Every year, Americans throw away $165 billion of food. Happy Earth Day. Let’s do better.
BuzzFeed / Chris Ritter
1. Only buy what you need.
“I’m just here to pick up some scallions… OOOOH! Look at those tomatoes!!!”
They’ll still be selling tomatoes next week, and the week after that.
2. Shop more often.
Smaller, more frequent shopping trips will yield less waste than bigger, weekly ones.
3. Make a grocery list.
Using a list means you’re less likely to make impulse purchases, which means you’re less likely to buy food you’ll end up throwing away. (For maximum effect, be sure to actually bring your grocery list with you to the store.)
4. Oh, don’t worry, there’s an app for that.
5. Make frozen fruit and vegetables your new best friend.
Frozen produce lasts basically forever and is just as nutritious as the fresh versions. Bonus: Freezing means the fruits and veggies don’t need other preservatives. (Check ingredients lists and look for the ones with just the fruit or vegetable itself.)
6. Watch out for the Bulk Trap.
Flickr: walmartcorporate / Walmart
Some things (toilet paper, socks, beer) should always be bought in massive quantities when sold at a discount. But when it comes to fresh produce: Beware. Ask yourself, “Will I really eat that entire box of peaches before they go bad?”
7. Skip the Keurig.
Goodness gracious, the wastefulness of these machines cannot be overstated. In addition to all those little pods you’re tossing in the trash, you’re also throwing away your hard-earned dinero. When bought in Keurig-friendly pods, you can spend more than $50/pound on Folgers coffee. (Already committed? Buy a reusable filter instead of more pods.)
8. Buy organic milk instead of regular: It lasts a whole lot longer.
Not only is organic milk antibiotic- and hormone-free, it’s also processed differently to last longer. It might cost more upfront, but you won’t end up throwing away half the carton four days after you bought it.
9. Know what needs to go in the fridge and what should be left on the counter.
10. Reorganize your fridge on the reg.
An organized fridge is a happy fridge, and maintaining one is a constant battle. Pro-tip: When you unpack your groceries, move older stuff to the front and newer foods to the back so that you finish the old foods before they expire.
11. Don’t mix fruits and vegetables.
BuzzFeed / Chris Ritter
They spoil each other.
12. Remember: One bad apple can ruin the whole bunch.
Apples, berries, potatoes, onions — all of them can be jeopardized by just one rotten spoiler. Check the bag before you put it away.
13. Break your bananas apart and increase their counter life.
Alas, if you MUST keep them bunched, wrap the stems in aluminum foil.
14. Make your scallions last longer by keeping them in a jar of water in the fridge.
Simply remove the rubber band they came in, add about an inch or two of water to a jar, stand the scallions up in it, cover with a plastic bag and stick it in the fridge. Now they’ll stay crisp for a week.
15. Hang onions in pantyhose and they will last for up to eight months!
16. Extend your bread’s life with a celery stalk.
The moisture in the celery helps keep the bread soft.
17. Wrap cheese in wax paper or cheese paper.
Flickr: artizone / Artizone
First wrap in wax or cheese paper, then stick in a plastic baggie. Gently place the precious cheese in the warmest part of the fridge (vegetable or cheese drawer).
18. Freeze your fresh herbs in olive oil or butter.
A new use for those ice trays. Rosemary, sage, thyme and oregano will all freeze well. Dill, basil, and mint, however, should only be used fresh.
19. Tupperware: Not just an excuse for parties.
You’re more likely to store your food properly if you have the right equipment. Invest in reusable, glass tupperware (stores better than the plastic disposable kind), as well as chip clips, and cookie tins. (Mason jars work too!)
20. Cook with every part of the food.
21. Use your kitchen scraps to make homemade vegetable stock.
Instead of tossing the pieces of vegetables you’re not using, keep them in a bag in the freezer. When the collection gets big enough, turn it into stock.
22. Make frittatas with your leftover vegetables
Don’t worry about what the recipe calls for: Just throw in last night’s spinach and call it a win.
23. Turn day-old rice into fried rice.
Last night’s leftover takeout is tonight’s trip to Beijing.
24. Save your dried-out mushrooms!
Don’t be fooled by their shriveling exterior: Dried-up mushrooms can reconstitute and cook up just fine. (To be clear: Dried up is fine. Slimy is not.)
25. Pickle (or preserve) whatever you’ve got.
seriouseats.com / Marisa McClellan
You can pickle pretty much anything, so if you’re wondering what to do with all that kohlrabi your CSA keeps giving to you, or even your watermelon rinds, this might just be the answer. (Pro-tip: Save your pickle brine and use it again.)
26. Turn leftover bread into croutons.
27. Use brown bananas to make banana bread.
In a recipe, “very ripe” is code for “almost rotten.”
28. Add cheese rinds to soups and sauces for extra flavor.
Cheese: Is there anything it can’t do? Store old rinds in the freezer and then break them out when you want to add extra flavor to your soup or sauce.
29. Save leftover wine in the freezer.
Another new use for your ice trays: Pour leftover wine and freeze. Next time a recipe calls for wine, use these.
30. Don’t confuse “sell-by,” “best-by,” or “use-by” with “toss-by.”
Not all expiration dates were created equally and very few of them will actually tell you if a food has gone bad. “Sell-by” means it has to be sold, not eaten, by a given date. “Best-by” means it will be at its peak of freshness, not safety, by a certain date. And “Use-By” indicates when the quality will start to go down.
31. Donate what you don’t want.
No longer interested in all those pinto beans you bought on sale two months ago? Donate them to an organization that is. Find a local food bank here.
32. Always take the doggie bag.
Flickr: piratejohnny / John
As if you needed to be told…
33. If you can’t clean your plate, pass it to someone who can.
Food scraps are the NUMBER ONE material sent to landfills. There they become greenhouse gases, which as we all know by now, are slowly leading us to mass extinction. So stop making excuses and start composting.
(Yes, even apartment dwellers can do it.)
Find out how you can compost in your city.
Different cities have different composting systems. More than 100 U.S. cities offer curbside composting, plenty have drop-off points at local farmers’ markets and community gardens, and if neither of those works, you can always pay someone to do it.