You like to think of yourself as pretty environmentally conscious. You recycle. You don’t waste water. Maybe you use reusable shopping bags or a travel mug. But have you given much thought to the food in your fridge, and how much of it ends up in the trash?
I’m talking about food waste. Food waste is a massive (and frankly quite scary) problem across the globe, but especially in the United States. Here in America, roughly 40 percent of edible, usable food ends up in landfills, despite that fact that that one in six Americans goes hungry and lacks stable access to food.
According to the USDA, if we could reduce food waste by just 15 percent, we could feed 25 million more Americans every year.
But the food waste problem isn’t just social, it’s environmental: Food production takes up half of American land and 30 percent of all our energy resources. Oh — and let’s not forget 80 percent of freshwater goes to producing food.
And after we pour all that water, power, and money into creating the food… we waste it. In staggering quantities. “Imagine the 92,542-seat Rose Bowl stadium as a giant serving bowl. Now imagine it filled to the brim with food — tomatoes, pork chops, milk, all kinds of edibles. Finally, imagine all that food being trucked straight to a landfill,” Roni Neff, director at the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future told Forbes. “This is one way to visualize how much food is wasted in the United States every day.”
There are small, simple, actionable steps you can take toward reducing food waste in your own life. Sure, going out of your way to save the carton of strawberries and gallon of milk in your fridge might not seem monumental, but think about how much food that adds up to over a lifetime. Now imagine if a hundred people did it — or a thousand, or a million. Here are five simple ways to reduce food waste.
Consider a meal delivery service like Blue Apron
If the thought of planning out a sustainable, waste-free grocery list every week stresses you out, you might as well let professionals do the planning for you. One of the best things about cooking with Blue Apron is that the ingredients for every meal come pre-portioned, so you’ll use 100 percent of the ingredients with zero waste. This is especially great for people who want to become more adventurous chefs, or people who get stuck in food ruts and then order take-out (when there’s perfectly good food in the fridge!). The meals change on the regular so you’re never bored.
I especially love that they put together healthy meals (Roughly 500 to 800 calories each) with ingredients sourced locally to where you’re ordering from. So often, the produce we buy has been shipped completely across the country before winding up in a supermarket days and days later.
Do yourself a favor and let Blue Apron meal delivery make your life a little easier — we’re giving the first 50 readers $40 off your first two weeks. Plenty of time to fall in love with the service.
PRO TIP: If you’re cooking alone, their two-person plan will make for perfect leftovers, so you don’t have to worry about cooking your lunches, either.
Shop smarter — and save money
I’ve been guilty of showing up to the grocery store without a shopping list in the past. Instead of shopping with any sort of plan, I would just plop stuff in my cart as I went along — a strategy that resulted in a LOT of head-scratching and food waste when I tried to figure out what to cook throughout the week.
The key to efficient, waste-free shopping is to think about your meals ahead of time — and group meals with similar ingredients together so you can use ALL the produce in your fridge.
If you need an example of how to do this, I bought a week’s worth of healthy food at Trader Joes for $50 using this strategy. I used EVERY ingredient purchased over a 7-day period, to stretch the grocery list over seven breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.
Treat expiration dates like suggestions
No, I’m not asking you to drink sour milk. However, take the “expiration” and “sell-by” dates printed on food packaging with a grain of salt. More often than not, foods are still perfectly safe and edible within several days of those dates.
Take stock of the food in your fridge and their respective expiration dates — if you see a date approaching and you know you won’t have time to cook it, remember that your freezer is your friend. Use it!
Learn where to (actually) store your food
I tend to want to unload my groceries directly into the fridge, but you’d be surprised how much food actually wants to be stored at room temp. Storing your food in the correct way can drastically extend the life of your produce, so you don’t end up guiltily tossing a bunch of rotting fruit into the trash at the end of the week.
Food Republic has an excellent guide on where to store food to cut back on food waste.
Buy ugly produce
Supermarkets don’t want to sell produce that looks weird, so more often than not, these perfectly-edible fruits and veggies go straight from the farm to the landfill.
Services like Imperfect Produce deliver vegetables that wouldn’t win any beauty pageants — but still taste delicious — right to your door, for less money than produce you’d buy at the supermarket.
How do you cut back on waste in your own life? Tell us in the comments below!
This post was in partnership with Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.