You may not think of it, but food waste has a big impact on the environment. Sure, for the most part, food waste can be composted or it eventually decomposes in the landfill, but the EPA reports that the US produces 34 billion tons of perishable food waste each year. When you think about the carbon footprint each food product has; the resources, energy, and materials, used from production to distribution to your table, the picture seems bigger than just some foods craps going in your trash.
How can you reduce the impact your kitchen has on the environment?
1. Shop for only what you need
Have you ever looked in your fridge and realized there are some tomatoes in the back growing some pretty nasty things? Hm, not using our perishable foods in time is the main reason for food waste.
Plan your menu for the week
- Make a shopping list based on this menu. (I learned from my friends at Fit Moms & Full Plates how to successfully plan for the week.)
- Shop for perishable foods at least once a week, when you only buy what you will eat for the week there is less of the chance the food will spoil.
2. Use it up!
This may sound silly, but it is important to use all the food you buy before it goes bad or saves the scraps for something else.
- Stick to the menu and cook the meals you planned
- Base your menu for the week on recipes that call for the whole item, or plan two different dishes that call for half of that item. For example, if you are making a cream sauce and will need half a quart, but the store only sells quart cartons, plan to make homemade ice cream for dessert another day to use up the rest of the cream.
3. Eat the leftovers
- Try cooking only for the portions needed or bring to work the leftovers the next day. You can always freeze them and use them later on for another recipe.
- Save the scraps. You can freeze vegetable scraps and bones in a safe container to make homemade broth another day. (The Healthy Green Kitchen has a great recipe for bone broth here.)
- If you can’t eat the leftovers, consider composting or incorporating some foods in natural gardening. For example, you can use the crushed egg shells to enrich the soil in your garden. You can also find other uses like this orange infused vinegar (for cleaning) or use the peel of a lemon to deodorize and sanitize your garbage disposal.
4. Understand sell-by dates and store food smartly
“Sell by date”, “expiration date”, “use by date”, there are actually a few terms out a term that only add to the confusion, and it is the reason much of the food we buy ends up in the trash. “Sell by dates” are mainly a guideline for stores when to stop displaying their items on their shelves (I feel comfortable eating something past a couple days of the “sell by”). “Expiration date” or “use by date” are the ones you should keep an eye one at home, some products are okay a couple days past that, make sure you let your smell, taste, and sight tell you if it’s time to toss.
Make sure you store food the proper way to avoid spoilage, I use glass containers with silicon airtight seals, good for storing in the fridge and freezer and for taking to work/picnic, etc. (find some here). Also, be diligent when dealing with frozen meats as well, again, glass is my favourite way to store food and there are vacuum sealers for mason jars like this; but let’s face it, sometimes you can’t beat the convenience of plastic freezer bags, for that I use these PBA, PVC, and phthalates free eco freezer bags (find them here).