The last two weeks brought us Earth Day and Arbor Day and has me thinking what I can to do to preserve our environment. Reducing food waste is one of the easiest ways. In 2010 the EPA estimates that 218.9 pounds of food per person were wasted. You read that right, each of us put 218.9 pounds of food in the trash. This equates to 1.3 billion tons of food being thrown in our landfills, about a third of the food produced for consumption, costing about $161 billion. To bring this down to a household level, a family of four throws away an average of $1,600 of food annually. That is two months’ worth of grocery bills in my house. So, what can we do about the food waste?
Plan meals before shopping. If you know what and how much you are going to eat for the week, that prevents food from rotting in the fridge. Also take inventory of what you already have. Lots of times you don’t need to buy every ingredient for a dish because you already have it on hand or you can adjust the recipe to accommodate for ingredients you’ve already bought. If you know you’re going to eat it right away, buy “ugly” produce so the store won’t have to throw it away either. Don’t forget to take inventory of the trash. If you threw it away, it means that you and your family don’t eat it, without a plan.
Eat leftovers. Choose to pack a lunch of leftovers for work. Using clear containers to store the leftovers can help, that way you can see what leftover are inside each container. Containers you can’t see through may cause the leftovers to get lost in the fridge. Create what I like to call planned leftovers. For example, roast an entire chicken and make three different dishes from it.
Buy frozen. If you buy fresh food and have a problem with your food rotting before you get to it, try buying the frozen alternative. If you don’t think you can eat food before it goes bad, throw it in the freezer and save for a later time.
Allow guests and family members to serve themselves. This will help by allowing you to reheat any food in the pan instead of throwing away what is on someone’s plate.
Keep food out of the trash. If you can’t eat it, compost it. Composting is a great way to improve soil health and to keep vegetable food scraps out of the trash.
Make a Broth. Make flavorful reduced sodium broths and stocks for future dishes. Instead of throwing away the questionable vegetables we didn’t get to in time, or the ends that were cut off when preparing them, throw them in the freezer to make vegetable broth. Once a stock pot worth of vegetables is collected throw them in a stock pot with water and seasonings and boil for about two hours. Strain the broth from the vegetable parts and fill freezer containers. If freezer space is a concern, meat and vegetable broths can be canned, but please follow USDA recipes as these broths will need to be pressure canned. Once you are finished with the vegetable scraps compost them.
In 2015 the USDA partnered with the EPA and set a goal to reduce our nation’s Food Waste by 50% by the year 2030. So what steps are you going to take to reduce your food waste?
Monica Nagele is the Montgomery County Extension Educator and County Extension Director, Health and Human Science. She is a registered dietitian. The Extension office is at 400 Parke Ave., Crawfordsville; 765-364-6363. She may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.