SALT LAKE CITY — March is National Nutrition Month, and this year's theme is to "Go Further with Food" with the focus being on reducing food waste.
I’m a firm believer in environmental wellness fitting into our overall wellness and health. Our physical and social environments can either improve our wellness or detract from it.
One of the controllable elements of our physical environment is actually taking care of it. Each time I go for a rejuvenating walk, I’m amazed by the glory of the world around me. I’d like to, and feel obligated to, give just a bit back to keep it that way.
Reducing food waste is something we can do to improve our physical and social environment in so many ways.
- Americans waste 38 million tons of food each year that goes straight to the landfills to sit and produce greenhouse gasses.
- 40 percent of the food in the U.S. goes uneaten and equals about $165 billion of wasted food
- About 1/3 of globally produced food goes uneaten. This equals about $1 trillion in wasted food.
- It’s estimated that individual Americans waste about 50 percent more food than in the mid-70s
- Food waste can be related to calories by: 1 in 4 calories produced goes uneaten.
- Industrialized countries waste roughly as much food as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa
- 1/3 of the total food wasted comes from individual households, the other 2/3 comes from production & distribution of the food
Here's what you can do to stop wasting food and save money at the same time:
1. Use food scraps in cooking.
Food scrap meals are a big deal, even so that famous New York City chefs use them in their menus. One built his menu off of using food scraps, and New Yorkers flocked to his pop-up restaurant. I think he’s on to something!
Stephanie of Grateful Grazer blog shares her best tips for turning your vegetable scraps into a delicious stock.
2. Meal plan and shop smart.
When it comes to eating well and reducing our food waste, meal planning and sticking to that plan at the store are two of the most beneficial tactics that you can follow.
If you have a plan (meal ideas plus a shopping list plus a plan for actually cooking it) for the week, you’re less likely to go for those Oreos and you’re going to use that food you’ve got in your fridge. Win-win.
Another reason to create a meal plan is so you can choose at least two recipes to use up that special ingredient you bought that would likely go bad soon.
And when it comes to shopping smart, use that grocery list you made along with your meal plan. You’ll make fewer unintended trips to the store and will more likely stick to the essentials.
3. Rethink the use-by date.
We see "Best By" "Use By" "Sell By" and other markings on fresh food. What do they all mean? You need to buy by a certain date, you need to have eaten it all by a certain date, the food will start to go bad by that date?
It's confusing and can lead us to throw food out before flavors really change or before a food could make us sick. Proper storage and handling elongates the shelf life of food. Here's a quick guide to storing food at home.
Also, a quick gauge is to just smell the food, regardless of what the label says. Since a major portion of our sense of taste is based on smell, we can easily test to see if something is going to taste spoiled by just giving it a good sniff. Besides, food will often smell spoiled before it's harmful to eat.
4. Repurpose it.
One easy way to repurpose food is to shop your pantry and fridge first. Use up those leftovers in easy and delicious ways.
For example, this delicious broccoli rice stir fry by Jess Cording is a great way to use up leftover broccoli that you've got on hand. Rice bowls, quesadillas, eggs, tacos, and pasta are all great vehicles for using up lots of types of leftovers.
5. Freeze it.
So many foods are easy to freeze. Instead of letting your leftover pasta sauce get moldy, throw it in a bag and freeze it. Besides, who doesn’t love grabbing something homemade & delicious out of the freezer for dinner? I certainly do.
Here’s a guide from the National Center for Home Preservation on what freezes well.
Families spend thousands of dollars on wasted food each year and on garbage pick-up. Finding ways to reduce that food waste can help save you money and can introduce you to different cooking methods and flavor combinations that you may never have thought of. This can make eating more interesting and satisfying, which is also a positive outcome.