Want Not, Waste Not: Saving Food

Waste Not, Want Not Symbol
Let’s turn the old proverb on its head!

In a recent blog, I mentioned this Project Drawdown/CNN quiz on the most effective ways we can combat climate change. A surprising result was the importance of reducing food waste: it’s one of the top five solutions, and the top solution you can easily do something about. And you could have a major impact by following the new proverb, “want not, waste not”: by being smarter about how you buy, store, and cook your food. Skip to the bottom to learn how! (Also, see last week’s blog to help save food produced at the farm.)

Lunches and Veggies and Milk, Oh My!

A lunch I didn’t eat because I was too busy at work. A mushy cucumber, buried in our fridge. Sour milk. We threw out those foods recently. And we are not alone: 40% of all food in America is wasted. What a waste! The types of food wasted most are fish, vegetables, and grains, as shown below:

A graph showing the percentages wasted of different types of food, from savethefood.com
A lot of the food we buy never makes it into our stomachs. We can do something about that.
Source: savethefood.com

Wasting that much food hurts the environment, and hurts our wallets. A family of four could lose up to $1,500 a year on wasted food. Why would we want to throw away that much money?

The Easy Steps to Saving Food Money

It’s easy to reduce dramatically the amount of food you waste:

Make a List, Check it Twice. Before you shop, take a few minutes each week to think about the meals you’ll be eating. How much will you be cooking? Can you use food you already have on hand? If you need to buy food, can you use each item in more than one dish? Turn your meal plan into your grocery list and stick to it.

  • Kitchn walks through meal planning and shows you how to get started.
  • Savethefood has a guide to portion size, as well as examples of meal plans that use ingredients more than once.

Store Your Food Carefully. Ideally, each fruit and veggie would come with its own tag saying “here’s what you really need to know to keep me fresh!” Without that, the web is a great source for tips on how to store food.

  • Helpful hints: store milk in the coldest part of the fridge, not the door; keep peanut butter in the fridge to stay fresh twice as long as in the cabinet; store cooked beans in water.

Before You Throw, Get in the Know. Did you know that the liquid that comes in the can with chickpeas can be used as a substitute for egg whites? That you can turn old pita bread into pita chips? And that sour milk can be used as a substitute for buttermilk or sour cream? And if you realize you’ve bought too much of something, your freezer can be your friend.

It’s OK to be Too Busy, But…

Wasting less food takes forethought to plan, discipline when shopping, research to learn about proper storage, and resourcefulness (and time) to make the most of the food you have. Our busy-ness can get in the way, and can rob us of the brainpower we need to make smart decisions. Don’t beat yourself up about that! But don’t let it keep you from taking the first step.

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.

Chinese proverb

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