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How to avoid food waste

By Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN Food City Registered Dietitian • Dec 5, 2018 at 5:30 AM

This time of year, food is abundant for many of us. Between holiday parties, school and work events, and family get-togethers, you may find yourself with excess food that you don’t know what to do with. Forty percent of food in America gets trashed every year, often because we cook meals that are too big or don’t store food properly. It’s important throughout the holidays, and all year long, to live more sustainably and produce less food waste.

Avoiding food waste starts with proper planning. Plan your meals from fresh foods or leftovers that you have in your refrigerator, freezer or pantry. Look for recipes where there are ingredients that overlap or repurpose foods in different ways. For example, if you have excess turkey or chicken, you could eat it as is one night, followed by using it to top a salad or sandwich on another day, then add it to a soup the following day. Leftovers are best eaten within three to four days after cooking.

It is also important to plan your meals based on proper portion sizes. For example, the recommended portion size for meats is 3 to 4 ounces. For bone-in meats such as turkey or ham, you can estimate around 1 pound per person to account for bone weight. Simply multiply this factor by the number of people you are cooking for to get the amount that you should buy.

Another important aspect of food waste is to store food properly. Use the “first in, first out” or FIFO method by putting groceries you just bought behind older groceries in your refrigerator or pantry so that you eat the previously purchased food first before the newly purchased food. This ensures that you eat the older items before they expire. Utilizing your freezer can be a great way to store items longer since food stored in the freezer typically lasts three to four months.

If you find yourself with extra food, remember that not everyone in our community is so fortunate. If you buy too much, look for opportunities to give to those in need.

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