help get you started.
Don’t run to the grocery store and buy whatever looks good, especially if you’re hungry. Make a list, and stick to it. Use the Notes app on your phone to keep a running list all week. Don’t have time for list-making? Snap a photo of the inside of your fridge and pantry before you run out to the store so you don’t have to wonder what you already have.
Plan out what meals you’ll be eating each night during the week. Make sure you schedule in nights for leftovers so they don’t go to waste. Making a weekly menu can help you save money and reduce the amount of food you throw away.
Much of the food we throw away gets tossed because it goes bad before we eat it. If your home is warm, store bread in the refrigerator to prevent mold. Store your celery slices upright in a glass of water so they won’t wilt as quickly. Check out Time for a dozen clever ways to make fresh foods last longer.
Cooking in bulk is a great way to save time during the week, but if you end up throwing away leftovers, you’re wasting a ton of money. Invest in high-quality freezer storage containers, and just freeze your leftovers to stay fresh for later. This means less waste and an easy dinner solution for busy weeknights.
Tired of eating leftover rice three days in a row? Try making rice pudding. Instead of throwing away stale bread, make homemade croutons or bread crumbs. Many leftovers can be reused as something completely different from the original recipe. Get creative with leftovers, and stop throwing them into the trash.
If you find that you overbuy or overbake, share with friends and neighbors. Bought a whole pie that you really won’t eat by yourself? Bring it to the office for co-workers. Also, if you have your own garden at home, sharing fresh produce with neighbors is a great way to make new friends.
When dining out, our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. Hold back that feast impulse on your first pass of ordering to make sure you don’t order more than you can chew. Ask your server if you can split a meal with your dining companion or choose items from the lunch or children’s menu, which are usually smaller than full entrees.
Inevitably, no matter how hard you try to reduce food waste, something will need to be tossed. (Who wants to eat a single bruised banana?) Invest in a compost bin for your plant-based food waste. Those dinner scraps will eventually turn into nutrient-rich compost that you can add to your garden and landscaping. Sure, you may have had to throw away that moldy tomato, but you’ve turned your food waste into a usable product. Community composting programs are gaining in popularity, too. Check to see if your neighborhood participates in this type of program.
Reducing food waste at home will help you live a greener life and reduce your grocery budget considerably. Plus, the less food you throw away, the fewer trips you’ll need to make to the store to restock your fridge.