Three Tips For Reducing Food Waste

According to Feeding America, approximately 70 billion pounds of food goes to waste in America each year. Not only does food waste hurt your wallet—you may as well be throwing money directly into the trash—it contributes to global warming, because food that ends up in landfills produces methane gas when it rots. Here are three tips for reducing food waste that will help you save money and reduce you environmental impact.

Shop Smart

Minimizing food waste starts with making simple changes to your buying habits. Although it may require a little more time and effort to do the grocery shopping, it'll get easier once you get used to the new way of doing things.

Before heading to the store, plan out your meals for the next one or two weeks so you know exactly what to buy. Incorporate items you may already have in your pantry or refrigerator. Additionally, come up with meals that use some of the same ingredients (e.g. coleslaw and beef stew that both use carrots). This lets you save money by taking advantage of bulk purchasing, while ensuring you use up the foods you do buy.

Be certain to look at the recipes and calculate how much you need of each ingredient. Unless it's something that has a long shelf life (e.g. rice and dry pasta), you should only purchase exactly what you need for your meals, which will help minimize waste.

Learn When Food Truly Expires

Although many foods may have "use by", "sell by", or "best by" dates, that doesn't mean those foods are unusable when the dates have passed. At best, these dates are simply educated guesses by the manufacturer that the food will be edible for a certain time period. In actuality, quite a few foods are still good even past the expiration date. For instance, pure vanilla extract (not the imitation) will last forever when properly stored.

You can find a variety of websites online—such as Still Tasty and Eat By Date—that will tell you how long food is safe to eat after the expiration date has passed. However, you need to also learn the signs of spoilage to avoid consuming expired foods that may make you or your family sick.

Repurpose Scraps and Outdated Food

Changing the way you cook can also minimize food waste. Avoid throwing away edible portions of foods you may not normally eat. For instance, leave the skins on cucumbers when making salads, soups, and stews. Pickled watermelon rinds make for an interesting snack. Meat scraps, like bones, can be used to make stock for soups, and fruit rinds (e.g. oranges, lemons) can be repurposed into zest for other recipes. Use your imagination to think of alternative ways to use food scraps.

If the food really can't be used, don't throw it in the trash. Instead, compost it. According to Earth Easy, a compost bin can help you avoid putting up to 30 percent of your household waste into the trash bin. The organic matter produced from composting provides many benefits to the Earth, such as conditioning the soil and letting you avoid using chemical fertilizers in your garden.

Even if you don't have any use for the compost at home, there will certainly be others in your community who do. You can give the material to your gardening neighbors or even sell it to local organic farms.

There are many other things you can do to reduce waste in your home. To find more information about this issue or assistance with putting together a beneficial waste management program for your home, contact a local waste management company.