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Debra Caffrey is the Education E-newsletter Editor for FredParent. She also writes, blogs, and assists with events. She is the proud mom of 8-year-old Aidan. She is passionate about cooking, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping, and is excited to share her ‘Practical Pantry’ with you.

 

Practical Pantry

As both a homemaker and a frugal-minded individual, one of my biggest passions and concerns is avoiding food waste. When I see a cucumber go rotten before I’ve had a chance to use it, I can get so upset not only because I’ve just wasted my money, but also because household food trash accounts for 43 percent of the nation’s entire food-waste problem, which is an issue that has mounting global and environmental ramifications. What incenses me more than dumping out spoiled milk from my own fridge is the fact that most folks do not think twice about the consequences of chucking their uneaten leftovers into the garbage or buying another pint of strawberries when they have one behind the eggs about to go bad.

Besides wasting your money, wasting food does serious damage to the environment, as food in landfills produces incredible amounts of methane, which is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition, when you waste food, you are also wasting the resources like energy and water that went into producing it in the first place, making the effect on the environment even more nonsensical.

There are many ways to limit your household’s food waste, but the most important way to approach this ongoing problem is simply awareness. Being mindful of the choices you make with food every day, including what you are buying and how you inventory what’s in that fridge, should become a lifestyle choice and a daily habit that can bring a lot of change. The process of limiting your family’s food waste doesn’t have to be taxing. Here are ten additional simple ways you can change your habits to lessen your contribution to the food-waste crisis.

1) Compost: Instead of throwing your produce in the trash where it will eventually produce dangerous methane, composting allows it to break down and be recycled back into the earth. And the process couldn’t be easier! Even though we do not waste much food in our house, it was still incredibly eye-opening to see just how many little scraps of produce we generate from cooking. Even if you do not want to compost, at the minimum, use your garbage disposal for vegetable and fruit scraps instead of the trash. It’s not ideal, but it is better than food being sent to the landfill.

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2) Buy Ugly Produce: Supermarkets are designed to routinely chuck produce that looks ugly or imperfect into the garbage. It may seem like a small thing but being the customer that buys the weird-looking but perfectly edible potato or misshapen pear does make a difference and saves that piece of food from being wasted.

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3) Use Smaller Plates: When we use big plates to serve ourselves and our family, we might be actually piling up more food than we can eat, creating more food waste. Use smaller plates and start off small with portions.

4) Use Your Freezer: The freezer stops the clock on food, making it your best resource for helping to avoid things going bad. Have a handful of raspberries getting mushy in the fridge? They may be too unpleasant to eat fresh but rinsing them off and freezing them just bought you an ingredient for a blended fruit smoothie.

5) Label: Research finds that 96 percent more leftovers would be eaten if we knew what was in the containers! Keep a roll of masking tape near the fridge and write down the contents of each leftover container or Tupperware item so that all family members know what they can eat.

6) Use Technology: The USDA has a free app called FoodKeeper, which helps to educate you on food storage and safety.

7) Buy Local Produce: Buying local helps the environment tremendously. When you buy local, you are cutting down on the time and resources that went into production of similar produce elsewhere. Keep in mind that transporting produce long distances uses a great deal of fossil fuels.

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8) Know Your Fridge: Did you know that the air is colder on the lower shelves in your refrigerator? This makes it the better section to store things like meat and dairy, so they have less chance of going bad too soon.

9) Trust Your Nose: “Sell-by” and “use-by” dates can get people confused and nervous, allowing lots of unnecessary waste of useable food. These stamped dates are intended more for retailers to know when to pull an item from the shelf rather than for safety. A better tenet to follow is to simply trust your sense of smell. Your nose will tell you if milk has soured or if that ground beef has gone bad. Focus on using these items before they’ve had a chance to get to that point.

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10) Educate Others: It’s imperative to enlighten others about the impact of food waste on the environment, as well as how easy it can be to save food and money by simply making more of an effort. Share tips with others and stress the importance of what simple changes can do.

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