Even in summer, the season of backyard barbecues and overflowing produce patches

Food waste is a global issue that we all need to address. Worldwide, over one-third of all food never gets eaten, and in America, that number is more like 40 percent. 

Not only would those figures make your great-great-grandma roll over in her grave, muttering something about starving children in other parts of the world, but they’re also becoming quite a problem for future generations as well.

You see, food waste represents wasted agricultural effort now, but it also fills up our landfills, producing methane which will cause greater climate change-related consequences later.

If we want to stop food waste in America and all over the globe, we need to institute big changes through all levels of society. But changes like that take time. Meanwhile, there are things we can each do at home to reduce our individual food waste footprint. Check out these 4 easy food waste solutions that will change your fridge:

   

Shop Realistically

The first step toward reducing food waste is not buying more than you can eat in the first place. 

While there may be a really great sale on broccoli crowns this week, how many can you really eat before they start to go bad?

Before you buy, consider your track record. Are you always having to throw away unused produce because you didn’t use it all in time? 

Make sure you take thorough stock of your fridge and pantry before you hit the store as well. If you buy another bunch of cilantro when you already have half of one sitting in the produce drawer, chances are good that one of them isn’t going to be eaten.

Keep Things Organized

Once you return from the store with all your food for the week, don’t just toss it in the fridge willy-nilly. 

Keeping your fridge and pantry spaces well organized will help you keep better track of what you have in there, and let you use it all in a timely manner.

Follow a cue from grocery stores and try the first in, first out method. It may mean a little rearranging each week to get the new yogurt cups situated behind the ones remaining from last week, but it’s worth it. When you keep the oldest items at the front, you’ll naturally use them first, instead of starting in on the new items and letting the old ones go to waste.

   

Use Proper Storage

Proper storage is key to keeping things fresher for longer, but if you don’t know the rules, it can definitely seem like an arcane or even arbitrary art. 

Some last longest in the fridge, some should only be stored at room temperature, and then there’s the matter of ethylene gas. Some foods produce it while others are sensitive to it. If you want everything to last as long as possible, keep the two separate.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on which foods are which:

 

At room temperature

  • Potatoes

  • Tomatoes

  • Garlic

  • Onions

  • Cucumbers

  • Eggplants

  • Peppers

  • Bananas

Ethylene Producers

  • Bananas

  • Avocados

  • Tomatoes

  • Cantaloupes

  • Peaches

  • Pears

  • Green onions

  • Apples

Ethylene Sensitive Foods

  • Leafy greens

  • Potatoes

  • Asparagus

  • Broccoli

  • Peppers

  • Carrots

What You Can’t Eat, Preserve

Ok, but what if you’ve shopped realistically, stored everything properly, and still can’t finish everything you’ve got in the fridge?

It happens to the best of us. We suddenly acquire a bunch of leftovers from a big event, our garden starts overproducing, or someone gifts us with more food than we can hope to eat in a week.

Those are the times when having a few preservation techniques under your belt can really come in handy. The technique you use will depend on the type of food you need to preserve.

For many items, such as meats, freezing is an easy way to extend their life. Other things may require a bit more creativity, though.

If your cucumbers are starting to show their age, even though you stored them at room temperature, try pickling them! Sweet or dill, canned or quick, you can make a yummy treat that will last a lot longer.

Apples that are past their prime or tomatoes that are getting soft can easily be turned into applesauce or salsa and canned.

Between freezing, canning, pickling, dehydrating, fermenting, curing, and all the other techniques that previous generations used to keep food fresh before refrigeration, you should have very little food slipping through the cracks to become food waste. Plus, you’ll gradually build up a store of your favorite foods to be used in case of emergency (or in case of lazy weeknight.)


 

Kayla Robbins
DoneGood Contributor

A freelance writer working with bighearted businesses who want to better our world.

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