From time to time, guest bloggers will contribute posts to Scaling Green, offering a practical take on the science of climate change, energy and environment. This post is by Megan Ray Nichols of the Schooled by Science blog.
For some in the U.S., getting enough food to feed their families can be a problem. For others, the opposite is true. Americans throw away nearly 40 percent of the food they buy, well above the global average of about 33 percent of food that's ultimately wasted.
Wasting food is a double whammy. It's dangerous for the environment, because organic matter in landfills leads to methane emissions. The habit also puts an unnecessary dent in many families’ pocketbooks, because they're spending more money than they need to on food.
The U.S. food waste problem won't go away overnight, but it's something everybody can help control.
Interested in what you can do to waste less food and save more money?
- Become a Smart Shopper
Being a smart shopper doesn't always mean finding the best deals. It can also mean buying only what you need or what you know you'll use.
The idea is simple. Efficient shoppers who buy and use only what is needed have less of an opportunity to contribute to food waste because there is simply less food to be wasted.
The added benefit of shopping smart is that it will give you a more refined food menu at home and save you some money along the way.
- Make Good Use of Leftovers
Eating leftovers for lunch or dinner isn't the sexiest thing in the world, but it can greatly reduce food waste. Think of it this way: rather than preparing two completely different meals, each of which you may not finish, why not eat one delicious meal over the course of two sittings?
This strategy reduces food waste simply because there's less food in the first place, potentially benefiting both your grocery bill and your waistline.
- Become a Master Food Organizer
Mastering the art of food organization can help reduce food waste in two ways.
First, storing food in the correct place will help food last longer. Learn which fruits and vegetables should be at room temperature and which are better stored in the refrigerator.
The second step to mastering food organization is to avoid clutter in the places you keep your food, such as the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. Having too much clutter can cause you to forget what you have on hand, which may lead to food going bad before it's eaten.
- Be Lenient With Expiration Dates
Sometimes the dates on food packaging come down to semantics. You may find large differences between products with a "use-by" date and others with "sell-by" or "best-by" dates.
A best practice to keep in mind is that these dates are simply guidelines, not hard-and-fast rules for when food is spoiled. Every product or food type is different, but a little common sense can go a long way when dealing with expiration dates and food waste.
For example, most "best used by" dates actually have very little to do with food spoilage. Instead, the date refers to the quality or flavor of a food. A can of soup eaten a week after the "best used by" date has passed will almost always be just as flavorful as it would have been the week before.
Eliminating food waste by using label dates as guidelines is another way to limit what you buy and save you money.
- Donate Food You Won't Use
Many quick and easy online resources can help you find the nearest food bank where you can donate food you're not going to use to someone in need.
The benefits here are obvious. First, you will help feed people who may not have the means to get food on their own. Donating the food before it expires does some good while also reducing food waste.
You don’t have to always donate canned food. Some farmers will gladly accept food scraps that they can feed to animals or add to composts. Not only are you reducing unnecessary waste, you're helping someone out in the process.
- Create Your Own Compost
It may be an intimidating idea for those who haven't tried it, but composting can be done very easily.
Put simply, placing organic food or other materials in a pile and combining it with water, oxygen and time results in top-notch soil for your yard or garden. Composting will reduce your trash load and also provide cheap and easy-to-maintain quality soil.
If everyone cut back on food waste, even by as little as 15 percent, that could save enough food to feed 25 million people. Adding these simple steps (or even a few of them) to your routine will go a long way towards helping others, while also benefiting the environment and saving you money.
Do you have any other suggestions to easily and effectively reduce food waste? Comment below!