BY DANA GUNDERS RIVERO | Moonshine Ink
Wasting less food is one of those uniquely win-win efforts that helps both the environment and your wallet. The average family of four spends over $120 per month on food that never gets eaten, and wasting less food was ranked the number one climate solution out of 76 evaluated by Project Drawdown. Plus, saving just one hamburger from being thrown out is equivalent to saving a 90-minute shower’s worth of water. So in these times when some have been hoarding food, follow these tips to make sure you’re using it as well.
Plan your meals
Rotate through “meal sets” of two or three meals that utilize ingredients of which you tend to have excess (e.g., cilantro or celery). Acknowledge that lazy nights of frozen pizza or takeout happen and plan them in.
Include “eat down” nights when you empty out the fridge to make use of anything that still needs using up. Remember, the moment you buy food, you’ve committed to it.
Buy local food
It’s fresher and therefore lasts longer, giving you more time to get around to using it — not to mention it helps support the local economy. The Tahoe Food Hub even has a new Harvest to Order program where your produce is harvested the day before it gets to you!
Store food well
Taking the extra few minutes to store food properly can buy you days of shelf life in return. Strawberries do best laid in single layers with cloth or paper towels between them; nuts keep better in the refrigerator; meat should be kept on the bottom shelf; and eggs belong in the main fridge (not the door).
Friend your freezer
Freezing food is like hitting the pause button, and most anything can be frozen. Pop your half-used milk in there before vacation, and find it waiting for your morning coffee upon your return. Cheese (best shredded and used for cooking), eggs (out of shell and raw, scrambled), bread (sliced), and tomato products (pasta sauce, tomato paste) all freeze well too. The more airtight you pack products, the more likely you are to avoid freezer burn — which is only an issue of taste, not safety.
Learn the myth of expiration dates
Contrary to popular belief, “best by” and “sell by” dates are actually just manufacturer suggestions for when the food is at its peak quality — not indicating the food is bad. Most food, including dairy, can safely be eaten after those dates. As a rule of thumb, foods that pregnant women are told to avoid are the ones to be careful with.
Revive older food
Soak wilting veggies in ice water to re-crisp them. Reverse the staling process of bread, crackers, or tortilla chips with a one- to two-minute toast.
Unleash your creativity
The best food waste warriors approach the kitchen with a use- it-up mentality. Frittatas, pasta salad, and good ole “refrigerator soup” are classic catch-all meals to make use of the veggie, meat, and cheese scraps you have around. Don’t be afraid to open that fridge and go wild. Leftover stir fry can make fun “world tacos,” and wrinkled fruit is excellent for infused vodka.
Find out more
A great resource for many more tips on storing, reviving, and cooking all your food is savethefood.com.
~ Dana Gunders Rivero is the founder of Next Course, which develops strategies toward an efficient food future.