Thursday, April 5, 2018

Food waste 101

The weather is starting, very slowly, to warm up in my neck of the woods.  As I look out my living room window, I can see my vegetable garden beds waiting for me.  I've paid my check to my local CSA (community-supported agriculture) farmer to make up what I can't grow in my yard.  It looks like I'm all set for a great season of fresh veggies!

But along with growing and buying veggies, greenmomsters have an additional goal -- avoiding food waste.  Did you know that the U.S. wastes about 40% of the food we grow?  That's over 1 billion tons of food each year!  That's a tremendous waste, not only of food, but also the water (global food production accounts for 70% of freshwater use), energy, and fertilizer that go into growing that food.  I recently came across a nice list of things we can do at home to reduce our food waste, courtesy of the Great Falls VA chapter of the Sierra Club.  Take a look at these suggestions and think about implementing a few suggestions.  It'll save you money AND help the environment!

Tips for Reducing Food Waste
by Helene Shore
  1. Take stock. Know what you have and plan meals based on what’s in your fridge and pantry. Make sure to make a shopping list before you go to the store.
  2. Stick to your list. It’s a costly waste if you can’t consume what you buy, even if that 2-for-1 sale looks like a great deal.
  3. Buy ugly-looking produce. Tastes as good or better. Bananas with brown freckles on the peel are sweeter.
  4. First in, first out. Store older food items in front of your recently purchased items.
  5. Prioritize perishables. Have a section in your fridge for foods that need to be eaten ASAP, or put a label on them.
  6. Keep it fresh. Use airtight containers, preferably glass.
  7. Preserve it. Freeze, can, or dry excess. Think of freezing berries and veggies, as well as cooked beans and grains for future use. Try making jam, sauces, etc.
  8. Understand labels. “Use by” and “Best by” labels are not expiration dates. They’re only the manufacturer’s suggestion. Food beyond those dates is often perfectly safe to eat.
  9. Get creative. Make soups, stews, smoothies. Got a little of this, a little of that—it makes a great soup. Use that last bit of barbecue sauce to make dressing or a marinade.
  10. Use it all. Only compost or toss non-edible parts of produce. Celery leaves, carrot tops, lemon and orange rinds, etc., are great for cooking. Clean out jars. Use a spatula to get that last bit of stuff.
  11. Serve wisely. At home, put less on your plate (better for waistline as well). You can always go back for more. Eating out? Share a portion if it is large, or take leftovers home with you to eat for another meal.
  12. Save it for later. Freeze leftovers. Make sure to label and date the container so you know what it is.
  13. Share. Share the excess with friends. Have a potluck and use it up. Or, donate that extra can of something you bought and decided not to use.
  14. Be aware. Be a better-educated consumer and advocate. Advocate for grocery stores, bakeries, etc., to donate food they aren’t going to sell.

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