With the uncertainty of the pandemic, planning ahead is even more important. Not only can planning ahead help keep us prepared, it can also help reduce waste. This can apply to many types of waste, but today our focus is on food waste. According to the 2018-19 San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury Report, 71% of waste landfilled in San Mateo County is made up of organics. If you want to help lower this statistic, here are some tips we’ve found useful in preventing food waste.
- Recognize your schedule. It’s important to realize how busy your schedule is and how that might prevent you from doing certain tasks like grocery shopping and cooking. You may even underestimate how often you get take-out and end up overbuying groceries, which usually causes wasted food. Remember to plan your schedule accordingly and it may reduce the number of trips you make to the store.
- Keep a regular list of groceries you usually buy. Having a list of ingredients you consistently buy can help you keep track when you run out. To make it easier to access, keep it on your smartphone as a checklist, so you can have it at your fingertips. Your list could also include ingredients that last longer, like flour and sugar, and when you run out, it’s as simple as unchecking it on your digital list to remember for your next grocery trip. If using a smartphone isn’t for you, paper lists work as well! Leave a notepad and pen attached to your refrigerator so that when you run out of something, you can immediately add it to the list. Just make sure to bring the list when you go to the store!
- Conduct an inventory of your refrigerator and pantry before grocery shopping. Now that you have your list, before you leave for the grocery store, do one last check to ensure your list is up to date. This can be helpful in case you used up an ingredient while you were cooking and forgot to update your list in that moment.
- Plan your meals for the week. If you plan out what meals you’ll be cooking up during the week, you will know what groceries you’ll need when you go to the store. For new recipes, check the ingredient list and make sure to add any new items you may need.
- Don’t shop while hungry. Going grocery shopping while hungry somehow makes you think you need to buy things you don’t need! Remember to have a snack before heading out on your next grocery shopping adventure.
- Buy some shelf-stable foods. While fresh produce is great, having some shelf-stable foods handy (jarred or canned items) can help reduce food waste as they last longer. Just note that some shelf-stable foods may be high in salt, so be sure to balance it out or consider diluting it so you’re getting the right amount of nutrients.
- Know which groceries will go bad first. When trying a new recipe, you might have to buy an ingredient you don’t use often or doesn’t last long before going bad. By being mindful of how long ingredients will last, you can plan your meals smarter and more ingredient-efficient. When it comes to leftovers, try and eat the oldest dish first to ensure you eat it before it spoils.
- Preserve it by pickling. Fresh produce may not last very long, but you can make them last longer by pickling. Find a pickling solution recipe you like and enjoy your pickled veggies when you’re running low on produce or if you haven’t been to the store recently.
- Save it by freezing. Whether you’re cooking a large portioned meal (i.e. a huge lasagna for two) or with expiring ingredients, freeze the leftovers if you don’t think you’ll eat the rest right away. This way, you can give your future selves a break by having something ready immediately.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to stopping food waste in your home! It can be challenging at times and you might still throw away some food, but trust that as long as you keep trying, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.