Summertime Food Waste Reduction Strategies

It is officially summertime!  It has been a rough few months for many of us.  With social distancing requirements still in place, the traditional summertime BBQ may look a little different this year.  Gardens are blooming and people are looking up ways to cook up all that zucchini.  Just because we are living in a new normal doesn’t mean we should stop the good food waste reduction habits developed over the years!  Here are 7 ways you can save food this summer. 

  1. Fill Your Freezer – when the bounty blooms in your garden or there are too many good deals at the local farmer’s market to pass up, consider freezing extra for later use. Here are some tips to make sure your bounty is tasty when you pull it out this fall.  There is a handy guide from the University of Georgia.
    1. Use fruits and veggies when they are at their peak. This will preserve the nutrients and flavor. 
    2. Blanching vegetables before freezing can slow the action of enzymes that cause the loss of flavor, color, vitamins and texture. It also brightens the color and removes dirt and any bacteria. 
    3. Select a proper container. It really all depends upon the type of produce and what kind of storage is available.  Hard plastic containers, durable freezer bags or glass canning jars work great.  Be sure to label them with the date.  Most produce can stay good up to 8 to 12 months. 
  2. Clean out your pantry. This is a good time to go through your pantry and look at best by dates.  According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 90% of Americans misinterpret the dates on labels.   Here are some tips.
    1. As a general rule of thumb, most canned goods can last for up to five years. High-acid foods can be stored for up to 18 months.  But watch out for dents, bulges or rust.
    2. Many dry goods like grains and dried beans can last beyond their label dates too. Look for mold, bugs, discoloration or smells.
    3. FoodKeeper, a free app created by the USDA, helps determine how soon specific items should be consumed or tossed.
    4. Donate safe food that you are no longer planning on using to your local food pantry.
  3. Many of us are a little tired of cooking at home and cannot wait for our favorite restaurants to reopen. When eating out, consider splitting meals or take leftovers home.  Talk to your waiter about their food waste strategies.  If they don’t have one, tell them about Waste-Free VC
  4. When barbequing, considering low-waste options, like bringing reusable cutlery and plates. Try to minimize the amount of trash you produce by planning ahead with your friends and family to determine who is bringing what. Try the Potluck Hub  It helps coordinate everything on your mobile phone.
  5. Try the quick pickling method. This method doesn’t require complicated canning or even a bushel of vegetables. And it is easy to pickle almost any vegetable.  Check out Kitchn’s website for more ideas.
  6. Recycle your leftovers. You can convert almost any leftover into a whole new meal with a little creativity and imagination.  Creating casseroles, frittatas, soups, and smoothies are just a few ideas.   All Recipes has some great ideas on their website.
  7. If all else fails, compost!! You can compost your produce leftovers in a backyard bin or under the sink worm bin.  Most dairy, protein and grains should be excluded from bins to prevent the attraction of pests.  Composting is as easy as 1-2-3 and produces healthy soil amendment for your very own garden. Check with your city or county who may provide discounts on bins you can purchase from a local vendor.

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