In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: Farmers market season is here! I'm excited about supporting local agriculture, but worried that I'll overbuy and waste a lot of food. Can you help me avoid wasted food?
A: Sure. Local agriculture is great because it reduces packaging and shipping (and the resultant carbon emissions), and wasted food is an issue near and dear to our hearts.
According to the USDA, Americans waste up 40 percent of our food supply. Help cut that number down to size with some of our favorite food-saving tips.
• Shop at home first. Why buy something you already have?
• Plan meals and bring a shopping list. Buying only what you need will save you money and keep you from wasting food.
• Buy ugly. If you're making a soup or casserole, does it really matter that those peppers aren't the prettiest? They taste the same, so remember; looks aren't everything.
• First in, first out: when you purchase new items, move older ones to the front of your refrigerator so you use them first.
• Know that the use/sell/best by date on packaging doesn't mean the product is unsafe after that date. It's typically an estimate by the manufacturer about when the item will be at its peak quality. If it an item looks, smells and tastes fine, it's probably fine to eat.
• If you're not going to use all of a packaged product immediately, consider freezing it. Chicken breasts or vegetables will keep much longer in the freezer than the refrigerator.
• Get creative: Use as many parts of each ingredient as you can. Beet greens and broccoli stems can be sautéed as a side, and you can use scraps to make stocks/soups.
• Search recipes for items you have at home. The USDA's "What's Cooking?" (www.whatscooking.fns.usda.gov) is a great resource for using up things you already have.
• Seriously, eat your leftovers. Bringing them to work for lunch will save you from buying lunch, and help you stretch your dollar further.
• Give them a second life. You had mashed potatoes on Thursday, why not consider shepherd's pie on Sunday, using those leftover potatoes?
• Share them. Bring your leftovers to the office, friends, or relatives.
• Table to farm. If you don't compost at home, find a local compost site. Some towns have them,
and many farms will take food items as compost or as animal feed.
There you have it, a few simple tips to reduce food waste. For more, check out the EPA's page, www.epa.gov/recycle/reducing-wasted-food-home, on the subject, and look for this column again for more practical GoGreen tips.
Look for this column every two weeks. Send your Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.