#SaveTheFood: Food Waste Prevention Week

food waste in a landfill

Americans throw away more than 40% of the food supply in this country, leading to 160 billion pounds of wasted food annually, which not only costs money, but also contributes to greenhouse gases. The City and County of Denver has been aggressive in its approach to reducing food waste over the past few years, working with restaurants, and launching initiatives to bring more awareness around the problems caused by food waste and the potential solutions. 


#SaveTheFood: Food Waste Prevention Week

Wasting less food is not as complicated as you might think. Follow these easy tips to save money by making use of the food you buy and save time by making a habit of eating your leftovers: You’ll have more money and more meals on hand; you’ll produce less greenhouse gas emissions and will contribute to far less loss of resources; and you’ll have less trash. Tag #SaveTheFood on Twitter to share what you learned and feature your own food waste reduction tips. 

Freeze More

person freezing leftovers

  • Freezing is like hitting the “pause” button on food. You can freeze almost anything, including bread, (shelled) eggs, milk, cheese, and leftovers.
  • Keep a bag in the freezer to store veggie scraps (such as herb stems, peels, unused celery). When the bag is full, throw the content in a pot, add water, boil… and enjoy homemade veggie stock (which you can also freeze!). Add chicken or beef bones to make chicken or beef stock (carcasses and bones can also be frozen until ready to use). Here are some recipes(PDF, 177KB) to make your own stock or broth. 
  • Make crumbs out of leftover bread, chips, crackers, and keep in a freezer bag to have an ever-changing mix to top casseroles and other baked dishes.
  • Use silicone ice cube trays to freeze herbs (add oil to cover), lemon or lime juice, tomato paste, coconut milk, and more. Recipes often call for small quantities of these ingredients which you will now always have on hand. 


Store Better

  • Properly storing food will ensure that food stays fresher longer. For example, did you know that eggs should not be kept in the refrigerator door? Keep them in the main part of the refrigerator, which is cooler.
  • For more storage tips, visit savethefood.com/storage

Shop Less Often

image of food containers with Organize your fridge:

  • Keep a basket or a shelf in your fridge with an “Eat This First” sign on it for items that need to be consumed in priority.
  • Don’t overfill your fridge so you can see more easily what’s in it that needs to be consumed. To that effect, try shopping more often but in smaller quantities.
  • At least once a week, have a leftovers night. Get creative and see what you can prepare with items that have been lingering in the fridge. 

Save Money

chicken in package with best by date Understand date labels and “expiration” dates:

  • Did you know that date labels are not federally mandated except for baby formula? Best by, best before, enjoy by, sell by indicate peak freshness, not food safety. Rely on your taste buds and sense of smell to determine if food is still good to eat. Shelf stable food in particular will be safe to eat way beyond the date on the item. Watch this five minute video by Harvard School to learn more.

Save Time

woman in the kitchen making a list Shop Smart:

  • Make a list before going grocery shopping and stick to it and avoid making impulse purchases that you may not get to in time (such as that bag of lettuce that will inevitably rot after three days).
  • Buy imperfect fruits and vegetables – they taste just as good and are as nutritious as their “perfect” counterparts but are more likely to be tossed by the grocer. Most grocers also offer bags of imperfect produce at a discount in the produce aisle.
  • Buying the last item discourages grocers to stock shelves to create the illusion of abundance. People often avoid buying the last item thinking there is something wrong with it, which causes good food to go to waste.
  • The average family of four wastes $1,800 of food each year. Keep that fact in mind when shopping for bulk “deals”– chances are you will throw away the savings.
  • Shop in the bulk section so you can select the exact amount of food you would like to buy. Save money and avoid packaging waste as well in the process! 

Compost

When all else fails, compost:

  • The priority should always be to reduce wasting food to avoid the waste of resource that went into producing it. Any waste that can’t be avoided should be composted instead of landfilled.
  • Go to Denvergov.org/gogreen to sign-up for the Denver Composts program.
  • Look for the BPI (Biodegradable Products Institute) logo on compostable paper products like cups, plates and to-go containers. These items are accepted in Denver’s green carts (but only the ones with the BPI logo!).
  • Food scraps (including bones), paper towels (and other paper products), and yard waste can be composted. Check out Denvergov.org/gogreen for a full list of compostable items. 

Food Waste Reduction at Work

Woman dressed as eco superhero with trash bins showing thumb-up gesture on color background Become a food waste superhero at work:

  • Create a calendar appointment to remind yourself that you have leftovers in the fridge.
  • Send an email to colleagues to alert them of leftover catered food that is up for grabs.
  • Store leftover catered food in the fridge after it has been sitting out. Remember to let people know the food in the fridge is available for consumption. 
  • Adjust catering orders down slightly. Caterers usually add 5% overage to orders, and it’s smart to order 5% less food.