There are many definitions of sustainability, but the most common is providing for the needs of the present (the people, the planet and the economy) without hurting the needs of future generations (like harming the environment or natural resources). While this may seem like a lofty goal for the average person, there is one thing you can do that does make a difference: reduce food waste.
Experts say the average American wastes about 30-40 percent of the US food supply. This amounts to roughly 325 pounds of food wasted per person per year, or nearly 1 pound per day. For single people or those with small households, that number is even higher. Why? Because people who live alone tend to buy more food than they need, which leads to higher food waste. If you fit in this category, what should you do?
Here are three ways to reduce food waste in your household:
Buy foods with a longer shelf life – Processed packaged, canned, or frozen foods can often stay for longer periods of time on the shelf or in the refrigerator. In fact, the average US shopper shops at a grocery store only about 1-2 times per week, so having foods that last through the week is a must. Consider keeping staples on hand like peanut butter and jelly, a loaf of sliced bread, cereal, and canned fish, chicken, or beans. All of these can make a quick, simple, and easy weeknight meal or light supper.
Be more efficient in the kitchen – Meal planning and/or prepping in advance saves time, money, and often ensures you have a satisfying meal on the table even on busy nights. Write up a menu and stick to it. Use pantry and refrigerator staples you already have open in your fridge like jarred pesto, olives, salsa, roasted peppers, salad dressing, marinades, or sauces to dress up your meals. You may also want to create one meal around a specific convenience food like chicken tenders, frozen pizza, canned soup, or fried fish sticks. Then supplement the entrée with fresh or frozen vegetables and/or a green salad.
Make friends with your freezer – The best way to prevent food waste is to serve only what you want to eat and freeze the rest for another meal. Think about cooking a big batch of soup, stew, or a casserole, then portion it out in individual containers and freeze. For a complete meal, include all the sides like a starch or vegetable. This way all you have to do is pull out the meal from the freezer in the morning, place it in the fridge, then thaw, heat, and serve for a quick ready-made dinner after work.