What are you thankful for this year? You may be thankful you recycled more materials than before or you made sure others know what to throw in curbside bins. As you get ready to cook the biggest meals of the year, plan ahead so you can be thankful for less food waste.
The Food Facts
Having food go bad in your refrigerator is costing you money. SaveTheFood.com says a family of four loses about $1,500 a year on wasted food, and more than 40 percent of food in America is wasted. Wasted food means all of the water, fuel, labor, and money used to get that food to the consumer is also wasted. Good food going bad is an all too common occurrence.
Consumers are the largest source of food waste, but smart shopping and storing will make sure that you feed people, not landfills. Go to the grocery store with a few shopping guidelines in mind.
- Take inventory of your refrigerator and do some meal planning to figure out what you will eat in the coming days.
- Make a shopping list with item quantities. Avoid impulse buys and try not to shop while hungry.
- Buy from the bulk bins when possible to help you purchase just the amount you need.
- Scrutinize deals and make sure you will actually be able to eat everything you purchase.
- Don’t be afraid of imperfect produce. Ugly fruit and vegetables are often avoided by consumers and end up being thrown out by retailers.
Purchasing the right amount of food and bringing it home is just the beginning!
- Prepare your perishable foods right away by washing, chopping and storing to help with meal prep to save money and effort.
- Store every item in the best way possible. Know how long items last and factor that into your planning. Different areas in the refrigerator have different average temperatures. Keep things that need less refrigeration like mayo in the door since it is the warmest place, but keep things like cheese and butter on the top shelf where the temperature is most consistent.
- Use resources like the A-Z Food Storage Tips from Eureka Recycling to know how to handle a variety of different food items, including how to ripen an avocado or how to store nuts and oils.
- Label the shelves in your fridge so you know what needs to be eaten first.
Best if Used
You may have thrown out an item that was still good because of a confusing label. Most date labels are not actually related to food safety. When you are buying groceries, remember that all food is best if used! Be prepared with a few tips on how to decipher date labels.
- Best before, Enjoy by, etc. – These labels have to do with the manufacturer guaranteeing quality, not safety. Food with these labels should be safe to eat after the date if properly stored.
- Use-by – This is also a suggestion from the manufacturer when food will be freshest. These labels pertain to home storage and use after purchase.
- Sell by – These dates are meant for retailers. Consumers can expect quality for some time after the sell by date.
- Freeze by – You can extend the life of many food products by freezing them.
Food waste is a huge problem and can be addressed by making a few small changes in your behavior. Use resources like the Sustainable Management of Food guide from the U.S. EPA and other tips to reduce the amount of food waste you create. Individuals and businesses can do their part to keep food waste out of the garbage with prevention, organics recycling and composting. Every little bit of effort wastes less food which is something to be thankful for.