Last week, The National Resources Defense Council (NDRC) released a report showing that 40 percent of food in the United States is tossed out. This totals $165 billion a year -- which breaks down to $112 to $189 per month for a family of four.
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The report cites several factors that cause of U.S. food waste in the home: Over preparation, confusion about label dates, spoilage, bulk purchases, poor planning and undervaluing of foods. If we reduced food loss by 15 percent, it would be enough to feed more than 25 million Americans a year--and save families hundreds of dollars. So we thought we'd share a few tips on how you can reduce your waste, impact and bill.
Problem: Over Preparation Solution: Smaller Plates and Pot Luck Parties As the size of the average dinner plate expanded, so did our waistlines. According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the surface area of the average dinner plate has expanded by 36 percent since 1960. Simply switching to a smaller plate could mean potential waste reduction--and fewer calories. If Friday night comes, and you still have leftovers, offer to host a potluck and invite friends over to help clean out the fridge. Between all of your friends' leftovers (and a little innovation) you'll likely end up with a full meal--just be sure to ask your friend who doesn't cook to bring the wine.
Problem: Confusion over Label Dates
Solution: Get Educated
Guess what, "Use by" and "best by" dates are manufacturer suggestions for peak quality. They do not indicate food safety, as is commonly believed, nor are they regulated. There are a few, rare, exceptions to this, such as instant formula, so do some research on the foods you commonly purchase.
Solutions: Better Storage + Repurposing Your Food
First try to follow a few general rules for food storage to prevent spoilage: don't store fruits and vegetables together, remove ties and rubber bands, cut extra greens and research which fruits are stored on the counter vs. the fridge. Before your food spoils beyond repair repurpose it into something for later, and toss it into the freezer. Some common ways to do this are making stock with leftover veggies, making salsas and sauces, smoothies, croutons with stale bread and mini empanadas with any extra meat. The basic rule with this method, is don't throw anything away. Store it, freeze it, and label it for later.
Problem: Bulk Purchases
Solution: Package into Single Servings
The sales at big bulk stores can be tempting, so if you find yourself with a gallon of hummus, your best bet is to portion it out into individual serving packs (think cheap Tupperware from Family Dollar). Keep a week's worth in the fridge so you'll actually use it, then toss the rest in the freezer. This works well for chicken, veggies and fruits as well.
Problem: Poor Planning
Solution: Create Meal and Shopping Lists
Plan your meals for the week with Recipematcher.com. The site offers a search by ingredient function so you can type in an item that is about to go bad to serve as the base of your meal. Once you have your week's food planned, create a detailed list of supplies you'll need and do not deviate. If you feel like you're walking into a maze at the grocery store, try using Publix's online shopping list which will sort out all the items into the rows at whichever Publix you select, so you won't have to go back and repeat any aisles.
Problem: Lack of Awareness/ Undervaluing of Foods
Solution: Volunteer with Slow Food
According to the NDRC, "cheap and available food has created behaviors that do not place high value on utilizing what is purchased. As a result, the issue of wasted food is simply not on the radar of many Americans, even those who consider themselves environment- or cost-conscious." Get the issue on your radar by joining forces with a nonprofit organization like Slow Food Miami who works to support the local community and raise funds to build local school and community gardens. Their annual members meeting will be Wednesday, September 12, 6 to 8 p.m. at Fairchild Gardens, join their mailing list for up to date time and ticket info.