The average family of 4 in the U.S. wastes $2100 annually on food. We’re throwing out almost 1 pound of food, per person, per day. (USDA) If you were dumping 300 lbs in the trash can at once, solving the problem would be simple. The reality is that it’s a slow leak of edible food hitting the trash can at every meal and kitchen chore, all day, all year.
I’m Chef Alison Mountford and I am an expert in helping busy families make a change. I love talking about food waste in homes because its a Win/Win/Win! That’s right – a triple threat!! You save money, help save the planet, and save time.
Here are my favorite ways to get started:
Ends+Stem’s Top 13 Tips To Reduce your Household Food Waste
- Meal Plan – Decide which recipes you’ll cook this week before heading to the store.
- Shop from a List – Once you’ve selected your recipes, you can compile a list. Buying less overall, only what you know you need is the most impactful way to save money and ensure you’ll use it all up. No impulse buys!
- Check your Pantry First – This is a passionate subject for professional chefs. Relying on your memory is faulty you will overbuy or forget something. Check your grocery list against what you actually have in stock at home before you shop.
- Eat Leftovers – Cooking the exact amount you need is challenging, so if there’s food leftover, pack it for lunch or designate a “Leftovers Night” once per week to clean out the fridge.
- Willpower and Reward – Just override the desire for Thai take out tonight. Eat what you know has been in the fridge and will be tossed out soon. Just eat it! Reward yourself for taking this step tonight by ordering in your favorite meal tomorrow.
- Put Down The Peeler – Stop peeling carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, apples, and eat them all the way through! Use a vegetable scrubber and save time and reduce edible waste by eating, not peeling.
- Eat your Ends+Stems – many vegetables have parts that might not be fully utilized in traditional recipe writing. Broccoli stalks, for example, are trimmed away though they’re arguably the more delicious part. Eat your parsley stems, beet tops, kale stems, celery leaves, etc.
- Utilize Scraps for Stock – for items that do produce “inedible” waste, make stock. Chicken bones, winter squash peels/guts, onion skins, even apple cores turn “garbage” into nutritious, kitchen gold.
- Proper Storage – Some fruits release ethanol which makes other ripen far too quickly. Some benefit from high humidity in the fridge, while others need a dark spot to last longest. When groceries are stored properly you’ll get more shelf life from them and more time to use them up.
- Declutter – keep your food storage and refrigerator areas organized and pared down. If you can’t see what you have, you’ll never use it up.
- Understand Expiration Dates – they aren’t real! With the exception of infant formula, there are zero (zip, zlich, nada!) regulations or standards currently applied to Best By, Use By, Eat By, Sell By date. Its all for manufacturers and marketing. Learn to trust your senses to tell if something has turned. Most dairy is good for days after the date, eggs can stay fresh for months!
- Serve Smaller Portions – American dinner plates have increased in size by 36% since the 1960s. In Europe, the average restaurant plate is 9inches to the U.S.’s 12inches. Not only will serving smaller portions reduce your food waste, it could help your health and waistline. If you’re still hungry, just go for seconds!
- Leverage Your Freezer – Romaine, strawberries, and avocados, for example, can be frozen and turned into smoothies. Cooked grains and rice can go in, sauces, and meat too. Just remember to label and date everything no matter how sure you are you’ll remember what it is!
Don’t worry about being perfect or slipping up from time to time. This is not a zero sum game. If you have a bad (food waste) day or you just can’t follow through on eating leftovers today, it’s ok. Start again tomorrow. When surveyed, 100% of our community said that just by following Ends+Stems, they thought about food waste at other times in their week. Awareness and effort are the most important first steps to change.
And, if you need a little more help (as in, our incredible recipes and weekly meal planner!) check out www.endsandstems.com. Use the code IRVINE for 30% off! It costs less than a cup of coffee a week and I’ll be doing that heavy lifting of deciding what to buy and cook each weeknight.