10 Tips for Eliminating Food Waste

by Tracy · 3 comments

We throw away far too much food in this country. Often, we have great intentions and faithfully wrap up leftovers, only to have to toss them after a few weeks because they were never eaten.

Wasting food is not only money out of our pockets, but also a waste of natural resources. Less waste means less fuel used to produce and transport and store food, which is good for the environment.

1. Put away leftovers as soon as possible after cooking. If you’re not sure you’ll eat it in the next couple of days, wrap them up and put them in the freezer.

2. If you’d like to have leftovers for lunch the next day, try dishing out a meal sized portion before you plate dinner. Often, we put too much food on our plates and the excess is either tossed or we overeat, which is not healthy.

3. Closely related to number two, watch portion sizes, especially for small children. Toddlers and preschoolers are notoriously unpredictable eaters. One day they might out-eat you and then eat scarcely anything for the next three.

4. Learn to stop being so anxious about running out of food. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy choices that can stretch a meal if everyone is a bit hungrier than usual. Don’t consistently make twice as much as your family will eat unless you have a plan to use up the leftovers.

5. Pay careful attention to use by and expiration dates on the perishable food you buy. Make sure you’ll be able to eat it all or freeze it before the use by date.

6. On the other hand, food does not magically go bad at 12.01 AM on the expiration date so use good judgment before tossing out food (and don’t eat food that seems spoiled even if the date on the package says it should be safe). Canned and boxed goods are often safe to eat for many months after the date on the package, but might be stale or of diminished quality.

7. Learn techniques for making new meals out of leftover foods. Fried rice, frittatas, soups, stews and casseroles can all be made incorporating bits of leftover meat and vegetables. Once you learn the techniques, you’ll be able to make delicious, inexpensive meals out of scraps that are too small to serve as a meal on their own.

8. Keep your fridge, freezer and pantry clean and organized so that you can see at a glance what needs to be used up. Be sure to label everything that goes in, especially the freezer since many frozen foods look alike.

9. Use tough love on your family. You can’t force people to eat what they don’t want to eat, but you don’t have to indulge them, either. If your children are wasting food, then you’ll have to monitor their snacks and dole out portions.

If you’re the one in charge of the shopping, don’t buy foods that are often left half-eaten or that disappear far too fast. After all, over-indulging on one food regularly is a waste of food, too, just not the kind we normally think of when we think about waste.

10. Do make notes about what works and doesn’t work for you and your family. Maybe you’re fine with eating the same thing every meal until it’s gone or maybe it works better for you to freeze it and have it again next week. Perhaps you don’t like leftovers stew but you do like leftovers quesadillas. Learn what works and what doesn’t to save yourself time and money.

What are some of your ideas for using up leftovers?

Photo Credit: jbloom

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben April 13, 2011 at 6:56 am

Fresh vegetables in the crisper getting a little long in the tooth? Chop them up and freeze them. They won’t be great to eat raw, but they will be just fine for a stir fry. Obviously doesn’t work with everything, but great way to save bell peppers.

Bobby December 27, 2012 at 7:44 am

Freeze leftover meat and vegetable leftovers, or vegetables on the verge of spoiling in a bag or container. Once the container is filled up make a stock.

Rod Averbuch April 25, 2014 at 6:29 am

The large amount of food waste is a lose-lose situation for the environment, the struggling families in today’s tough economy and for the food retailers. There is no single cure, or silver bullet for food waste reduction therefore, we should address the food waste problem in every link in our food supply chain. For example, the excess inventory of perishable food items close to their expiration on supermarket shelves causes waste.
The consumer “Last In First Out” shopping behavior might be one of the weakest links of the fresh food supply chain.
The new open GS1 DataBar standard enables applications that encourage efficient consumer shopping by offering him automatic and dynamic purchasing incentives for perishables approaching their expiration dates before they end up in a landfill.
The “End Grocery Waste” application, which is based on the open GS1 DataBar standard, encourages efficient consumer shopping behavior that maximizes grocery retailer revenue, makes fresh food affordable for all families and effectively reduces the global carbon footprint. You can look this application up at EndGroceryWaste.com

Chicago, IL

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