Erin Doman on April 22, 2015 1 Comment Today is Earth Day–time to celebrate our planet! We all share this Earth with each other, so we need to learn how to take better care of it. We need to do our part to ensure that our Earth stays healthy and sustainable, and no task is too small in this fight. From recycling our newspapers to switching to an electronic billing system; from turning off the lights when we leave a room to not wasting our leftovers, there are many little habits that we can adopt in order to give our Earth the love and respect that it deserves. Did you know that Americans throw out 30-40% of their food? This equates to roughly 31 million tons of wasted food every single year, which is obviously not good for the environment. It’s easy to let food remain unused in the fridge for weeks on end. It’s also easy to toss old food in the garbage and never think about it again. However, this practice is much more impactful on the environment than you might think. Be kind to your Earth (and your wallet!) and learn to use up the food that you have, letting as little go to waste as you can. Below are 9 ways you can cut your food waste and help the Earth. 1. Shop Efficiently The way you start cutting down on food waste is by becoming a discerning grocery shopper. Depending on how many people live in your household, you can take smaller and more frequent trips to the grocery store. Keep a grocery list on your fridge and update it every time you notice you need or are almost out of something. Always shop with a grocery list to get only what you need when you need it. As you’re shopping for perishables, be realistic about when you’ll actually use them to keep from storing them for weeks on end in the freezer or forgetting about them in the back of the fridge. 2. Use Everything When cooking with vegetables, meats and fruits, try your best to use up everything. Leave the skin on vegetables and fruits if you can. If you’d rather not eat the skins, consider using them as well as the bones of meats in sauces, gravies and homemade stock. For those times when you have too few scraps, you can keep them in a container and store them in the freezer. What’s great about making stock from your scraps is that you can store it in your freezer for up to two months–just as long as you eventually use it! 3. Leftovers as Ingredients If you tend to have a lot of leftovers when you cook, consider making dishes that can easily be added to other dishes or meals. Can that leftover chicken be cut up and made into a sandwich, pasta salad or enchiladas? Will those grains or beans taste great in a stew or soup? You might also consider dishes that reheat well if you know you’ll more than likely have leftovers. There are some dishes that actually taste better the next day. Think twice before throwing leftovers in the trash and be sure you use them as soon as you can to keep them from going bad. 4. Freeze Efficiently It’s easy to automatically store most of your food in the fridge, but don’t forget that your freezer makes for a great storage spot as well. Leftover curries, salsa, stews and sauces can be poured in a glass jar and stored in the freezer. Use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to freeze fruits and store them in sealed containers. Make breadcrumbs from old frozen bread and use ice cube trays to store vegetable stock or pesto so you can add them to dishes later for extra flavor. Your freezer can easily become a savior for those times where you don’t feel like cooking but are still in the mood for a hearty meal. 5. Sell-By and Use-By Dates Most of the food that’s wasted has to do with people not understanding what a sell-by date actually means. Sell-by dates are a way for retailers to know when they should no longer display goods on the shelves. If you ever notice food items offered at a steep discount, chances are they’re quickly approaching their sell-by date. Rather than flinging foods that are nearing their sell-by dates in the trash, you can more than likely keep it for several days after the date as long as you store it properly at 40 degrees or below. For anything that has a use-by or expiration date, take a close look at it before disposing of it. If it looks and smells fine, then chances are it is fine. Typically, canned goods, dry pasta and frozen bread can all be used well past their use-by dates. 6. Canning, Pickling, Preserving If you have the patience, time and tools, you might want to learn how to can, pickle or preserve your own foods. By canning your own foods you can keep them fresher for longer without freezing them. This method can also be better for your health because you know exactly what you are putting in your cans and jars–something you sacrifice when you buy from the grocery store. Canned and pickled foods also make unique gifts, which encourage your friends to be less wasteful with their food as well! 7. Eat Organic Organic food can make you healthier, feel more energized and make your meals taste more appetizing. There are a lot of great reasons to go organic, and you should not let the price discourage you. In fact, the high cost of organic items can be a great motivator for eating those foods rather than throwing them out. The next time you wrinkle your nose at the idea of paying high prices for your food, think of how much you paid for your phone, computer or other high tech device. We spend a lot of money on conveniences for our daily lives, so why not pamper our bodies the same way? It is important to be conscious of the quality of food you’re putting in your body. Just keep in mind that not all of the food you buy has to be organic, but it should be of the highest quality you can get. 8. First-In, First-Out Instead of placing your food in your fridge wherever you can find room, rotate your foods so that the first foods and leftovers you place inside are the first you use up. Many restaurants and grocery stores use this same method of first-in, first-out in an effort to reduce waste and save money. This method keeps you from finding foods that are months old whenever you go to clean out your fridge. Whenever you store food in plastic wrap, write the date on the wrap in marker so you know exactly how old it is. Use stickers for containers. A little extra effort can go a long way in preventing food waste and prevents you from having to guess when food was put in the fridge. 9. Compost Your Food For any food you absolutely can’t use, consider adding it to your compost pile. Rather than having your food go into a landfill, use it as a way to fertilize your plants or your personal garden. Keep the cycle going by using old food to help grow new food. If you don’t have a compost pile, see if any of your neighbors, family or friends do so that you can give them your old food scraps. There might also be a neighborhood garden you can contribute to. Be smarter about how you shop, store, use and dispose of your food. It is easy to think that a few wasted food scraps here and there can’t hurt, but if every single person thinks this way, then that adds up to a lot of wasted food. A few scraps can quickly become a massive mountain of wasted food. Earth Day is an important day to remind ourselves that we need to give back to our Earth. Be kind to the planet and reduce the amount of waste you produce.