Knowledge of food waste as a problem is increasing in the United States, as shown in only the second peer-reviewed consumer survey about the issue. A 2015 study, administered by The Ohio State University, showed that more than half (53 percent) of respondents were aware of food waste as a problem, 10 percent more than a study from the year before. But even though awareness is growing, very few homes are doing anything about it.
The effect of food waste across the U.S. and in individual homes is not only environmental but economic, as 9.2 percent of average food spending, about $371 a year per consumer, goes to waste. Reducing food waste will help not only the planet but also your pocketbook. The good news is some simple alterations to your behavior can make a big difference. Here are five ways you can make simple changes to reduce food waste in your home.
1. Change Your Shopping Habits
Without thinking about it, you could be causing unnecessary food waste in the way you shop. Buying in bulk can seem like a good deal, but if 10 percent of what you shop for goes to waste, those savings might not be so big in the long run. Shop more specifically for what you cook and eat, especially when it comes to fresh produce. If your home only goes through four apples a week, no need to buy a bag of seven.
In addition, consider buying ugly produce — there’s usually no impact on taste, and because the majority of shoppers avoid bruised or dented produce, you’ll be preventing waste right there in the store. You can also search the salad bars for small produce items for specific recipes instead of buying larger portions that may go unused.
2. Organize Your Pantry, Fridge, and Freezer
Some simple organization can also prevent food from going to waste. The FIFO system, standing for “first in first out,” involves moving older goods to the front in your fridge, freezer, and pantry as you put newly purchased groceries away, instead of pushing them to the back to make room for new goods. That way, older food will be at the front of your mind so you can use it first. Keep track of expiration dates, and make sure sooner expiration dates are also moved to the front to be used first.
You should also take stock of what you throw away, making note so you can prevent waste in the future. Say you regularly find yourself throwing away half a loaf of moldy bread — you can freeze half the loaf when you buy fresh bread and prevent both waste and having to buy more bread.
3. Take Up Canning and Pickling
Got more fruit and veggies than you know what to do with? Canning and pickling help you preserve fruit and vegetables to eat later. You’re preventing waste, and you’ll have a supply of your favorite fruits and vegetables available even when they’re out of season!
4. Turn Waste into Compost
Some food waste is inevitable even for the most responsible household. Much of that waste doesn’t have to go to, well, waste, though because you can use it to create compost you can add to the soil and improve growth in your garden. While some food waste should not be used in compost, you can get started turning fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and more into a valuable gardening resource.
5. Donate What You Don’t Use
Many people know that canned food and nonperishable food items can be donated to food drives and food pantry resources. But did you know you can also donate food scraps and some other kinds of food waste? Some cities have community composting services, which you can subscribe and pay for through an app on your phone.
Whether you’re looking to live a greener lifestyle or just save a little money, reducing your food waste is easier than you think. From being smarter at the grocery store to avoiding the garbage can, the above advice will get you on the right path.
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