10 easy ways to reduce your food waste
Make the most out of your meals.
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Do you have dinner plans tonight? Are you going to order out instead of using the produce in your fridge that's on its last leg? According to the Ugly Produce is Beautiful project, "Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year...ugly produce and uneaten food end up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid waste.” That's a lot of food waste!
But, there are small steps you can take to redirect food waste from the landfill, help reduce single-use plastics, and get more for your money along the way. We rounded up 10 ways to reduce your food waste, which means less garbage, better soil, and hopefully, more incredible meals.
1. Get organic produce delivered weekly
You can easily fight food waste with Misfits Market, a service that redirects organic produce and sustainably sourced pantry snacks and staples directly to you. The items Misfits Market ships aren’t as cosmetically beautiful as the produce seen in the grocery store, but who really cares what shape a carrot or potato is? We tested out the ugly produce service and liked how the assortment of less-than-perfect produce pushed us to get creative in the kitchen.
By signing up for weekly boxes, you can receive quality organic produce that would otherwise be thrown away. Plus, you might get to try a new fruit or vegetable.
2. Wash your produce
One of the best cooking habits you can adopt is soaking your fruits and veggies as soon as you get home from the grocery store. It helps to clean any germs and dirt from produce and helps makes it last longer. I typically plug the sink, fill it with lukewarm water as I peel stickers off produce, plop everything in except for herbs, which I soak in their own bowl to keep the fragrance and flavor contained.
I pour in a squirt of produce wash and a few drops of lemon essential oil to keep things fresh and make them last longer. I usually let everything soak for 15 to 20 minutes—you’ll probably be surprised by how dirty the water is afterward.
I recommend letting everything air dry when possible, but a salad spinner is helpful for drying leafy greens like spinach, kale, and lettuce. I also find this a bit meditative. It’s a great time to slice up snacks like celery and carrots and place them in individual bags or containers for a fresh, on-the-go snack. You could also peel and chop food to save time later in the week.
- Get the Eat Cleaner Fruit and Vegetable Wash from Amazon for $5.99
- Get the Cuisinart Salad Spinner from Amazon for $19.99
3. Switch from plastic to produce bags
If you don’t already have reusable produce bags, this is your sign to get some. They make shopping quicker since you can easily place your produce in them without wasting time looking for those plastic baggies, and they keep your items touching the cart and checkout scanner directly. I keep my bags in my car so I have them once I’m at the store, and I wash them after every use just like I wash my food.
I also use the bags to store food like spinach, berries, and broccoli crowns in my fridge to help them last longer. I have about 15 that I rotate through to make sure my food is always clean and that I'm using less plastic.
4. Keep things fresh with beeswax wrap
If you’re looking for a zero-waste alternative for keeping food fresh, try beeswax wrap. It works like aluminum foil and plastic wrap, but it’s reusable.
A brand new piece of beeswax wrap can be a bit tough, but as you use it and crease the edges it loosens up a bit, becoming more pliable in the process. The Bee's Wrap set has three sizes that will keep your avocado, bread, and all other foods fresh and plastic-free.
4. Opt for storage visibility
To eat food before it goes bad, you have to see it first. Consider storing your leftovers and meals in glass containers. For starters, it’s the easiest way to keep track of what you have in your fridge.
Glass containers are also microwave-safe, so you won’t have to transfer your food to another container to heat up your leftovers. This glass set from Pyrex is the best glass food storage container set we've ever tested and the lids have a vent for microwave reheats.
5. Stop using single-use ziplock bags
I’m quite a fangirl when it comes to Stasher bags. These silicone bags seal well, are easy to see through, and come in bright, cheerful colors. You’ll never need another plastic ziplock bag again as Stasher bags hold up well over time and are easy to clean. I wash mine by hand and let them air dry, but you can also run them through the dishwasher.
I use mine to store carrots in water in the fridge, take snacks on-the-go, and keep berries in the freezer for smoothies—all ways to make your food last longer. While these are a perfect kitchen accessory, you could also use them to store craft supplies, medicine, essential oils, jewelry, and pretty much anything else at home or while traveling.
6. Get creative with a cookbook
The Zero Waste Cookbook changed my life. Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but the recipes are really out of the box and I realized I could use (and reuse) so much of the food I had been tossing out. The overripe avocado pesto is my favorite, but there are wonderful recipes for soups, croutons, pickling, granola bars, bread, and more. If I find leftovers or forgotten foods in the fridge, this book is my first stop.
7. Save veggie scraps for homemade broth
One of the easiest ways to give food a second life is making your own veggie broth. Save vegetable scraps while you’re cooking and store them in the freezer in either old takeout containers or wide-mouth mason jars. Once you have a few cups of scraps saved up you're able to make broth. Just combine the scraps with water over a burner and simmer for an hour, but you can always tweak the flavor to be as hearty as you want.
I like using celery, carrots, red onion, and jalapeno scraps because they tend to be flavorful and rich, but I tend to avoid Brussels sprouts and broccoli stems because they’re a bit bitter. Once your broth is done, you can strain out the scraps and toss them in the compost bin.
8. Start composting
Starting a compost pile or bin doesn’t have to be a tedious endeavor. You can start with what you have and grow from there. Maybe that looks like a bowl in the freezer to keep scraps in, a 5-gallon pail that you keep on your porch, or a large tumbler in the yard. There are a few things that you need to compost: balance “green” and “brown” materials, keep pests away, don’t add meat or fish, aerate the pile, and know that heat helps.
Regardless of the size of your compost pile, you’re helping reduce food waste and creating rich soil that you can use for potting plants or feeding your garden. We tested compost bins and found that Epica makes the best one for indoors while the larger Redmon Compost Bin is ideal for outdoors.
9. Plan your meals ahead of time
Are you guilty of buying things at the grocery store and then letting them rot in your fridge? How often do you shop for a specific recipe instead of grabbing various ingredients? I’ve found that planning my meals for the week makes grocery shopping far easier (and often less expensive). It’s helpful to find recipes that share ingredients like onions or sweet potatoes, and I try to only buy what I’ll need for the upcoming week or two instead of stockpiling things like pasta and cans of beans.
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend using this handy weekly meal planner to visually see everything before you head to the store. You can also meal prep by cooking grains and veggies ahead of time, chopping up produce, and making extra to eat for lunch the next day.
- Get the Weekly Meal Planner Notepad from Anthropologie for $19.99
- Get the Life & Apples Meal Planner from Amazon for $21.99
10. Utilize fridge organizers
Fridge organizers keep your perishables in a place where you can actually see them—and not let them go to waste. These Fridge Binz come in plenty of shapes and sizes to store like things together, from condiments to soda cans to deli meats. The bins also help keep your fridge clean and are easier to wipe down than a shelf. I’d recommend buying several so everything in your fridge has a place.
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