Reducing Food Waste Saves Money, Protects Climate

Reducing Food Waste Saves Money, Protects Climate

Food waste is rampant in the United States. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 to 40 percent of all food is wasted in the U.S. and 30 percent of that waste occurs at the consumer or retail level. Furthermore, according to the USDA, this waste amounted to 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010. What a shame! Food waste is also responsible for 6 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally due to emissions created during the growing, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of the wasted food, and when it is not composted and ends up in a landfill food waste creates methane gas, a powerful greenhouse gas.

There are many ways to avoid food waste at the consumer level to save money and protect the climate. First is to shop with a well-thought-out list to buy only what you will need for the week. Looking up recipes for the week and creating a list that way really helps avoid over-purchasing food. Also, avoid going to the grocery store hungry which can lead to impulse buys.

Storing food properly helps it last longer. Fruits such as apples and bananas, and vegetables such as potatoes and onions, are best stored on the outside of the refrigerator without bags. Other fruits and vegetables stored in the refrigerator are best kept inside clear containers for freshness and so you can easily see what you have in the refrigerator.

Then eat what you have on hand. If you are getting tired of leftovers, freeze them for future meals with very little preparation time. Freezing also works well for leftover herbs. Just chop them all up, use what you need for the recipe at hand, and freeze the rest. Eat the more perishable produce first such as lettuce and berries and save the more durable vegetables such as carrots and cabbage for later in the week.

Make use of wilted vegetables by making a soup, egg frittata, or fried rice with them. Vegetable trimmings make great soup stock. Just add them to a container stored in the freezer as you trim vegetables until you have enough for a soup stock. Overripe fruit can be used in pancakes, smoothies, and sweet breads. With Thanksgiving coming up remember leftover mashed potatoes can easily be made into delicious gnocchi (just google gnocchi mashed potatoes for a recipe). Leftover turkey makes excellent sandwiches, casseroles, and enchiladas, and the carcass when simmered with water for a few hours on low makes a delicious stock.

Canning excess food is also an option. Canned food makes great holiday gifts as well. If you are new to canning, you can get started by checking out this website:

Remember your neighbors. If you have grown too much produce, give it to neighbors. When leaving town, give your neighbors the leftover produce instead of throwing it out. If you have trees with too much fruit to pick yourself, contact the Backyard Growers who will provide volunteers to pick it and bring it to the Alameda Food Bank. Backyard Growers through their Project Pick program have saved and donated over 23 tons of produce that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Consider getting an imperfect box of fruits and vegetables delivered. Imperfect Foods provides this service in the Bay Area. Food that is oddly shaped, too small, or too large for grocery stores is saved via this method. With each box, you can select the specific fruits and vegetables you want.

Lastly, when you do have food scraps that are unusable, remember to compost them or put them in the green bin to avoid that nasty methane gas production in landfills.

I hope you can use some of these tips to reduce your personal food waste, save money, and protect the climate.

Joyce Mercado writes for Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda.