Reducing the amount of food we waste is a goal I have for my family. I have utilized each tip here personally as I work toward throwing less food away. I hope you find them helpful!
1. Make a meal plan, and stick with it.
Making a detailed menu plan will help to determine how much fresh produce you will need to purchase. For me, making the menu plan is the easy part. Sticking with it when I might not feel like eating what I had planned for that night’s meal is the tricky part. However, I know that when we stick with the plan, less food ends up in the trash and we spend less on groceries as well. I do allow myself the flexibility to switch side dishes from one night to the next and we’ll frequently switch the main dishes around, too, but by the end of the week, my goal is to have eaten all the meals we’d planned to eat.
2. Make a veggie or fruit tray for healthy snacking.
I have found that my family eats much more fresh produce if I cut it up and set it out for snacking. Having healthy snacks available may also help prevent the 5 o’clock meltdowns that tend to occur because the kids are hungry and their parents are distracted with dinner preparations. A fruit and veggie tray with grape tomatoes, celery or carrot sticks, green and red pepper strips, apple or orange slices, grapes and banana or kiwi circles would make a colorful and healthy centerpiece for the dinner table, too.
3. Freeze vegetables or fruit you cannot use before they pass their prime.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts we don’t eat all the produce we’d planned to eat during the week. Sometimes, I happen upon an excellent deal on fresh produce and I knowingly buy more than we can consume before it reaches its expiration date. In these instances, we freeze the excess. Some produce does not freeze well, but you may be surprised at how many fresh fruits and vegetables can be successfully stored in the freezer. There are even some types of produce that can be frozen raw. Bell peppers, celery and bananas are all in this category. I have found it easiest to chop them into pieces, lay those pieces on a cookie sheet and stick the cookie sheet into the freezer to flash freeze. After a few hours, the pieces of frozen fruit or vegetable can be transferred to a freezer safe container. Most vegetables require blanching before freezing. The Green Kitchen Handbook by Annie Berthold-Bond includes a very useful guide for blanching and freezing vegetables and an explanation of why blanching is necessary. To store the frozen produce, I generally use two freezer bags, one inside the other, to prevent freezer burn. Having a freezer stocked with chopped produce not only reduces produce waste and saves money but it also helps cut down on meal preparation time.
4. Store produce in Debbie Meyer Green Bags
Although I was skeptical and had read some less-than-positive reviews of green bags, we bought some more than a year ago and I’m glad we did. Green Bags are designed for storing and extending the shelf-life of produce. A set of 10 large and 10 medium bags costs $9.99 and is available through many retailers. We purchased our set at Bed, Bath & Beyond using a 20% coupon so the purchase price was only $7.99 and I am sure we have saved at least that much money on produce as we’ve been able to buy in bulk and cut down on waste. We still have the same set as each bag is reusable. We have discovered that these bags do not work well for storing all types of produce (like strawberries), but we have used them successfully with several fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly lettuce, spinach and peppers. Storing some types of produce in Green Bags has definitely helped us to reduce produce waste.
5.Use wilted vegetables to make vegetable stock.
Since I already have a large supply of chicken stock in my freezer that I made using leftover chicken bones, I leave making vegetable stock as a last resort. However, life is busy and there are times that, despite my best intentions, produce in my fridge begins to wilt. Fortunately, if the produce is wilted but not molded, it can still be used to make vegetable stock. I use this recipe here, but as step four of the recipe suggests, I substitute whatever vegetables I have on hand. I also use a small amount of dried spices so that I don’t have to spend money on fresh.