Sept. 23, 2019 — According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans threw out more than 38 million tons of food waste in 2014. From farms to supermarkets and to consumers’ tables, approximately 30 percent of the food grown is never eaten. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates the average family of four throws out roughly $1,500 worth of food.
Teaching customers how to get the most from their food dollar and avoid waste is valuable information. By making a meal plan, storing perishables properly and understanding simple food preparation techniques, consumers can make the most of their food budget.
Tips on Reducing Food Waste
The EPA and USDA are working to help Americans cut food waste in half by the year 2030. Their recommendations from the “Food Too Good to Waste Challenge” include:
Plan ahead for meals and shop with a list. Check to see what food is on hand before shopping to avoid unnecessary purchases.
Have a weekly “leftover night” – peruse the refrigerator; use leftovers and perishable items close to expiration.
Prep perishable foods ahead of time to make week-night meals easier to assemble.
Create a “USE FIRST” shelf (with a sign) in the refrigerator. This will let your family know about foods that need to be consumed in a short time.
Locate your local food donation organizations if you have excess items you can’t use.
Consider composting foods that cannot be used or donated.
Store foods properly. The most perishable foods should be stored at the back of your refrigerator to reduce exposure to temperature variations as the door opens and closes. Fresh fruits and vegetables top the list for wasted foods. Keep your produce fresher, longer using our guide below:
Use crisper bins in your refrigerator to store fragile produce. Ideally, there are two climate-controlled bins – low humidity for hard vegetables and fruit with low water content and high humidity for salad greens, herbs and leafy greens.
Use plastic bags in the produce department to store leafy greens, cabbage and zucchini as they help maintain higher levels of humidity. Make sure to poke holes in the bags so the produce can breathe.
Separate apples, avocados, bananas, and tomatoes from other fruits and vegetables. These produce items emit ethylene, an invisible and odorless gas that causes rapid ripening.
Keep onions and potatoes in a cool, dark place outside of the refrigerator. Do not store them together or on the same shelf. Onions will cause potatoes to sprout.
Stone fruit – peaches, nectarines, cherries, plums, apricots – should be stored in paper bags at room temperature until ripe. Once ripened, they should be stored in the refrigerator in a plastic bag or container.
Examine all produce for bruises, nicks and decay. Damaged produce will rapidly decay because once broken leaves and skin are exposed to air, spoilage will occur. If produce in your refrigerator is damaged, consume it sooner than undamaged items.
Try to use damaged produce as ingredients in recipes. Use vegetables as a salad topper or garnish, use fruit for pies and smoothies and make your own fruit and veggie-infused water.
Shop frequently instead of stocking up. The more often you shop for produce throughout the week, the better chance you have of purchasing fresher stock.
Reducing food waste provides the dual benefit of saving money and helping to conserve natural resources.
The National Onion Association is a nonprofit trade organization that represents more than 500 onion growers, shippers, packers and suppliers throughout the United States. It’s purpose is to advocate for the industry’s interests in Washington and increase America’s consumption of onions.