5 ways to reduce food waste

According to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, “the primary driver of food waste is consumer waste and taste,” and despite efforts to reduce food waste, “the U.S. still discards 141 trillion calories annually—that’s 31 percent of U.S. food production.”

Being a rebellious human can happen in major ways like starting an intersectional feminist digital media organization or “small” ways like reducing your food waste. The Rebellious Living series aims to inspire everyday people to rebel from the mainstream in small ways.

Ignore date labels and follow your nose.
The image of spoiled food tumbling into the trash is often conjured when thinking of food waste. But what makes items not consumable? A Vox video report showed that most date labels make no sense. Use your senses to test whether something is no bueno. Tasting a pinky-dab of tomato sauce is not going to give you the runnings. Always practice food safety, though. Don’t be thawing and refreezing meat. If you store it in easy- to-manage portions, you can save yourself some bad times on the potty.

This is not the time to swap recipes, but know that adding wrinkled cherry tomatoes or the last dribbles of tomato sauce to your grilled cheese totally makes it fancy.

Change your taste and store smarter.
Not quite ready to eat something that looks like it’s on its way out? Get smart about food storage. Save your plastic takeout containers and jars for storing leftovers. Organize your fridge to avoid out of sight, out of mind.

Chop those bruised berries, peaches, and other fruits and toss them into freezer bags. Later you’ll toss them into your regular shmegular blender for a delicious fruit smoothie. Some fruits might need to thaw for two minutes just so you can break them off, but not too much if you want a nice frozen treat. Adding a splash of hot water (30-60 seconds microwaved) helps the blending process. Want protein? Add Greek yogurt, milk, or chia seeds.

Overripe foods (e.g., brown bananas, squishy tomatoes) are perfect for easy dishes like stir-fries, sauces, baked goods (think pancakes, muffins, waffles), soups, and casseroles.

Track and take stock before you shop.
The only way to stay on top of what’s growing in your fridge is to track its contents and modify your grocery list. You can use various apps or scrap paper to track what you’ll buy on your next trip to the store. As you add leftovers to your freezer, make a list of what’s in there and stick it to the door. Scratch off the items as you consume.

Say you added a half serving of spaghetti and meatballs to the freezer. When you’re ready to eat it in two weeks – or two months – you’ll know to add a baguette or salad to your shopping list.

Pro Tip: Buy only what you need and will use. Buying in bulk only saves money if you can use the food before it spoils. Really want the discount but you know it’s too much for your pantry or fridge? Text a friend about your find, and maybe they’ll split the cost. Or get some social karma and donate surplus snacks to local free food events.

Lick the plate, the pot, and use the scraps.
No, we’re not encouraging bad table manners. Slow down and take a look at your food prep process. Do you often leave scraps of grain in the bag, toss small pieces of bread, or leave sauce in the bottle? Use your kitchen tools to reduce how much you toss out.

Waste not, want not. Try splashing some water in the tomato paste can to ensure the last bits land in the pot. Use baking spatulas to clean the peanut butter jar. Hey, there’s enough for at least one sandwich in dem curves. Those two spoonfuls of rice you salvaged topped you up just enough to save you from sneaking a midnight snack.

Get a doggy bag
Millennials eating the booty like groceries and Boomer pornstars swapped cum by the boatload. Not sure what Gen X was up to, but I know none of us are above eating some damn leftovers.

The next time you find yourself at a restaurant or potluck, encourage everyone to take a doggy bag instead of tossing your uneaten food or leaving the host with leftovers. For anyone who says their half plate of food is not enough to make a meal, tell them it’s now officially an appetizer. What are tapas really?!

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Onicia Muller is a Caribbean writer and comedian currently freezing her buns off in Chicago. A former crime reporter and children’s columnist, she's found her happy place writing about women in entertainment....