Imagine wasting 244 pounds of food. It’s a staggering amount of waste. Wasted food, money, time, energy, and more. Apparently, 244 pounds of food waste a year is about normal in our society. Boggles the mind doesn’t it? It’s even more boggling when it can be easily avoided. As gardeners and fiercely D.I.Y. folks, we try very hard to preserve every bit of food that comes our way and waste nothing. It’s a way of life for us and one we happily embrace, however; avoiding waste isn’t about homesteading or canning 50 pounds of peaches, it is about simply being aware of food and its limited shelf life. Use these 4 tips to avoid food waste and save yourself some time and money too:
1. Plan Meals
Meal planning is a great way to avoid food waste. Planning ahead and doing the necessary shopping in one trip inherently means less spontaneous purchases left to spoil. It happens this way, no plan so we hit the the grocery store on the way home from school and work for something quick and end up also grabbing hummus to go along with the chicken and maybe some bananas and ice cream too for dessert and all the extra stuff gets wasted as it goes bad with no additional plan to use it up. Have a meal plan and stick to it, even plan for leftovers for packed lunches or a quick reheated dinner on a busy, long day.
2. Freeze Leftovers
Soup, casseroles, meat loaf, beans, and more freeze really well. If another day of that soup isn’t appealing, toss it into the freezer. A couple of a weeks from now, that leftover soup will be mighty tasty in a thermos during a lunch break. In fact, it’s usually no more work to make 2 meatloaves than it is 1 (and many other things) – make the second and freeze it for a quick week night meal later on. Grate & freeze zucchini, carrots, and more before they go bad and use them in baked goods later. Freeze fruits before they spoil and have smoothies ready to go at a moments notice.
3. Get Creative
Those radishes that seemingly jumped into the shopping cart on their own but aren’t getting eaten in the crisper drawer can be grated and used just like carrots or zucchini in cookies, breads, muffins, etc. That little bit of left over pork roast is great reheated with some taco seasoning and piled on top of lettuce for a taco salad lunch. That little bit of leftover BBQ chicken makes for a tasty pizza topping on day 2. The holiday turkey or ham – freeze the chopped meat and toss into soups or casseroles later on. Use the bones of meat dishes to make soup stock.
4. Compost It
Doing all of the above doesn’t mean there isn’t food waste. It happens, watermelon rinds don’t get eaten (they can be pickled but lets be honest most of us aren’t going to do that), the tough ends of asparagus generally aren’t eaten and more. These items are ideal compost fodder. Instead of tossing those unused bits into the trash, compost them into some amazing black gold. Don’t have a garden? Donate the scraps to a community garden’s compost heap.
Make a commitment to yourself, your wallet, and the earth to avoid food waste. Remember that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – it doesn’t have to be canning a bushel of green beans but rather can be about freezing the leftover Thanksgiving turkey to avoid spoilage and having a filling, tasty soup later on. It doesn’t have to be about freezing 25 pounds of bananas for smoothies but it can be about composting the onion peels to feed the soil some healthy nutrients to make those flowers bloom even prettier.