When we were children, our parents might have told us, “Eat your dinner. Remember, there are children in Africa dying of hunger.” I remember thinking that the children in Africa won’t actually eat my leftover broccoli, so it doesn’t matter if I eat it or not.
According to the Think.Eat.Save campaign, industrialized nations waste over 300 million tons of food annually, an amount that would be sufficient to feed the estimated 900 million hungry people in the world. It is wasted both in food production and food consumption. The good news is that this week’s Be Better Challenge is to reduce our food waste footprint.
Food waste is a significant problem in the United States, but you can work toward stopping it within your own household. Throwing out uneaten food is not only a waste of money, but it also has a negative impact on the environment. Part of eating mindfully is shopping thoughtfully and making it a priority to use the ingredients you have purchased.
The following facts were gathered from the Think.Eat.Save campaign, which is a Save Food Initiative.
It is estimated that we throw away one-third of the food we buy each week.
Think about the process to get food to your table. It isn’t magic. The food you don’t eat has a bigger impact than you might think. Let’s take the example given by Love Food Hate Waste.
Cheese is a good example: feeding and milking the cows, cooling and transporting the milk, processing it into cheese, packing it, getting it to the shops, keeping it at the right temperature all the time. If it then gets thrown away it will most likely end up in a landfill site, where, rather than harmlessly decomposing as many people think, it rots and actually releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Shopping for food:
- Plan meals. Part of eating mindfully is thinking about the meals you are going to prepare. Look at the ingredients you already have to reduce the chance of buying duplicate items.
- When you go shopping, use a list to reduce impulse buying. Stick to the items that you need.
- Don’t buy more food than you need, even if it is discounted. If you know you aren’t going to finish the 24-ounce tub of sour cream, buy the 12- ounce container.
- Buy the “Funny Fruit.” According to Think.Eat.Save, “Many fruits and vegetables are thrown out because their size, shape or color are not ‘right.’ ” Buy the fruit that other customers might not buy.
- Shop at Farmers Markets. They sell the “funny fruit,” and buying local food reduces food waste in the food production process. Food that travels a lesser distance to get to you is less likely to be discarded along the way.
- Understand Expiration Dates. “Use-by” is the key date in terms of safety. Don’t eat products after this date. “Sell by” are instructions for shop staff, not shoppers. “Best before” dates refer to quality rather than safety.
- Eat the food in your fridge. Before going to the grocery store, focus on eating and cooking the food in your refrigerator. Sometimes it feels like a lot of effort to cut up the celery and spread peanut butter on it. But don’t be lazy, and don’t let the package of celery go to waste.
- Find recipes that use your ingredients. You can go to Allrecipes.com and search by ingredient. The best part about this search feature is that it allows you to type in multiple ingredients, such as sour cream, cream cheese, green peppers and chicken.
- Learn how to store your food. Did you know that different fruits and vegetables should be stored differently to last longer? See Love Food Hate Waste.
Eat your food
- Re-create leftovers. Don’t throw out leftovers; save them and be creative. Just because you cooked chicken and rice one night doesn’t mean you have to eat it again the next night. Add chicken broth and vegetables and make a soup out of it.
- Compost. Composting food helps reduce negative environmental impact and creates soil that is full of nutrients for a garden.
Freeze Food. It is OK to freeze fresh produce and leftovers. Here is the Ultimate Guide to Freezing Food