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Wasting items is too common in the developed nations of the world. Do you have a hole in your socks? Throw them away, and buy a new pair. Do you want the newest Smart television? Get rid of the old tube television. The same thing goes for our food. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away around 40% of food products each year!
Why is it that developed countries waste so much food? Here are a couple of reasons:
Consumers are picky
People do not like seeing bruises on their apples or other fruits. In fact, a lot of food and vegetable produce never sees the inside of a supermarket, because consumers expect these items to look a certain way. For example, when is the last time you saw an oddly misshapen carrot or potato being sold in your local grocery store?
Throwing out food is normal
With more disposable incomes compared to earlier generations and ease of access to food, it is easy to buy more food than is necessary at one time so some of it spoils in the fridge before you ever get to it. It is also easy to make more food than is needed for a meal.
By cutting down on food waste, you will:
- Save money
- Cut down on the resources related to growing and producing your food (fuel, water, etc).
- Decrease greenhouse gases related to methane emissions coming from landfills. This is why composting is so essential.
Here are ways to reduce your food waste:
1. Plan ahead
Plan your meals for no more than a week ahead of time, while considering what you already have in your fridge, and what you need to use soon before it spoils.
The more often you can shop is the most ideal solution, as then you can keep a running tally on what is left in your fridge and what you need to buy. Always make a list of ingredients that you will need before you go shopping.
Be realistic as well. In other words, you may be creating your menu on Saturday morning when you have a lot of energy, but do you think that you will really feel like cooking on Thursday evening after getting home from a late work meeting that you have to attend? Perhaps that Thursday, it would be more realistic to head to the restaurant for dinner, instead of buying and storing extra food in your fridge that may end up spoiling before you get to it.
Think about how you can use leftovers. For example, if you make chicken and vegetables on Monday, can you then make soup from the leftovers on Tuesday?
In addition, try to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. This ensures better flavor and less chance that you will let them go to waste.
2. Store your food properly
Paying attention to the storage of perishables, such as fruits and vegetables, can reduce food spoilage before you get to them. For example, you do not want to store apples next to other produce because they create more ethylene gas than some other fruits and vegetables. This ethylene gas is a natural plant hormone that increases the rate that produces ripens. Ripened bananas and avocados are among other items that also give off large amounts of ethylene gas, so you need to be aware of this as other produce can be more sensitive and susceptible to the effects (faster ripening and hence spoilage) of this gas.
Here are some ideas:
Allow avocados to ripen on your countertop before storing them in your fridge. Once avocados are ripened and put in the fridge, you need to use them within several days to prevent spoilage. Cucumbers and eggplant are also better stored at room temperature, and then stored in the fridge for only a few days before being eaten.
In addition, always take the produce out of plastic bags to reduce the rate of spoilage. Produce generally needs a bit of air.
Don’t wash your fruits and vegetables until you are ready to use them to keep them from spoiling and growing mold.
Also, keep in mind that some fruits and vegetables spoil more quickly after being put in the refrigerator. Bananas and avocados are two such examples.
Do not pull off or cut off stems until you are ready to use the produce.
Before spinach starts to spoil, freeze it, and you can later use it in smoothies.
3. Consider the preparation of your food
You may want to use up your perishables immediately after shopping. For example, you may want to spend Saturday or Sunday afternoons preparing your meals for the week and then freezing them. For example, you could make two vegetable lasagnas, and then freeze them until you bake and eat them later on in the week.
You can also buy ground beef in bulk, and then cook it all at once to make a large pot of spaghetti sauce. This spaghetti sauce can then be frozen and thawed for when you are ready to use it.
Freeze bread, and toast only the number of slices you need. If the bread does happen to get stale before you use it, you can use it to create croutons, stuffing, or use it in bread pudding.
You can use fruits that are no longer fresh – such as blueberries, apples, nectarines, oranges, and bananas – in smoothies.