April is Food Waste Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to tackle the issue of food waste in each of our homes.
Did you know that 33% of all food produced globally is lost or wasted every year? The average American family spends $1,866 annually on food that gets wasted. That’s a lot of money and food!
At Dream Dinners, our guests can prep a variety of meals each month without wasting food since they only take what they need for their recipe. It can be a little tricky at home, though, because sometimes the kids say they love a particular food and then suddenly stop eating it! In honor of Food Waste Awareness Month, here’s a list of 11 steps that we can all take at home to help limit our food waste:
1. Make a List
Check your freezer, refrigerator, and pantry before you head to the store. What do you need for the coming week? Grocery lists will help save you time in the store, limit impulse purchases, ensure that you don’t forget anything, and help prevent food waste at home. Do you ever get to the grocery store and realize you forgot your list? Consider using one of the free list apps available for smartphones, so you always have the list with you! Many phone apps can be shared between members of the same household, so you and your family members can add to the list as you run out of things at home.
2. Clean Out the Fridge
Make it a weekly habit to clean out your refrigerator. This is a huge step towards a less wasteful life. It allows you to see everything you have and prevents leftovers from getting pushed to the back. This habit will also teach you a lot about your shopping and cooking habits, allowing you to make more accurate lists for the next shopping trip.
3. Store Food Properly
There are many ways to extend the shelf life of products, like storing the stems of cilantro in a jar of water in the fridge, that can help reduce food waste in your home. Consider using a fridge thermometer to monitor the temperature of your refrigerator and optimize the setting that it’s kept at. Also, be sure to keep your milk and eggs away from the refrigerator door to increase how long those items will last.
4. Practice FIFO
“First-in, first-out” is a service industry principle that you can use at home to easily prevent waste. The “FIFO” concept is that when you add new items to your fridge or pantry, you should rotate older items to the front so you can use those first.
5. Label Leftovers
Do you ever put leftovers in the fridge and then wonder a few days later if they are still safe to eat? Taking the time to label leftovers with the date will make it easy to know how long you have to use them. This practice can also be applied toward open containers of milk, coffee creamer, and more! When you use each of those items for the first time, take a permanent marker and write the date on the container since many dairy products should be thrown out after being open for one week.
6. Rebrand “Leftover Night”
Leftovers tend to get ignored in the fridge because they feel boring, and we’ve already eaten that meal this week. One way that you can use up leftovers and give yourself a night off from cooking is by simply rebranding! Instead of “leftover night,” call it “choice night” or “restaurant night.” Put on an apron, grab a pen and notepad, sit the family down at the table, and act like waitstaff. Let your “customers” know what is available on the menu, like two servings of spaghetti with meatballs, one serving of taco salad, and one serving of chicken stir fry, then ask each of them for their order. Once you have their orders, head to the kitchen, heat up their serving in the microwave, and bring it out to them at the table. This might sound silly, but “choice night” might turn into a fun way for your family to enjoy leftovers and reduce food waste!
7. Use Your Freezer
Next time you cook too much food, freeze it! Not only will this extend the shelf life of your favorite ingredients and recipes, but it will also make future meals a breeze. You can portion extra food into individual servings or containers that will serve the whole family. If they are portioned into servings, you can pull them out for future meals when you are ready to enjoy that recipe again; this avoids having the leftovers feel boring since it’s been a while since you last ate that meal.
8. Understand Expiration Dates
The “use by” and “sell by” dates on food on food can be confusing since they are indicators of when the product is at peak quality and how long the store should display the product for sale for inventory management. Although these dates are nothing more than freshness suggestions from the manufacturer, many people believe they are food safety dates. According to the USDA, “Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria.” Foods that are not stored properly will spoil faster than those that are stored and handled correctly.
9. Create a Menu Plan for the Week
When you plan your meals ahead for the week, you can save yourself time and stress by knowing that everything you need is added to your grocery list. Also, this will help you avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store or unplanned meals at restaurants due to lack of planning! While planning your menu, make sure to plan for a leftover night (or “choice night”) to help reduce food waste and fill up all the days of the week.
10. Pack a Lunch
Homemade lunches not only reduce food waste but are also a helpful way to save money. Bring leftovers from the night before to work with you for a satisfying home-cooked meal.
11. Compost Your Food Scraps
Do you enjoy gardening? Use your fruit and veggie scraps, eggshells, and used coffee grounds to create compost! When you compost at home, you reduce kitchen waste and make a nutrient-rich blend that will feed your plants and improve your garden soil. Check out this article for more information on home composting.