by Jade Greene
The USDA estimates that 31% of all food at the consumer and retail level is WASTED. To produce this wasted food, resources were needlessly used (including water, fertilizers, energy, and labor). Most food waste ends up in landfills where it takes up limited space and eventually generates methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. All the while, the USDA estimates that nearly 50 million Americans, including 16 million children lack access to a safe, secure supply of food. Food waste is a human and environmental problem and there are steps each person can take to minimize it.
Waste reduction tips
One of the best places to start reducing food waste is to be mindful about what we purchase. Try to do some meal planning and purchase only what you need for a week. Here are some practical tips:
- Use up what you have first. Move your leftovers and older vegetables to the front of your refrigerator when you are adding fresher products to the refrigerator so the older ones are more visible and accessible
- Decide which recipes you want to make for the week ahead and purchase ingredients only for the recipes you outline for the week and plan to use
- Make a batch of larger sized meals (meal prep) with leftovers (or freezing portions) in mind
- Use a curbside service from your grocery store to avoid impulse buys. You can select the items you need right from an app in your own kitchen
- Have leftovers for lunch or plan recipes that you can add them to
- Don’t snub those ripe and imperfect fruits and veggies. Purchase them to use right away whenever you can
Another great way to reduce food and packaging waste is to shop at farmers markets and/or join a local CSA. Did you know that the average distance grocery store produce travels is 1,500 miles?! That well-traveled food is not as fresh as the day it was picked on the farm. Food purchased from our local farmers was harvested only a day or so before being offered to you and retains more of its vitamins and nutrients. It will also last longer and you will avoid much of the resources needed to package and ship it.
Once you bring your food home, it’s important to store it properly so it lasts. Most fresh produce only lasts a week or two.
Store in the fridge:
|Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Eggplant, Fennel, Greens (collards, chard, escarole, kale, lettuce, salad greens), Kohlrabi, Peas, Sweet Peppers, Potatoes, Radishes, Rutabaga, Summer Squash, Turnips
|Apples (>3 days), Berries, Cherry, Grapes, Pears, Apricots, Peaches, Melons
Store on the counter:
|Garlic, Onions, Hot Peppers, Sweet Potato, Tomato, Winter Squashes
|Apples (<3 days), Banana, Citrus Fruits, and still ripening Mangoes, Melons, Pears, Apricots and Peaches
Recipes to use up scraps and wilting veggies
There are many stash busting recipes you can follow to use up a lot of your produce before it goes bad.
- Quick Fridge Pickles – this recipe is easy to customize with whatever veggies you need to use up. Basically chop, put into a clean jar, and cover with brine (boiled mix of 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, 2T sugar, 1T salt)
- Scrap Stock – save all your vegetable trimmings and bones in a freezer bag, when it is full, make stock! You can follow this recipe.
- Vegetable pancakes – use literally any vegetable in this recipe. It is so simple and delicious!
- Tomato sauce – Add whatever veggies you have on hand to my tomato sauces from zucchini to carrots to eggplant.
- Frittata – this egg based dish can handle any veggies you need to use up.
- Basic fruit jam – have some sad looking fruits, you can easily turn any fruit into jam with just sugar and a sauce pan.
Donating excess food to food pantries or make a meal for a neighbor
If you still find yourself with more food than you can deal with, you have options. Consider contributing your excess produce to our Feed a Family Support A Family Farm project at the Doylestown and Wrightstown Farmers Market, or making a meal for or sharing with a neighbor or friend.
Most local food pantries love fresh food items so consider donating your excess produce. Here is a list of food pantries in Bucks County
Composting and other ideas:
Consider composting at home. It’s easy to find a backyard corner for your food and yard waste. Here are some tips. You can also purchase a countertop composter.
If composting is not an option at home, you can subscribe to a local company that will compost for you, check out these Bucks County companies:
Make friends with a farmer or homesteader who raises animals. Chickens, goats, and pigs love to eat food waste. Many will gladly take food waste as treats for their animals. Some will share their compost piles with you if you ask.
Advocate for change
Often the onus of environmental issues falls solely on individual consumers when large companies actually make the larger total impact. It is true that households contribute, but a significant source of food waste is on the commercial side. Individuals can use their voice to advocate for reducing food waste by encouraging companies to properly manage how much food is purchased to minimize waste, to support purchases and uses of imperfect produce, and demand more efficient farming practices. People can encourage local governments to provide municipal composting opportunities. Action items around food waste (when relevant) can be found on our advocacy page.
There are many little things we can all do to reduce food waste. As Anne Marie Bonneau said, “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” So do what you can, every bit matters! How do you reduce food waste, let us know in the comments!