New Year's resolution: Reducing food waste
Retail reporter Lizzy Alfs vows to reduce how much food she tosses out.
That’s how much money the average U.S. family of four tosses in the garbage each year in the form of uneaten food, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
Food waste and food loss account for about 31 percent of the overall food supply available to consumers and retailers, the USDA reports. That’s 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food per year.
Those statistics were enough to fuel my New Year’s resolution: I am committed to reducing my food waste in 2016.
Consider this: Aside from the hit to your wallet, the USDA reports food waste is the single largest component going into municipal landfills, and those landfills are the third largest source of methane in the U.S. To help improve food security and cut environmental pollution, the USDA and the Environmental Protection Agency announced the country’s first-ever national food waste reduction goal in September: a 50 percent decrease by 2030.
I was first inspired to reduce my own food waste after reading my colleague Jim Myers’ story about Nashville nonprofits tackling the issue at a local level. The Nashville Food Project and Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee are among those organizations working to reclaim and reuse food and provide hunger relief in the community.
I’m ready to do my part at home.
With a mostly vegan diet, I spend a lot of money on produce and inevitably end up tossing a few things at the end of the week. I frequently use a juicer and discard the pulp. I cook for one and sometimes throw away leftovers when I’m tired of eating the same meal.
There are many ways I can improve to tackle my resolution.
First off, I’m going to start planning my meals more carefully before grocery shopping on the weekends so I don’t wind up with so much extra food in the fridge at the end of the week. Instead of tossing leftovers, I will freeze more meals.
I’ll wash and chop veggies at the beginning of the week and put them in Tupperware so it’s convenient and more likely to get eaten before going bad.
I’m going to designate a dinner toward the end of the week as leftovers night where I will use up whatever is still in the fridge. I hope it makes me more adventurous in the kitchen to create a meal out of random ingredients.
I’ve been reading about use-by dates and how consumer confusion contributes to millions of pounds of wasted food each year. According to the USDA, use-by dates usually refer to best quality and not food safety. Read more about food product dating on the USDA website.
I’ve been researching one of my biggest forms of food waste — juicing — and how I can use leftover juice pulp. From throwing it in soups and smoothies to composting and using it for flavor and texture in veggie burgers, there are a ton of options I had never even considered before. My colleague Holly Fletcher suggested freezing the pulp in ice cube trays and then adding it to smoothies.
Another tip from my colleague Jim Myers: The door is the warmest part of the refrigerator so you shouldn’t keep perishable items such as milk or eggs there.
As I welcome 2016, I’m committed to this goal. And now I’ve told my friends and The Tennessean readers in the hopes it holds me accountable.