Reducing Food Waste During the Pandemic
Our eating habits have changed in these last four months, something that was depicted by empty grocery store shelves of bread and canned goods and news stories of milk being dumped from dairy farms and fields of crops being left to rot. Due to the change in consumption patterns, the path that food takes from farms to our plates has changed as well. Our food system has been designed to serve millions of prepackaged meals to children in schools and massive shipments of bulk ingredients to restaurants and caterers. In a very short period of time the demand has changed completely, resulting in astonishing levels of food waste as our food system lags in adapting to this challenge.
These changes could lead to many possible outcomes in the long term, potentially negative but also potentially positive. Many people are finding it easier to have a personal connection with food, from cooking at home to growing edible plants in their garden. We, now more than ever, are confronted with how complex and specialized our food system is. As we think more about the importance of the food system, we can use this new understanding to appreciate the true value of food and hopefully not waste as much of it. Here are some simple ideas to keep you household food waste to a minimum.
Make a plan
The mission of reducing food waste begins before you set foot in the grocery store. Make note of what you have in your refrigerator before you go shopping and determine what perishables you already have. Make sure to use older perishables first and plan your meals and snacks around what you already have. Make a list of what you need and stick to it. Buying only what you need until your next shopping trip will save you money and help you avoid food waste from spoilage.
Use the scraps
Instead of throwing away "scraps" put them to use! Broccoli stalks and carrot peels can be valuable ingredients in salads, soups or stir-fries. Carrot tops can be used in pesto and citrus peels can be candied. Plenty of other scraps, like onion, carrot, and celery ends, herb stalks, Parmesan rinds, and chicken carcasses can be used to make hearty soup broth. Food scrap recipes are plentiful online with a simple search of ingredients on-hand.
Store food strategically
Extend the life of your ingredients
The value of fruits, vegetables and herbs is not lost as soon they wilt or brown. You can revive some veggies, such as lettuce, broccoli or carrots with an ice water bath. Browned bananas can be peeled and frozen to use later to make smoothies or banana bread. Overcooked leftovers, wilted or ugly produce work great in soups and stews.
The nose knows when it comes to "best by" dates
Most fresh and canned foods are safe to eat a lot longer than the expiration date would lead you to believe. In general, expiration dates deal more with peak flavor than food safety so learn to trust your senses when it comes to determining if a food is good to eat. According to the FDA, 30% of food waste occurs after the food has been purchased so tossing food just because a "best by" date has come and gone is wasting not only the food itself but also the energy, packaging material and time that has been invested to get that food to you.
The freezer is your friend
You can freeze almost anything: eggs, meats, produce, sauces and more. Whether you bought extra ingredients or have leftovers from a cooked meal, your freezer can preserve freshness and nutritional value. Remember to seal containers tightly and leave a little extra room for liquids. Freezing in single-serve portions makes it easy to decide how much you need later, and you'll save money and time while reducing food waste! It's important to date and label your containers so you don't forget what's inside.