Waste Not, Want Not
The average American family throws away 25% of the food they buy. I know it bums me out when I forget about the zucchini in the veggie drawer or the leftovers that got pushed to the back - that's wasted money and energy!
8 Ways We Have Reduced Our Food Waste
Meal Plan. If you have a game plan before you go to the grocery store, you will make fewer unnecessary purchases and less will go to waste.
Use your freezer and potentially invest in a deep freezer. If you're like me, your household freezer is jammed full of goodies for the toddlers like gluten free frozen waffles and chicken nuggets. Once you add in my frozen fruit for smoothies and a full frozen meal or two for days when I haven't planned ahead, it gets full fast. So I'm glad we have a deep freezer. Not only do we use the deep freezer for storing the quarter grass fed cow we purchase every year to feed our family, but also for things like butter, nuts, herbs, and ripe bananas when you want to and have the time to make banana bread. Also note: frozen fruit and veggies can often be 'fresher' and healthier than what you find in the 'fresh produce' section of your grocer. I mention this only because the veggie drawer aka rotting drawer is notoriously neglected space.
Save and freeze vegetable trimmings to make stock. Save meat bones and chicken carcasses for said stock too! Save the carrot the toddler ate half of like a corn on the cob!
Eat ugly food. We learned this from our first CSA up in DC - don't expect your farm fresh food to look pristine and purty! This can apply to food in grocery stores too. Just because a carrot is mangled looking or the onions a little brown, doesn't mean they don't still taste good.
Ignore most expiration dates. The nose knows. Smell it, take a small taste, and if all seems well proceed to consume. The expiration dates are the manufacturer's guarantee of best quality - the yogurt won't suddenly turn to poison the day after the expiration date. Take them at their word "best by XXXX" and trust your instincts.
Get creative with leftovers. I would be better at this, but I often refer to John as the human garbage disposal as he will gladly eat leftovers well past the point that I'm willing to :) But leftover rice and veggies that are about to turn can be easily turned into a stir fry with a little soy sauce. Apples and bananas about to turn can be mashed into your morning oatmeal for extra heartiness.
If all else fails, compost! This makes me feel better about all the wasted food on my toddler's plate. It goes into compost for our garden or is scattered outside the chicken coop to be recycled into yummy farm fresh eggs.
Finally, do a little research to see if there are local programs or charities that help upcycle restaurant leftovers and recently expired foodstuffs from grocery stores. Support them! Or start a program of your own! When I lived in DC, I volunteered a few times at the DC Central Kitchen and fell in love with the concept: reducing hunger with recycled food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals, and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise.
For more information on how much food goes to waste in America see the 2012 Natural Resources Defense Council Report: "Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill"