A few weeks ago I read an article regarding the shocking amount of food wasted around the world, especially in the United States. I thought, “Gosh, how can people waste so much food?” People. As in not me. Surely I wasn’t contributing to such large amounts of food waste? WRONG. I began watching my family’s food intake, food waste, portion sizes, etc. CONFESSION: We were wasting a lot of food on a daily basis in our home without even realizing it. Our food waste manifested itself in letting fruits and vegetables sit too long before eating them, not storing perishable food appropriately, leaving leftovers in the fridge too long allowing them to spoil, providing toddlers with too many food options at once- allowing several items to go to waste, and so on.
According to the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, it is estimated that 25-40 percent of the food that is grown, processed and transported in the United States will never be consumed. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person per month. Like I said earlier, shocking amounts!
After reading these facts, I decided to make simple changes to be sure I am optimizing the lifespan of perishable foods and consuming those foods already cooked. The best place to start with reducing food waste is in my own home.
Do you know the appropriate way to store certain fruits and vegetables? In the refrigerator or on the counter? Most fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be stored together, preventing the ethylene in fruits from prematurely or over ripening nearby vegetables.
FRUITS BEST KEPT IN THE FRIDGE:
- Apples (they can keep for a month!)
- Citrus fruits
FRUITS OUTSIDE OF THE FRIDGE:
- Lemons, Limes
- Avocado (until ripe, then stabilize in fridge)
- Kiwi (until ripe, then stabilize in fridge)
VEGETABLES BEST KEPT IN THE FRIDGE:
- Bell Peppers
- Brussels Sprouts
- Lettuce and Greens
VEGETABLES OUTSIDE OF THE FRIDGE:
- Sweet Potatoes
- Tomatoes (until ripened)
- Winter Squash
**TIP**: Take advantage of the control settings on your refrigerator! The humidity and temperature of the crisper drawers may be easily adjusted- allowing you to preserve your produce longer.
FRESH & COOKED MEATS
Fresh (raw) meats can be kept in the refrigerator for 1-2 days after purchase. From that point the meat should be cooked or placed in appropriate packaging for freezing. Meats that have already been cooked may stay safely in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- Don’t let cooked meats go to waste! If you have meat already cooked, try adding it into various leftovers or sides to create a variety of meal options.
OTHER TOP TIPS FOR REDUCING FOOD WASTE
- Start Small: We typically don’t save half eaten mashed potatoes or chicken that has been nibbled on. Rather than ordering or plating large portions for yourself, start small! (Also, a great idea for weight management and portion control in general.) If needed, seconds are always an option.
- Freeze: Large amounts of leftovers? Try freezing leftovers for a future quick meal option rather than allowing it to go uneaten in the fridge.
- Plan Ahead: Having a menu for the week (or at least a few days) allows you to purchase foods for those meals, rather than having large quantities of perishable foods with no plan of use.
- Discernment: “Sell-by” vs. “Use-by” Just because the store needs a food off of their shelves, it may still be okay for consumption. Use-by is the date that a product should remain at its highest quality. Monitor the color, smell, texture, etc., to determine if the food is still appropriate for consumption.
For my family, wasting food was done subconsciously. However, I am making a conscious COMMITMENT to eliminating food waste in my home. I am committed to monitoring the foods I buy and the timeline of when they will be used. I am committed to storing and then using leftovers as lunch or dinner within 2 days of first cooking. I am committed to starting with small portions for all, allowing ourselves to get more if needed.
What simple changes can your family make? Will you join me?
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