How We Minimize Food Waste

In 2013 Americans discarded almost 167 million tons of waste. Food comprised 21% of this followed by plastics (18%) and paper (15%).  That's AFTER recycling and composting recovery.   So clearly, there is a lot of work to be done here!

At home, we created an incredibly simple backyard composting system, but I still find it shocking how much food waste we actually put in there.  Certainly our ability to compost should not translate to being more wasteful in how we buy and eat our food though, right?  Traveling, where we have had almost no access to composting, we have had to take steps toward PREVENTING the amount of waste we create in the first place.  Here are some tips we discovered, some of which we've been able to implement while traveling, and others that we plan to try once we're home, to help us decrease the amount of food waste we send to the landfill (or compost):

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1.  Meal Plan and Buy in Bulk

Meal planning rather than "winging it" has been hugely helpful in making our shopping more directed and means we're less likely to buy items on impulse that can end up lost in our frig.   

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Only need 2 cups of garbanzo beans for that hummus recipe?  We try to just buy the 2 cups we need. I don't know about all of you, but I always overbuy and then I'm left with a small amount of some random ingredient that isn't quite enough for a full recipe of anything and so it just languishes in a jar in my pantry for months.  And while they keep pretty well, they definitely don't get better with time.  

I am also hugely guilty of running to the store when I am ridiculously hungry, which usually results in me buying a lot of unhealthy crap, but also food without a purpose or meal in mind.  I now always try to "pre-game" my trip to the store by having a snack!

2.  Store Your Food Properly to Avoid Spoiling  

Here's a guide from The Kitchn or, if you're more visual and would like to put something on your frig to help you remember, check out this guide.  

Designate an area of your frig that is an "Eat Me First" zone....easy to see and hard to forget about, unlike some of those high shelves way in the back where good food goes to die.  

3.  Use Smaller Plates

Our family are all notorious over-eaters.  But what if we were to trick ourselves into thinking we had more than enough by just downsizing the size of our plates a little?  I think I'm going to take another look at our dinner plates when we get home and consider down-sizing them.  Maybe.  I do love a big meal.  

4.  Save those leftovers for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  Have a weekly Leftovers night!

And save some money too!

We make an "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" soup at least one day a week to try to clear out items that are on the brink of going bad.  Soup is my absolute favorite.  With some biscuits or cornbread?   Yes please!  I LOVE leftovers.  

5.  Share Entrees while Dining Out

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We have found that we can basically order two entrees and maybe an appetizer for the four of us and it is enough to fill us up and leave almost no waste.  And we bring along a tiffin as a to-go container so you can have some leftovers and avoid a doggy bag container.

 

 

And for that food waste you are sure to still produce... 

If you're lucky enough to live in the Bay Area of California and many other cities across the US, you may have access to curbside composting.  If you don't live in such a place you, like us, may have to set up your own home composting system to help divert your food waste from the landfill.  Composting isn't too hard, but I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed and, frankly, kinda disgusted by the idea.  Don't be afraid to give it a try!  Read more about how to compost here.  Now, if you can add a flock of backyard chickens to the mix....man, that is the magical formula for cutting down your food waste!

Not sure how much food waste you or your family produce?  I recommend you try tracking over the course of say, 2 to 4 weeks through weighing scraps you are going to throw out (or compost).  You might find that it's more than you realize and feel inspired to make a few changes here or there.