When that ball drops, we all start thinking, how can I be a little better this year? Many of us go straight to food resolutions: eating healthier, joining a gym, dropping a few pounds. How about a food resolution that will protect the planet and your wallet? Why not put your food waste on a diet?
Around the world, a third of the food we grow and process to feed people never reaches our plates (or our bellies). That has serious impacts on the planet’s water, energy and wildlife. Just think about it: If we make better use of the food already out there, we wouldn’t need to produce so much—and we could protect more habitats and feed more hungry people.
Plus, it’s the gift that keeps on giving—it will save you money! The average family of four loses between $1,365 to $2,275 each year on wasted food.
Try exercising these tips to drop those food waste pounds:
1. Meal plan … for the planet!
Well, sure, planning can be a little bit of a drag. But there are lots of tools and apps that make it fun and easier to save money. Use apps like Guest-imator to calculate how much food you need for each guest at those holiday parties. (Hint—it’s less than you think!)
Buying more than we can use is a big reason behind food waste. With just a little bit of planning, you can avoid over-buying or make sure you have a backup plan for ingredients or dishes that go unused or uneaten. And it will give you more bang for your buck. Shopping with a plan will benefit your piggy bank.
2. Push the limits of your ingredients.
Is some of your produce wilting in the crisper? You can reinvigorate some veggies, like lettuce, with a quick ice water bath. Bananas going brown? Peel them and toss in a Ziploc in the freezer to use later for baked goods or smoothies. Overcooked leftovers, wilted or ugly produce are all prime ingredients for hearty soups and stews.
The truth is most food is safe to eat a lot longer than we think—for fresh and canned goods. Most expiration dates have nothing to do with safety and, depending on the kind of item, many foods are still good and safe to eat days, weeks or months after the confusing “best buy,” “sell by” and “best before” labels. Most of the time, trust your senses to know when food has gone bad or you can search the FoodKeeper App to learn more about food freshness and storage options.
3. Ready, set, freeze!
The weather outside may be frightful, but the chill in your freezer is your best friend when cutting food waste. You can freeze almost anything—eggs, meats, produce, sauces—whether you just brought it home, or already cooked it. If you keep containers tight and leave a little room for liquids, even freezer burn (which is harmless!) can’t get you down.
Another tip: freeze in portions for easy access, and date and label so you don’t forget what’s what. While it’s a bit of extra work up front, freezing will save you loads of cooking, prep and even shopping time later down the line. And you’ll save money if you use everything you buy.
If one of your resolutions this year is to protect the planet or conserve wildlife—this is one simple way you can take action. And even if you already consider yourself a food waste warrior, there’s always room for improvement. It’s never the wrong time of year to resolve to cut your food waste.
To learn more about how food impacts wildlife, check out the plate-planet connection.