5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Dec 17, 2015 - 3:34 pm

By Blanche Schaefer

Tis the season—for excess! Too much to do, too much to buy and always, too much food!

When we can’t take another bite of mom’s fantastically huge holiday meal, we rarely pause and think about the significance of scraping our non-leftover worthy food into the trash.

Then there’s the over-stuffed refrigerator. A few avocados have turned mushy in the back; a bag of lettuce turns brown in the produce drawer; spoiled milk will end up poured down the drain.

It all adds up! Did you know the value of wasted food in Austin was more than $208 million in 2014? Austinites waste more than 194 million pounds of food annually. In fact, in Austin, 46 percent of what ends up in our landfill could have been composted. Wasting food is more than a hit to the pocketbook—organic materials decomposing in a landfill produce methane gas, which is harmful to the environment.

All this excess can be avoided with these five simple tips. Here’s how you can reduce your family’s food waste while getting on track to save money and keep our air cleaner:

Steer clear of wholesale warehouse clubs.

Wholesale markets can be dangerous because they provide large quantities of food in bulk for discounted prices. While this is convenient and economical for some items, it can also contribute to food waste by encouraging overbuying. Only shop in bulk for what you really need and will use—you’ll cut down on food waste and packaging, too!

Plan meals and use shopping lists.

Going to the grocery store without a plan can cause you to purchase lots of food you might not actually eat. Plan your meals for the week before heading to the store. That way, you know exactly what ingredients you need and how much to buy. You’ll save a chunk of change as well.

Shop smartdon’t overbuy!

Before throwing an item in your cart, consider if you’ll actually eat it later. This is especially true for produce, which spoils quickly. Only buy what you can consume before it goes bad. This might mean downsizing to half a gallon of milk or picking a smaller bushel of bananas.

Start composting in your backyard.

If your food spoils, don’t throw it away! It’s never too late to start composting. Composting is nature’s way of recycling; it allows organic materials to break down naturally and helps return nutrients to the soil. Most kitchen waste can be composted in your backyard, such as food scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, single-use paper plates and napkins, in addition to paper products, leaves and yard trimmings. Composting is easy! For the do’s and don’ts of backyard composting, check out this cool fact sheet.  Also, visit our website to check out our free online and in-person composting classes and find out if you qualify for a $75 rebate.

Donate to a food pantry.

If you have a pantry full of nonperishable food items you know you won’t eat, consider donating to a food bank or homeless shelter. The holidays are a popular time to help those in need, so there are plenty of opportunities to donate food around Austin. Remember to donate year-round, too!