Thursday, January 28, 2016

6 Tips to most effectively use leftovers and decrease food waste

According the United Nations Environment Program, around 30-40% of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month! Worldwide, about 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten (see more stats here). Those facts blow my mind! Especially when it is so easy to use the food that you buy, minimizing the amount that is wasted. Here are some steps you can take to decrease your food waste on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

1. Meal plan
It sounds basic, but simply planning to use what you plan to buy is one of the most effective ways to cut down on food waste. This will assure that fresh food is used quickly and completely. Pick one day of the week as your "meal planning day" (mine is Monday night) - preferably close to your shopping day (mine is Tuesday morning). When planning, be sure to assess your current stores in the fridge, freezer and pantry before bringing in more. Finally, consider which meals often create leftover components, such as rice or potatoes. Use those for dinner 1-2 days after the first meal to assure that component get eaten.

2. Shop weekly 
One way to use what you buy is to control how often you shop. I find that shopping weekly is far enough apart that you have to plan but not so far that you feel the need to overbuy in fear of running out. Again, the key here is not overbuying. Knowing that you will be back in one week should provide assurance that you do not need to do that. But honestly, if you do run out, most of us are not hurting for a store close by.

3. Utilize bulk items only when it makes sense
Many families enjoy going to bulk-based stores to stock up on everything from clothing and household items to produce and meat. Be careful to not be swayed into buying that package of 12, when you typically only use 2. Buying in bulk isn't always the best choice if the food will go bad quickly and doesn't freeze well. Another type of bulk buying is visiting the bulk bin of your local grocery store. This can be effective for purchasing items such as chia seeds or ground flaxseed, that you may not use quickly - or any food that moves slowly in your house. 

4. Package with purpose post-meals
After finishing meals, immediately package up the leftovers in a reheating-friendly fashion. This means packing individual meal servings into containers you can easily pop in the microwave or oven. This is especially helpful for using dinner leftovers for lunch the next day. 

5. Utilize your freezer
Remember that leftovers are only good for around 3-5 days after a meal is eaten (range depends on what it is). Pay attention to "use by" dates on raw meat. If you are not going to use the items in time, the majority of food freezes well. So, instead of tossing it, stash it in your freezer for another time in the future.

6. Compost
Composting is a great way to return nutrients to the soil rather than throwing them in a landfill. With a little online searching, you will find many great tutorials available for all types of composting. 

Your Nutrition Coach,


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