Photo by Radoslaw Prekurat

I just finished cleaning my refrigerator. I get a thrill seeing the insides of a sparkly refrigerator. A clean refrigerator is essential for storing food safely. The idea of food stored in a dirty freezer or refrigerator gives me chills. (no pun intended)

Cleaning the refrigerator is a good reminder to not waste food. Today I had to throw out two dishes of gravy. Maybe not such a big deal, but I’m paying strict attention to having zero food waste. Now when I have to throw out food, I consider what I could have done to prevent having to create food waste. As I’ve written many times, recycling and composting is not the best and only answers to food waste. To paraphrase George Washington, the best defense is a good offense. With this in mind, I consider that the best way to curb food waste is to not create it.

Journaling is a proven way to change a behavior. Journal which foods we buy or grow. How do they impact our budget? How do we use them in meals? What goes into the compost or trash? Were there scraps that could have been repurposed? What extras could have been swapped or shared with a neighbor? What actions during the week, like busy schedules or eating out caused food waste. Note menus you love and those you don’t and how you used the leftovers.

Refrain from buying pre-prepared vegetables and fruits. They not only add plastic waste to the landfills, they spoil more quickly than in nature’s original packaging. Organic vegetables often keep growing in the refrigerator, rather than spoiling. What we buy matters.

Mom was right. Go to the store with a shopping list or food app that lists the items you need for the week’s menu and don’t go hungry. If it will spoil quickly, buy just what you need and will use promptly. If you still have too much, freeze it or share it!

How we store food matters. Don’t wrap cheese in aluminum foil. It will generally eat the foil and mold more quickly. Speaking of cheese, most cheese mold can be trimmed and composted. Use glass, airtight containers for food storage. Don’t put uncovered food in the refrigerator or freezer as it will dry out and probably collect refuse from other dishes. As a reminder, add a “to be eaten by” date.

If we want to address food waste and conserve resources, we need to change our food buying and kitchen behaviors. Arm ourselves with knowledge! Be keenly observant of what happens in our kitchens. Get the whole family involved! Households are the biggest generator of food waste. Be a role model!

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