There’s a level of disgust that comes with cleaning out the fridge. It’s a reminder of my good intentions to eat well and create meals like Martha Stewart. Surely, I’m not the only one who’s reached into the crisper to find vegetables resembling fuzzy pudding.
The slime serves not only as a reminder that I haven’t hit my current fitness goal, but also a reminder of how much I waste week to week. It’s downright painful. My wallet burns with bills that have been incinerated by food waste.
Worse yet, I’m contributing to the 25 to 40% of food in the US that goes unused.
If you can relate, it’s time to do something about it. Don’t close your refrigerator door and wait for the feeling to pass. Here are 10 tips to help prevent food waste.
It’s such a simple concept, but it’s probably the most challenging, especially when entering the grocery store with an empty stomach. Go for the small cart, go with a list, and buy only what you need.
Do you eat leftovers? Some people can’t stand the thought, but that roast beef from last night is just as good tonight as it was then — as long as it was stored properly. Eating leftovers keeps food waste at bay, and it keeps food prep to a minimum.
If the thought of leftovers makes you wish you were eating cafeteria food at a hospital, maybe try a different tactic. Repurposing your leftovers creates a new dish. For example, spaghetti can quickly make an excellent casserole. You can add roasted veggies to an omelet for a healthy breakfast.
Check Expiration Dates
Expiration dates confuse many people. There’s a difference between sell-by dates and use-by dates. Don’t immediately throw something away if the date on the package has passed. Milk with a sell-by date of September 1st is usually good for a few more days. It’s silly to believe a product is okay at 11:59 pm on the 1st, but at 12:01 am, it’s spoiled.
Read up on how to tell if the quality or safety of a product has been compromised. Pay attention to appearance and especially smell. If your cat won’t go near it, it’s probably time to throw it out.
Keep a Food Inventory List
A list mounted to your refrigerator or pantry door can help track what’s going in and out of your cupboards. This will help you keep inventory of what ingredients are available for snacks and meals. When an item is gone, cross it off the list and add it to your purchase list if necessary. Sound like too much work? Try it for a week and see how much it helps.
Have a Clean-Out-the-Fridge Night
Schedules fill quickly, and it’s not always possible to make a meal from scratch. When time is of the essence, don’t head to the nearest drive-thru. Instead, visit your fridge! Reheating is a cinch, and everyone can choose their own meal, which means less fussing all around. It also encourages you to eat the food in your fridge that needs to be eaten — meaning less potential waste.
Use the Freezer
Sometimes it’s not possible to eat every scrap in the fridge or eat all of your incredible seasonal produce. When this happens, don’t be afraid to use the freezer — it allows you to keep foods like bread and fruit for a longer period of time. Keep an inventory of freezer items and date them, so you don’t purchase bread and fruit you already have.
Store Food Properly
Food can spoil quickly if not stored properly. It’s tempting to skip reading the directions, but there’s more at stake than a wrong turn. Pay attention to packaging directions, especially for meat and dairy products. Not adhering to the label directives can lead to lumpy milk and bacteria-infested meat, neither of which is safe to eat. Do your homework and store food properly.
Prep in Bulk
Don’t buy in bulk, prep in bulk. If you’re not going to use them immediately, items like veggies or meat can be cooked and frozen if needed. Cut fresh vegetables into snack-size packs and store them in the fridge, so family can do a quick grab on their way out the door.
Plan for Meals in Advance
The above tips can be culminated into one idea: Plan ahead. If you thrive on flexibility, planning might give you anxiety — but flexibility can be built into a meal schedule.
Know when you and your family will be away from the house during meal hours. If packing is an option, determine what you need to pack a balanced meal. It’s fine if you need to eat out, but try to order something you can finish.
Create a tentative meal plan for the days you’ll be home and buy accordingly.
Dumping nasty vegetables always makes me feel like I shouldn’t have the privilege of a full refrigerator. When there are other people who would gladly take a quarter of the contents in my sticky icebox, why should I be allowed to waste it? Let’s work to end waste. Use these tips to get started.