We spend a considerable amount of time and money in keeping our cupboards stocked and our refrigerators full. It can be discouraging when we see our fruits and vegetables spoiling faster than we can eat them.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average family of four throws out $1,350 to $2,275 worth of food each year. If you live in a rural area miles away from stores, it becomes even more essential to avoid waste.
All of this waste doesn’t happen in your kitchen necessarily, but you may be startled to realize how much you actually do throw away. Keep a journal for a week, following your food consumption and disposal. Jot down a list of any food you toss. By the end of the week, you should have a pretty good idea of what you throw away. Use the following ideas to help get you started on cutting down any food waste in your own home.
1. This may go without saying, but buy the freshest produce. Buying produce that is starting to go bad or wilt only gives you less time to make use of it at home before it becomes inedible. A great way to ensure you get the freshest produce is to shop at farmer’s markets and local produce stands. Fruits and vegetables often travel great distances before they arrive at the grocery store. But produce at the farmer’s market may be just hours from being picked and will not only last longer, but taste better and have a greater nutrient value. It also may be chemical-free.
2. For unique meals, only buy the amount of special ingredients you will need. If you purchase more than you need for a meal you rarely make, there is a higher chance that the leftover supplies will mold or go rancid before you use them again. Shop in the bulk section of your store for supplies. This allows you to scoop out only the amount you need and you won’t end up throwing out ingredients you don’t use.
3. Once food is prepared, there are several things to be aware of. Take smaller portions at meals and go back for seconds if you are still hungry. Leftover food is often thrown out, especially if it is an already served portion. If you do have leftovers at a meal, save them in attractive ways for the next meal. There are numerous containers that mimic TV dinner set-ups and if you assemble the previous meal in these containers, it’s a quick go-to meal later on and there is a greater chance it will be eaten. If you still have leftovers and interest has waned, consider freezing them. There are numerous times in a week when a quick meal is needed and frozen dinners are a God-send. If you accumulate multiple frozen meals in single-size portions over a period of time, you can serve them as a “buffet” option for your family. Show them the frozen meal options and allow each one to pick what they would like.
Using the food management techniques above can be helpful in decreasing food waste, but here are some more specific tips to keep certain foods fresher longer.
1. Wash any berries with a water/vinegar mixture. You only need to add a little vinegar to the water wash to help keep the berries fresher longer.
2. Apples can keep well out of the refrigerator for some time, unless they are already quite ripe when you purchase them. Keeping them in plain sight and easy reach helps them get eaten sooner. Once they start to soften, you can refrigerate them or cook them into applesauce, apple crisp, apple pie, and apple dumplings or add to a multitude of recipes, from apple pancakes to maple glazed chicken.
3. Cheese keeps fairly well in the refrigerator, but the cut ends often dry out. Rub a little butter on the cut ends to keep them soft.
4. If you have fresh herbs that are starting to go bad, dump them in your food processor along with some olive oil and mince well. Form “herb cookies” and freeze them on a sheet of wax paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, pop them into a bag and keep them in the freezer. Whenever you want some herbal flavor in one of your dishes, dump a “cookie” into the pot. You can also make a variety of herbs into pesto and freeze them. Basil,cilantro, and even dandelion greens, among others, work well in a pesto.
5. Greens never seem to keep well for long in the refrigerator. Kale, collards, Swiss chard, Cilantro, and asparagus keep admirably if rinsed well and then placed in a bowl or glass of water. Slip a bag over the top to help protect them. Change the water every couple days. If any salad greens begin to wilt, an excellent way to revive them is to soak them briefly in ice water. Peppers also take on new life when placed in ice water for a few minutes.
Keeping foods fresh longer is a great way to cut down on food waste. Using the above tips can get you started, though there are many more ideas out there.
What tips would you add to the list? Let us know in the comments section below.