TEN WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR FOOD WASTE

 

A study examining whether people could change their behavior and reduce how much food they wasted found that providing a flood of information (Use vegetable scraps to make stock, preserve produce before it goes bad, etc. wasn’t helpful.  What was: targeted, personalized recommendations based on people’s biggest sticking points.  Take a look at the scenarios that follow, see which resonate with you, and use the advice to help reduce your food-waste footprint.

 

If you don’t think you waste a lot of food, or don’t have a feel for how much you toss.  Most people don’t.  Nonjudgmentally jot down all the food you throw away for a few days, to get a sense of what and why you waste, from the food your kid flings on the floor to the leftovers left too long in the fridge.  Then you can address those specific issues one by one.  Oh, and when you do have to toss something (realistically, some amount of waste of almost inevitable), don’t feel guilty.  Feeling bad about it will likely make the problem worse.  Better to focus on why the waste happened and what positive changes you can make going forward.

If you tend to do one big grocery run and overbuy ingredients. Shop for dinner (the meal that most often gets scrapped) several times per week.  This is the number one tip for preventing overbuying in general.  To make it easier, try ordering ingredients on line from grocers with same day delivery or a supermarket that offers drive-through pickup, or swing by yourself on the way home.  It might sound like a hassle, but when you’re only buying a handful of items you’ll be in and out in minutes.  Or keep a cooler in your car and shop during your lunch break.

If you love trying new recipes.  Stick to a specific type of cuisine: Thai, Mexican, Indian, for several meals a week, since they tend to use the same ingredients.  For recipes that call for a small amount of meat, cheese or produce, check the grocery store salad bar.  Why buy a block of feta if you only need 2 tablespoons?  Or a whole head of romaine if you only need a handful?  Get creative too, like those  chefs do on TV.  And plan for a clean-out-the-fridge stir-fry, soup or pasta at the end of the week to use whatever odds and ends you have left.

If you often forget leftovers in the fridge. Pack them in single-serving containers for lunches the night you make the meal or bring it home from a restaurant.  If you freeze them, be sure to label and date the leftovers and put them on your list of planned meals for the week so the freezer doesn’t just act as a food-waste halfway house.

If you frequently succumb to bargains (hello BOGO). Make a pact with yourself to only go for a sale item if it’s nonperishable, like pasta or cereal, and something you would normally buy anyway.  For things like meat or produce, if you have a specific meal in mind for it, fine, but if not, keep walking.

If you are a “good provider” who wants people to feel well-fed, but then make too much food. Freeze the leftovers right away in individual lunch-size portions so they don’t have time to go bad in the fridge.  For dinner parties, send guests home with the extras.  Also handy: a portion planner can help you more accurately figure out how much food to make.  Try savethefood.com/guestimator.

If you chuck foods because you can’t remember when you put them in the fridge or freezer.  Get into the habit of labeling.  Everything.  Keep a sharpie and a roll of masking tape right next to the fridge and jot the date you made that big batch of chili; when you opened that carton of stock or when you put those shrimp in the deep freeze.  Also, organize your fridge with the newest stuff in the back and the oldest in the front where you can see it.

If your kids don’t eat all their food.  Be realistic, not blindly optimistic, and give them smaller portions.  They can always take seconds.  Or take less yourself, knowing you may be nibbling whatever they leave behind.

Or you often buy things on the fly.  Meal-plan carefully (use the shopping lists and tools at eatingwell.com) and try not to deviate from the items on your list.  Be practical about whether you are going to have the opportunity to use it that week.  Shoppers who stick to their lists are less susceptible to impulse buys, spend less on groceries and you guessed it: don’t waste much.

If shopping at bulk stores makes you load up.  Be strategic.  Stuff that can stick around a long time (boxed broth, kosher salt, steel-cut oatmeal) gets a green light, but that giant sack of grapefruit?  Maybe not.  Or try splitting purchases with another family. 

 

Eating Well Magazine