According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away $165 billion in wasted food every year. To bring that statistic closer to home, the U.S. government estimates that each household throws away $900 per year in food. What could you do with an extra $900 per year? However you chose to answer that question, you can’t spend that extra money until you cut the food waste. Here are some tips for doing just that.
Plan A Menu
Before you go to the grocery store and just buy what sounds good at the time, create a specific menu for the week. Account for meals that you might eat out and for any leftovers a specific recipe may have. This will help you to only purchase the food you need for the week. If you don’t overbuy, you don’t have anything to throw away.
Recognize That Expiration Dates Are Only an Estimate
You’ve probably experienced a swallow of rotten milk from a jug that had not yet reached its expiration date. In the same way, some food is good long after the sell by, use by, and expiration dates on the container. All of those dates are the manufacturers’ estimates about how long the food will be good. Before you throw something away simply because of the date on the container, use your senses to determine if it’s really bad or not.
- Do you see any mold or rotted places on the food, or has the color of the meat changed since you bought it?
- Does it smell bad?
- Does the texture feel appropriate for the product? (E.g. no mushy carrots or hard bread)
- Did you spit it out because it tasted bad?
Don’t Buy More Than One Week’s Supply of Perishables At A Time
Considering what you now know about menu planning and expiration dates, keep in mind that most meat and produce will start to go bad within a week’s time. If you aren’t going to be able to eat it, you need to find another way to preserve the food before it has to be thrown away. Meat can be frozen. If you buy in bulk, divide the meat into single meal portions and freeze them. Some produce freezes better than others. For example, leafy vegetables don’t freeze well unless they’re cooked first. Berries, on the other hand, freeze well and can be added to smoothies or cereal later.
If you’ve ever said to yourself, ‘There’s nothing in this house to eat,” chances are there was but you weren’t thinking about creative ways to use it. You can find all kinds of websites where you simply enter the ingredients you have on hand and it will give you a recipe using those ingredients. You could also pull everything out of the pantry and refrigerator, put it on the counter, and move items around until you find a combination you like. Try something new or create an entirely new recipe, but don’t waste the food.