8 Ways For Families To Reduce Food Waste.

woman looking in cupboard SmallLast June the USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, calling on everyone in the food chain to join the effort to reduce, recover, and recycle food waste.

Food waste in the United States is estimated at 30 to 40 percent of the food supply.  Some of this food could be going to hungry people rather than filling up landfills and creating greenhouse gases.

According to the Iowa Food Waste Reduction Project, almost 14% of all municipally-landfilled waste is food waste making it the #1 most prevalent disposed material.

What can individuals do?  Here is a list of ways to reduce wasted food from USDA. Visit the food waste reduction website for more information.

  1. Shop your refrigerator first!  Cook or eat what you already have at home before buying more.
  2. Plan your menu before you go shopping and buy only those things on your menu.
  3. Buy only what you realistically need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are able to use the food before it spoils.
  4. Nutritious, safe, and untouched food can be donated to food banks to help those in need.
  5. At restaurants, order only what you can finish by asking about portion sizes and be aware of side dishes included with entrees. Take home the leftovers and keep them for your next meal.
  6. Compost food scraps rather than throwing them away.
  7. Don’t automatically throw out food that has been in the freezer longer than “recommended”. Food poisoning bacteria does not grow in the freezer, so no matter how long a food is frozen, it is safe to eat. Foods that have been in the freezer for months may be dry, or may not taste as good, but they will be safe to eat. So if you find a package of ground beef that has been in the freezer more than a few months, don’t throw it out. Use it to make chili or tacos. The seasonings and additional ingredients can make up for loss of flavor.
  8. Likewise, canned goods will last for years, as long as the can itself is in good condition (no rust, dents, or swelling). Packaged foods (cereal, pasta, cookies) will be safe past the ‘best by’ date, although they may eventually become stale or develop an off flavor. If food appears moldy or discolored, do not eat it.

For more information on what the dates on packages mean check out our Spend Smart Eat Smart web page.

Go Green in the Kitchen

Many of the ways we recycle, reuse, and reduce to save energy can also save us money.  While I don’t think of myself as an extreme recycler, I found that I already do many of the suggestions in the two articles below.  Check them out—you might get an idea that will save you some pennies and reduce your energy use:

Save Green and Go Green in the Kitchen is a list from the Canned Food Alliance and 8 Ways to Go Green in Your Kitchen is from WedMD.

I see people using reusable grocery bags frequently when I shop. Just last week I went to a grocery store in Maryland with a friend. At the stores she shops at you have to pay for plastic or paper sacks, but if you bring your own, you get a discount of 5 to 10 cents. Most people brought sacks with them.

My concern about reusable bags is food safety. Researchers at University of Arizona and Loma Linda University asked shoppers going into grocery stores if they washed those reusable bags.  97% reported they do not regularly, if ever, wash the bags.  In addition 75% said they don’t use separate bags for meats and for vegetables, and about a third said they used the bags for carrying and storing all sorts of things like books, clothes, shoes, etc.

The researchers tested 84 of the bags for bacteria and found bacteria in all the bags except for one. The good news is that machine or hand washing reduced bacteria levels to almost nothing.

It’s a good idea to designate a bag for meat and poultry.  When meat or poultry juices touch food that will not be cooked such as fruits and vegetables, you have the potential for cross contamination and foodborne illness. Any type of reusable grocery bag should be hand or machine washed in warm to hot, soapy water at least once a week, and always after a spill. This will keep them clean and reduce the risk of cross contamination.

 

Happy Recyling!

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