This article originally appeared on efoodsDirect
by Mary Ann Romans
Most Americans waste 25 to 30 percent of their food. Yup, that is the percentage of once-edible food that winds up in the trash instead of feeding the family. Knowing how to use up everything you have and avoid food waste can make a difference in your home in so many ways.
First of all, avoiding food waste will save you money, since your food budget will be smaller. You will spend 25 percent less on your groceries. Second, having the mindset, the strategies, and the tools to avoid food waste in good times will leave you better prepared in lean times or times of emergency. Every member of your household should know the importance of being a good steward of your food.
Put the following practices in place in your home, to help you avoid food waste.
Do Regular Pantry Checks
Every few months, take items out of your pantry and check their expiration or best by dates. It is a good idea to rotate food, but let’s face it, during busy days, we don’t always do this. Depending on your stockpile, pantry checks should take you less than 15 minutes. Put regular pantry checks on your calendar, or knock out this chore during a long phone call or while dinner is cooking.
Get Creative with Ingredients
After your pantry check, you will probably have a group of items that are getting a little “long in the tooth.” Place these items up front in your pantry or even on the countertop to remind you to use them. Then get creative and find ways of using them up. Many vegetables or beans can be thrown into soup or casseroles, for example. A half-eaten peach can be cut up, mixed with a little sugar and butter and microwaved for a desert treat. A half-cup of apple sauce can be used as a substitute for oil in muffins.
Purchase Extended-Life Food
One way to avoid food waste is to purchase meals and ingredients with a long shelf life. It is easy to not waste food when it will stay fresh and ready for consuming even after fifteen or twenty years. Just make sure that whatever you choose to buy is both sealed well and high in nutrition.
Practice Meal Planning and Portion Control
Whenever you buy food (or grow it), make sure that you have a plan in mind for using the food before it can go bad. For example, if you see some nice heads of broccoli, ask yourself how will you prepare them? Will they be a side dish, a broccoli cheese soup, or part of a casserole that week? Having a plan means it is less likely for food to go to waste.
At the same time, practice good portion control. This is especially important when you have children. Only serve them what they can eat at one time. This way, any unused food can be saved for another meal or snack instead of being scraped off of the dinner plate and into the trash.
Challenge your family to waste no food this month. Use your family calendar to mark off the days when there has been no food waste. See how far you can get and award a prize, such as a fun family outing when you hit a certain number of days. Pretty soon, avoiding food waste will be second nature.