Food takes up more space in U.S. landfills than anything else. Waste Not’s primary mission is to reduce food waste from local businesses and use this rescued food to feed people in need.
But we also care about the impact of home food waste on our environment and household food budgets.
The average American family of four throws out $1,600 each year in produce alone and 43% of annual food waste happens right at home.
As we celebrate Earth Day and strive to be better stewards of our resources, let’s all pledge to participate in Stop Food Waste Day on April 27. Here are some simple ways Waste Not suggests that every household can use to cut back on food waste:
• Plan your meals and buy groceries accordingly! Don’t buy perishable things you don’t have scheduled to eat that week – even if they’re on sale. Stick to your shopping list. Take a quick inventory of your pantry and fridge before you head to the store so you don’t make the mistake of duplicating items you already have.
• Use clear food storage containers in your fridge so that you can actually see what leftovers are waiting to be eaten. Try to put the things that need to be eaten first at eye level. Factor using dinner leftovers for lunches into your meal plan.
• Control your portions. Take a smaller portion to start with and go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. Extras then become left-overs instead you can store or freeze instead of waste that’s scraped off plates into the trash. If you have extras you don’t plan to eat soon, freeze them in a reusable container and label with a description and date so you remember to use it for a future meal.
• Choose one dinner each week as a “use-it-up” meal. Check your fridge and cupboards for leftover ingredients that can be turned into tasty meals. There are even free apps that can help you come up with ideas based on your list of ingredients.
• Understand food product dates. Confusion over them account for about 20 % of consumer food waste. “Best if Used By” is a standard phrase manufacturers use to indicate when a product will be at its best flavor and quality – but the product is still safe to consume after that date. “Use Buy” is generally reserved for things that are highly perishable or have food safety concerns over time.
Hilary Bryant is executive director of Waste Not, a nonprofit that for 35 years, has been matching nutritious prepared and perishable foods from local food business like caterers, resorts and event foodservice that would otherwise go to landfills with nonprofits that feed people in need of food. Last year, Waste Not rescued nearly 3.5 million meals.