As I’ve mentioned in each of my #SAVEITSUNDAY posts, we Americans waste a lot of our food: this food waste has devastating consequences to our environment and our wallets. In past posts I have mainly focused on ways to store your food at home so you can waste less (Glad’s Protection Pointers have been very helpful to me), but today I want to do something a little different. I want to talk about 5 ways you can reduce food waste before you even bring your food home.
1. Start meal planning
Before you head to the store/Farmer’s market, spend some time planning your meals for the week that follows. Create a shopping list based on these meals, along with whatever else you will need to have on hand for breakfasts and lunches (if possible, plan to make dinners that will result in enough leftovers so you can eat them for lunch). In my family, we usually get some sort of takeout one week day night, so planning for 4 week night dinners is realistic for us (planning for 5 meals would lead to wasted food). On the weekends, I create meals around what’s left from the previous week’s shop plus what’s in the pantry/freezer; sometimes I pick up a few things if we need them…sometimes we go out. I like the ability to be flexible…it seems counterintuitive, but meal planning can lead to more flexibility, at least for me.
2. Stick to your shopping list
Sticking to your shopping list is really important because it allows you to avoid “impulse buys.” Impulse buys are those things that always look super appealing at the store; the problem is that once you get home, impulse buys often languish in the fridge or pantry before eventually being tossed. Most of us engage in impulse buying because we allow ourselves to stray from our shopping lists and because we are a sucker for sales. There’s nothing wrong with buying items on sale that aren’t on your list, as long as you’ll use them. But buying things you don’t need just because they are on sale will not save you money, and it will only contribute to waste. Something else that makes us prone to impulse buying is hunger: a growling tummy seems to make everything at the store look great! If you really want to stick to your list, do yourself a favor and don’t shop on an empty stomach.
3. Be wary of “Recipe One-Timers”
“One-timers” are ingredients that are called for in a recipe, but which might not get used otherwise. Fresh herbs are a good example of this: often a recipe calls for a small amount, but then the rest goes to waste because you don’t use the item in other ways. If you are set on buying, say, fresh cilantro for guacamole, then be sure to store it properly so the portion you don’t immediately use will keep fresh for longer. Then set about figuring out other ways to use it: I love adding fresh cilantro to salads, for example.
4. Don’t be attached to “perfect” produce/add produce to your cart last
Supermarkets are big food wasters when it comes to produce. Know that slightly imperfect-looking, but perfectly edible, produce may end up in the supermarket’s dumpster, and be open to buying it. But don’t put produce in your cart first because when you do, then put other things on top, your produce may get damaged before you even leave the store (and then it won’t last as long as it should, leading you to potentially toss it before you use it). Take care when bagging your groceries, as well, so your produce is in the best possible shape when you get home.
5. Be realistic about what you’ll eat and what you won’t
Yes, I know it feels all virtuous and healthy to buy tons of fresh produce when you go shopping, but be realistic. Fresh produce is wonderful for your body, but buying more than you and your family can realistically use/eat is not advised. A giant fruit bowl available at all times can be a good way to get your kids to eat more fruit, but no one is going to want to eat the fruit that’s rotting at the bottom of the bowl if you go overboard!
This list was inspired by a book I’ve really learned a lot from: American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It).
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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Glad in conjunction with their #SAVEITSUNDAY program. With #SAVEITSUNDAY, Glad hopes to educate the public about the consequences of food waste, and I am proud to be a part of the program. I am being compensated to share my #SAVEITSUNDAY experiences; all opinions are 100% my own.