By Ana DeVito

Here’s some food for thought; according to the USDA, 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in our country is wasted, and most of that ends up in our landfills.

What’s the problem with food waste in our landfills? The scraps will just decompose, right?

Not exactly. Landfills lack access to oxygen. This means that the normal decomposition process is obstructed and results in the creation of methane, a gas that’s 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The greenhouse gasses produced by household food waste being entered into landfill have been found to be a huge problem.

Our government has already made efforts to help. On June 4, 2013, the USDA and EPA launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, “calling on entities across the food chain – farms, agricultural processors, food manufacturers, grocery stores, restaurants, universities, schools, and local governments – to join efforts to” reduce, recover and recycle food waste.

But, businesses and organizations from the supply chain are only part of the problem. The average American throws away about a pound of food each day.

So, it’s time that we individuals take action. Here are 10 ways to prevent food waste in your home.

1. Shop like a realist

No-nonsense grocery shopping is the crucial first step in limiting the amount of food waste produced by any household. Plan out your meals for the week, and write a grocery list before you head to the store. Try to resist the urge to compulsively buy what looks tasty. Limit yourself to one spontaneous treat per trip. Otherwise, stick to the list.

2. Check expiration dates, but don’t let them fool you

Use-by dates are more important than best-before dates. If you don’t think you’ll consume it all before it expires, then leave it on the shelf. But, whether you’re checking use-by or best-before, remember that these dates are just guidelines. Trust your senses. You’ll instinctively know if food looks, smells, or tastes off.

3. Bring reusable bags 

Always remember to bring reusable bagging items to the grocery store. From net and string to tote bags, there are so many styles that far surpass the flimsy plastic and paper options provided at the checkout counter. If you’re already an expert at bringing your own grocery bags to the market, then take the next step and try reusable produce bags. There’s no need to rip plastic from a roll in the produce aisle when there’s a lightweight cotton alternative.

4. Learn where to store food

Some foods should be refrigerated, and others stay fresh for longer at room temperature. If there’s fish, meat or produce that you don’t plan on using right away, keep it in the freezer and defrost when your recipe calls for it.

5. Eat leftovers

We all package the food we don’t finish, but we don’t always reuse it. Whether it’s last night’s homemade casserole or day-old Chinese takeout, actually eat your leftovers before they go bad and go to waste.

6. Use eco-friendly food casing

From Tupperware to Saran wrap, the most popular food storage products are made from plastic. Plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose, so it’s best that we use non-toxic and reusable alternatives, like stainless steel containers and beeswax food wraps, to keep food fresh.

7. Research recipes

Use online search engines to find recipes based on ingredients already found in your fridge. This not only helps save the planet, but saves you time and money. By using ingredients already in your home, you eliminate the need for extra trips to the market.

8. Reuse food scraps

Throw all of your half-used vegetables and produce trimmings (i.e. carrot tops, mushroom stems and broccoli stalks) into a bag in the freezer. Add some chicken bones and boil everything on a rainy day to create a delicious and homemade chicken and vegetable stock.

9. Can and pickle

Pickling preserves and extends the lifespan of food by months, and it’s not just cucumbers that taste delicious pickled; asparagus, peppers, radishes, green beans, onions and more can be pickled. Contain and display your pickled vegetables in lovely jars or cans to add some functional decor to your kitchen.

10. Just do something

If you’re just beginning your zero-waste journey, the above list may seem overwhelming. This last tip includes a few simple and easy products that can help you get started.

  • Use metal straws instead of plastic straws.
  • Bring your own travel mug to the local coffee shop, and ask the barista to put your latte in that instead of wasting yet another paper cup.
  • Replace paper towels and napkins in your home with cotton or linen.