Each year during March, we celebrate National Nutrition Month by focusing on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This year’s theme, Go Further with Food encourages us to achieve the numerous benefits healthy eating habits offer, but it also urges us to find ways to cut back on food waste.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food waste occurs when an edible item goes unconsumed. This can happen at grocery stores when produce looks less than perfect and is discarded, or consumers leaving food on their plates and it winds up in the trash. Has anyone brought fresh fruits and vegetables with the best intentions just to have half of it spoil before you can use it? Unfortunately this is another example of food waste.
Not all food that is wasted can be saved and eaten, but a lot of food waste can be prevented, especially at home. Reducing the occurrence of food waste can save you money, can help save the environment, and can help the prevalence of those who are food insecure. Check out the fact sheet below to see just how much food we waste every year in the United States.
What you can do to reduce food waste:
Plan and Prep: Create a list of meals you are likely to have that week. Make a shopping list based off of that plan rather than winging it at the grocery store.
Keep track of what’s in your fridge and pantry: Pay attention to what you have so extra isn’t purchased. Look at expiration dates to determine what meals you can create with the items that will be thrown away soon.
Love your leftovers: Instead of tossing extra food from dinner pack them as a lunch for the next day. Extra meat can be added to a salad for an easy protein source. Leftovers should be eaten within 3-4 days.
Freeze it: Utilize your freezer for a day when you’re too busy to cook. Remember those extra meatballs from your pasta dinner the other night? Reheat them and make meatball subs tonight! Frozen foods can be frozen up to 3-4 months.
Avoid big grocery hauls: Instead, try to stick to only items you need that week. Try not to over purchase produce as this has a shorter shelf life than pantry foods. Foods that spoil quickly should be stored so they are easy to be seen.
Be mindful of portion sizes: Choose smaller sizes of foods and drinks when eating away from home. Ask for a to-go container at the start of a meal. This will help you eat less. Plus, you’ll have a leftover to enjoy the next day.