SALVAGE TODAY’S FOOD SUPPLY TO PROTECT TOMORROW’S
31% of all available food in the U.S. goes to waste.
Let’s break down what that means for the average household.
According to a report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), "American families throw out approximately 25 percent of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually."
For those of us trying to stretch our budget for preparedness, reducing waste can be huge.
Using the money we save by not wasting food can translate into emergency food storage that can last up to 25 years. It’s one of the most common sense investments you can make.
Let’s take a practical look at ways to reduce food waste.
Make a Plan
Just as we plan for a crisis, every food shopping trip requires the same, albeit on a smaller scale.
If you make a meal plan for the next 3-7 days, you can build an accurate list. With your list, you can mentally map out where you’ll find these foods at your market.
If you don’t make a plan, it will be much easier to buy more than you need, leading to waste. Modern supermarkets are also designed to distract you from impulse buys with free samples and flashy displays.
Another great tool for planning is keeping a log of what you throw away. Having this data on hand will inform future visits to the market. It’s also a good way to remind yourself to be conscientious about your waste.
One more tip that will help you in planning. Know your larder. Know what’s in your fridge, pantry, and freezer. Keep them neat and tidy so you can see everything. Then, use the "first in, first out" principle. Put new foods toward the back, and bring older foods up front for immediate use.
Be careful with volume deals that get you to needlessly overbuy too. Volume and bulk discounts are great though, if you know you’ll use the food and it has a good shelf life. But buying 6 dozen eggs for a two-dollar discount? Probably not a great buy if you don’t have an immediate plan for them.
Understand expiration dates
One thing many people don’t realize is that "sell by" and "use by" dates are not actually indications of food safety. These phrases are not regulated for any food, except baby formula. So many foods are good beyond these dates.
It can be hard to memorize how long foods can be stored in the fridge, freezer and at room temp, so I often reference a chart I have printed out and stuck to the fridge. I’ve included a link to the one I use at the end of this article. But you can also just do a web search for "expiration date chart" or "expiration date cheat sheet" and you’ll find tons to choose from.
Of course, not all foods will behave exactly as the chart tells you it should. That’s why, in my house, if a food passes the sight and smell check, we usually eat it. We look for fuzzy black, green or pink mold, or any other discoloration. If it smells off, we toss.
Again, if you have a plan, worrying about expiration dates should be the last thing on your mind.
Know how to preserve your food.
We’ve talked about the importance of preserving our harvest from our Patriot Gardens in the past.
Whether bought or grown, any excess produce should be preserved to last. Canning, drying, pickling should be in your knowledge base for self-reliance.
For every day food consumption, the freezer is also your friend. It can extend the shelf life of many perishables, if stored properly. My husband bought a vacuum sealer for his game meat years ago and it has served us well beyond our intended use. I even use it to freeze soups, stews and sauces flat in those vacuum seal bags to save space in the freezer.
Use as much of your food as possible.
One thing previous generations valued was using everything they had – this principle extended to everything, not just food.
It’s easy to relearn this principle. For example, next time you dice up an onion, be cognizant about slicing as close to the ends as possible.
Finally, make the most of the waste you do make.
Not every bit of food is going to make it on your plate every night. But that doesn’t mean it should go in the trash bin.
Most fruit and vegetable scraps (excluding citrus) can be used to make compost for your Patriot Garden. Coffee grounds and used tea leaves can also go in your compost. This way, waste ensures better quality produce in your next plot and potentially higher yields.
Meat scraps and bones can and should be saved for homemade stock-making. Scraps of root vegetables, greens, and herbs are also great to save for stock. Just store it all in a large freezer bag or two until you’re ready to make a pot.
If you can follow even a few of these tips for reducing food waste, you’ll be well on your way to saving hundreds, even thousands of dollars.
This savings enables us to be more self-reliant.
It helps us take that next step in preparedness – especially when we thought it wasn’t in the budget.
For those of us who take preparedness seriously – it can be a huge relief.
I hope you found today’s article to be helpful and inspiring.
If you have more tips on how to reduce food waste, we’d love to hear them! Send us an email or give us a shout on our social media pages, and we’ll pass the info to our growing community.
Have a great weekend, friends! Stay vigilant, and remember – waste not, want not!