According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. ends up as waste. That amount is equivalent to 20 pounds per person each month. In fact, food production accounts for 50 percent of land use and 10 percent of the U.S. energy budget, and yet so much is going uneaten. Whether you’re a home cook or culinary arts professional, you know that this number is way to high. Fortunately, you can combat food waste every day by doing a few things.
Grow your own herbs
Grocery stores sell herbs in large packets or bundles, and unless you’re serving a huge crowd, you can get through them all before they go bad. Instead of watching the basil leaves blacken in your fridge, grow your own herbs. These plants can thrive in a small space, such as a kitchen counter. You can pluck just the amount you need for a dish, cutting back on the amount of herbs you waste.
First in, first out
Restaurants live by the mantra, “first in, first out,” which requires that the oldest products get used first. This prevents food from reaching its expiration date, at which point it cannot be served. Apply this to your own life in several ways in order to reduce food waste. Look for the oldest products when you shop at the grocery store. For example, pick up a carton of milk that must be sold by the end of the week rather then the one good until next week. Once your groceries are home, take care to consume the older products – or those with a fast-approaching expiration – as soon as possible.
Furthermore, always eat food that has been in your refrigerator the longest, including left overs.
Buy for meals
Plan your meals before you go grocery shopping so that you only buy the things you know you will use. Many people just wander into the grocery store and grab the foods that seem appealing. However, this may cause you to waste. When you don’t have a plan, certain foods that seemed good at the time aren’t always compatible with the dishes you end up cooking. Planning a meal forces you to use everything you buy.
If you do have a few random products left in your fridge, try finding creative ways to incorporate them into meals. Produce is especially flexible.
Freeze bulk foods
You probably purchase a few items in large quantities to save money, and that’s OK. It can be difficult to eat your way through an entire pound of meat or bag of apples, especially if you live on your own. Fortunately, freezing will prevent those items from going bad. You can freeze meat, produce and bread to thaw later. For example, the overripe bundle of strawberries you bought last week can be frozen and used as a smoothie today. The pie in your freezer is a great treat for a dinner party or potluck.
Store meat in separate baggies so that you can pull out only what you need. Chicken breasts or lamp chops, for instance, come as a package. However, if you’re on your own, you may not eat it in one meal. Put a meal’s worth of meat in a freezer bag when you get home from the grocery store.