10 ways to re­duce your food waste

EatingWell - - FRESH -

A study ex­am­in­ing whether peo­ple could change their be­hav­ior and re­duce how much food they wasted found that pro­vid­ing a flood of in­for­ma­tion—use veg­gie scraps to make stock! Pre­serve pro­duce be­fore it goes bad!—wasn’t help­ful. What was: tar­geted, per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions based on peo­ple’s big­gest stick­ing points. Take a look at the sce­nar­ios that fol­low, see which res­onate most with you, and use the ad­vice to help re­duce your food-waste foot­print.

1 If you don’t think you waste a lot of food— or don’t have a feel for how much you toss. Most peo­ple don’t. (Re­mem­ber that 75 per­cent stat?) Roni Neff, PH.D., a re­searcher at the Johns Hop­kins Cen­ter for a Liv­able Fu­ture, rec­om­mends non­judg­men­tally jot­ting down all the food you throw away for a few days—to get a sense of what and why you waste, from the food your kid flings on the floor to the left­overs left too long in the fridge. Then you can ad­dress those spe­cific is­sues one by one. Oh, and when you do have to toss some­thing (re­al­is­ti­cally, some amount of waste is al­most in­evitable), don’t feel guilty. Se­ri­ously. Feel­ing bad about it, as the re­search shows, will likely make the prob­lem worse. Bet­ter to fo­cus on why the waste hap­pened and what pos­i­tive changes you can make go­ing for­ward.

2 If you tend to do one big gro­cery run and over­buy in­gre­di­ents. Shop for din­ner (the meal that most of­ten gets scrapped) sev­eral times a week. This was Ligon’s No. 1 tip for pre­vent­ing over­buy­ing in gen­eral. To make it eas­ier, try or­der­ing in­gre­di­ents on­line from gro­cers with same-day de­liv­ery or a su­per­mar­ket that of­fers drive-thru pickup—or swing in your­self on the way home. (It might sound like a has­sle, but when you’re only grab­bing a hand­ful of items you’ll be in and out in min­utes.) Or keep a cooler in your car and shop dur­ing your lunch break.

3 If you love try­ing new recipes. Stick to a spe­cific type of cui­sine—thai, Mex­i­can, In­dian— for sev­eral meals a week, since they tend to use the same in­gre­di­ents. For recipes that call for a small amount of meat, cheese or pro­duce, check the gro­cery store salad bar. (Why buy a block of feta if you only need 2 ta­ble­spoons? Or a whole head of ro­maine if you only need a hand­ful?) Get cre­ative, too, like those mys­tery-basket chefs do on TV. And plan for a cleanout-the-fridge stir-fry, soup or pasta at the end of the week to use what­ever odds and ends you have left.

4 If you of­ten for­get left­overs in the fridge. Pack them in sin­gle-serving con­tain­ers for lunches the night you make the meal or bring it home from a restau­rant. If you freeze them, be sure to la­bel and date the left­overs and put them on your list of planned meals for the week—so the freezer doesn’t just act as a food-waste half­way house.

5 If you fre­quently suc­cumb to bar­gains (hello BOGO). Make a pact with your­self to only go for a sale item if it’s non­per­ish­able, like pasta or ce­real, and some­thing you would nor­mally buy any­way. For things like meat or pro­duce, if you have a spe­cific meal in mind for it, fine—but if not, keep walk­ing.

6 If you are a “good provider” who wants peo­ple to feel well-fed, but then make too much food. Freeze the left­overs right away in in­di­vid­ual lunch-size por­tions so they don’t have time to go bad in the fridge. For din­ner par­ties, send guests home with the ex­tras. Also handy: a por­tion plan­ner (like the one at savethe­food.com/ gues­ti­ma­tor) can help you more ac­cu­rately fig­ure out how much food to make.

7 If you chuck foods be­cause you can’t re­mem­ber when you put them in the fridge or freezer. Get into the habit of la­bel­ing. Ev­ery­thing. Keep a Sharpie and roll of mask­ing tape right next to the Subzero and jot the date you made that big batch of chili, when you opened that car­ton of stock or when you put those shrimp in the deep freeze. Also, org your fridge with the new­est stuff in the back and the old­est in the front where you can see it.

8 If your kids don’t eat all their food. Be realistic, not blindly op­ti­mistic—and give them smaller por­tions. They can al­ways have sec­onds. Or take less your­self, know­ing you may be nib­bling what­ever they leave be­hind.

9 If you of­ten buy things on the fly. Meal-plan care­fully (use the shop­ping lists and tools at eat­ing­well.com) and try not to de­vi­ate from the items on your list. “Be prac­ti­cal about whether you are go­ing to have the op­por­tu­nity to use it that week,” says food-waste ex­pert Dana Gun­ders. Re­search shows that shop­pers who stick to their gro­cery lists are less sus­cep­ti­ble to im­pulse buys, spend less on gro­ceries and—you guessed it— don’t waste as much.

10 If shop­ping at bulk stores makes you load up. Be strate­gic. Stuff that can stick around a long time (boxed broth, kosher salt, steel-cut oat­meal) gets a green light, but that gi­ant sack of grapefruit? Maybe not. Or try split­ting pur­chases with an­other fam­ily.

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