Before you clean out your fridge and toss that soft red pepper and those two-day-old leftovers, consider this statistic: Nearly a third of all of the food we purchase each week ends up in the trash.
And that’s no small potatoes. Plus, it’s a considerable waste of money – as much as $2,000 for a family of four each year.
Fortunately, there are many simple steps you can take to curb food waste in your own home. Take a look at our tips below:
1. Plan menus and write out a grocery list: Before you head to the store, take a few moments to plan your menus for the week. Write out all of the ingredients you’ll need – and be sure to cross-check it with what you already have. Also take into account which nights you may go out to eat, and if you will need to make lunches during the week.
It can also be helpful to keep a pad of paper near your fridge (or make notes in your smartphone) to keep track of foods you run out of during the week.
2. Be familiar with what you have: Throughout the week, go through the foods that you have stored in your fridge, pantry and cabinets. As you make meals, you’ll remember that you have these ingredients at your disposal.
3. Stick to your list: It can be tempting to deviate from the list, but think twice before you place something into your cart that’s not on your list.
4. Search for “field seconds:” These are the not-so-perfect-looking but perfectly fine fruits and veggies sold at grocery stores – sometimes for less. Use these foods in smoothies, soups and other recipes where looks don’t matter.
5. Rotate, rotate, rotate: Each time you put your groceries away, place the recently purchased items in the back of your cabinet or fridge and pull the older items to the front. It’s an easy way to be reminded of which ingredients need to be used up first.
6. Use ingredients thoughtfully and creatively: Make it a habit to use foods that will spoil soonest first.
7. Don’t over-prepare: Make the amount of food you’ll need for that meal (or multiple meals if you want leftovers).
8. Think strategically. Sometimes, all you need is a tablespoon or two of an ingredient. If it’s something like tomato paste, separate it out into rounded tablespoons and freeze it. Here are some of our favorite tips on how you can use cream, buttermilk and yogurt before their expiration dates.
9. Use your leftovers: Along those lines, if you do have leftovers (intentionally or unintentionally), be sure you actually eat them. They’re a great way to save time and money – and if you’re not sure what to do with certain leftovers, get creative. Leftover veggies can be used in a soup or slow cooker meal. Leftovers from the night before can make a filling lunch that’s brought to work.
10. Share: It’s a simple concept, but we may not always think of it. If you have half of a cake leftover from a birthday, consider bringing it to work. If your meal turns out twice the size you intended, consider inviting your neighbors over to eat with you. Non-perishable foods that you haven’t used can be donated to food kitchens or other organizations.
What are your other favorite ways to curb food waste in the kitchen? Please share in the comments!