The United Nations has designated 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.  I’m always encouraging you to add more fruits and veggies to your diet, but sadly, it’s the fruit and veggies in your kitchen often goes to waste. I have been spending the past several months doing research for a book that I’m writing about consumer food waste (January 2022).

In the United States, it’s estimated that 31 percent of the food supply is lost or wasted from the retail and consumer levels. Click To Tweet

As a child of “depression parents” I was brought up to waste nothing. Not time, not resources, not food. I encourage you to take small steps toward less food waste in your home.

5 Simple tips to reduce food waste at home

  1. Buy only what you need. That may seem painfully simple, but buying too much food is a top reason for food waste.
  2. Become more observant of your habits. What do you know you typically waste every week or month? How can you change?
  3. Make good use of your refrigerator/freezer. Using your refrigerator and freezer properly helps preserve the safety and quality of food.
  4. Store food properly, and do a biweekly check of your fridge.
  5. Understand what those Best-By dates really mean.

Store it right!

Food at room temperature can double the growth of bacteria that causes food borne illness every 20 minutes. Put foods that require refrigeration directly into the fridge after shopping or after dinner or prep. Learning how to use your appliance properly can reduce food waste and even save you money.
Use airtight, reusable containers to store leftovers, and keep some reusable bags on hand for taking cut veggies on the go, or to store small amounts of leftover bits.

To save herbs, wrap tender herbs like parsley in a paper towel and store in the refrigerator. Keep basil stems in a small glass of water on the counter. Or consider an herb savor.

Let’s face it, did you even look at the manual that came with your fridge? There’s actually good info in there! Check your appliance manual for how to best use all of the compartments you have. In general, refrigerators are set to 38-40 degrees, and freezers to zero.

Best-by dates aren’t a food safety guide!

Like the best-by dates, some of the guidelines for how long you can store a cooked food in your refrigerator is up for debate. Freezing a food keeps it safe indefinitely, as long as the freezer maintains the proper temperature. Quality however, will impact the taste and texture after a year of being in the freezer, and nutrients may be lost as well.

Those dates on packaged food often confuse people, and some think that they have a negative impact on food waste. They are a guide for quality and freshness, not food safety. Here’s what they actually mean:

  • Best if Used By or Use Before labels indicate the best flavor and quality is by that date.
  • Sell By dates help the store to manage inventory.
  • Use By dates are recommendations for peak quality.
  • Codes you see on cans allow tracking of the products, helping grocers rotate their stock. They also make it easy to identify recalls.

Bottom line: that date on your bread is not a “throw into the trash can date”, it’s simply a completely general guide to peak quality. The bread may even be fresh for another week or more. If there’s no mold, it’s fine to eat. Read more about food safety here. 

Stay tuned, as I’ll be sharing many more tips in the near future that can help you reduce food waste.