Waste Not Want Not: Preventing Food Waste in the Home

Waste-Not-Want-NotSince the beginning of 2013, an estimated 18 billion pounds of food has been wasted in the United States. Based on these findings, by the end of this year, there should be approximately 72 billion pounds of food wasted in the United States alone. The average American consumes nearly one ton of food in a given year. (Nowadays, “average” weight for an American male is 180 pounds and 160 pounds for an American female.) If food waste prevention measures were taken, the amount of wasted food could potentially feed 7.5 million people in one year.

It has become a commonplace and socially acceptable trend to eat out. Once upon a time, dining out was a special occasion that occurred maybe every other month or so. Due to a boom of food enthusiasts, more and more people began to eat out. And now, a flippant disregard towards food is everywhere: take two bites of a foot-long hotdog and toss the majority. Buy a dozen apples, eat four and let the rest become inedible. Practicing food waste prevention can combat this.

Plan ahead
Make a list for your grocery store trip and do not deviate. It is tempting to buy those bell peppers that are on sale (4 for a $1) but ask yourself, “Will I actually use them?” And be real about it. Telling yourself you will when you know you will not will only cause those poor bell peppers to end up in the trash next to the partially eaten container of Greek yogurt that you did not acquire a taste for.

Run to the store once a week
Know what you have in the dark recesses of your cooler. By making several small trips to the store throughout the month, your refrigerator will stay uncluttered. (This will also help you stay organized).

Give your refrigerator a tune up
Check the settings and make sure that it is set below the “danger zone.” Your refrigerator should be set at 35 degrees Farenheit (F) and your freezer should be around 0 degrees F. The 40-140 F zone is a temperature range that is ideal for bacterial growth.

F.I.F.O.
F.I.F.O is not your neighbors dog; it is a concept used heavily in the food industry. “First In, First Out” is a safety measure that helps keep the older products from going bad. Use the oldest stuff first to keep the waste down to a minimum. To save money and food, know and keep the expiration dates of everything. “Sell-by” dates are a recommendation to sell that product by that date. It does not mean the product expires on that day. (Typically, the item will be good for several days to a week after this date.)

Wrap it up
There is no need to toss that pot of mashed potatoes or a cup of extra rice. Save and reuse it. There are literally thousands of recipes online – that utilize things from previous meals – that are only a click away.

Serve smaller portions
You can always go back for more but typically you will not put it back. Instead of scrapping half a plate into the trash, start off with one scoop of beans and one piece of chicken. There is nothing stopping you from getting more later on.

Freeze it
Along the lines of reusing, this is a handy method of saving products. Vegetables, proteins, broths and soup can be frozen and reused.

You aren’t Emeril Lagasse or Wolfgang Puck
Trying new things in the kitchen is fun, but keep in mind that you might not make all the recipes you find online. If you have little experience in the kitchen, do not start with a spinach soufflé or hollandaise sauce. Develop your culinary skill by taking classes or by practicing the basics before “kicking it up a notch.”

Compost it
Start a compost bin in your yard for all those peels and trims you would not normally use. It is logical to save extra green beans, but saving the skin from carrots is not. Unless you make vegetable stocks from scratch, using a compost bin will minimize the amount taken to the dump and will help revitalize your yard.

Restaurants and larger corporations are instituting measures and standards that are designed to minimize the amount of product thrown away or wasted. This cost effective practice helps prevent them from throwing out perfectly good food items. By starting in the home, it could lower the amount of waste, which would eventually lower the amount of money paid to handle, transport and dispose of garbage. Ronald Reagan once said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” All it takes is effort and dedication to keep your house a “food friendly” place, starting in your refrigerator but not ending in your garbage.

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