There are many ways to practice the first R of Reduce!
Reduce is the first, and most important, of the 4Rs because preventing waste before it happens has the biggest impact. Growing and producing our food requires vast amounts of resources such as water (80% of all fresh water goes to our agricultural system)*, energy, and fuel for transportation. Efficient uses of these resources reduce waste at its source.
In the U.S. approximately 40% of all food is wasted. About 90% of food that is still good and some food which is unwanted gets thrown away in the garbage, but sometimes it is composted.* While compost is better than garbage, food that is eaten and saved from being composted has a greater environmental and social impact. Wasting food is bad for our community because there are 50 million food-insecure people in the United States.* In Alameda County, one in six adults, and one in three children are food-insecure and face the threat of hunger on an ongoing basis.**
*Dana Gunders-Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill.
**Alameda County Community Food Bank 2013 Annual Report
How food is stored can impact its useful life. Reusable packaging such as glass containers with lids and seals can preserve freshness so food lasts longer.
Ensure healthy produce doesn’t go to waste and learn how best to store fruits and vegetables at home. For helpful information and storage tips and strategies, please visit www.StopFoodWaste.org.
In the United States, baby formula is the only grocery item that has a federal mandate to have an expiration date. For all other products, the expiration date is just a guide for peak freshness. Many items can last days and even weeks past the date stamped on them. Use your senses, and look for significant discoloration or mold, or give the food the “sniff test”. For more information on “expiration” dates, click here.
If you don’t buy the browning bananas, slightly bruised apples, and lightly wrinkled tomatoes, who will? Produce with a little bit of wear on it is still perfectly nutritious and may have more flavor since it has had a chance to fully ripen. Consider buying the “unloved” produce and saving it from being wasted.
A reminder of items in the refrigerator that are nearing the end of their useful life can be very helpful. Print out CVSan’s Eat Me First signs to place in your refrigerator next to the foods that need to be eaten soon. Eat Me First signs are available here.
A helpful feature on Foodfully automatically imports grocery store purchases made through Amazon Fresh, Instacart and retail rewards programs, then sends notifications to eat food before it goes bad!
Studies show that households waste 25 percent of what is taken home, but there is a significant opportunity to prevent food waste. Imagine dropping one of every four bags of groceries on the way home from the store; what can be done to get that fourth bag of groceries back? Click here for meal planning guides and other resources for help saving the 25 percent of groceries that are going to waste. Shop your refrigerator before going to the store and make a shopping list.
Read a ground-breaking report from Dana Gunders of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to learn more about food waste: Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of its Food From Farm to Fork to Landfill.
Does it go in the refrigerator, on the counter, or in the pantry? Answering this question for produce can extend the life of your favorite fruits and vegetables and prevent wasted food. For example avocados, peaches, and tomatoes are best stored on the counter to ripen first. Once ripe, they should be placed in the refrigerator. Fruits such as mango, pineapple, and watermelon are best stored in the pantry. Vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and lettuce are best stored in the refrigerator, separately from fruit.
Find more tips from the Stop Food Waste Campaign’s Fruit and Veggie Storage Guide at StopFoodWaste.org/resources.