How to Cut Down on Food Waste to Help the Planet and Your Wallet

Mom, dad, son, and daughter preparing a healthy meal

One of the easiest changes you can make to be eco-friendly and to help fight climate change is to reduce how much food you throw away. waste reduction

Each year, we’re throwing away tons (literally) of food that end up in the landfill. In fact, more than 25% of food produced here in the U.S. ends up in landfills. That decomposing food creates methane gas, which initially is worse for the environment than carbon dioxide has huge implications on climate change.

Bulldozer sitting at top of pile of trash in a landfill
Landfill stress me out! (Photo by Alan Levine)

It sounds like a no-brainer, but one of the easiest things that we can do to be more eco-friendly is to reduce how much food we’re throwing away.

Of course, with kids, that’s sometimes easier said than done.

(I can’t count on my hand how many times my preschooler whines to me at breakfast that she doesn’t like eggs when she gobbled down a couple the day before.)

So while you can’t always get a toddler to eat something when she suddenly refuses to or choose to birth children who aren’t picky eaters, there are some things that are in your control to reduce how much food you’re sending to the landfills.

How to be more eco-friendly by reducing your food waste

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Use the right food containers

How many times have you pushed a container of food aside in your fridge because you had no idea what was in it? Weeks later you discover that leftover macaroni & cheese that you had put aside for your kiddo to bring to school now has some lovely green fuzz growing on it.

Gross, right? And we’ve all done it.

Use clear glass food containers for storing leftovers, whether it’s in the fridge or the freezer, so you can easily see what you have. When you’re pressed for time — and when you have children and they’re about two seconds from falling over the hangry ledge you definitely are — you don’t want to have to open lids to figure out what’s actually inside your fridge.

Properly store food

I’m so guilty of doing this wrong (as my husband likes to point out) especially when it comes to dairy, but put food in the right place in the fridge to prevent wilting, rotting, or spoiling. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends:

  • Putting dairy at the back of the fridge, because that’s where it’s coldest
  • Keeping eggs in their original containers (and not in those egg holders on the fridge door
  • Storing fruits and veggies in crisper drawers, but separately since fruit emits ethylene gas which makes veggies wilt
  • Use fresh meat, poultry, and fish within a few days and store them on the bottom, where it’s colder and juices won’t drip onto other food
Who doesn’t keep stuffed animals in their fridge? (Photo by Zach Copley)

You can also put a damp towel in the crisper drawer with leafy veggies to make them last longer.

The New York Times put together this comprehensive guide for keeping your food fresh for weeks. (I was shocked to learn that onions can make potatoes sprout!)

Turn food scraps into food

A lot of perfectly good food gets thrown away for no reason other than we think of it as garbage.

For example, many of us have been conditioned to throw away the ends and peels of produce. The solution? Use them to make veggie broth. Put veggie food scraps in your crockpot with water, salt and pepper, and herbs to make stock. When it’s done, pour it into ice cube trays and freeze so you have smaller portions of it for recipes, or use a freezer-safe glass container to partition it. You can do the same thing with chicken or meat bones to make broth.

Got stale bread? Turn them into croutons or stick chunks in a food processor to make breadcrumbs.

If you notice bananas getting overly ripe, throw them in the freezer. They’re perfect for smoothies and making banana bread. I know some people like to cut them up ahead of time, but I’m lazy and stick them whole in the freezer and let them thaw on the counter or pop them in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds to soften them up(of course, I recognize this method requires using more electricity).

Overripe bananas in a freezer
They might not look very pretty, but they’re excellent for smoothies and cooking!

I have yet to try this one, but you can also make fruit scraps into vinegar.

Meal plan

I love cooking, but I detest meal planning. I get decision fatigue from taking care of two small humans and all the micro decisions that happen throughout the day. I want someone to just friggin tell me what to make.

However, planning out meals for the week is an important key to preventing food waste. I know how much of each ingredient to buy and can make meals that actually use up those ingredients instead of buying an entire bag of celery when I only need one stalk for a single recipe.

(Celery, by the way, is the worst. Not for environmental reasons, I just find it hugely disappointing as far as vegetables go.)

My husband recently tuned me into the Dinner Daily and it’s been a game changer.

Dinner daily website info

You choose how big the portions should be; whether you want vegetarian, meat, fish, shellfish, or poultry (and how many meals of each); as well as if you want dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, etc. You also tell them what grocery store you want to shop at it. It then creates a menu for you for the week, including sides, and puts together a shopping list for you. So easy!

Sample menu from Dinner Daily
Grocery list from Dinner Daily website

It will work with your grocery store of choice to pick out meals based on ingredients that are on sale that week.

I really like that the recipes are pretty easy to make use healthy ingredients that you can either buy in bulk, come in glass jars, or are in the produce aisles and therefore don’t have any extra packaging. Try out the Dinner Daily for free for two weeks.

I’d like to think that reducing food waste is a relatively painless step to take toward being more eco-friendly. And in addition to helping out the environment, you’ll save money by not throwing away uneaten food. (Picky eaters aside!)

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What are you doing to reduce your food waste?

4 thoughts on “How to Cut Down on Food Waste to Help the Planet and Your Wallet”

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