It’s a stunning fact: 40% of food is wasted, (check out our deep dive here) and in the United States, most of the waste in the food system happens in our homes, with consumers accounting for roughly 43% of all food waste generated (ReFED). It may seem like a daunting problem, but there are a number of small things we all can do that together will make a very big difference.
First of all, not all solutions are created equal. With the Food Recovery Hierarchy (US EPA) as our guide, here’s a list of ways to reduce food waste in your home from top to bottom.
1. Start by Reducing Food Waste at the Source
By planning meals ahead of time and only purchasing what you know you will eat, you are certain to reduce the amount of spoiled food left in your fridge. Buying in bulk can save money and trips to the grocery store, but only if you have plans to eat everything you’ve purchased or if you’re buying non-perishables that can be stocked in your pantry for longer periods of time. When you purchase only what you eat, you can help to reduce food waste and your food budget at the same time.
2. Learn to Store Food Correctly
Here at Apeel Sciences, we’re hyper-aware of how and when produce will spoil - in fact, we’re studying it in our labs every day!
If you’ve ever wondered why your apples sometimes go bad faster than other times, it may have to do with how you’re storing them. For most fruits and vegetables, refrigeration helps to reduce spoilage; however, some types of produce (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions) should not be refrigerated, because they last longer at room temperature.
In some instances, the factor is not “where” but “with what” the produce is stored that matters. Fruits and vegetables can ripen faster when exposed to ethylene gas, and particularly sensitive types of produce (e.g., apples, leafy greens, berries, and peppers) are at risk of premature spoilage from ethylene gas exposure. You probably don’t keep ethylene gas in your kitchen, but here’s the issue: some fruits and vegetables actually produce ethylene gas while they ripen. These ethylene-producers include bananas, avocados, tomatoes, cantaloupes, peaches, pears, and green onions. Storing these away from the sensitive produce types can help avoid premature spoilage and avoidable food waste. To learn more about fruit and vegetables’ ethylene responses, check out our blog about how and why produce ripens!
Apeel can help you reduce waste here too since our plant-derived coating reduces the rate that water is lost and oxygen gets into your fruits and vegetables. Apeel produce can last longer before spoiling and give you more time to eat it before it goes bad!
3. Your Freezer is for More than Just Ice Cream
No judgment here - eat all the ice cream you want! But don’t forget that freezing can be a great way to preserve perishables that you can still eat later. The extra burger patties you bought or hot dog buns leftover from a BBQ - these can be thrown in the freezer and defrosted before your next gathering. Leftover greens or fruit can be frozen and added to smoothies. And plenty of leftover meals can be frozen and eaten later (soup and chili are great examples). Speaking of leftovers, eat them! This is probably the easiest way to cut back on food waste in your home.
4. Get Organized
Most of us couldn’t write a list of exactly what’s in our refrigerators or pantries right now. Sure, we might remember our last trip to the grocery store, but what’s hidden in the back or on the top shelf might be more of a mystery. Having a system to keep track of what we have in stock can make a big difference in reducing our food waste at home and saving a bit of money too. One strategy that is particularly useful for perishable items is the “first in first out” rule. Instead of loading up all the groceries you just bought in the front of your shelves (hiding the stuff that you bought last week but haven’t used yet), push the new items to the back and pull forward the foods that need to be eaten soonest.
Taking inventory once a month to see what you have hiding in the corners and bottom of drawers can help to keep everything clean and organized, so your system is easier to follow. You may even discover some non-perishables that seemed like a good idea, but you know you’ll never end up eating - this is a great opportunity to donate a bag of canned or other dry goods to the food bank!
5. Be Creative with Food Scraps
Many of our favorite recipes won’t use every part of the ingredients we’ve purchased. The peels, seeds, rinds, tops, stalks, and bones are often discarded in the process and end up in our trash. At Apeel, we try to look at waste as “byproducts” that can be valorized as ingredients themselves and used for another purpose. Whether this is in our labs, on the farm, or in your kitchen, there are ways to put these food scraps to good use.
Pumpkin and butternut squash seeds can be roasted and make great snacks. Stems of kale or chard might not taste good in a salad but are great smoothie ingredients. And chicken carcasses or meat bones simmered with the vegetable stalks and leftover herbs can turn into a savory stock that tastes much better than the store-bought stuff. If you’re innovative, the possibilities are endless!
6. Unavoidable Food Waste Can Still be Composted
No matter how diligent and creative we are by planning ahead, storing food correctly, getting organized, freezing what we can, and using our food scraps, we will still end up with some waste in the end. This is where composting can play a role by reducing contributions to landfills and potentially producing valuable material in the form of fertilizer. If your county has a food scraps program as we do here in Santa Barbara, you can participate in a compost pick-up program. Alternatively, you can follow the instructions in our blog post on how to set up a home composting system yourself.
A 2018 study found that the average American throws away more than 300 pounds of food each year. Here at Apeel, we think that can change. Apeel is helping to reduce the rate of spoilage of fruits and vegetables, giving retailers more time to sell and you more time to eat produce before it turns into waste. Our product and your efforts can together tackle the food waste problem and improve the sustainability of our global food system!
Want to find Apeel Avocados near you? Check out our store locator!