This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is “Go Further With Food”, which highlights the importance of reducing food waste and good food choices. In the U.S., research has suggested that as much as 40 percent of the nation’s food supply may end up wasted. American families throw away about 14-25% of the food and beverages they buy, which is roughly $1,500 worth of food per family per year. This is more to feed the 42 million Americans who are food insecure! This waste goes to landfills which produces about 23% of total harmful greenhouse gases that impacts the environment directly. This food waste can be reduced with proper meal planning, learning what the food expiration label meals, learning how to freeze and store foods and even donating foods you don’t end up using.
Meal Planning is a crucial step in setting you up to reduce food waste.
1) Check the pantry and fridge to use what you already have
2) Plan out your meals for the week using the Power Plate Training to make sure you are getting the nutrients you need and to make sure you head over to the grocery store with a plan in mind.
3) When you write out your menu, put meals that use fresh produce earlier in the week. That way you can eat those first so they don’t spoil before you use them. Later in the week, you can use frozen or canned ingredients or produce that doesn’t spoil as fast (i.e. apples, potatoes).
4) When you shop, buy the funny looking produce! Many fruits and veggies are thrown away because they may not look like what they think they “should” look like. But they are perfectly safe to eat and this will help the grocery store use up food that may be otherwise thrown away.
5) For some meal prep ideas click here.
Before you throw something away Understand the sell by date, use by date and best by date. Hint: these labels are for the stores and not for consumers and is rarely a safety issue!
I know that I’m not the only one who is confused by the dates on foods! This confusion is a major contributor to food waste. The problem with the date label is that it rarely shows the safety of a food product. Instead, it indicates the foods quality and taste. According to a recent study, more than 1/3 of respondents usually or always throw away food that’s past its date label, and 84% reported doing so occasionally. This dating is not required by US federal law except for infant formula and baby foods, instead it is left up to the states. It just shows when the manufacturer to determine when the food tastes the best and is not a food safety issue.
Labels that do not indicate safety:
- Best By and Sell By: this indicates that the food is at its highest quality by that date. The Sell By date just tells the store when to remove a product from the shelves for inventory purposes. This doesn’t mean that the food is no longer safe. For example, milk often has a sell-by date but the milk will still be good for at least a week beyond that date if properly stored. Additionally, eggs can be eaten about 3-5 week past the sell by date.
- Best if Used By (or Before): recommended for best quality and flavor. Not a purchase or safety date.
Labels that may indicate safety:
- Use By: This can be indicative of food safety (like infant formula). Otherwise, it is not a big safety issue.
- Expiration date: some states require an expiration date on meat and milk. It’s best not to use the product past this listed date in these cases.
Other ways to determine if a food is safe. Notice if there is a change in smell, texture or color.
STORE FOOD PROPERLY
With improper storage, the food can go bad before these dates if the food is set out on the counter too long or if the fridge is set at the wrong temperature.
1) Learn where to store foods in your fridge the right way. The location of the food in your fridge can affect the foods shelf life.
2) Put paper towels in your veggie drawer to limit condensations so that salads can stay fresher.
3) Store onions potatoes and garlic inside a cool cupboard out of direct sunlight and heat.
4) Keep fruits and vegetables in the bag they come in to keep it fresher for longer. For example, a shrink-wrapped cucumber will last around 3x longer than a non-shrink wrapped one.
5) Keep ethylene producing foods (bananas, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, pears, green onions) away from ethylene-sensitive produce (potatoes, apples, leafy greens, berries and peppers).
6) Some foods should not be in the fridge! Check out this link here for the list.
REUSE! Try to repurpose leftovers for other meals
I once bought red cabbage for a taco recipe and ended up only using 1/8th of it and was wondering what to do with the rest. So I found a delicious roasted vegetable recipe on Tasty so I was able to use the red cabbage for that, or added raw cabbage to salads, added it baked and raw to sandwiches, and topped it onto a vegetable soup. Also, add the leftover produce to smoothies!
Similarly, you can reuse shredded chicken in many ways including making chicken tacos, chicken noodle soup, BBQ chicken sandwiches, chicken pasta and chicken salad.
You can have a “make your own taco bowl day”, “select your own stir fry” and “create your own pasta” to use more of leftover produce.
EAT OR USE THE PEEL!
About 2/3 of residential food waste is still edible!
1) You can use fruit rinds to add flavor to other meals.
2) Make vegetable broth
3) Use stems of greens, tops of beets, strawberries and carrots for a smoothie. These are packed with nutrients!
Donate produce and extra food
Food pantries are great resources for providing safe food to families or individuals who can benefit from them. Look at this link to find a food bank near you.
Freeze Produce, Grains, Meats and Leftovers
2) Freeze Bread
3) Freeze milk and yogurt in ice trays
4) Freeze poultry and meat or fish in freezer (use vacuum sealer)
5) Freeze soups, stews and cooked grains