Food waste not only accounts for a considerable portion of daily waste in the United States, but it’s also likely one of the biggest sources of waste in your household. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food waste, including food that’s perfectly good but thrown out because of a lack of demand, accounts for 30-40 percent of the food supply—that’s a significant percentage of food being tossed out.
Whether you’re an avid chef, a proud meal-delivery service patron, or somewhere in between, the odds are that you’re generating a lot of waste from meals. If you’re looking for ways to reduce personal food waste and get the most from your food, look no further.
Start an herb garden.
Do you find yourself pitching cilantro and parsley before you have the chance to use it? An herb garden may be your solution. Maintaining live herbs will help you avoid buying excess food, lessen the amount of produce you’re throwing out, and ensure you remain well-stocked with fresh ingredients you use regularly. Herb gardens can be small enough to sit on the kitchen windowsill and can host herbs like cilantro, dill, mint, fennel, basil, rosemary, tarragon, and more. Once you have your garden up and running, grabbing herbs becomes as easy as snipping a few sprigs off whatever plants you‘re growing.
Store produce correctly.
One of the most common reasons produce gets chucked is because it has gotten moldy, slimy, or rotten. The best way to remedy this issue is by understanding how to store your produce properly, so it stays fresher longer.
Prolonging the lasting freshness of vegetables like spinach, mushrooms, and bell peppers can be tricky, but it’s possible. Try storing fresh spinach in a clean container wrapped with dry paper towels to keep it from wilting for up to ten days. Store fresh mushrooms in a paper bag and leave them unwashed so they don’t turn soggy. Store whole bell peppers in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer unwashed and with plenty of breathing room to keep them crisp.
Freeze your leftovers.
As much as you might think that you’re going to eat leftovers over the course of a week, you probably won’t get around to it. Freezing leftovers is a simple tactic to minimize waste created by tossing spoiled food, and will allow you to enjoy the fruits of your culinary labor over an extended period of time. Soups, stews, sauces, and casseroles are all freezer-friendly dishes, and so are things like avocados, ginger, nuts, and cheese.
Composting is an excellent way to eliminate a good portion of the food waste that might go in the trash. Don’t let the process intimidate you—composting from the comfort of your kitchen is easier than ever. There are plenty of small-scale compost bins you can tuck beneath the sink or into a cabinet that’ll hold scraps such as coffee grounds, vegetable and fruit peels, wilting herbs, and more. When the bin is full, you can drop off your compost at a local compost site or use it to beautify your own outdoor space. Compost can be used to improve the soil fertility of your garden and landscaping, providing nutrients as fertilizer to the crop and acting as a soil conditioner.
As always, be sure to check local restrictions and do some research before composting from your backyard or garden.
Meal prep or write your grocery list in advance.
It almost goes without saying, but you’re more likely to cook and use ingredients when you grocery shop with a plan in mind. Instead of aimlessly wandering through the aisles, try heading to the store with a strategy and vow only to buy things you need and ingredients for recipes you intend to make that week. You’ll actually use what you purchase, save money on groceries, and reduce the overall amount of food you waste.
What’s great about sustainable food practices is that many activities, like composting and in-home gardening, have avid communities behind them and vast resources available for newcomers. If you’ve been holding off on taking the plunge into meal prepping or herb gardening, consider digging around within your local social media circles or doing a bit of research into how you can take advantage of the materials at your disposal before getting started.