On average, Americans throw out around 40% of their food. This can include produce that’s gone bad, expired products, or stale food items.
Think about what you spend on your weekly or monthly food budget. Imagine taking 40% of that cash and tossing it into the trashcan. And on top of that, imagine throwing out 40% of your actual food. Seems kind of crazy doesn’t it? It’s food waste and it’s financial waste.
But the good thing is, both of those losses are entirely avoidable! With a bit of planning and proper food storage, you can make sure that you’re using every last bit of your food.
Here are some tips to get you started and saving:
Making the most of your Produce
Separate your fruit
Do you have a fruit basket? They might look pretty but fruit baskets aren’t usually conducive to keeping fruit fresh long term. Fruits release ethylene gas which causes ripening. And grouped together, fruit can go into hyper ripening mode. You can stretch your fruit life by separating your fruit, and storing it in the refrigerator when appropriate. Apples, berries, grapes, stone fruits all do well in the fridge and last longer when kept cool.
Choose some under-ripe fruit when you can
Most people choose ready to eat fruit because it’s inherently appealing. But if you plan to eat a piece of fruit a day throughout the week, choose a varying degree of ripeness when you shop. You can eat the ripest first, and the rest will ripen as the days pass.
Break your bananas
Well, not really break the actual banana but break them apart from one another. The ethylene gas emitted from the stem clump will cause your bananas to ripen more quickly than if they are separated. Check out this cool video that demonstrates the difference!
Don’t wash grapes before storing in the fridge
Definitely wash your grapes – but wait until you’re ready to eat them! Store grapes in their original packaging with a paper towel to absorb any extra water. They’ll mold faster if they hang out with excess moisture.
Leave the pit in your avocado
If you only use half an avocado, leave the pit in the remaining half. The pit will protect a majority of the avocado from exposure to the air, which is what turns an avocado brown.
Wash, dry, and freeze overripe fruit
If your fruit has started to over ripen or brown, don’t count it as a lost cause. Fruit can be used for smoothies or saved for future baking needs. The ripeness translates into extra sweetness which is a bonus!
Lettuce that’s gone limp can be revived if soaked in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes. Limp veggies such as broccoli or celery can also be revived with a cold water bath. Also, you can store veggies in the crisper compartment in your refrigerator to slow wilting.
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Making the Most of Your Meat
Freeze or refrigerate immediately
A trip to the grocery store can be an ordeal but don’t put off unloading your groceries, especially perishables like meat. Prioritize putting meats in the fridge or the freezer immediately when you get home. If it’s a long drive from your grocery store you might even consider using a cooler to store them in the car. And once stored make sure that you keep track of which meats will spoil faster and use those first!
Label, label, label
Did I mention label? Labeling is one of the most important things you can do to manage excess food. It’s particularly useful when it comes to frozen meats since they will keep for so long. When you date it with a “use by” date you can easily see what’s still good or what needs to be used soon. The clarity of the date can help you to avoid throwing out any “mystery” meat frozen at a forgotten date.
Don’t store meat on the fridge door
Your refrigerator door is often exposed to warmer temperatures than other parts of your refrigerator. A fluctuating temperature (even if slight) can cause perishables to spoil even faster.
Making the Most of Your Pantry
Shop your pantry
Use what you’ve got! Most of the time when we say “there’s nothing to eat in the house” we’re not thinking about all the things in our pantry. It’s a perfect place to scan and can yield satisfying meals when you think creatively.
Invest in clothespins
You can buy chip clips or other specific fastening tools to keep your pantry food bags closed but clothespins are a cheap and effective way to achieve the same result. By clipping your open bags you can keep foods less exposed and fresher.
Don’t open without intent to finish
Some packaged foods will keep for a long time when unopened but will then spoil quickly once exposed to air. Make sure to keep your timeline of use in mind before opening something and commit to finishing it within that time span.
Remove anything that’s gone bad to prevent other spoilage
Gases emitted from things that have started to go bad can affect other items nearby. Once something has “gone off” remove it and toss into your outdoor trashbin or compost heap if you have one.
Surprising Things You Can Freeze
Freeze extra loaves or an unfinished baguette. Bread stays surprisingly well when frozen and only requires a 15 minute period to defrost at room temperature or a quick pop into the toaster before being used as usual. The same goes for any extra muffins or homemade pancakes you might have.
You can freeze ‘em! If you make a recipe that requires just yolks or just whites, you can save the other half of the egg by freezing in a plastic bag or container.
Even mealy apples have a place in your freezer. Wash, peel, and core them before storing in a sealed container or bag. Use them for pies, desserts, or easy applesauce.
Ok, ok. This one’s not so surprising. But make sure you put your ice cream back into the fridge after you portion out your serving. Melted ice cream that has been refrozen doesn’t have the same texture.
These are all simple switches that can save you hundreds a year. Even better, they’ll help you to enjoy the foods you buy while reducing food waste. And if you’re interested in learning more about what you can do to reduce food waste on a larger scale you can check out great organizations like Foodshift.net which are working to raise awareness and prevent food waste.
What tricks have you used to make your food last and prevent food waste?
Image Credit Mexicanware