My goal this year is to reduce food waste. That’s easier said than done with a busy family, however.
I want my family to lead an environmentally-friendly lifestyle. However, I find this task is overwhelming. I narrowed down my focus to something specific: reducing food waste. I already compost in my backyard, but I put way too much food in the compost bucket. It requires a lot of energy to produce food, which I waste when I don’t eat it. As a busy mother, it’s difficult to manage my family’s eating habits, but it’s doable.
Here are five specific ways I focus on my family’s goal to reduce food waste.
I subscribe to a CSA (community-supported agriculture) share, which means I receive a large bag of vegetables every week. This is a great way to add variety to your diet and consume plenty of healthy nutrients. However, a large chunk of my vegetables spoiled before I used them, so they went into the compost bucket. To combat this food wastage, I started a weekly menu plan. After I receive my veggies, I plan the next week’s worth of dinner, aiming to use all of those veggies. I also add all the ingredients I need to buy to my grocery list. While this takes effort, it has nearly eliminated the spoiling of my vegetables. I also save money by only buying necessary food at the grocery store by sticking to my list. In my opinion, menu planning is the single best way to reduce food waste.
Freeze Overripe Fruit
My family eats a lot of fruit. Unfortunately, we also compost a lot of fruit. When I buy strawberries from the grocery store, there are usually one or two that are already so overripe that my kids won’t eat them. My kids also have a habit of picking overripe fruit (and then squishing them) when we pick berries. They spoil before we eat them. In an effort to reduce food waste, I now chop up my overripe fruits and freeze them. Frozen berries and bananas make quick and tasty smoothies. If I have time and feel ambitious, I turn frozen berries into homemade jam. Frozen bananas and apples are great additions to breads, cakes, and muffins. I usually add to my frozen fruits gradually and then bake them once I get a full container.
I hate getting to the bottom of a snack bag and being stuck with nothing but crumbs. In our house, it’s mostly popcorn crumbs or tortilla chip crumbs. Before my quest to reduce food waste, I composted all these crumbs. Now, I try to use the crumbs in more creative ways. For example, tortilla chip crumbs make a great topping for taco salads. Use leftover popcorn to coat chicken strips. Kids love the combination of popcorn and chicken! Speaking of kid-friendly, try some potato chip cookies! When all else fails, I give crumbs to my dog. She is way less picky than my children! (And also very appreciative!)
Arrange Food Wisely
To reduce food waste, I use a first in, first out policy. This means using the oldest items first before they expire. In order to make this easier to practice, I set up my shelves like a grocery store. I put the freshest food in the back and move the older items to the front. For example, when I unload groceries, I move all the yogurt that’s already in my refrigerator to the front of the shelf and load the new yogurt in behind the old stuff. That way, I use up the yogurt before it expires. This method also helps avoid losing items at the back of cupboards or the refrigerator. If you find that you have extra food you won’t use, donate it to a local food shelf!
Making stock is a great way to reduce food waste! If you generate a large amount of veggie scraps, store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. On the other hand, if you need more time, freeze those scraps. If you want chicken or beef stock, you can also save bones from your meat. Homemade stock tastes amazing! It can also be frozen if you won’t use it right away. I still compost my veggie scraps after I make stock, but at least I got one more use out of them first! This also saves money since you won’t need to buy stock from the store. It’s a win-win situation!
How does your family reduce food waste?