If you're looking for a delicious way to honor Earth Day, try this: eat more food! In the U.S., we send nearly 40 percent of our food to landfills. This waste costs the average family of four nearly $1,500 a year. To keep more food on the table and out of the trash, consider refreshing your leftovers or learning the best ways to store produce to keep it fresher longer. Whatever you choose, there are plenty of ways to help fight food waste; here are five more to get you started.
1. Buy ugly produce
When you’re grocery shopping, don’t shy away from less-than-perfect fruits and veggies. Sure, they may be unevenly shaped or sport a few blemishes, but that doesn’t mean they’re no good. If not sold to shoppers these imperfect picks will likely end up in the trash. (Bananas are one of the most wasted foods. Our take on leftover or overripe bananas? Use them for smoothies or freeze them for banana bread).
Money-saving tip: if you’re shopping at your local greenmarket, see if the farmer has a second-pick box. Shopping this batch could save you a few bucks. And if you plan on using the produce for dinner tonight or in the next few days, opt for the nearly ripe, totally ripe, or slightly spotty. Ripe produce has more flavor; after all, it's about the flavor, not the looks.
2. Save your scraps
When you're cooking, don't dump peels and herb stalks; consider giving them a second go in homemade stock. Just be sure everything has been well-washed prior to peeling. Start by collecting scraps in a resealable plastic bag or a large empty yogurt container in your freezer. When full, you're ready to cook up a batch of fresh vegetable stock. Storage perk: the stock can keep in the freezer for up to two months. Once you’ve used them for stock, add the vegetable scraps to your compost bin.
3. Make the freezer your friend
It's not just for stashing make-ahead meals and ice cream! The freezer is the perfect place for storing surplus food, from those brown bananas and that extra pint of fresh berries, to that half a loaf of bread. Freezing can extend the life span of food from a few weeks to a few months. Be sure to pack properly—wrapped tightly with all air pressed out—to avoid freezer burn. And always label and date bags or containers.
4. Be creative
Whether you’re finding savory ways to reuse your scraps or buying foods made by companies dedicated to upcycling food waste (granola made from juice pulp, anyone?), don't be afraid to be creative. An easy way to keep food out of landfills is to simply think outside the box; make art with leftovers, anyone?!
5. Shop locally and seasonally
Farmers' markets are the source for the freshest, most local food you’ll find. By shopping locally and seasonally, you're supporting your local economy. If you're stumped over which bean or squash to try, just ask the farmer.