Easy Ways to Prevent Food Waste

November 29, 2016 – Hi there – Liz Ward here again! Back in July, I gave you a few ‘Tips for Feeding Toddlers.’ Today, I’m giving you easy tips to prevent food waste and ultimately, save you money.

Maybe you don’t think twice about throwing out a few limp lettuce leaves, a piece of stale bread, or leftovers that have lost their appeal, but tossing small amounts of unwanted food adds up to big losses. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, every year we waste about 30 percent of our food supply. In addition to squandering money on uneaten food, tossing it is bad for the environment. As food rots in landfills, it creates methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

The good news is there’s plenty that you and your family can do to help preserve more food. Children love a challenge, so get them involved in your efforts to conserve. The lessons they learn at a young age can prompt a lifetime of smart habits. Plus, kids have a way of keeping you on your toes! Here’s how to get the entire family to save money and food, and protect the planet.

“Shop” Your Kitchen First

Image of mother and daughter holding a grocery bag with produce.

  • Plan your meals and snacks for the next few days or weeks based on the food you have before buying more.
  • Know exactly what you need before heading out to the store for food. Let children help by making a running list of what’s on hand and what food you should buy. Smaller children can count food items.
  • Consider the foods you buy and may often waste, such as fresh produce. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables also help prevent waste because you can take what you need and leave the rest for another time.
  • Buying too much food can lead to waste because it may spoil before you get a chance to eat it. Take stock of what’s in your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis.

Keep Food Fresh
Frozen mixed berries in a container. The fresher the food, the more likely you are to eat it. It’s important to handle food correctly, from when you buy it at the store or restaurant, to when you eat it at home.

  • Maintain your refrigerator between 35˚F and 40˚F and your freezer at 0˚F or below to best maintain food freshness and prevent spoilage. Purchase thermometers for your refrigerator and freezer and check the temperature on a regular basis.
  • Purchase items, such as meat, dairy and frozen foods at the end of your trip to the grocery store.
  • Go straight home with your food purchases. If that’s not possible, bring a cooler stocked with ice packs to store more perishable items, such as meat and dairy.
  • Live by the “first in, first out” rule. Put new food purchases behind older ones in cabinets, refrigerator and freezer. Children can help you arrange your purchases.
  • Store fresh produce in the vegetable drawer, and keep the types that spoil faster, such as greens and berries, on top so that you see them, and think about eating them first.
  • Consume more perishable animal foods, such as fresh meat and seafood earlier in the week.
  • Refrigerate leftovers from home-cooked or restaurant meals within 2 hours (1 hour if the air temperature is 90˚F or above). Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days and reheat them to 165˚F.

Kitchen Tips and Tricks
Mixed race couple and their daughter unpacking groceries.  Trying to use what food you have is challenging. These tricks can help:

  • Take smaller portions to reduce the risk of food remaining on the plate and going into the garbage. Kids and adults can always serve themselves more if they’re still hungry.
  • Plan meals based on who is eating so that you don’t prepare too much food. If you have leftovers, enjoy them for lunch, or freeze immediately so that you have a meal for later. Allow children to label food for the freezer with the name and the date.
  • Get creative with extra food and ingredients, and encourage kids get in on the act. For example, leftover carrots, potatoes and rotisserie chicken combine to make a delicious soup. Puree overripe fruits for a pancake topping instead of syrup, or use as part of a fruit and vegetable smoothie.

Dr. Elizabeth M. WardElizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD, is a freelance writer and nutrition consultant. She is the author of several nutrition books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better, which features healthy eating and lifestyle tips for busy women and their families who want easy ways to make nutritious, tasty meals and snacks, and include more physical activity. Follow her on Twitter at @EWardRD and at ww.betteristhenewperfect.com.

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