Tips for cutting back on food waste

With Earth Day behind us, there are still ways we can all reduce and recycle tips to cut back on food waste.

Earth Day began in 1970 as a global initiative to increase environmental education and awareness. Reducing and recycling has caught on in many forms but people aren’t nearly as consciences when it comes to food waste. The USDA released a report stating about 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year. This costs consumers about $370 per person each year or 20 pounds of food per person per month. Just as we recognized Earth Day on April 22, it is important we continue to focus on making an effort to reduce everyday food waste all year.

Believe it or not, with the big push to eat more fruits and vegetables, it is produce that gets wasted the most. Fruits and veggies that are not in “perfect” shape are not selected; “the ugly stuff” is passed over in favor of what is perceived as perfect looking. Suggestions? Purchase smaller amounts, and frequent markets more often to avoid over-purchasing and having this fresh product go to waste. Another way to cut back on food waste is to take advantage of frozen versions of the food you enjoy. Along with frozen produce, if you find you’ve bought too much produce, you can put the practice of blanching and freezing to use and get the product into the freezer for later use.

Watch your garbage can. If the same foods are being thrown out on a regular basis, eat them sooner, purchase less, work on adding them to other recipes or try freezing them for later use.

Plan your meals based on your family size. Begin to decrease your recipes if your family is decreasing in size or increase if appetites are growing. Create menus and cycle them to keep things interesting, and try cooking once and eating twice (a roast then fajitas or a chicken then chicken salad, for example).

Be Food Safe
  • Shop for refrigerated or frozen foods just before checking out
  • Keep your fridge at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and freezer at 0 F or lower to prolong the life of foods
  • Refrigerate or freeze within two hours of shopping
  • Monitor dates of food packages – most are not a food safety issue
  • Set storage reminders – date foods in fridge, pantry and freezer
    • Try the FoodKeeper App
    • Re-Purpose
      • Give leftovers a makeover
      • Practice blanching and freezing
      • Play “restaurant” with your family – a clean out the fridge night where everyone gets something different to eat
Other tips:
  • Recycle and Compost
    • Instead of throwing out food, make a compost bin
    • Look for ways to recycle packaged items

When it comes to cutting back on food waste, you should be aware of a few different risk factors. If food has been mishandled or is severely damaged (bruised or old), your food may be susceptible to pathogens. Do not cut off moldy pieces of food and consume it; spores are in the product and more mold will grow. Meats and oils will turn rancid if mishandled or left in poor conditions. There comes a point when an item does need to be discarded, like if it has been time – temperature abused, or if it has been contaminated in some way. Michigan State University Extension encourages you to be as green as possible, but when in doubt, throw it out.

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