Monday, September 26, 2011

Go Green with Food - Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

The amount of food wasted in the United States is staggering. Food waste includes uneaten food and food preparation scraps from households, and business. In 2009 food waste contributed to almost 35% of total waste going to landfills in the U.S. Paper is the only material category where we generate more waste, but we also recycle more. That is your money goig in the trash.

Simple changes in food purchasing, storage and preparation practices can yield significant reductions in food waste. Not only will this reduce waste, but it will make your food dollars go further. Saving food means saving money.

Reduce: The basics of reducing waste starts with planning and organizational skills.

  • Plan your menu and shop for just those things on your menu.
  • Buy in quantities that you realistically need and will use. If you buy in bulk, have a plan. Think use, freeze, or share.
  • Remember the "First-in, first-out rule". Use older items first. Also keep a marker, tape and a white board handy. Date items going into the refrigerator and freezer and then add them to a white board list this is an easy way to track what you have on hand.

Reuse: You already paid for it – so use it.

  • Use your leftovers – take leftovers to work for lunch, or turn leftovers in to completely different meals. Leftover vegetables make great ingredients in soups or stir-fry.
  • Preserve by canning or freezing surplus fruits and vegetables – especially abundant seasonal produce. Check out your local Penn State Extension websites for food preservation classes near you at .
  • Donate to your local food pantry if you have an abundance of produce from the growing season or maybe you purchased a multi pack food item but your family doesn't like it. To find a listing of local food pantries go to:

Recycle: Even with implementing all the ideas listed above to reduce and reuse there will always be some food waste.

  • Composting is one way to recycle food waste items coming from the kitchen. Mixing food waste with yard trimmings to make compost can in turn feed your soil and plants. Check with your local government solid waste agency for information on local composting resources and if they don't offer collection for composting, suggest that they start. I have included a publication from Penn State on how to get started composting or check with your local Penn State Extension office for possible classes at

If we all apply a few ideas listed above we will help to reduce food waste going to landfills and we, in turn, will add money to our pockets. That is always a good thing!

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