How to Prep Your Kitchen for Less Waste
1. Shop Smarter
According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Developing habits to save food now [and decrease food waste] could dramatically reduce the need for increased food production in the future.” We can make a difference in our own homes, and there are easy ways to set yourself up so that you’re less inclined to waste food in your kitchen.
First, and perhaps most importantly, avoid food waste at the grocery store. Be realistic with your shopping list, and purchase only what you’ll really eat. Avoid impulse buys, and instead, stick to the items you need for your meal plan. (If you need help with meal planning, check out our Weeknight Meal Planner.)
2. Plan One “Kitchen Sink” Dinner Each Week
Even if you plan wisely and purchase only what you think you’ll need, you may end up with little bits of this or that from leftover produce or meat. That’s when you need to turn to your arsenal of handy use-it-up dinners—soups, stir-fries, frittatas, hash, fried rice, pasta tosses, or pizza that will use up those odds and ends.
3. Watch Your Portions
Any mom can relate: Your child eats only one-fourth of what’s on her plate, and the rest gets scraped into the trash. You can easily avoid this by starting small, and by packing up—and actually eating—leftovers.
4. Invest in Good Storage
When you find your food going stale or slimy too soon, it’s time to shop for better storage containers. It can be as simple as zip-top plastic bags to store opened packages of grains, flours, or snacks. Or, if you know you’ll be more likely to heat up and eat your leftovers if they’re in glass containers, pick up a set like the UKonserve’s microwave-, oven-, and dishwasher-safe glass containers (pictured.) As for elongating the life of fresh produce, some of our editors swear by OXO’s GreenSaver Produce Keepers.
5. Know Thy Fridge and Freezer
Learn your fridge’s cooler and warmer zones (see this handy infographic from the NRDC) so that you can place your food where it has the best chance of staying fresh longer. Know that the fridge needs to allow for air circulation, so don’t pack food in too tightly. (The freezer, however, can handle packed shelves.)
6. Become a Composter
Composting scraps you can’t or won’t eat (egg shells, corn husks, vegetable peels, etc.) allows you to recycle their nutrients so they go to good use—unlike in landfills, where the lack of air circulation causes these same foods to produce harmful methane gas. You can use this nutrient-rich compost for your own container or backyard garden, or check with your local farmers’ market to see if they collect compost there. Some cities have waste management systems that even allow for compost curbside pickup, just like regular garbage or recycling. It’s important to understand which food scraps you should and shouldn’t compost; visit Home Composting Made Easy for a full list.