10 Things You Can Do To Reduce Kitchen Waste Right Now

According to the  U.S. Department of Food and Agriculture, the average American wastes approximately 429 pounds of food each year. About 40% of that is food thrown away by consumers. Several factors contribute to these statistics, but it all really comes down to one problem: most of us simply buy more than we can eat. All of that food waste is in addition to the non-food waste we create—approximately 4.40 pounds of material waste per American, per day. 

The good news is that there are a lot of easy changes we can all make to create less waste in the kitchen. Below, ten things that you can do today to start reducing your waste footprint today.

Shop with a plan

Save time, money and create less waste by planning a week's worth of meals. But first, take a quick inventory of what you already have and use that as the building blocks for your shopping list. Not sure how much you'll need per person? Use a portion calculator to approximate. 

Get creative with scraps

Everyone knows that browning bananas make the best banana bread. But did you know that pickled watermelon rinds are delicious and can be served with basically anything? Or that leftover vegetable peels, celery leaves and animal bones can be made into rich homemade broth or stock? Or that leftover citrus peel can be made into limoncello (or orangecello, or grapefruitcello)? You can find a bunch of other creative uses for scraps (from a chef!) here

Shop more, buy less

Everything I know about frugality and creating less food waste, I learned during my decade in Italy. Italians are masters in the art of finding a good use for every last scrap of food. In fact, several Italian classics, like ribollita and panzanella, were developed as a way to use up precious leftovers. Another thing: everything is sized down in Italy, including refrigerators, pantry space, and shopping carts. As a result, people shop much more frequently, buying only what they need for the day or days ahead. Not only does this mean fresher, better tasting food, it also creates a whole lot less waste and promotes eco-friendly shopping options, like farmer's markets.

Use dried ingredients

I've already extolled the virtues of dried mushrooms in burgers, but dried ingredients in general are incredibly useful and full of concentrated flavor. They also create much less waste and have a smaller carbon footprint than fresh produce flown around the globe to be consumed out of season. Dried fruit makes a great stand-alone snack, and is delicious on cereal and in yogurt or baked goods. Dried vegetables can be mixed with cooked grains, used in soups and stews, and added to recipes in a powdered form as a healthy, super-savory alternative to salt and artificial flavorings. 

Become a food storage pro

Learning the best way to store fresh, canned, and dry foods will prevent premature spoiling and create less waste. 

Be informed when it comes to expiration dates 

According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law, up to 90% of the $160 billion of food wasted by Americans each year is the result of confusion surrounding expiration dates. First of all, ignore sell-by dates. They're for retailers, not consumers. When it comes to expiration dates, be judicious: eggs and milk, if refrigerated properly, can last one (milk) to three (eggs) weeks past their expiration dates. Packaged bread is okay to eat as long as it doesn't have mold on it. Canned food is almost always safe to eat past its expiration date, as long as the packaging is intact. Raw meat, fish, and deli meat are exceptions, however, and expiration dates should be followed closely. 

Use cloth, NOT paper

Recycling paper products isn't as helpful as you might think. The best way to avoid creating paper waste is to avoid using paper when you can help it. Cloth napkins and tablecloths are washable and elegant. Old towels, stained cloth napkins, and even old t-shirts make great rags for cleaning up. 

Two words: worm composting

Worms are the best, so why not keep some in a 10 gallon tub in your apartment? They love coffee grounds, tea bags, egg cartons, egg shells, and all fruit and vegetable waste. Oh, and their poop is super nutrient-dense and good for your indoor or outdoor plants.

DO IT YOURSELF!

Real talk: there's very little that white vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol and castile soap can't clean. Save yourself time and money while saving the earth, and make your own.