March is National Nutrition Month, and this year's theme is to "Go Further with Food." One way to go further with your food is to reduce the amount of leftover and spoiled food you throw out.
About 31 percent of all edible food is wasted in the U.S., and American households throw 19% of vegetables and 14% of fruits they buy (1). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is committed to cutting food loss and waste in the United States in half by 2030 (2).
Most of us have good intentions on our weekly shopping trip, buying a bounty of groceries with a grand plan for home-cooked healthy dinners all week long. But even our best meal plan intentions can become derailed when something unexpected comes up, leaving us with a trash can full of wilted produce and smelly fish at the end of the week.
Here are some tips to reduce your weekly food waste:
Keep it simple. Weeknight recipes do not need to be complicated. Plan recipes and buy ingredients that you know (and like) and if a recipe calls for an unknown ingredient, omit it or swap it for something more familiar.
Shop for produce two times per week. Plan for one larger shopping trip where you stock up on, pantry items, lean protein, dairy and enough produce to last your household 2-3 days. Then make a shorter mid-week trip to the store to get another 2-3 days-worth of produce. This will keep you from buying more perishables than you need, preventing end-of-week waste.
Store it correctly. Often produce goes bad too quickly because it is stored incorrectly. Check out this infographic from EatRight.org for a quick guide for how to store produce properly to keep it fresh for longer.
Freeze it. If you have produce that will likely go bad before you eat it, freeze it for later use. Blanch vegetables quickly first then submerge in ice water, drying thoroughly before storing in freezer bags or airtight containers. You can use frozen vegetables in soup, stew, stir-fry and lasagna, or even omelets.
Keep these 5 essential non-perishable items on hand: Canned bean, brown rice, canned diced tomatoes, frozen spinach, and a frozen pepper and onion blend. You can make a variety of quick meals with these ingredients, and you don’t have to worry about their expiration date
Check out the variety of simple meals you can make by stretching out these same pantry ingredients (plus a few extras):
Easy chili (beans, diced tomatoes, frozen pepper and onions)
Burrito bowls (rice, beans, peppers/onions)
Veggie fajitas (beans, peppers/onions)
Veggie fried rice. (Rice, spinach)
Rice, spinach, and egg bowl. (Rice, spinach)
Pasta toss (Beans, diced tomatoes)
For more information about National Nutrition Month and how to go further with food, visit eatright.org
1. Eat Right.org. "How to Keep Produce Fresh Longer" Infographic.
2. Eat Right Pro. "Store food correctly to reduce waste."