Reducing Food Waste At Home

“We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” -Anne-Marie Bonneau, Chef and Author of The Zero Waste Chef Cookbook

The average American family throws away $1,866--about 300 pounds--of food every year. The problem is, most people aren’t actively thinking about how to reduce food waste. There are numerous opportunities for change that can not only help the planet but also keep more money in your pocket.

The best approach to reducing food waste at home is to reduce the amount purchased in the first place. It all starts with meal planning and food shopping, but proper storage and methods of cooking are just as important.

How can you reduce food waste at home?

Planning: Meal planning is a way to prepare to use some of the same perishable ingredients across multiple meals, and is a key player in reducing food waste. By planning your meals, you’re less likely to overbuy and throw away half of that five-pound bag of potatoes you thought you would use.

Storing: If you have a food that you suspect you may not use up right away, simply change the way you store it. Try freezing half of that loaf of bread or freezing some fresh herbs in water or oil so they can be enjoyed at a later time. Having a good grasp on the shelf life of foods is helpful to know when to cook and consume them. Leafy vegetables like spinach or kale have a shorter shelf life, so you’ll want to cook them earlier in the week. Hardier vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and potatoes can wait longer, so save them for later. For produce stored at room temperature, keep it in a dark, cool area. If stored in the refrigerator, consider placing produce in an air-tight container to prevent wilting.

Cooking Tips: Think “root to stem” when cooking. Do those broccoli stalks really need to be tossed? Try slicing them into smaller pieces and sautéing or roasting them with the florets. Accumulating food scraps like carrot tops, onion peels or even cheese rinds is inevitable when cooking, but they’re perfect for tossing in a zip-top bag and storing in the freezer. Once that bag is filled, use those scraps to make a homemade stock.

Be Creative: Should produce hang around a little past its prime, it can always be used in ways other than what you originally intended. Try adding fruits or vegetables to smoothies. Stir-frying and roasting are great ways to use almost any vegetables that may be hanging around in the fridge. Soups are just as good; try throwing a bunch of vegetables into a slow cooker with a chopped onion and a can of crushed tomatoes and this will always turn leftover vegetables into something delicious. If you have just one or two vegetables hanging around, sautéing them and pureeing them into a soup is a great way to highlight their flavors. Get creative and turn those mashed potatoes into pancakes or add those roasted veggies to some grains to make a grain bowl. Blend the remaining fresh herbs you have into a sauce with some olive oil, garlic, and lemon. There is always a way to reduce waste!

When you feel you’ve exhausted every option, compost your food waste. Many cities offer curbside compost collection, which makes it much easier to compost than ever before. Just remember, start thinking about food waste. With these waste reduction tips, you can make the most out of your produce, save some money, and help save the planet one step at a time.