Let’s discuss food waste. You may think that while you throw away some food every week, it can’t be all that big of a deal, right? Not so much. Most estimates say that in the United States each year, we throw away $160 billion worth of food — that is no small amount! And while most of that is not from your house, you can do your share to throw away a little less food and save yourself some of that total.
First, think about all of the reasons why we buy too much food. There are wholesale clubs selling bulk produce and dairy products that may go bad before we have a chance to eat them, but they are such a good deal, how can we pass them up? Farmers’ markets are gearing up for another summer of offering their delicious bounty and sometimes it is a little too tempting to support your local farmers by purchasing more than you need in your recipe. We go to the grocery store hungry or stressed (or both), and we end up buying more things than we need. Many healthy recipes seem to call for smaller portions of fresh ingredients than you can buy at the store, too.
What can we do to minimize this food waste? Here are a few ideas to try and prevent that extra food from coming into your house in the first place:
- Try and stick to your list to minimize how much extra food you buy. Be creative and give yourself a reward if you need encouragement. (Food nerd that I am, I like to tell myself that I get to try one new item if I stick to my list!)
- Need just a small amount of something? Ask the grocery store if they can split that bunch of fresh herbs into a smaller size bundle.
- Whenever possible, do your best to avoid being hungry at the grocery store. Can you shop a different day and just go home if you are stressed? Or try a few minutes of calming breaths (with a healthy snack) before you go into the store in the first place.
- If you notice that you are regularly throwing the same types of foods away, don’t buy those at Costco anymore — you’re not actually saving any money if a good amount is going in the garbage!
- Freeze, freeze, and one more time, freeze! So many food items can be frozen to preserve their freshness and be used at a later date.
- Dice up veggies and either make a quick soup that you can freeze for later or freeze them raw for use at a future date. Cut into pieces and lie flat in a Ziploc baggie in the freezer. Once frozen, you can stack the baggies to help preserve precious real estate in your freezer.
- If your bananas are heading past their prime, peel them and break into halves and store in a Ziploc bag in the freezer for future smoothies or banana bread. Simply let them thaw prior to mashing, and then you can bake to your heart’s content!
- Most fruit can be stored in the freezer to be used in smoothies or any recipe where they will be cooked or blended and don’t need to maintain their original shape (i.e. blueberry jam, raspberry purée for chia seed pudding, thawed for muffins, etc.). Berries, melon, peeled citrus, and even avocados do great in the freezer and add an extra frostiness to your next smoothie! In fact, check out this month’s smoothie video to see for yourself how you can incorporate frozen fruit into your next blender concoction!
- Rarely am I able to use all of the herbs that I purchase before they go bad, and I don’t always have the time to transfer them to a pot and let them keep growing. Fortunately, ice cube trays are the perfect size for freezing herbs to use in individual recipes. Simply chop the herbs, add a splash of olive oil and fill with water. Once frozen, pop out of the container and store in a freezer-safe bag or container.
Make sure to label all of your freezer bags with their contents and the date, so you can be ready to rock and roll for your next meal planning bonanza!