Do you feel like half the food you buy ends up in the trash? Statistics from 2015 claim 40% of American food is wasted at some point in the food chain, 50% of that by consumers. That means most Americans throw out at least 20% of what they buy.
Chances are you’re closer to that statistic than you would like to think.
What’s in your refrigerator right now? Old leftovers? Spoiling produce? Maybe a few items you don’t even recognize? Here’s how to put a stop to that problem TODAY!
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Why Are You Throwing Food Away?
First, it’s important to realize why you’re wasting food. Here are some of the most common reasons:
Forgotten leftovers — You’re cleaning up after dinner, realize there’s a serving of food left. You search in the cupboards, find an old cool whip container (with a lid that fits!) and carefully store the leftovers in the fridge, assuming someone will eat them. A couple of weeks later the food and the container end up in the trash.
Produce went bad — Really, you had every intention of eating spinach salads 3 times this week. Didn’t happen.
Nobody liked the new recipe / you have picky eaters — It’s best to keep things simple or serve very small portions of a new recipe to picky eaters.
Forgot to freeze something (leftovers, broth, meat) — Ugh, been there, done that!
Didn’t have a plan, just bought food, then didn’t use it — My most wasteful times have been when I was tired or starving and bought everything in sight without thinking.
What Can You Do Right Now?
You have to start from scratch, get organized, and then make a plan.
Remove everything from your fridge. Everything.
Wipe down the shelves & wash the drawers if necessary. I have seen some pretty-looking fridge shelf lining tutorials on Pinterest. But honestly, I prefer to keep my shelves unlined so the light shines better throughout the fridge.
Do an inventory.
Educate yourself about “sell by, best by, use by” – the differences between the terms and whether or not you REALLY need to get rid of food when it hits any of those dates. Okay, short answer — NO. Your food is probably just fine to eat even when it hits the “use by” date. It just might not be as pretty or flavorful.
Throw out any food that has gone bad or that you know you won’t eat. Be honest with yourself. You’re starting fresh here.
Put the food you know you will use back in the fridge. Group like items together — produce, cheese, condiments, beverages, leftovers, meats…
Use plastic bins to sort smaller, oddly-shaped, or multiple like items.
TIP: Keep raw meats on an upside-down dishwasher-safe sheetpan lid to prevent leakage.
Use the same method to clean out and organize your fridge freezer.
Make a menu plan for the rest of the week. Scour Pinterest or your favorite cooking sites for recipes to use the most perishable food first. Just don’t choose recipes that mean you will have to go buy a bunch of unusual ingredients that you may not end up using.
Ongoing Action Plan
Pay attention to how much your family eats & what they don’t like. Stop buying the things they don’t eat. You can still hope that eventually a miracle will happen and they will adore raw kale salads, but if it’s not happening right now — give it a rest for a while.
If you don’t eat leftovers — even though you know you should so that you can save money — scale down your main recipe and stop pretending you’re going to eat them.
Only freeze food when you have a purpose for it. Tossing food into the freezer to “save it” with the vague notion that it might be eaten “someday” is useless. Prepare the food for freezing, keep an inventory, and work the food into your next menu plan.
Drink more water; keep fewer beverages in the fridge.
Set a calendar reminder to inventory — or make it part of your weekly food prep routine.
When you go out to eat, don’t bring home leftovers. Order less or share a meal. You and I both know restaurant leftovers rarely taste good the next day and usually linger in the fridge until they’re inedible. Plus they take up a lot of room in those huge leftover containers. Just don’t even go there. (Even better — eat at home and use the food from your fridge.)
Buy less — especially if your produce often goes bad. And stop feeling guilty about it.
For more information on food waste statistics:
With some practice, planning, and realistic purchasing, you can conquer your refrigerator and get a handle on your food waste issues. You will save money, have a more organized refrigerator, AND feel better about actually USING the food you purchase!
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