According to the EPA, we waste 133 billion pounds of food in the United States every year. When food goes to the landfill it breaks down and creates methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases that effects climate change. About half of that 133 billion pounds is wasted by individual households. But much of the food that goes to landfills can and should be redirected to other sources that can still make use of it and keep it from going to waste.The EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy includes six recovery methods from most to least preferred:
- Source Reduction
- Feed Hungry People
- Feed Animals
- Industrial Uses
The fridge is a household staple that most probably take for granted. Without the fridge, our food would go bad much sooner than it does; lettuce will wilt, and those berries will mold in half the time. However, there are ways to make sure you get the most out of your refrigerated food and making your fridge work for you.
- Take inventory before you go to the grocery store: nothing is more frustrating than coming home with a fresh head of lettuce only to find you still have half a head hiding behind the milk. Make sure you know what you have so you don’t waste money and food by over buying.
- On that note, make a “use it now” shelf in the fridge: Designate a shelf, preferably one at eye level or otherwise easy to see, for food that needs to be eaten sooner rather than later. The weekend’s leftovers, languishing asparagus, and the last of the milk can all go on this shelf so they don’t get lost behind your other fresher groceries. Keeping things organized also helps. Check out how Marie Audrey did it
- Use strategies to make your food last longer: Storing greens with a damp paper towel greatly extends their lifespan in your fridge! There are many strategies to help you keep your food fresher longer, like storing fresh herbs in a jar of water.
- Make sure you’re putting your food in the right area of your fridge: As convenient as it is, putting your milk in the door exposes it to warm air and it doesn’t get as cold as on one of the shelves, which can lead to quicker spoilage. The middle shelf and the back of the fridge are typically the coldest areas, and are best for things that need to be kept at lower temps. It’s also important to know what shouldn’t be in the fridge at all. Produce like fresh tomatoes and bananas are best kept on the counter. Check out the list of tips above for more information.
- Consider alternatives to plastic storage containers: While plastic won’t affect the freshness of your food necessarily, many plastics contain toxins and other chemicals that you shouldn’t consume. Consider alternatives like glass, or make sure your plastic containers don’t contain BPAs and other common toxins.
- Keep track of your fridge clean outs: Whenever you clean out your fridge keep track of what you throw out most often. This practice combined with keeping a basic inventory will help keep you from over buying produce you just don’t use.
- Preserve your leftovers: Have you made more pasta sauce than you know you can eat before it goes bad? Freeze it! Too many peaches from the you-pick orchard down the road? Make jam! Pickle those fresh veggies if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat them all. There are lots of interesting and tasty methods of preserving extra food, and you’ll also be able to enjoy produce for less cost than buying fresh when it’s out of season. There will be another article with more information on freezing and preserving foods soon.
- Regularly cook flexible recipes: One of the best ways to use up a lot of food that will soon be past its prime is to cook a recipe that allows you to use it all up in one go. Soups and salads are easy, flexible options that allow you to clean out your fridge. You can also take stock of what you need to get rid of and use sites like Handpick and Epicurious to search by ingredient and see what recipes pop up.
- Be safe: Reducing food waste at the cost of your health and wellbeing isn’t worth it. If something looks, smells, or tastes off don’t eat it. If you can, compost the offending food, and throw it away only as a last resort.
- Other Tips: Check out these other tips from regular folks about how they try to reduce their food waste
(Article from Healthy Communities Wyandotte)