Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tips to Prevent Food Waste

    Let’s start with some food waste numbers…

As a society we waste 40% of the food produced on average. Households are estimated to be responsible for about 15% of that. While food waste is a valuable resource, sadly 90% of US food waste is landfilled. …now remember that those numbers are an average over all the foods produced. Before food reaches us there is a whole lot of stuff that goes on. Think about the land used, soil consumed or depleted, water and energy (including fossil fuels to run tractors etc.) all just to get the product harvested. Upon harvesting up 20-70% of the crop is wasted. Yep wasted. Why? Because consumers are expecting a pepper to look just so and that requires certain standards that have to be met. OK so here the product is harvested and then it is shipped to a warehouse where it is sorted and packaged and sent to various distribution outlets or direct to large processors (like soup or jam or juice companies). At the store we choose from the best of the best and put a plastic bag around it and take it to the till where it is bagged – then drive it home, store it and later cook it using your kitchen stove.  Its still kind of hard though for most of us to picture how that translates to our lunch. So let’s say we chose a burger… just regarding water consumed in making that available to you, one hamburger uses what a 90 min. shower would.

All of a sudden, food waste doesn’t seem like such a little thing. Now there are lots of programs out there that share food left over from conventions and catered events to feed the needy, food banks, various non-profit soup kitchens and missions for the poor etc. Some farmers have made arrangements with food producers or servers to reserve their kitchen waste to feed pigs or other animals. Some restaurants have invested in composting machines that break down even bones into a powdered dry fertilizer. And many cities are offering composting services. These – and others - help with some of the waste. But there’s lots that you can do personally that can have a big impact… here are 10 to think about and if you come up with others to add to that list – feel free to share them here in the comment section.

1st – menu plan for at least 3 days, or better – a week. Be sure to look up the recipes so you have everything on hand.

2nd – Clean and organize your kitchen and pantry areas so that you know what you have and how close it is to expiring. You can base your menu plan on what needs to be used up.

3rd – Freeze your leftovers, even small amounts – because these can be taken out to add to casseroles or soups, or to combine with other thawed leftovers to create a smorgasbord meal.

4th – Buy from local farmers or those as close to you as possible.

5th – Visit farmers markets and stores selling local produce, and don’t be as picky as you might have been in the past. It helps the farmer when all their produce sells, rather than waste – and you can often get deals on culls, or the last of the stuff in their bins at the end of market day.

6th – Start composting or participating in a compost service if it is available to you.

7th – Grow your own food, even if it is just a few herbs on the balcony or front step to start.

8th – Place a paper towel or unused paper napkin in each bag of fresh produce that is destined for the refrigerator, and seal the bag with a clip or twist tie. Foods stored this way will last longer.

9th – Choose food locations that buy from local farmers, or as close to home as possible.

10th – While dining out - take a small container from home with you and put your leftovers in the container. This means you aren’t consuming more packaging with your food. Or ask the server to bring a to-go container to your table. You can serve them at home over the next day or two, or freeze them for later use. You can also place them in your home compost bin. 

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