Here at IMPASTIAMO we LOVE food. What we don’t love is food waste.
Sure, there’s a natural cycle to things, which includes food decay, but we’d like to shed a little light on the crisis that is food waste in our country.
If you read our article here which talks about food expiration dates, you know that billions (yes billions) of pounds of food are wasted each year in the US alone.
No one person can single-handedly reduce that amount of food waste, but it starts with every single person. We want to help get the ball rolling by sharing some ways to prevent unnecessary food waste at home.
Food Waste in America: The Scary Stats
Interestingly, the US ranks third in total food waste, following China and India. This makes sense when taking into account the sizes of these countries. Unfortunately, when looking at food waste per capita, the US still ranks highly–too highly.
The good news is that not all of the food waste can be pinned on your average American consumer. The bad news is that 43% (the largest source) comes from homes.
According to rts:
“Food spoilage, whether real or perceived, is one of the biggest reasons people throw out food. More than 80 percent of Americans discard perfectly good, consumable food simply because they misunderstand expiration labels. Labels like “sell by”, “use by”, “expires on”, “best before” or “best by” are confusing to people — and in an effort to not risk the potential of a food-borne illness, they’ll toss it in the garbage.”
While these stats seem bleak, it means that a significant portion of food waste in the US can be eliminated by more people implementing a few basic, but significant, lifestyle habits. Keep scrolling for some simple ways that we like to use to cut down on unnecessary food waste…you can start today!
How You Can Prevent Food Waste Starting in Your Own Kitchen
Tip #1: Educate Yourself
If there’s one important idea we hope you take away, it’s this: think before you throw. The first step is already done, you’re here, educating yourself on how to prevent food waste. Hooray! Like a game of Telephone gone wrong, the general consensus is that expired food will make you sick. Lack of education fuels this thought, and not enough people are challenging that idea. Before you go, we recommend taking a look at this article (if you haven’t already). A helpful way to reframe your thinking is to consider them “quality dates” rather than “expiration dates.”
When we KNOW better, we DO better!
Tip #2: Be Mindful of What You’re Bringing In
This is twofold and starts when you’re purchasing. A certain amount of forethought or planning is necessary for this step, but the payoff is well worth it!
Step one involves paying attention to those printed dates, and planning when to use each item. The other aspect works best if you do one large shopping trip every week or two weeks, but can be utilized no matter how often you shop. Take inventory of what you already have on hand, and try to incorporate those items into your upcoming meals. Since they’re not coming fresh from the store, you can assume their “quality clock” is ticking, and using them rather than forgetting about them cuts down on both your grocery bill and total consumption.
Tip 3: FREEZE!
Since by now you’re ideally keeping an eye on expiration dates, one of the easiest ways to prevent food waste is to toss anything in the freezer that you’re not likely to eat before its peak. According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, the process of freezing food slows down the movement of its molecules, effectively causing the microbes to become dormant. This applies both to food spoilage and foodborne illnesses.
There are a few caveats, however. You’ve probably heard the recommended freezing lengths for various types of food. However, the USDA states that food will stay *safe* to eat, as long as it stays frozen. Like we talked about here, best-by/freeze-by/etc deals with quality, so it’s best to keep the foods in your freezer circulating out, so you’re not left with a freezer full of “burnt” food.
Another way to keep some of the quality to your frozen food is to freeze it closer to the best-by date, rather than later. Meat and poultry can be frozen in their original packaging, but for extended stays in the chilly climate, more airtight packaging is often recommended.
Tip 4: Invest in Your Vegetables’ Future
Fresh fruits and vegetables are arguably one of the hardest things to keep fresh for long. And let’s be honest, week-old limp celery isn’t going to cut it (pun intended). A not-so-new hack that has resurfaced thanks to internet popularity is to keep your freshly washed and cut celery/carrots/etc in mason jars of water in the fridge. This keeps them fresh and crunchy for weeks!
While you can’t take it to the bank, we believe that investing a little time into preserving fresh produce pays off. Check out this helpful article on more ways to extend the shelf life of your vegetables.
Tip 5: Rethink Trash
Well, despite your best efforts, you weren’t able to utilize everything. It happens! That’s the cycle of life. This is the crucial moment, as you’re looking at a food item that is beyond redemption, you have several options. The two primary players are Team Throw It Out vs. Team Salvage. It’s our sincere hope that we’ve convinced you to think twice.
A popular alternative trip for vegetables destined for the trash is to save them up in the freezer until you’ve accumulated enough (with the possible addition of meat scraps / bones) to make your own vegetable or meat stock. Not only is it practically free, utilizing ingredients you already have, but you can feel good about knowing exactly what’s in it.
This next step isn’t quite as easy as tossing food in the freezer, but has far reaching benefits: COMPOSTING. If you’re still new to the idea, check out our article here for *literally * everything you should know about composting. To sum it up, composting can revitalize your garden, house plants, soil of every kind, it’s excellent for the environment, and helps cut down on unnecessary food waste landing in the dump!
Before You Go
We’d like to leave you with a very common, outdated phrase that we fixed for you:
When in doubt, don’t throw it out!
Your wallet, Mother Earth, and future generations will thank you for it.