What do your overflowing trash can, a hole in your wallet and climate change all have in common?
Give up? Here’s the answer — wasting food.
It’s hard to believe, but nearly 40 percent of all the food produced in America every year is wasted — much of it bought with our hard-earned cash then scraped off our plates or discarded as leftovers into our trashcans and landfills, costing us money and turning into methane gas that can worsen climate change.
And that’s not all. Wasting uneaten food also wastes the resources it requires: land, water, fertilizer, manpower and money.
That’s why our Board of Supervisors and other agencies around the state have proclaimed March 5-9 to be “Food Waste Prevention Week.” And it’s why the County’s Live Well San Diego Food System Initiative” is offering some simple tips we can all use to stop wasting food.
After all, changing these habits, keeping food out of landfills, keeping more money in family’s pockets, and keeping our environment safe fit right into our County’s Strategic Initiatives — Healthy Families, Safe Communities, Sustainable Environments and Operational Excellence.
So, here are a few tips for how we can all stop wasting food.
Plan and Shop Wisely
You can’t really know what food you need if you don’t know what you plan to eat or what you already have at home. So before you run to the market, plan menus and meals ahead of time. Figure out what ingredients you have and what you’ll need. It will save you money and time, and cut down on having to toss out food that goes bad before you eat it, or just plain doesn’t get eaten. SaveTheFood.com has a “Guest-imater” that can help you calculate how much food you need to prepare, based on how many people you’re serving and how much they typically eat. It can even calculate having leftovers if you want them!
Freeze or Find Ways to Re-use Leftovers
Even the best planners end up with leftovers sometimes. But you don’t have to let them languish in the fridge until they go bad. You can freeze leftovers to use in future meals. You can pack them in to-go containers for lunches. Or, you can re-think your leftovers as ingredients to be used in different meals. Leftover pasta and cooked vegetables can help make a mean frittata. Leftover rice, meat and vegetables can make a great soup, burritos or a casserole.
Got Fruit Trees to Glean?
So those fruit trees in the yard just churn out more fruit than you and the family can eat. Don’t let it go to waste. Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food System Alliance have links to “gleaner” groups that can collect your extra crop and feed someone else’s family. The San Diego Food Bank has information about how you can start your own food drive.
When you do end up with leftover food and/or food scraps, a lot of it doesn’t have to go in the trash and end up in a landfill — it can go into a compost or worm bin instead. That way you can turn that leftover food into healthy organic compost and fertilizer that can re-inject helpful nutrients and organisms back into your garden or lawn’s soil. Using compost can also cut water use, improve crop production and save gardeners money by not having to buy soil amendments. Learn what can go into your compost.
The website has tips galore, from “Five Ways to Revive Food,” to “10 Easy Tips for Meal Planning,” and “Cooking with Food Scraps.” It’s also filled with information about how to shop for, cook and store food.