By Monica Hollifield, MSDN, RDN
Nearly 1.3 million metric tons of food are lost or wasted each year globally.1 That means nearly one-third of all food produced for human consumption ends up in landfills.1 But all hope is not lost! There are several things that consumers can do to cut back on the amount of food waste produced that will benefit not only themselves but also the world.
Reducing food waste has a myriad of benefits including saving money; reducing methane emissions and shrinking your carbon footprint; and conserving energy and resources.2 Want to learn how you can play your part? Read on to find out how you can help to combat food waste.
Shopping Lists/Meal Plans: You’ve probably heard this one before, but it bears repeating—create a shopping list before you head to the store. And before creating the list, shop in your fridge and pantry to make sure you don’t purchase things you already have. Plan on having dinner out on Friday? Take this into account when creating your list. You can take this a step further and meal plan. Planning a menu for the week will ensure you only purchase the ingredients you need in the quantity you need them. Have a recipe that calls for half a tomato? Find another recipe that also requires tomato so that nothing goes to waste. Keep a rotating list of family favorites that you can pull from time and again.
Buy “Ugly” Produce: Buying produce that isn’t perfect helps divert supermarket waste. Many produce items don’t even make it to the shelf because consumers reject them for the way they look even though they are perfectly nutritious and safe to consume.
Multiple Market Trips: If your lifestyle allows for it, making more than one trip to the market per week can help reduce waste by allowing you to buy fresh items more often and prevent over-purchasing since you’ll have more than one opportunity to pick up what you need. Don’t forget your shopping list!
Meal Kit Delivery: If you’re not big on cooking, but still crave delicious home cooked meals, then sign up for a meal delivery kit. Our chef-curated made from scratch ready-to-heat Craft’d meals are a perfect option for a quick and delicious weeknight meal. Have health-related dietary restrictions? Our DLCare line of meals was created with care by our team of chefs and registered dietitians and are low-sodium, carbohydrate-controlled, and always fresh, never frozen.
Buy Frozen/Canned: If you’re worried about fresh food going bad, consider purchasing frozen or canned items instead. Frozen and canned produce are packed at peak ripeness and retain their important nutrients for much longer than fresh produce. Options like canned salmon or chicken or frozen meats can be a less expensive option than fresh. You can also freeze items yourself—just make sure you wash and prep vegetables or fruits and portion meats prior to freezing. Be sure to label and date the container, too. For a guide on how to freeze food items, head here.
Understand Date Labeling Terms: “Best by” “Sell by” “Use by”—these labels can get confusing! A great way to prevent waste is to have a better understanding of what these labels mean. For a thorough explanation, visit this USDA web page.
Repurpose Scraps: If you peel your fruit before you eat it (think citrus fruits, apples, or pears), infuse them in freshly boiled water to create a delicate tea. For vegetable peels (potato, carrot, beets), toss them with a little oil and the spices of your choice and crisp them in a 400° oven until golden brown and crispy. You can also make a homemade stock using the inedible root of onions or celery, kale stems, carrot tops, or any other vegetable scraps you may have along with any bones from meat or chicken that you have on hand.
Log of Spoiled Food: If you’re not sure where your food waste is coming from, keep a food waste log for a few weeks and log everything—item and quantity—you throw out. This will allow you to identify patterns of waste, making it easier to change them.4
Proper Storage: One of the easiest ways to prevent food waste is to ensure you properly store your fresh items and that you organize your fridge in a way that optimizes shelf life. Certain produce such as carrots and leafy greens prefer a high humidity environment while others like grapes, apples, and bell peppers last longer in low humidity. Place the oldest items in the front of your fridge and the newest in the back. Do twice-weekly fridge checks to hunt for things that need to be used up and store them in plain sight. For more tips on how to optimize storage, click here.
*Bonus: Coffee Grounds: Don’t throw out those coffee grounds! Did you know that coffee grounds are rich in nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that help plants thrive? Sprinkle cooled coffee grounds around houseplants or outdoor plants (excluding succulents!). The grounds also act as a natural mosquito repellant. Don’t have plants? Mix your grounds with a little avocado or coconut oil and some orange or lemon essential oil for a homemade body scrub.6
- Let’s reduce food waste. Nutritional Outlook Web Site. https://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/view/let-s-reduce-food-waste. Published December 23, 2020. Accessed June 2021.
- Reducing wasted food at home. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web Site. https://www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home. Updated March 31, 2021. Accessed June 2021.
- Food product dating. U.S. Department of Agriculture Web Site. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/food-product-dating. Updated October 2, 2019. Accessed June 2021.
- How to reduce food waste. By Jon Johnson. Medical News Today Web Site. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327325#keep-a-log-of-spoiled-foods. Published December 16, 2019. Accessed June 2021.
- Ellison, B & Prescott, M. P., (2021) Examining Nutrition and Food Waste Trade-offs Using an Obesity Prevention Context. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2020.11.005.
- 20 easy ways to reduce your food waste. By Jillian Kubala. Healthline Web Site. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reduce-food-waste#TOC_TITLE_HDR_3. Published November 20, 2017. Accessed June 2021.