Every Texan should have a personal interest in helping Texas reduce food waste. It saves money, time, and most importantly good food doesn’t make its way to landfills when it could be going on someone else’s plate for dinner – or better yet, grown into another plant through propagation. How many times have you gone through your refrigerator and had to throw away fruits or vegetables that have molded, or thrown out milk because it expired before it could all be drank? Then felt guilty that you let all that go to waste. I bet too many times.
When the Department of Agriculture and EPA evaluated America’s food waste in 2013, it was shocking to see that we throw away 40% of the food we buy. That’s on average $400 per person per year gone down the drain, and 31 million tons of food added to landfill each year! This high rate of food waste means we have to make more energy and resources to continue the food production process with water, fuel, and preparing land to accommodate consumer demand…and the continuous cycle of waste happens all over again.
If Americans started taking steps to reduce their food waste, businesses and farmers could actually reduce the prices you end up paying at the grocery stores and markets. A group of researchers from the USDA’s Economic Research Service found that 133 billion pounds of food was lost in 2010, which ends up being 31% of the total food supplied to consumers and was worth approximately $161.6 billion…how horrible! Imagine what good could have been done with that food. The homeless in every state could’ve been fed that’s for sure.
Let’s help change that Texans, it starts with YOU! It only takes a few mindful changes in your shopping and meal planning to help kickstart sustainable flows throughout the state and beyond. Below are 6 ways you can start reducing your food waste, and ultimately help contribute to lowering America’s wasted food each year.
1. SHOP AT YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKETS
If you’ve never shopped for food or drinks at a local farmers market – you need to go, seriously. Not only will you find some of the freshest Texas grow foods and help support your local community of farmers, you’ll have in your hands better food quality for a reasonable price. How? Simple logistics of distribution and preservation. The food you purchase at your local farmers market isn’t traveling across states, oceans, or skies to get to you, which means overhead costs for transportation and preservatives are considerably lower, and foods are in your hands at a fresher point in their growth cycle. With that lower transportation time, damaged or lost food is significantly decreased, which helps reduce total food waste before you even see it for sale.
By shopping at your farmers market, you’re also potentially helping farmers who have grown a surplus of crop just in case weather conditions killed off more crop than they expected. If weather conditions were perfect and their surplus backup grew, they need to find a way to sell that crop that their partnered buyers most likely won’t take because it exceeds their buying capacity, or doesn’t meet the standard shape and color desires of grocery store chains – that’s where you come in at the market. You have perfectly good food that will otherwise go to waste if it is not bought.
2. BUY WHAT YOU NEED FOR THE WEEK
Don’t purchase foods like fruits and vegetables in bulk if you don’t think you’ll be able to consume them within the week. A week is a good amount of time, especially when in your refrigerator or sitting on the counter, for bacteria and mold to grow. What’s wrong with going to your local farmers market (or grocery store if you don’t have a farmers market) at the end of each week? You’ll save money by taking the time prior to your shopping to set out day-to-day meal expectations for the week and only buy what you need.
3. CONSUME ORGANIC FOODS
Americans have become so accustomed to needing everything to be grown and built to last as long as they need it to, which is absurd when it comes to food. Why can food manufacturers not accept food being kept in a natural state as much as possible without adding preservatives to extend the natural lifestyle of fruits, vegetables, grains, etc? These preservatives and pesticides act as toxins and free radicals in our bodies when consumed from foods that have had them applied. In the long run, they affect our level of health and can potentially become a reason why we see a doctor for conditions as common as acne, headaches, fatigue, and other medical conditions. Aside from that, if more Americans ate more organic produce, a balance and mentality of “grow and buy only what you need” might actually make its way into streamline society.
4. EAT REASONABLE MEAL PORTIONS
Really just as simple as that; eat reasonable meal portions. Don’t load your plate with food just because you’re hungry and think you can eat it all. You might be wrong, and then all that uneaten food that no one else wants to eat because it has your ‘germs’ goes into the trash unless you save it for later by boxing it up at a restaurant or using glass or plastic containers at home. If you have children, you’re probably very familiar with spurts of picky eating habits and too many leftovers – adults are just as guilty of these too!
5. GIVE BACK WHAT YOU GROW
If you love saving money and having the freshest produce available to you, consider starting your own mini garden either in your backyard or by a window. Read more on starting your own sustainable upcycled garden here. Grow what your family loves to eat, and then once your plants blossom into matured fruits, vegetables, herbs, or trees, offer up some of your extra food to neighbors, other family members or friends, or even consider making a donation to a local shelter or food bank.
6. BECOME FAMILIAR WITH PROPAGATION
Whether you have a garden or not, you should get to know which vegetables, fruits, and herbs can be propagated into starting a brand new plant from clippings of branches or planting the seeds held within the food. Just to name a few foods that can grow into new plants when propagated properly: pineapple tops, lemon seeds, apricot seeds, lettuce, basil, succulents, rosemary, mint, oregano, and many others. You could be growing or giving away foods that are at your dispense and are kept fresh until you need them! Talk about an efficient way to save money and preventing good food from going in the trash!