7 Hacks To Reduce Food Waste, Because It’s An Easy Way To Make An Environmental Difference

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Food waste is a major issue — and not just because leaving portions on your plate at Thanksgiving offends your grandmother. Wasted food means wasted resources, and a big environmental burden as all that trash finds its way to the landfill. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance estimates that 25 to 40 percent of all food grown, processed or transported in the U.S. is never actually eaten. This is a far bigger issue than simply buying one too many avocados, but small actions can help us all reduce food waste and lower the amount of food that goes uneaten to landfill.

Of course, the issue of food waste doesn't just take into account the leftovers you bring home and forget in the back of the fridge — on an industrial scale, food waste can occur before the food even makes it to your grocery cart, when farmers, grocery stores, or restaurants aren't able to transport or sell food before it goes bad. But if you want to make a difference in the amount of food your household sends to the dump, you can. With these small hacks, you can avoid that guilty feeling of tossing a bag of salad unopened into the trash — and help the earth, one bit at a time.

1Plan Ahead

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If you impulse-buy food because it looks cool and tasty, without a real plan on what to do with it, you may end up with a lot of waste. Love Food Hate Waste notes that planning your meals for the week, and shopping according to recipes and actual needs, will vastly reduce the amount of salad that go soggy and meat that reaches its expiry date. It saves you money, too; it's far more efficient to buy things you actually use than waste money on stuff that's just going to be thrown out.

2Take A Shelfie

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Many of us stock up on stuff at the supermarket or bodega because we think we might have run out — and then come home to discover that we've already got five boxes of cereal. To reduce this, take what WRAP, the Waste and Recycling Action Programme, calls a "shelfie": an image of your food storage, so you know what you have and what you don't. Keeping an ongoing grocery list on your phone, that you can update during the week as things run out, will accomplish the same goal. Smart fridges and cupboards in our future might be able to send that info to our phones so we're never stuck wondering whether we actually have tomatoes at home, but right now a shelfie is the best stopgap.

3Shop At Places With Smaller Servings

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For people who live alone, it's pretty (frustrating) common knowledge that most things are packaged for a family of four, or at least two. And it makes sense — buying in bulk is cheaper — but it's super frustrating to pay for food you don't need, only to have it go bad. If you're constantly buying a family-sized package of fish because that's just what's available, try doing your shopping somewhere that allows you to buy things the old fashioned way, like a farmer's market.

4Check Your Fridge Temperature

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Apparently, a lot of food goes bad more quickly because we're not keeping our fridges at the right temperature, which makes vegetables, cheeses, meats and other refrigerated foods go off far quicker. All fridges should be between 0 and 5C (32F to 41F); any warmer or colder (yes, colder too!), and you're risking the longevity of your food.

5Become A Leftovers Queen

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Even with the best of intentions, it's still easy to end up with a lot of extra food. So, what do you do? Make a game of transforming your leftovers into entirely new meals. Yes, meal prepping is incredibly #adulting goals, but it can lead to more food waste when you ultimately can't bring yourself to eat a farro bowl for the sixth day in a row. Rather, try coming up with new uses for whatever's leftover, and dropping it on top of a slightly smaller portion of different grains each day. Squishy tomatoes can be made into sauces, fruit can go into smoothies, and leftover meat can be made into a seemingly infinite variety of new dishes. Get creative, unless something has truly gone bad — in which case, don't risk it.

6Refuse Single-Use Food Servings

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A new study has found that waste from ketchup and condiment packages, the kind you get with fast food, are actually a serious problem; plastic is very difficult to recycle if it's contaminated with food items, and condiment packages aren't well designed, so you very rarely get your money's worth from what you rip open at the drive-through. That adds up to a surprisingly large source of food waste. Give local establishments the hint by asking to avoid condiment packets in your order.

7Get Into Preservation

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While leftovers are one way to make food last through multiple uses, fermentation, jam-making, pickling and other means of long-term preservation of food are good ways to make sure you have supplies throughout different seasons. Make chutney out of excess veg, do jam-making to get a summer's worth of apricot preserves, make the kimchi of your dreams — and help lower food waste in the tastiest possible ways.

Food waste is a major issue across the world, but our individual choices can help make a dent in it. Try these simple hacks for a slightly less wasteful grocery run.