Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of food waste sent to landfills. However, there are still ways we can cut down on food waste even when composting. In this article, I will discuss various methods and tips for reducing food waste as much as possible while still utilizing composting for organic waste diversion.
Plan Out Meals and Make a Grocery List
One of the best ways to reduce food waste is to plan out meals for the week ahead of time. I like to sit down on Sundays and make a meal plan for each day, considering what foods I already have at home. I then use my meal plan to create a comprehensive grocery list. This prevents me from buying excess food that could go bad before I use it.
Having a plan and buying only what I need has cut down my weekly food waste significantly. I used to throw away so many vegetables that went bad or leftovers that sat in the fridge too long. Now I buy only ingredients for my planned meals and use up everything I purchase each week.
Store Foods Properly to Maximize Freshness
Proper food storage can extend the shelf life of fresh foods and prevent premature spoilage. I pay close attention to how each food should be stored.
For example, tomatoes and avocados should be kept at room temperature until ripe. Leafy greens stay crisp longer when stored loosely in produce bags in the refrigerator. Berries should be refrigerated in a single layer in a shallow container.
Learning the ideal storage conditions for different foods has allowed me to keep fruits, vegetables and other perishables fresh for longer periods. This directly cuts down on the amount of edible food that has to be thrown out or composted.
Freeze Foods You Won’t Use Right Away
Freezing foods is one of the easiest ways to stop food waste in its tracks. If I buy a large quantity of fresh produce or have leftovers that I won’t finish quickly, I portion the foods out and freeze them.
Some examples of foods I like to freeze include:
- Chopped green onions
- Herbs like parsley, cilantro and basil
- Broth or stock
- Shredded cheese
- Cooked beans, grains and meats
Frozen foods maintain excellent flavor and nutritional value. Then when I’m ready to eat them, I simply thaw the portions. Freezing gives food a much longer shelf life and keeps food out of the compost bin.
Compost What You Can’t Consume
Despite best efforts to reduce waste, some level of food scraps is inevitable. When food does start to spoil or goes uneaten, composting is the next best option.
I have a small indoor compost bin that I empty into my outdoor compost pile about once a week. I add fruit and vegetable peels, eggshells, nut shells, stale bread, and coffee grounds. This organic waste nourishes my compost pile rather than taking up space in a landfill.
Composting organic waste completes the cycle of reducing food waste. Even after planning meals, storing food properly, and freezing extras, composting takes care of the food scraps that remain.
Donate Excess Non-Perishable Foods
In addition to perishable foods, I sometimes end up with extra non-perishable items that I don’t get around to eating. Rather than tossing these canned goods, packaged foods, and other shelf-stable items, I like to donate them.
Food banks, shelters, and churches often accept donations of foods with longer shelf lives. It makes me feel good to pass along extra items to people who can really use them instead of trashing food that is still perfectly edible. Non-perishable donations are a great way to further cut food waste.
Monitor Progress and Improve Over Time
The final step I recommend is to monitor your progress reducing food waste over time. Every couple months, do an audit of your household compost and trash bins. Are they less full than before? Are you wasting less fresh food due to spoilage? Adjust your meal planning, grocery shopping, storage methods, and food preservation techniques as needed.
With practice and awareness, I’ve dramatically changed my habits around food and waste. Though I continue composting food scraps, the volume of waste has decreased significantly thanks to planning, smart storage, and freezing. The combination of composting along with other waste-reduction methods can lead to big changes.