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Five Ways to Cut Food Waste at Home

by Sandy Todd Webster on Sep 24, 2015

Food for Thought

It never feels good to throw away food, and yet, we’ve all done it.

That gorgeous bunch of lettuce you got at the farmer’s market? Liquefied in the produce drawer. The fresh bread you were going to make so many great sandwiches with? Molded over with just a few slices used. The mango you intended for a new salsa recipe? Unspeakably smelly and buzzing with fruit flies— an innocent bystander that missed its moment of glory as the perfect complement on Taco Tuesday.

A 2015 report from the National Resources Defense Council shows that a staggering 40% of food in America—more than 20 pounds per person each month—is thrown away. In terms of dollars and other resources, the report estimates, discarded food is equivalent to $165 billion per year plus 25% of the water used to irrigate and grow the food. Throw in 10% of all energy used in the U.S. plus the chemicals and land used to grow the food and to put the waste in landfills, and you have untenable losses.

Here are five simple ways you can reduce your food waste footprint.

  1. Plan ahead. Buy only what you need. Okay, so the bok choy looks good this week and it’s on sale, but have a game plan for it and stick to plan. Everything you buy should have a purpose.
  2. If you can’t eat it, freeze it. Most foods can be frozen. Access the comprehensive guide at the National Center for Home Food Preservation for the best cheat sheets available on general freezing guidelines, what containers work best and an alphabetized list of foods with freezing/preserving tips for each: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/freeze.html.
  3. Cook it, juice it or blend it. Stay on top of your inventory by using it creatively. If you can’t put it in a smoothie or make a sauce from it, use it to make soup or a flavorful stock, or juice it.
  4. Compost. Save all of your scraps and compost them. Your garden beds will love it when you feed them your homemade “black gold”: www.howtocompost.org.
  5. Read past expiration dates. Just because the date says “Best by November 1” doesn’t mean you have to throw food away if you miss the date. Use common sense . . . and test with your nose and eyes. If it smells bad or looks bad, then dispose of it. According to the USDA, “ Except for ‘use-by’ dates, product dates don’t always pertain to home storage and use after purchase. ‘Use-by’ dates usually refer to best quality and are not safety dates. Even if the date expires during home storage, a product should be safe, wholesome and of good quality if handled properly.”

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About the Author

Sandy Todd Webster

Sandy Todd Webster IDEA Author/Presenter

Sandy Todd Webster is Editor in Chief of IDEA's publications, including the award-winning IDEA FITNESS JOURNAL and IDEA FOOD & NUTRITION TIPS, the industry's leading resources for fitness, wellness and nutrition professionals worldwide. Sandy joined IDEA in 2001 as executive editor of IDEA PERSONAL TRAINER and IDEA FITNESS MANAGER magazines and was promoted to lead the editorial team in 2003. More than 20 years in magazine publishing, marketing communications and creative services have shaped her straightforward approach to multi-channel communication. Early experience in Los Angeles as a sports writer/reporter, and then enriching years as a managing editor in allied health care publishing have pulled her across a spectrum of stimulating subject matter. Fitness, health and nutrition reside at the perfect center of this content continuum, she feels. A Chicago native, Sandy grew up fully engaged in various competitive sports. Her drive and dedication as an athlete translate to a disciplined work ethic and unwavering approach to challenge in her career. Shortly after graduating journalism school from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, she was recruited to L.A. for her first post in magazine publishing. After two decades of working on magazines--and now in the throes of applying the unbelieveable multi-media content delivery options available in the magazine 2.0 world--she is still "completely in love" with the creative process it takes to deliver meaningful, inspirational content to end users. She is an accomplished home cook and gardner who would love to combine those skills and passions with her health and fitness background to continue educating readers about a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.