This post is provided by local nonprofit food waste advocacy group Make Food Not Waste
Before COVID-19, Americans were throwing away about a pound of edible food per day per person. We were tossing food for lots of reasons, like being rushed for time, not planning out meals, and favoring new dishes over leftovers. But now we’re home. All the time. And this new normal can lead to even more food waste if we’re not careful.
At Make Food Not Waste, an all-volunteer organization in Detroit, we believe that cutting down on the food we waste at home is easy and essential. Learning some basics will go a long way in keeping food out of the trash. And it means you’re getting in on the #1 solution to climate change. Plus, throwing away less food means you’re throwing away less money. The average family of four loses out on $1600 a year by throwing away edible food. That’s more than the stimulus check!
Let’s get started on our Top 5 Recommendations on how to waste less while staying at home:
- Watch the overbuying. By now you’ve likely overstuffed your freezer and pantry. Feeling ambitious, you may have also bought ingredients to make dishes you aren’t used to eating. Now that we’ve been home for some time, take a moment to reflect on what you’ve been using up and what you’ve had to toss. If you haven’t been making those dishes you intended to, or your grocery store still has what you need, it’s ok to scale back on your purchases.
- Set it, but don’t forget it. If you did buy a lot in the early weeks and find your pantry and freezer packed to the gills, now’s a good time to reassess what you have. Take everything out and reorganize so you can easily see what’s on hand and what needs to be used. Use up as much as you can before you buy more. That might mean finding a new recipe for foods you don’t typically use. Remember, if you don’t use it up now, you likely won’t use it once we’re out and about again.
- Don’t let the dates fool you. “Best By” and “Sell By” are not the same as “Expires On.” Most food is safe to eat past the date marked on the package. And some products are safe months and years past the date (if unopened). The easiest way to check is to use your senses. If it smells or looks bad, don’t eat it. If in doubt, look it up. The FoodKeeper App from the USDA tells you how long you can hold onto both pantry and refrigerated foods.
- Imagine the possibilities. These new times call for old ways of cooking. Try using less complicated recipes with fewer ingredients, using up all those pantry items you stocked up on or substituting what’s on hand. And don’t forget the leftovers! Those bits of meat, vegetables, and grains can be repurposed for breakfasts and lunches as a quesadilla, frittata, stir fry, wrap, or soup.
- At the end, compost. If you’ve exhausted all other options, there is one last way to keep food out of landfills – compost. There are many resources online to help you get your home compost up and running. But composting at home isn’t the only option. Local business Midtown Composting will pick up your scraps—even meat and bones—for a small fee. They even deliver finished compost to you for you to use in your garden!
What’s your favorite way to waste less food at home? We’d love to hear from you. Visit us at facebook.com/makefooddetroit or email us at [email protected].