By Emma Grace Fairchild:
Between retailers and consumers, an astounding 30-40% of the United States’ food supply is wasted. This results in a huge strain on our landfills and the environment, as well as our wallets. As we carelessly dispose of it, there are millions of families and individuals who would greatly benefit from having access to healthful foods. There are many ways to reduce the amount of food we individually throw away, which would allow us to make the most of our purchases and of our impact on the earth.
In terms of taking control over the food that you purchase, the first thing to do is to get familiar with your kitchen. Knowing how to best utilize each ingredient is a great place to start Learn how to make veggie stock or seasoned broth from scraps, chicken or beef stock from sustainably raised animals, or seafood broth using shrimp shells. You can buy larger amounts of fresh produce directly from farmers and learn how to can to preserve different foods with countless tutorials online or published books. Freezing is a great way to preserve foods and many unexpected foods can be successfully frozen. Fresh herbs, meats and fish, and super ripe seasonal fruits can all have a second chance at ending up on the table instead of the trash by utilizing your freezer. Look into different creative ways to revive common foods like stale bread and juice pulp.
Meal planning is another way to manage the amount of groceries purchased and therefore reduce waste caused from overbuying. By knowing exactly which foods and precisely the amount you need, by the end of the week you will have just what you need for your menus. If you are buying from local farmers, there is the added benefit of supporting small businesses and sustainable farming techniques, and your produce will taste better and even last longer because of its freshness. You also can set aside one night a week for leftovers or for making dishes like Everything Salad or Stone Soup where everything left in the fridge and pantry goes into a big fresh salad or a big pot of soup.
Get over the idea of having flawless or pretty fruits and vegetables. Do your best to source local farmers’ seasonal produce that may have chomps taken out of the outer lettuce leaves or sunspots on apple skins. Wash off dirt and bugs, and be alright with eating food that looks less than perfect. Buying locally and from small farms is not only good for reducing your carbon footprint but also supports local economies.
For more ideas, Sur la Table has an entire web series, Scraps, based on using food scraps in order to reduce waste. There are endless ideas about how to use everything from apple cores to potato peels here, and reading through a handy introduction to meal planning can be helpful also. How do you try to minimize food waste while getting the most nutrients from your food?