Americans waste a lot of food. In 2012, it was 35 million tons — that’s more than the plastic, paper, metal or glass that we trash each year. What’s that 35 million tons made of? Here are the biggest losers — some of the most wasted foods likely to go from farm to landfill — and what you can do about it.
Bananas and other fruits
More than 50 percent of fruits and vegetables are wasted in the United States. Bananas are among the most common. Trashing bananas is such a shame since they have so many uses even when they are overripe. Check out these yummy recipes made from mushy bananas and these ideas for other overripe fruit.
If you don’t eat that many potatoes, buy them as singletons instead of a five-pound bag. We know, we know the price is better on the big bag, but the most expensive food you buy is the food you trash. Store potatoes in a dark, cool pantry where they’ll last the longest. If you’ve had potatoes for a long time and you suspect they’re about to spoil, try whipping together your favorite mashed potatoes recipe. You can freeze leftovers to avoid wasting food and to stock your fridge with a ready-made meal for a few weeks down the road.
Bagged salads and veggies
Buy only what you think you’ll need and look for the freshest looking option. Challenge yourself to eat a salad a day until your lettuce stash is depleted.. You’ll benefit from extra veggies while also wasting less food.
Attention to detail goes a long way in wasting less meat. Freeze any meat that you don’t think you’ll use over the next couple days. Yes, you’ll have to thaw it later when you’re ready to cook, but in most cases a little extra effort is better than tossing expired meat that you forgot to use.
Eggs and dairy products
If you’re not a big milk drinker, buy a smaller carton. Yes, the gallon may cost less proportionally than buying quarts, but bigger isn’t a better value if you have to toss spoiled milk in the trash. Same thing for smoothies, sour cream, eggs and yogurt. It might be on clearance but if you can’t consume these items before the expiration date, you’ve wasted money and food.
Eating a sandwich made with stale bread isn’t worth it, but there are some delicious other uses for crispy bread, such as bread crumbs, bread pudding and french toast.
These are just a few often-wasted items from American kitchens. Try these resources to help further your food waste reduction efforts: learn how to make soup from almost any veggie and add these 65 leftovers-based recipes to your cooking repertoire.