Food waste bothers me. If you’ve been around the blog for more than a minute, you probably know that waste in general bothers me.
According to the USDA, in America, food waste accounts for 30-40% of our food supply. That number is shocking and makes me sad. I’m working to be very mindful of the food waste we create. Learning to use every last bit of what we eat and would normally toss has helped me make great strides in this area.
MY TOP TIPS TO CUT DOWN ON FOOD WASTE
These are the ways I have been able to cut down on our food waste. If you have any great tips, please share in the comments below!
STORE FOOD CORRECTLY
This seems like a no-brainer but not storing food correctly is one of the biggest contributors to waste. Freezer burn, mold and oxygen can wreck your food quickly. Not rotating food properly to catch expiration dates can quickly lead to waste.
For The Pantry
I currently own a Foodsaver vacuum sealer and use it for several things, mainly vacuum sealing mason jars. They make a special jar topper that you hook to your machine via a small hose and it vacuum seals the jar. Just doing this one thing means I no longer have to throw out a ton of pantry goods. Chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, chickpeas, beans and several other dry goods last so much longer. No more tossing out expensive ingredients because they’ve gone bad.
My pantry is currently filled with half-gallon and quart mason jars full of these dry goods that I buy in bulk to cut down on cost and I don’t have to worry about them going bad. Trying to live a low waste lifestyle, I prefer the glass mason jars over plastic containers.
For The Freezer
Again, mason jars can be your friend. You just have to know a few tricks to make it work. If you use the straight-sided, wide mouth jars and don’t go bigger than a pint and a half, you should not have any issues. I freeze soups, berries, soaked beans, broth… several things in mason jars in my freezer. I love batch cooking things for the freezer.
Using Pyrex and snap-tight containers for the freezer are great low waste options. These containers make it easy to save scraps on a regular basis. If you’re saving veggie trimmings, for example, you can easily pull the container out, pop off the lid, add what you collected and pop it back in the freezer. You can save and save until you have enough to make some great veggie stock.
CHECK AND ROTATE YOUR INVENTORY
This is another one that most people know about but don’t usually think to actually get it done. It’s easy to make it part of your routine and doesn’t need to be done often. If once a month, you go through the fridge and pantry to take inventory, it won’t get out of hand.
I’ll also do a quick scan when I’m planning a grocery or farmer’s market run and see if there’s anything fresh in the fridge that needs to be used up in a hurry. You can pull the items that are going to expire in that time and make sure they get used.
Since I buy in bulk and repackage, I make sure to pull out all the old stock before adding any new. One of my least expensive ways to store bulk food is to buy 3 to 5 gallon, food-grade buckets from grocery stores, restaurants, etc. I get them for anywhere from free to $3 each. I bring them home, wash them out and let them dry. Then I fill them with whatever bulk food is on my most recent order. I take a Sharpie and write what is in each bucket and the month/year I purchased. The Sharpie will wash off even though it says it’s permanent, so I can reuse it for something else once it’s empty.
MAKE BROTHS & STOCKS
One of the ways I like to use up every last little bit is and cut down on food waste is to make lots of stocks and broths. Recently I roasted 2 chickens for some weekly meal prep. I picked the bones clean and turned them into bone broth. 18 hours in the crockpot, it couldn’t be easier. Those 2 chickens turned into one quart and four pints of chicken stock and a half-pint of chicken schmaltz.
Another broth I make frequently is shrimp broth. We eat shrimp usually once a week. Eating fresh seafood frequently is part of our the diet we follow, Nourishing Traditions. Also, we live right outside Charleston and fresh shrimp is abundant here. You can drive past these tiny little seafood shacks and get some amazing seafood. Shrimp broth might sound like a weird one but it’s AMAZING in seafood stews & chowders. We really like clam chowder, cioppino and there’s a Finnish salmon soup that we love. Since six months out of the year, we eat soup once or twice a week, we can go through some broth. I just put the broth in wide-mouth, pint freezer jars, and put them in the freezer. It’s super easy to make and I’ll put the recipe up later this week.
I recently wrote about making planned leftovers part of your life. Making sauces, stock, batches of grilled chicken, roasted veggies, etc. to make getting dinner on the table easier. That’s not what I’m talking about now. I’m talking about the little bits leftover from meals. The 1/4 of a bell pepper, a little chopped onion, leftover meat, rice. Those little bits of something that don’t add up to much at all. You don’t want to throw them out because you feel guilty but you don’t know what to do with them either. I like to turn them into something new.
HAVE A LEFTOVERS NIGHT
This will only work in certain houses, I know. It worked great when my children were little. It’s not a thing we can do anymore though. They’re too opinionated now, LOL. I’d pull out the leftovers from the week and create a little buffet that they could pull from. It was an easy weekend meal.
If you have a garden or flower beds you can build up your soil with compost. Creating a compost pile is a science in itself but a quick Pinterest search will give you five billion ideas on the ins and outs of composting. I have a small garden in my backyard and having that compost pile has saved me money by building up the soil for my garden with the compost. It’s worth looking into if you garden.
Last but not least. I know recently many families added chickens to their backyards. Chickens can eat almost any kitchen scraps. You can cut a feed bill down quickly with just kitchen scraps. There are a few things they can’t have but most things are ok. If you don’t have chickens, you might know someone who would be thrilled to take your kitchen scraps to feed their chickens! Ask around before you toss that food.
Are you like me? Do you hate wasting food?? Do you have any great tips to share? Let me know.
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Christa Eker says
Fabulous tips, I think I follow all of them except I really struggle with the compost pile I t might be the heat in turkey or I’m just not reading enough. The vacuum jars was something new to me I’ll have a look out for those and I live the top on the box for scraps I’ve been bagging but that makes a lot of sense for easy opening.
Compost piles can definitely be a learning curve. Let me know how vacuum sealing your mason jars works for you! It’s a great way to keep things from going bad in the pantry. No more white, powdery chocolate chips or rancid nuts.
Amy Witbeck says
These are great tips to reduce food waste! I can’t wait start using a few of them 🙂
Please let me know how they work for you!