In a society based on oversized portions and instant gratification, it's no surprise that we waste a lot of food. But just how much we haul to the rubbish bin is nothing short of jaw-dropping. According to the EPA
, food recently replaced paper as the largest single component of our nation's landfills. Worldwide, 1/3 of all food is wasted
- a mind-blowing 1.3 tons per year. For a real brain buster, just think of all the starving people out there.
Between restaurants, grocers, processing plants and all other links on the food chain, we're stuffing landfills and adding insult to an already injured environment. The Washington Post recently covered this issue in depth
, outlining the grim realities of our "waste a lot, want a lot" culture.
If you're like the rest of us, you probably waste quite a bit of food in your own right. And while we can't do much about McDonald's dumpster contents -- we can make alter our own habits to save some moolah and help Mother Earth while we're at it. Here are some tips to help you keep your food waste to a minimum.
Wrap it up. In the hot, hot South Florida heat, produce rots quickly. Real quickly. To make it last longer, keep it in perforated plastic bags in your produce drawer. Also keep fruits and veggies separate. Remember - tropical fruits and veggies don't like it too cold, so keep on eye on those varieties and keep temps moderate.
Dry stuff. Or freeze it.
According to Stan Glaser, owner of Glaser Organic Farms
, drying produce is the healthiest way to lengthen its longevity. Luckily, dehydrators can be had for fairly cheap. Ice is second best. For best freezer results, blanche vegetables, then store 'em in plastic containers. Meat and other items can go in as is, in plastic bags or Tupperware. "The natural storage methods are always best," Glaser adds.
Farmer's markets = freshness.
Shopping at the farmer's market means longer lasting goods. Everything is fresh-picked, versus stuff that could have been sitting on a grocery store shelf for days (weeks?) already. Not to mention, you're supporting local farmers. The Coconut Grove Organic Farmer's Market
and the Lincoln Road Farmer's Market
are just a couple local options. Or, you could haul your ass down to Homestead and buy straight from the source. On that same note, you can join a buying club. They allow you to purchase a share of fresh-picked seasonal produce. Sure, the selection is unpredictable - but isn't that what makes life interesting? Check out Annie's Organic Buying Club
or Endlessly Organic
Eat your veggies. There are starving children in China, after all.
Secret Tenerife Flickr.
Check dates. Checking expiration dates before you buy should be common sense, sure, but even a few extra days can mean the difference between dinner table and garbage bin. And check expired items before you toss them. Some things last longer than the date implies. (CAUTION: this involves common sense. We are not liable if you drink sour milk.)
Use leftover bread for bread pudding. Turn extra wine (should you ever have any ...) into ice-cubes. Put meat scraps into marinara sauce. And for ideas, you can always use a recipe generator.
These handy tools allow you to input the ingredients you have hanging around to create new concoctions.
Smaller portion sizes. This is a concept Americans could stand to wrap their brains around. Cook less food - incur less waste. Do you eat everything you make? Probably not. And it's much easier to cook up extra grub when you're still hungry than to find a use for leftovers after you're full.
Forget chikin. Eat more tofu.
Implement Meatless Mondays. While wasting any food is sinful, wasting meat is even more so. After all, an animal had to die for that ground chuck you're about to, well, chuck. Implementing even one day a week sans meat can make an impact on what you toss out - not to mention have a positive effect on the environment and your overall health.