Reducing food waste

Malissa Sarver - Registered Dietitian-KDMC Ohio

According to the EPA American’s threw away about 38 million tons of food in 2014. Reducing food waste is vital for protecting the environment. Each household can help with reducing the amount of food that they throw away while at the same time save money, provide food to others, and reserve the space in landfills for trash not food.

Sometimes more food is purchased at the grocery store than a family can eat. The food that is not consumed is then thrown away. If families were to purchase only the food they are going to eat then less food will be needed. By cutting back on the amount of food purchased families will save money on their monthly grocery bill. It all starts with being conscious of what you are buying and when the food will be consumed. When grocery shopping use a list for what items are needed. A list with planned out meals can help reduce the amount of food purchased thoughtlessly without a direct purpose in mind. Only purchasing foods that will be consumed will lead to less waste.

If you do purchase more than you can use be sure to store it properly. Freezing food can certainly help to preserve the food until it can be consumed. Freezers bags can be purchase or a vacuum sealer can be utilized for even longer storage. Bananas, apples, and tomatoes according to the EPA (2017) should be store separate because of the gases they produce when ripening. Waiting to wash berries and lettuce will prevent mold growth and increase the shelf life.

Food prepping for several days in advance can also extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Meals can be cooked and then refrigerated or frozen for a later date. This will also aid to the convenience factor when getting home late from work or late nights at your kids practices. Ground beef can be made into taco meat or spaghetti sauce and then frozen. Even roasts, turkeys, and hams can be precooked sliced and frozen.

Before planning for next week dinners go through your cabinets or pantry and see what you have. Then, plan a menu in connection with the ingredients that you already have. This will help to conserve money and food purchased. If you have vegetables that are still good but not at their peak make a soup, casserole, or stir-fry. Older vegetables can also be added to eggs to make frittatas or just a great scrambled egg.

Leftovers can always be consumed the following day for lunch or snack time. If the amount of left overs are more than can be consumed try freezing them or sharing with friends at work. If you go out to a restaurant try ordering a half portion and ask the wait staff to box up the second half before the meal is brought to the table. Always utilizing leftovers is an excellent way to reduce food waste as well as saving money.

If you do have extra food, try donating it to a food bank. Many times we purchase foods and then they are never consumed. If the food is non-perishable and not opened a local food pantry will accept it. This is a great way to support your community and people who may not have enough food.

There are tool kits available to help point out the amount of food that is being wasted and gives advice and tips to lower the waste both at home and in the community as well as local governments. These sites have helpful information to learn how to reduce food waste.

Everyone can help to eliminate food waste by eating less, buying less, utilizing leftovers, or donating unused food to pantries or food-banks. Start today by becoming conscious about the amount of food you waste and then take the next step.

Malissa Sarver

Registered Dietitian-KDMC Ohio