Tips on preventing food waste
Serve “Planned Overs”: Make your food dollars go further by preparing more meals at home and by saving leftovers. Having a plan for turning excess food after a meal into “planned overs” also reduces food preparation time. Refrigerate perishable leftovers within two hours and use them within the recommended times or freeze them for future use.
Keep a “soup container” in the freezer: You can create an inexpensive, delicious soup, stew or casserole from small amounts of leftover meats, vegetables, and vegetable liquids. Save all leftover vegetables (even one or two spoonfuls) and their cooking liquid. Remember to cool these leftovers quickly.
Use “planned overs” in tomorrow’s breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks: For example, within a day or two of making mashed potatoes, recycle them as potato soup, patties or shepherd’s pie.
Cook a large roast and serve half of it now: Freeze the rest for another quick dish, such as vegetable-beef soup. Stretch ground meat with bread crumbs, oatmeal or tomato sauce.
The most expensive food you buy is the food you throw away; you lose money every time you toss food in the garbage.
Two main reasons that you throw away food are because it spoils or because it passes its expiration date before you get around to eating it.
According to a University of Arizona study, American households throw away about $600 worth of food each year. That is about 14 percent of the food they buy, and produce accounts for about one-fourth of that waste.
Instead of throwing away overripe fruits and vegetables, find uses for them. For example, use overripe fruit like bananas in muffins, quick breads or cakes or freeze them for later use in fruit smoothies. Peel, mash thoroughly. Add 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid per cup of banana to prevent darkening. Pack in freezer bags or containers, seal and freeze.
If you have food waste, ask yourself why. A “yes” answer to any of these questions means you are probably wasting food.
- Do I buy food in the wrong amounts?
- Do I plan menus and prepare meals without the input and help of family members?
- Is food refused or left on the plate?
- Are servings too large?
- Do I cook foods improperly?
Before shopping, check the pantry, refrigerator and freezer to find out what you have on hand and avoid overbuying. If you’re up on modern technology, keep a shopping list in the notes section of your cell phone. Buy only the amount of food you can store and use before it spoils. Make sure you know how to prepare an unfamiliar food before you buy it.
When putting food in the pantry, refrigerator or freezer, write the date on it. Rotate the oldest items to the front and use them before they expire. Make a written inventory of what is in your freezer and post it in a visible place. Refrigerate leftovers in see-through storage containers. Reduce the size of recipes you prepare, unless you plan to freeze leftovers in meal-size servings for later.
Source: Clemson University Cooperative Extension
Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.