You probably care about the environment, and you definitely care about your bank account. So why are you throwing away $640 a year?
The American Chemistry Council recently reported that Americans waste $640 of food annually, and the consequences go beyond just your financial bottom line. Food waste is the largest source of trash in U.S. landfills, and after days in the sun, that lettuce that was a little ‘too wilted’ for you to eat releases methane gas—and directly contributes to greenhouse emissions.
So why, exactly, are we tossing out perfectly good food? It seems that our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs, and super-sized portions at restaurants and at home leave many with leftover food that simply never gets eaten. Even those with every intention to eat healthy and save money by cooking at home are sabotaging themselves by buying too much produce and never getting around to using it. Major bummer.
The numbers are shocking: 26 percent of all veggies, 24 percent of fruit, and 12 percent of all meat that Americans buy gets tossed before they’re touched. If you’re feeling guilty thinking about how much you’ve been throwing away (and thinking that you’d like to use that $640 on something other than trash), don’t worry—there’s quite a bit you can do to prevent food waste in your home.
Our gargantuan meal portions are costing our wallets and our waistlines, so save yourself the calories and cash by buying smaller. ‘Family size’ marketing has deluded us into thinking we’re saving money if we buy in bulk. For dry goods, buying bulk can certainly be a money saver, but for your produce needs you might be better off buying just what you need for the week. Cook at home and plan your meals out ahead of time .
How you’re keeping your food has a lot to do with how long it lasts. Check out the best practices for storing fruits and veggies in your fridge according to Cornell University. Pro tip: If you throw almost any veggie or herb into cold water for a few minutes, it will perk right up! Perishables typically go bad because of exposure to air, so use plastic bags for storage to eliminate excess oxygen. If you’re not a fan of using plastics, try ceramic or glass containers. Not only do you not have to worry about BPA or your food having a strange chemical aftertaste, you can also safely reheat your food in glass containers.
Your freezer can save you money in a big way. It’s been proven that fruits and veggies don’t lose nutritional value once they’ve been frozen, so don’t be scared to throw food that’s at risk of going bad into the freezer. Frozen berries and fruits that you didn’t get to use in the summer = nutritious, tasty smoothies in the winter.
Not all experation dates are created equal. The ‘best before’ advisory simply means that packaged food will probably taste best before the allotted date, but your food doesn’t pose a health risk if you chow down after that date has passed. The ‘use by’ date on foods is something you should pay closed attention to, because they may be unsafe to consume after that timeframe.
The absolute easiest way to make sure you’re cutting down on waste and saving money? Buy directly from local farmers. Check out your farmer’s market for some of the best deals on produce, meat, and dairy. Food can be in transit for weeks on its way from the farm to the produce section of your grocery store, so for the ultimate in freshness (and therefore longest lasting) shop your farmer’s market.
With these tips, you just might find that cool $640 back in your pocket—and a wealth of fresh food that will end up in your belly instead of the garbage.
Photo credit: Ina Peters via Stocksy
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