Most of us are good at saving leftovers on Thanksgiving. In my house, left-over turkey gives us a week’s worth of delicious sandwiches. But what about the rest of the year? According to a study carried out at the University of Arizona, households dump $43 billion worth of food a year, or about 14 per cent of what they buy. That doesn’t include plate scrapings.
Why does this matter? Food prices are rising and 46 million Americans live below the poverty line. Many Americans struggle with putting food on the table while keeping up with their mortgage payments, medical bills, and every other expense they face. It is a big shame that so many Americans are in difficulty when so much food is rotting in landfills.
Food waste comes from grocery stores that overstock on food products and from restaurants that throw out unused food. It also comes from everyday people when we cook too much food for our mealtimes, let food expire in our fridge, or give in to our kids’ demands when they refuse to eat their greens. So here are some tips for us to reduce the amount of food we waste this Thanksgiving, and all year round:
Make a shopping list: Plan out what you need before you go to the grocery store – and stick to the list you make. This will help you buy only what you need and not to end up with unused food products.
Consider portion size: The Thanksgiving dinner is a big meal! If your turkey will be accompanied by a lot of side dishes like gravy, mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, salad and then dessert, consider reducing the portions of each dish that make it to the plate. This handy website measures how much you should cook for your dinner guests.
Eat leftovers: This applies to meals all year round. Save all extra food in Tupperware containers and eat them another time. We often have good intentions when saving food, but end up leaving things in the fridge until it’s too late to eat. At our house we have a “leftover day” – one day a week where our dinner is nothing but leftovers. This not only limits food wastage, it also means one evening when we don’t have to cook!
Keep track of expiration dates: Don’t let that milk expire. If you know you’re not going to get through a loaf of bread, stick it in the freezer for another day. It’s not always easy to remember, but being organized and aware of what’s in your kitchen will help you save on food waste – and money too!
Compost: Start a compost heap in your backyard. Don’t know how? The EPA has simple instructions that everyone can follow.
Donate: There are a lot of people in need of food that aren’t always able to get it. Most major U.S. cities have food rescue organizations (such as City Harvest in NYC) or find your local food kitchen or homeless shelter.
Support ethically responsible organizations such as sandwich shop Pret A Manger who donates all unsold sandwiches to local charities at the end of the day.
Follow these tips and you’ll be helping the poor, helping the environment by keeping food out of landfills, and you’ll be saving your own money and your conscience too.