Forty percent of the food we grow in the US never gets eaten. It gets tossed out somewhere on the path from farm to table. That's billions of pounds of food that uses land, water, fertilizer and pesticides, packaging, transportation, fuel, and more.
So consider these five ways to fight food waste in your own kitchen.
1. Plan your meals.
The more precise you are about what you’re going to eat and when, the less food you’ll waste. Meal-planning apps can help! For example, Yummly features over million recipes, allowing you to save your favorites in a virtual recipe box. You can choose what meals you want to make, and Yummly (Free. Online or for iOS, Android) sends the ingredients to a grocery list—which you can export to Instacart, a grocery delivery app.
2. Store your food well.
Sustainable America offers plenty of helpful resources for smart food storage—including infographics for optimally packing your fridge, and “Eat Me First” signs you can print and put on food that’s close to its expiration date. The Natural Resources Defense Council has its own food-waste tips and resources at savethefood.com.
3. Practice emergency use-it-up measures.
The Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook has plenty of practical advice for using up foods that are moving past peak-freshness. Turn to pp. 20-21 for a sampling, and read the book for more. Find many use-it-up recipes at ivaluefood.com, as well. And don’t forget to can or preserve extra produce! Our article can help.
4. Support food-rescue efforts for families in need.
Find groups across the country that are gleaning dropped produce from fields or rescuing wasted food from stores and restaurants, and sending it to food pantries for food-insecure households. Support legislation that will make it easier and more affordable for farms and businesses to donate excess food.
5. Get your community involved.
Take the Food Waste Challenge with your community. The EPA offers a toolkit to help communities start a campaign to reduce food waste. Ask local stores and restaurants about their food-waste practices, and support those that donate and compost. Demand your local government start a municipal composting program; consult the Institute for Local Self-Reliance for help and resources.
Ready to learn more? Learn about expiration dates, because they don't mean what most of us think they mean. And if you want to know the ins and outs of wasting less food, read our interview with Dana Gunders, author of the Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook.