Stop Wasting Food!

February 10, 2014

Ever thought about using your last receipt as a shopping list on the next trip? This and more suggestions are her to help you stop wasting food.

Wasting food is expensive, and can especially add up throughout the year. It’s not about “cleaning everything off your plate” – but rather it is all about buying, cooking and storing foods properly. Now is a great time to start changing what I call, your “food waste behaviors.”

The first rule in stopping food waste is to buy better. Start out by going through your cupboards, fridge and freezer and make note of what you have. Then it’s time to be creative and develop a meal plan to use all those ingredients. Also, make sure you are reading your expiration dates correctly. McKinsey reports that misreading expiration dates accounts for around 20% of all food waste, so look carefully at expiration dates. A great tool to help your overall meal planning is, where you can enter the ingredients you have and a list of recipes will be displayed. Make sure that you only prepare enough for each meal and guest – don’t over prepare!

Another tip to remember is that, while most of us buy about 80 percent of the same foods every week, you can use your register receipt as your shopping list. Cross out what is already in your cabinets, and leave room at the bottom to write any additional items you may need to make this week’s recipes.

If by chance you end up with leftovers, be sure to store them properly. Refrigerate your leftovers below 40° F within two hours, or one hour during hot weather (90° F and above). Cool food quickly by placing it in a shallow glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and placing it in the refrigerator. Place unused raw veggies in a sealable plastic bag and squeeze out excess air. Remove unused canned ingredients from the original can, put them in a sealable container, and cover tightly to maintain optimal flavor. Be sure to write the date on the container when you put it in the freezer or fridge, so you use it before it spoils. If you find food in your cupboard that you know you will never use, donate those to the local food bank. You can use Feeding America’s food bank locator tool to find the nearest location.

Once you have used a majority of your current ingredients, it’s time to go shopping. Buy only what you will use for the week unless the item is on sale for at least 20 percent off the regular price. You’ll be able to tell what is on sale from the previous week’s price based on your receipt. Brian Wansink, Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, has found the time of day you shop can make a difference as well. If you shop between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. there is a tendency to buy less food and healthier foods than when it is closer to dinner time, between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. So as the saying goes, never go shopping when you are hungry.

Back in the kitchen, use a trick from the Food and Brand Lab based on what is called The Delboeuf Illusion, which recommends the use of smaller plates to serve. Research at Cornell has shown that we tend to put more food on larger plates, which often leads to more food being uneaten and wasted.

While your grocery shopping routine may be something you can now do in your sleep, by switching it up a bit and taking a few extra minutes to prepare for your trip, the small changes you make will be sure to result in big savings. And, because food can seem to be a very expensive part of your total expenses, these tips will ensure you to save dollars in your wallet, space in your kitchen, and food from being wasted.