Many people are embarking on more cooking adventures during the pandemic, but if you’re becoming a well-seasoned home chef, you might also notice your food waste is increasing. The production of wasted food alone is equivalent to 37 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions.
Cutting back on food waste in your home is a small step, but it helps prevent produce from going to waste and from decomposing in landfills where it creates these greenhouse gases. Here are 12 tips to creatively cut down on your food waste at home.
- Freeze or dry leftover herbs. Fresh herbs often wilt before we can use all of them, but you can save them for later by drying them or pressing them into an ice cube tray, topping off with olive oil, and freezing for later use.
- Turn lemon peels into a cleaning solution. Lemon peels make a great sustainable DIY cleaner. Simply fill a jar with peels as you use lemons, then fill with vinegar and store in a dark place for two weeks. Strain the vinegar out and combine in a 1:1 ratio with water for a great all-purpose cleaning solution. Do not use the solution on marble or stone as the acidity can corrode soft materials.
- Delay washing produce. Washing produce speeds up its decay time. Wait to wash fruits and vegetables until you’re ready to use them for longer shelf life.
- Take stock of scraps. If you don’t have an at-home compost bin, or even if you do, you can use saved vegetable scraps to make a delicious stock. Keep the scraps in a bag in the freezer and once you have a lot, put it in a pot of water and boil for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain and use in your favorite soup or stew recipe. As an added bonus, you’re eliminating the waste of buying packaged stock from the store!
- Revive your greens. Greens like kale, chard, and bok choy can easily be perked up by trimming the stems and placing them in water like flowers.
- Rearrange your pantry. Ethylene gas produced by fruits like apples, avocadoes, bananas, peaches, and pears speeds up ripening, so store them away from ethylene-sensitive foods like leafy greens, eggplant, peppers, and squash.
- Grow your own herbs. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, growing your own herbs at home is a low maintenance way to reduce food waste and save some money. Check out our indoor herb guide to get started.
- Use the “first in, first out” rule. Sometimes we waste food simply because we forget it’s hiding at the back of our fridge. When unloading groceries, put highly perishable items like berries and greens towards the front so you remember to eat them quickly.
- Meal plan! Planning out what you will eat for the week and what ingredients you need will make your grocery shopping more efficient and reduce waste. Create a general plan for meals for the week and look at ingredients you already have to see where you can incorporate them.
- Pickle! Like drying herbs, pickling is a great way to save produce for later use. Use vinegar, sugar, and salt to make this easy brine and pickle anything from onions to cucumbers and even fruit.
- Freeze and blend. Smoothies are an easy way to use up produce past its prime. If you have greens or fruit about to go bad, throw it in the freezer to use in smoothies down the road. Even if your fruit is mushy or overripe, it will still taste great blended up.
Start composting. A food waste guide would be incomplete without a composting section. Composting can be as easy as saving food scraps to throw in a green waste can. Check out our guides on composting and worm farming for more details.
By Amelia Buckley for The Optimist Daily: Making Solutions the News