Simple Ways to Cut Down on Food Waste 

Did you know that as Americans, we waste almost a pound of food per person each day? That’s a lot of moolah literally going out with the trash. 

Put the money back in your pocket by getting the most out of your food. These tips will show you how easy it is to be less wasteful and more efficient.

Keep an Organized Fridge

Standard practice in commercial kitchens is something called FIFO, which stands for First In / First Out. It’s the simple and logical practice of using the oldest thing first. We all know firsthand that things have a way of getting lost in the abyss of the fridge or freezer; good organization will help you avoid this.

Designate drawers and shelves for specific groupings so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. I have a cheese drawer, a root vegetable drawer, an onion/garlic/ginger etc. drawer, and a greens and herbs drawer. I also designate one for meats and proteins, which helps keep drips contained so they don’t leak onto other items in the fridge. 

Once a week, look around and do a “fridge assessment”. This should be a good backstop, since most items will last at least a week and you can catch anything that is on it’s way out before it’s too late. Last week when I found a jar of egg whites left over from a recipe that only used the yolks, I turned it into a project for my kids. They had to research what dishes you can make with egg whites, do math to adjust for the amount of whites we had, and execute their recipe. And at the end of the day? We all enjoyed a plateful of meringues.

Keep an Organized Pantry

At least monthly take stock of what’s on your shelves to avoid tossing out expired product. If you have something that is on the cusp of expiration, don’t automatically chuck it. Many times these dates are suggestions of when the product will be at it’s peak, not that it will harm you if you eat it past the recommended date. Check out this article from the USDA: Before You Toss Food, Wait. Check It Out! or for specific recommendations. The global organization, Too Good To Go, recommends the Look, Smell, Taste method, where one looks for signs of mold or decay, smells for off putting odors, and tastes a small nibble for tanginess.

Bring Home Restaurant Leftovers 

Restaurants are notorious for over-serving us. We’ve come to expect huge portions when we go out, but it is usually way more food than we can eat. I am often guilty of over-ordering as I get excited to try too many items on the menu, but always have the restaurant box it up. Instead of sending the leftovers back to the kitchen and into the dumpster, bring them home to enjoy another time.

Make More – On Purpose

It may sound contradictory, but here’s why it works. Say I have three sweet potatoes, but only need two for dinner. If leave the last one sitting in the fridge, there’s a chance it doesn’t get used because one sweet potato won’t do much for my family of five. So it gets forgotten in the root vegetable drawer. 

Instead, if I roast the extra sweet potato with the other two, I can have it the next day. Rewarmed and split it open, drizzled with tahini and maple syrup with a fat blob of butter melting over top; now that is a heavenly lunch. Or maybe I’ll peel it and smash it up to make sweet potato biscuits.

If I only need half of a cauliflower for my stew, I’ll pop the other half in the oven. The next day, the chopped roasted cauliflower is going to be glorious on my green salad.

Having extra cooked food in the fridge means you can easily throw together an interesting side dish or salad without having to do extra meal prep.

Don’t Over Serve at the Table

If it’s on somebody’s plate, we are more likely to scrape what is unfinished into the trash or down the disposal. Instead, start out small and take more if you’re still hungry. And with untouched leftovers, see below.

Re-purpose Leftovers 

If you made too much, but just aren’t in the mood for more of the same, figure out a way to incorporate it into an entirely different dish. Cooked lentils, for example, can go into a salad, a soup, a veggie burger, or be made into hummus. Roasted butternut squash can be made into soup the next day, and grilled shrimp can get tossed into a salad.

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