I am passionate about eliminating food waste. When I was younger I worked at a tex-mex restaurant in Florida and I saw how much food was thrown out daily. I decided to start volunteering at a food bank and it completely opened my eyes. There was so much food that was being donated, good food.
Once I moved to Georgia I went to volunteer at a soup kitchen. A lot of the food that was being donated to this place was from restaurants and grocery stores in the local area. Again this was good food, nothing was really wrong with any of it besides it being ‘expired’ by the grocery stores.
Once I moved to Lousiana I decided to try Imperfect Foods. Imperfect Foods is a food subscription company that sends its customers produce that would have been wasted because it is deemed ‘imperfect’. Imperfect foods are those that may be discontinued, a surplus, have a cosmetic imperfection and so on.
Facts about food waste
According to the USDA, about 30-40% of the food supply in the United States is wasted. The United States leads the world in food waste. Nearly 40 million tons of food a year is wasted according to RTS. “That’s 80 billion pounds of food and equates to more than $161 billion, approximately 219 pounds of waste per person and 30-40 percent of the US food supply. Most of this food is sent to landfills; food is the single largest component taking up space inside US landfills.”
RTS is a company that partners with businesses and communities to manage waste more responsibly.
For more information from RTS about food waste, check out Food Waste in America in 2020.
According to Imperfect Foods, an average family throws away over $1800 in food every year. “As a country, we spend $218 billion – 1.3% of our GDP – growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten”. Check out more info from them, Food Waste 101.
What causes food waste
According to Conserve Energy Future, the causes of food waste are:
- Lack of appropriate planning
- Purchase and preparation of too much food
- Errors in industrial processing and keeping up with food safety policies
- Managerial, financial, and technical constraints
- Overpreparation of food in the foodservice industry
- Over ordering in food stores and supermarkets
- Consumer behavior
5 Things You Can Do To Prevent Food Waste
1. Buy ‘ugly’ produce
I can go on a tangent about GMO’s and how crazy it is that grocery stores have picture-perfect produce. How can all the strawberries be so shiny and red?! I get so suspicious and start thinking of all the chemicals that are used to create these fruits and veggies.
The Non-GMO Project is something I heard of a couple of years ago. I started looking up what GMOs were and I started watching a lot of documentaries.
According to the Non-GMO Project, a GMO is “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”
For more on the Non-GMO Project, click here.
Using GMOs is prohibited in organic food production. Organic farmers can’t plant GMO seeds and organic food manufacture can’t use GMO ingredients.
The great thing about the ugly produce food subscriptions is that you have the option of buying organic produce. I’m not saying that ugly produce is 100% organic. I know that with Imperfect Foods you are able to choose either organic or conventional. Because my husband and I are getting out of debt and on a budget, I only buy organic if it’s on the dirty dozen list.
There has been controversy as far as “does utilizing ugly produce actually help prevent food waste?”. Here is an article discussing this.
For more info on my experience with Imperfect Foods, check out this blog post: Should You Try Imperfect Foods?
2. Create a shopping list & a menu for the week
This is a great way to stick to your budget and make sure that you’re not buying food that you don’t need.
Before I go grocery shopping I look through my refrigerator and pantry to see what I already have. Then I look through Pinterest to get ideas for what I want to cook. The best thing when doing this is to be realistic. There have been times where I wanted to be ‘fun’ and make something different and at the last minute I decided not to because I knew my family wouldn’t like it. Instances like that are a waste of food.
Here is an example of a weeks menu that we’ve done before:
Monday – Rice, beans, tostones, & fried egg
Tuesday – Grilled chicken salad
Wednesday – Barbacoa tacos
Thursday – Veggie stir fry
Friday – Shrimp & broccoli
Example of the staples of our shopping list:
Fruits – Bananas, strawberries, lemons
Veggies – broccoli, asparagus, red & green peppers, tomatoes, avocados
Black beans, oatmeal, peanut butter, coffee creamer, almond milk
For more help with sticking to your grocery shopping budget, check out my blog post 3 Ways to Stick To Your Grocery Shopping Budget.
If you need help building a budget, check out this blog post How to Build a Budget & Stick to it.
3. Use your freezer more
I definitely underutilize the freezer! Freezing your fruits and veggies are actually great for you. They are nutritionally more reliable than fresh because freezing them holds the vitamins and nutrients that you need.
Items that are great for your freezer are:
- When bananas start getting too ripe, instead of throwing them away, freeze them and make something like banana bread later.
- Fresh herbs
- This is the best secret around! I have always thrown out fresh herbs because I would leave them in the refrigerator for too long. Putting your fresh herbs in the freezer will make them last so much longer.
- Veggie scraps
- This one is extremely important and I talk about this more in my next point. Keeping a bag full of scraps from your onion, carrots, and celery and freezing them allows you to use them later in something like veggie stock.
- Growing up my mom always had bread in the freezer and I always hated it! It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that this is so smart. I’m a sucker for any BOGO so freezing bread is a must for me.
4. Save Scraps
Scraps make up roughly 28% of our household trash. This trash makes its way to landfills where they not only take up space but they release methane which is a greenhouse gas.
This is extremely helpful, especially if you’re trying to save money. Instead of throwing out those broccoli stocks, definitely use them in a soup or roast them with some veggies. You can easily freeze all of your veggie scraps so they last longer and make veggie stock.
Regrow your veggies
Regrowing veggies from scrap is a great way to reduce food waste. All you have to do is put the end piece of the vegetable cut side up in a bowl or jar of water and leave it in a place that receives filtered light.
Change the water every few days and once leaves and roots start emerging the vegetable can be transplanted into a garden.
This works great with bok choy, cabbage, celery, lemongrass, leeks and so much more.
You can also try composting. I have yet to do this but I am very much looking forward to it. According to the EPA, “Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow”.
Compost helps to enrich the soil, so this is especially good if you have a garden. Even if you live in an apartment you can still compost. For more info on how to start composting at home check out: Composting At Home.
Use your scraps as a cleaner
Using scraps to clean your house helps to keep insects away and it purifies the air.
To make a ‘garbage enzyme cleaner’, all you need is your fruit & veggie scraps, brown sugar, plastic container and measuring cup. For more on how to make this, check out Make Garbage Enzyme.
All you need is some citrus peels, vinegar, a container and water.
Check out this article on how you can make your own cleaner, How to Make Homemade Citrus Cleaner.
5. Get creative (with leftovers & donating/ volunteering at a soup kitchen/ food bank)
Using your imagination is great in reducing food waste.
I have seen jams made out of scraps, which I think is phenomenal. A jam that I’ve seen includes skins and cores from apples (with seeds removed), strawberry tops, sugar, lemon juice and water. All you have to do is put all your ingredients in a saucepan to simmer, mash up all the ingredients and continue with the jam-making process.
Here’s an article on How to Make Basic Fruit Jam.
Now this isn’t really creative, but I think we tend to forget to do this (or we’re just too lazy, I’m definitely guilty). Donating food that you know you’re not going to eat is a great idea not only to prevent food waste but also to help someone/brighten their day.
You don’t only have to donate at a soup kitchen/food bank. You can also give some stuff to your neighbor or friend. Sometimes I buy stuff, like apples, with this idea that “Yeah, I need to force myself to eat this”, but when it comes down to it I refuse to eat it. The best thing to do is just go to your friend and share it with them.
Volunteering at food banks and soup kitchens is my favorite thing to do. You never realize how some people don’t have food until you volunteer. It’s honestly heartbreaking. Millions of people in the United States struggle with hunger. According to Feeding America, 11 million children are living in households that are food insecure. Knowing how much food is wasted yearly, it is wild to think that people in the United States are starving.
Volunteering is so humbling and rewarding. Even if you only do it a couple of times a year, you will be making a difference.
To find out where you can volunteer check out Feeding America.
These 5 things are seriously so easy. I urge you to get out there and take action! Even if you don’t do these 5 things, you can figure out what works for you.
If you have any other ideas on how to prevent food waste, please share! I’d love to hear all about it.
In case you missed it, check out my blog post about Imperfect Foods and La Republica Mushroom Coffee.