Americans waste a lot of food even during normal circumstances. According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), we typically throw away a whopping 30 to 40% of our food. People who stripped shelves bare of perishable items hoarding for the pandemic, may end up wasting even more when these items go bad before they can be consumed.
“It seems like such an obvious thing, don’t waste food,” Brian Lipinski, a researcher on food waste at the World Resources Institute tells Mashable. “It’s something we learned growing up. So, it seems like a no-brainer to stop it.”
Lipinski says that the pandemic offers a good opportunity to rethink our shopping habits to make the most of our food and reduce trips to the grocery store.
- Track your waste. Keep tabs on what you are throwing out so you can adjust what you buy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a handy guide, Keep Good Food From Going to Waste, that teaches people how to waste less food.
- Always make lists. Take an inventory of what you already have on hand and tape it to the refrigerator door so you know what needs to be used first. Make a separate list of items you’ll need at the grocery store.
- Understand food labels. The experts consulted by Mashable say that labels offer information on expiration dates and when to best use the food item. The USDA has a handy guide to help you learn how to detect when food is spoiled.
- Store food wisely. Make sure that your refrigerator is set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. You can buy an inexpensive thermometer and put it on the top shelf to check the temperature. The back of the refrigerator is the coldest while close to the door is warmer, says Lipinski, so store the most perishable items in back and those less likely to spoil—like condiments—in front. While fresh vegetables are nice to have, frozen ones last longer and are cheaper, the expert tells Mashable.
- Share extra food with neighbors. Safely drop off items you don’t think you’ll need or extra food you have cooked to others, especially the elderly who are at greater risk if they go chopping.
- Be “scrappy”. Use leftovers and scraps of food to make soups and stews. Turn stale bread into croutons and try reviving wilting vegetables by placing them in a jar of water. Stir fry leftover rice with any vegetables or cooked meat that needs to be eaten.
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