One of the things I’m conscious of is how much food my household wastes. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do this, but it’s always moving down to the bottom of the list, so I figured I could write some articles for PMag to keep me honest.
I looked at a lot of organizations’ tips on how to prevent food waste. Some of them were asinine. Some of them required immense dedication. Many of them, though, were universal.
The overarching recommendation was to reduce food waste by bringing less food into your home. (It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?) The best way to do this is by having a plan when you go to the grocery store. Yep, you need a comprehensive list every time. It prevents those impulse buys, which tend to be less nutritious anyway, if you’re anything like me (Number of times I’ve spontaneously purchased parsnips: 0. Number of times I’ve spontaneously purchased several hundred Fla-Vor-Ices: Three. Number of Fla-Vor-Ices I still have in the freezer: I don’t want to talk about it.) If you’re really ambitious, a lot of stores and health websites have meal planning guides, complete with grocery lists.
If your grocery list preparation is haphazard, you can refer to this simplified list template at ChooseMyPlate.gov. I’m sure you can find a lot of helpful blog posts providing a lot more detail on this without little difficulty. I’m also sure that not all of them will be written by loathsome smugsters, so take heart.
Another interesting tip some experts recommend is making sure you know the right amount of food to buy. The Love Food Hate Waste website has a calculator that allows you to figure out how much food you realistically need to feed a group, and to plan accordingly. BTW, the LFHW’s calculator gives results using the metric system, so you’ll need to convert it if you live in the United States (P.S. Amurricah!). To be honest, this one isn’t a huge problem chez moi, but it must be a problem if someone bothered to write a tip about it, ammirite?
A related tip is to buy exactly what you need — if your recipe requires two tomatoes, buy two tomatoes rather than a box. Greatist suggests buying loose produce to achieve this goal, using carrots as its example. My supermarket doesn’t sell loose carrots, so clearly I’ll need to do this on a veggie-by-veggie basis. You can also use the salad bar to get small amounts of certain vegetables, albeit at higher prices — you’ll need to do the math to see if it suits your situation.
Another thing most experts agree is to be extremely cautious buying food in bulk, because, as they point out quite logically, if you don’t end up eating it, you aren’t saving any money. Fair enough. I’ll also add in my own very specific advice about buying in bulk or at warehouse stores: even if something receives rave reviews when it is sampled at Costco, that does not necessarily translate into kids liking it on an ongoing basis. My husband, who ended up consuming a hundred chicken wontons when my daughter suddenly refused to eat them, can attest to this.
In later articles I’ll talk about food storage, food prep, ingredient selection, and food freshness (including the reliability of expiration dates). For the moment, though, I’d appreciate any tips you have, or hearing about any food waste issues you’re dealing with.