I hate wasting food. While I am not the great connoisseur of leftovers, I am a firm believer we should do whatever we can to prevent food waste.
According to endhunger.org, in 2010 food waste in the US accounted for 31% of the available food supply at retail and consumer levels went uneaten. At retail prices that is $161.6 billion in waste.
So if you are going to spend time learning how to save money on food, then you need to make sure that food does not spoil waiting to be used up. To help out I put together this list on how to reduce food waste.
Prevent Food Loss
By definition food loss is different than food waste. Food loss is where something happens to the food in the supply chain before it gets to the consumer, while food waste is where the consumer gets the food and it goes unused. So helping the stores not waste food makes a big difference in our overall waste as a society.
Help With Funny Looking Produce
Much of the produce that goes to waste in our stores is because the item does not look like what we think it should look like. Fruit and vegetable a like will get rejected by consumers if it is a little on the ugly side. Either buy the produce and use it, or I am sure there is a faith-based organization that distributes food to the needy that will be happy to take it from you. After all, it is still edible food.
You may be able to work a deal with your local grocery store to pick up these items and take the ugly but fresh produce to a food donation location. In other countries this type of food redistribution has helped a ton of hungry families.
Food Waste Reduction When You Shop
W big part of our food waste is that we buy items with good intentions and then end up not using that food or not using it soon enough. These tips will help you make sure you have the right plan in place. These are especially important when dealing with perishable food.
Be a Smart Shopper
Having a shopping list and sticking to not only allows you to prevent the possibility of impulse purchases it also plays a roll into keeping us from wasting food. If you see something you think would be good, but don’t have a plan for that item, then it is probably best to leave it on the shelf. Not only do you save money you don’t take up extra space for food storage.
Also, have a realistic idea of what you need to purchase. If you are a family of one or two, then you won’t need the same amount of stuff that my family of five needs. You may spend a little more per item buying the smaller amounts, but you will save money over wasting half a bag of fresh fruit that you couldn’t get to.
Buy What You Need
When we do a new recipe that calls for an item that we have never used before, we always try to buy just enough of that never before used item to make the recipe and no more. We know we will waste whatever is left over, because it isn’t a part of our regular cooking. This is why the mail order meal kits are so cool because they allow you to try new recipes without overspending on the ingredients.
Have a Backup Plan
If you are buying an item that is not a normal part of your cooking habits, make sure you have a backup plan for that item. Have a dinner party that falls through and have a bunch of specialty foods? Have a few meals in mind to use up that excess food. This could be as simple as making a fancy lunch or doing a slightly different dinner for your family.
How to Prevent Food Waste At Home
The overall premise of each of these 13 tips is to make sure you are using up every bit of food that you can. If you have any more sneaky tips I would love to hear them, so hit me up on twitter of leave them in the comments.
Using Overripe Produce
Overripe produce has a ton of uses. Use them in smoothies, breads, and many other baking needs. If all else fails and they go rotten you can compost them. We use a composting barrel that can be turned easily so the compost turns into great fertilizer for gardens, flower beds, and lawns.
Freeze left over fresh herbs
Fresh herbs are a great addition to any meal, but having those herbs go bad while waiting to be used is a terrible waste of money. If your herbs are toward the end of their shelf life then freeze them in olive or coconut oil. You can use these in any recipe that calls for oil and herbs.
Don’t waste your chocolate sauce
If you asked my wife she would tell you that wasting chocolate should be against the law in all 50 states. To prevent such a catastrophe from happening you can add milk to your bottle of used up Hershey’s syrup. Now you could put the now very chocolatey milk into cups or you can do what I do and squirt it out of the bottle and directly into your mouth.
This also works with those chocolate tasting nut butters.
Use the last bit of mayonnaise
Adding olive oil, fresh herbs and spice to the last bit of mayonnaise and give it a shake. This will mix nicely and make a decent salad dressing.
Save the produce
You may have started noticing that bananas and other produce are starting to come wrapped in plastic in the grocery store. This is keeps the produce from the natural process of in-taking oxygen and releasing ethylene gas, the process we know as ripening. You can do this at home with plastic wrap, but just wrapping the stems of your bananas will do the trick.
Store your nut butters upside down
All natural nut butters (peanut, almond, etc.) separate and have an oil that separates on top and has to be stirred in each time. When you get to the end of the jar you usually end up with the nut butter but almost no oil. This remnant is really hard to use and even hard to spread on bread. By storing the jars upside down the oil will from on the bottom of the jar and give you a even oil mix all the way to the end.
Oil up your measuring cup
Before you measure out a sticky substance coat your measuring cups or spoons with oil. If you don’t the sticky stuff sticks to the spoon and you will waste some every time.
Use your stale bread
We frequently go and feed the ducks and turtles at the park with our stale bread, but you can also use it to make homemade croutons.
Prevent mold on your berries
Do a quick rinse with vinegar on your berries to help them last longer. I promise they won’t taste like vinegar is you only rinse them and don’t soak them in vinegar.
Store your potatoes with an apple
For some reason having an apple in there keeps the potatoes from sprouting. If you store them with onions they will sprout faster.
Store onions in panty hose
Another weird trick. Different sources online claim that this can keep your onions for up to eight months. The real question is, “Why did you keep an onion around for eight months?”
Don’t take too much stock in sell by dates
Now don’t go crazy on ignoring the dates on food, but the dates are not a food safety date.
You need to purchase the food by the date on the item, but the USDA says to determine food safety you can do well by smelling the item and looking for mold. So you have a lot more leeway than just the date on the packaging
When it’s getting close to time freeze it
Fruit, veggies, and meat that are nearing expiration can be put in the freezer. We go ahead and buy meat in bulk and do this right out of the packaging. Make sure you get all the air out of the packaging that you can or use plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
If you really get into freezing large quantities of food I recommend getting a food vacuum sealer. It can extend the freezer life of your food by a couple of months for produce and about six months for meat.
I will be the first one to tell you we waste some food, but implementing these tricks can really help reduce food waste and save us money in the process.
“I hate wasting food. While I am not the great connoisseur of leftovers … .” I hear you, my friend. Even though the wife and I are aware of the food we waste, we still struggle with not doing it. We drink a lot of fresh fruit & vegetable smoothies and tend to buy too many. While we do manage to catch and freeze most before they turn bad, too often we still miss some. Hate that waste!
Make a rich vegetable broth or beef, chicken and ham stock using veggie cut-offs from celery, onions, carrots, mushrooms, etc.. Save leftover ham, chicken and beef bones summer and freeze to flavor soups, stews, rice and noodles.
I use the stems on my basil and cilantro to make spaghetti sauce, or brushetta and marinades/dips.. Or I give them to my bunny.. Compost..