Did you know that more than half of North America's food supply goes to waste every year? Food waste isn't just about throwing away perfectly good food. It's also means that the resources that go into growing the food like water, energy, labour, land, seeds and fertilizer go to waste.
So how do you avoid wasting food and use up your leftovers? Focus on progress, not perfection. A good place to start would be to begin taking note of what type of food you throw away every week, like wilted veggies in your crisper or bits of leftover cooking ingredients. Then, try to below tips which will help you put all that food to good use—and make meal prep easier too.
Planning is everything when it comes to saving money on food and reducing food waste
It may surprise you that food the first step to reducing food waste doesn't start at home. It starts when you're grocery shopping. Plan for every item you place into the cart. Once you get home, store the perishables properly.
For example, leafy greens, like spinach and lettuce, are happiest in the crisper, rolled up in a damp tea towel. Keep berries sweet and delicious by storing them unwashed in their original container on a shelf in the fridge. Got onions, bananas and apples? These healthy staples naturally release a gas called ethylene, which can cause other produce to ripen too quickly, so store them separately. Stash onions in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry. Then, place bananas in a bowl on the counter and apples in a plastic bag in the crisper.
A little prep goes a long way
The next step is preparation. Be your own sous-chef and do a bit of prep work when you get home with your groceries. For example, when you prepare caramelized onions for a dish, cook extra to have on hand in the fridge ready to go for other dishes too.
Even if you haven't been to the supermarket lately, there's probably an entire meal sitting in your crisper. Take those stray veggies, dice them up and roast them for a hearty side dish or toss them into pasta, rice, frittatas and salads. Adding a few "use it up" recipes to your repetoire can also work wonders. Stir fries, chili, stews and soups are all tasy ways to put stray ingredients to work.
Make friends with your freezer
One of the easiest ways to ensure large amounts of perishable food are eaten is to batch cook and freeze some of the extra food to enjoy later. Not only will you reduce waste, you'll also save time by cooking once and eating a few times. But that's just the beginning. Freezing can add months of life to leftover ingredients. You can even freeze eggs—just crack them open and whisk them well first.
While food wills tay safe in the freezer, too much freezer time can cause taste and texture to suffer. A good rule of thumb is to use most foods within three to four months. However, you can freeze uncooked chicken, roasts and chops for up to a year.
Like most things in life, reducing food waste to save money is a matter of habit. Once you get into the groove of storing food properly and making the effort to notice what in your fridge or pantry needs to be used up, you'll be on your way to less food waste and more money in your pocket. You'll come up with some creative meal solutions too!