The average American throws away 25% of the food they've purchased, amounting to thousands of dollars each year! Here are 9 ways you can reduce your food waste.
1. Buy only what you need.
One of the main causes of throwing out food is purchasing too much, especially fresh produce. Split large quantities of food with a friend or neighbor. Stick to your grocery list.
If your grocery store has a salad bar, buy a "salad" of stir-fry products or taco toppings for that night's dinner instead of all the different ingredients. You'll have just the amount you need, and it will already be cleaned and chopped, saving you time as well as money!
2. Soak berries in a vinegar-and-water solution.
Blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries are some of my favorite fruits — discovering that half a pint is ruined with mold makes me grumpy! As soon as I come home from the grocery store, I put all my berries into a large stockpot and fill it with cold water and about a cup of white vinegar, nature's own germ killer.
I let them soak for 10-15 minutes, then rinse, and store in a paper-towel lined container. Give it a try! I promise, your berries will NOT taste like vinegar!
3. Freeze uneaten produce before it spoils.
Put overripe bananas into the freezer, peel and all, then thaw and make a batch of Banana-Blueberry Muffins when you have time.
Freeze berries and other fresh produce in a single layer on a cookie sheet before placing in a freezer storage bag so it doesn't freeze together in a giant clump, then use for cereal and ice cream toppings.
Frozen lettuce leaves, especially spinach and kale, can be added to smoothies for a vitamin boost.
4. Repurpose your leftovers.
If no one in your family eats leftovers, reduce waste by making smaller meals. Or:
- Freeze veggies and rice. My mom kept a large coffee can in the freezer, and she would scrape the vegetables and rice from our dinner plates directly into the can. When the can was full, she'd use it to make soup for dinner. Because the leftovers were already seasoned and salted, all she ever needed to add was broth (see #7)!
- Add meat to eggs for a quickie omelet or toss with spinach leaves and salad dressing for a light and nutritious lunch.
- Store casseroles, stews, and soups in single-serving freezer container. Pop them in the microwave on those nights that are packed with extracurricular activities or whenever you need a break from cooking.
5. Stale bread makes great French toast!
It's actually better to use than fresh. Or cut it into cubes, toss it with a little bit of olive oil and some herbs, then bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 350˚ for 10 minutes to make your own croutons.
6. Turn stale crackers into bread crumbs.
Use your food processor to turn crackers into fine crumbs and store in the freezer. Use the crumbs to make meatballs, meatloaf, homemade onion rings, stuffed peppers, or as a casserole topping.
7. Make your own broth from bones.
Place chicken or beef bones in your slow cooker and fill it up with water. For extra flavor and nutrition, add vegetable scraps like celery hearts, carrot tops, and the ends of onions. Cook on low for 8-10 hours (or overnight), strain, and freeze.
Add ham bones to a batch of beans or split pea soup.
8. Dry your own herbs.
Fresh parsley and cilantro always seem to come in bigger quantities than can be used for one meal. Wash what you don't use and pull the leaves from the stems. Spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with a paper towel. Let sit on the counter for a couple of days until completely dried.
Store in an airtight container in a cabinet or pantry.
9. Keep your refrigerator and pantry organized.
Use clear storage containers. Designate specific shelves for specific items. Keep like items together. The more organized your food storage, the more likely you will use what you have and only buy what you need.