When I heard that number I was stunned. I knew that as American’s we do waste a lot of food, but I didn’t realize that it was that much. I wanted to be able to think of ways that my family could help reduce our food waste and here are some that I have come up with.
Either buy what you are going to use or find a creative way to use the leftover if you are buying in bulk. Or you could even share with a neighbor if you know that you have too much of something.
Potatoes & Sweet Potatoes: I always find that the larger bags of potatoes are more cost effective than buying what I am going to use, but then the rest end up going to waste in my cupboard. Potatoes need to be stored in a dark, dry place to avoid the eyes forming and them starting to go bad. Set aside what you will use for a meal for the week and then you could: shred and freeze them for hashbrowns, cut and freeze them for french fries, slice them for scalloped potatoes, etc. For both sweet potatoes and reg. potatoes, you can cook them and puree them and put them in freezer bags for adding to recipes.
Greens: Whether it’s lettuce or cabbage, spinach or fresh herbs, when it gets left in the fridge too long they start to wilt and go bad. I find that if I wash and separate leaves right away, then set them up on paper towels to dry on the counter and when they are fully dry store them in an airtight container, they keep for longer. You can also repeat the washing and drying process and freeze greens for soups (they don’t freeze well for salads later because they tend to wilt as they defrost) You can cook spinach and freeze it as well.
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Peas, Carrots, Beans, Corn, Zucchini, Squash, pumpkin, etc.: All of these can either be washed, cut and frozen or can be cooked and pureed w/ a little bit of water and then frozen, again to add to meals (especially if you have kids who won’t eat their veggies, you can sneak these pureed veggies into the foods that they love w/out them even knowing it) 🙂
Herbs: You can wash and cut up fresh herbs and freeze them. Be sure to label well, as they can look very similar! 🙂
Berries: All berries can be washed and frozen flat on a baking sheet and then put into freezer bags, so that they don’t stick together. I also enjoy pureeing berries for later use in jams, fruit roll-ups and toppings for pancakes, waffles, or french toast. (Nothing beats fresh berries on breakfast food) 🙂
Peaches, Nectarines, Pineapple, Bananas: Peaches, Nectarines and Pineapples can be frozen in chunks or pureed for your favorite smoothies later. Bananas you can freeze whole (in the peel) before they go bad and I use them for making banana bread.
Onions & Garlic: I always run into the problem of not using the whole onion and then it going bad. You could either buy smaller onions or chop up the whole thing and then freeze what you don’t use. You can freeze chopped or grated garlic and ginger as well.
Apples: We usually don’t run into and issue of not eating our apples before they spoil, but if you have an excess amount or maybe a tree outside, then I would recommend homemade crockpot applesauce. (see our site for the recipe) This does not last more than a few days in our house.
Citrus: You can slice and freeze lemon, lime, and orange slices for use in beverages. I like to zest my citrus and freeze the zest since there are plenty of recipes that call for just zest. You can freeze it in a little bag, but be sure to label it or you’ll be wondering what it is in a couple of months.
Other veggies: If I have extra celery, (esp. the pieces that I don’t use) carrots, onions, etc. then I will usually collect them over time and put them in a large freezer bag labeled Stock. I make homemade stock and this helps so that I don’t have to spend a lot to buy extra ingredients for it.
To avoid freezer burn and wasting my meat I always put it in freezer bags first and then I wrap it in freezer paper (which I get for about $5.00 at Walmart for a large roll that lasts about 6 months or more). This protects the meat better. Most meat will stay good for about 6 months in the freezer so make sure to date and label your products well.
Chicken: I buy bone-in chicken breasts because they are less expensive and then I take them home and filet them myself. I separate the chicken breasts into meal size portions for my family and freeze them that way. I also usually boil some and shred it for taco meat, etc. But what to do with the leftover carcasses? I don’t waste that either. I freeze those in a large bag labeled stock as well and then when it’s time to make my homemade stock I have all of the elements that I need right in my freezer.
Fish: I usually filet my fish if it needs to be done, before I put it in the freezer. I feel that this makes it easier to defrost and generates less bacteria growth.
Beef: We haven’t had beef in a while because I have switched over to more of ground turkey for health reasons, but if I buy it then I usually buy it in bulk and either cook it and then freeze it or just separate it into meal size portions and then freeze it.
Turkey: For ground, I usually buy it in bulk and either cook it and then freeze it or just separate it into meal size portions and then freeze it. For whole, I put it in the freezer until I’m ready to cook it. If we have leftovers then I freeze it in portion sizes depending on what I want to use it for. I will also take the turkey carcass and either freeze it for later or use it right away to make turkey soup.
Pork: For chops, I buy them in bulk at Costco and they come really thick so I slice them into thinner slices and freeze them into meal size portions. For shoulder, as soon as I buy it I put it in the crockpot over night (beware you will wake up to a house smelling like meat, not necessarily a bad thing) and then in the morning I separate the meat from the fat and freeze it into portions.
Ham: For whole, I put it in the freezer until I’m ready to cook it. If we have leftovers then I freeze it in portion sizes depending on what I want to use it for.
Eggs: Okay so I know that we all have used the recipes that call for egg whites only or egg yolks only, well here’s my solution to even using the other part of the egg. For leftover yolk: you can freeze it in ice cube trays w/ either a sprinkle of sugar for use in sweet dishes or a sprinkle of salt for use in savory dishes. Once frozen you can pop them out and put them in labeled baggies. Hint: most egg yolk only recipes are for sweet dishes. Or you could also put the egg yolk in a little bag and use it later in the evening for a moisturizing facial mask. Egg is very good for your skin and you will really notice a difference after putting it on and then washing it off. 🙂 For the whites you can freeze them in regular baggies or make yummy omelets out of them.
Yogurt: My family goes through yogurt so quickly that I am usually stocking up weekly, but if you find a really good sale then you could freeze it. Just thaw it out in the fridge before you want to eat it.
Cheese: Before I freeze cheese I usually grate it because I don’t like how the blocks get a layer of goo on them after defrosting.
Bread: I buy my bread when it’s on sale and then freeze it. To defrost it you let it sit on the counter. If you have any issues with your bread being too dry afterwards you can flick a little bit of water on it and put it in the microwave for about 10 seconds and you will have instantly soft bread.
Dry goods: Store dry goods well and be sure to keep an eye on expiration dates. If it looks like you have too many canned or boxed goods, it’s always generous to donate to local food drives or banks.
Leftovers: Either eat them the next day or freeze them for later.
Tips for freezer:
- Make sure to label everything with the date that you put it in and what it is and the amount so that you are not confused later.
- Keep a dry erase board on your freezer so that you know what you have in there and are not buying items because you think you are out.
- Freeze pureed food flat and then it takes up less storage space.
- Most foods go bad after around 6 months so keep an eye on your dates.
- Wrap your meat in freezer paper to avoid freezer burn.
This is not an extensive list so if you have any comments or want to add something, please let us know. Hopefully we can work together to bring down the amount of food that is wasted each year. 🙂