Maybe you treat your fridge like a carry-on you didn’t want to spend the extra money to check–you pack it full to the brims until whatever went in first is wrinkly and forgotten. Then again, maybe your fridge is a bright, empty box you stare into each night before convincing yourself to order Chinese take-out. In either case, we have a problem.
Fun fact about fridges: when full, they are actually more energy efficient! Another, less fun, fact: when too full, your fridge might as well have a garbage can in it, because that’s where half your food is going.
Even if you live in a composting utopia (I dream of the day we get curbside compost), every time you throw out food, you make a financial and ecological choice. Or, more accurately, you made that choice when you bought more food than you needed or chose not to eat what you had. You chose to throw away money and to waste the surprisingly large amount of water and fuel it takes to bring that food, each and every ingredient, into your kitchen.
Ouch. Now that we (yes we, because I am not a saint) are feeling guilty, let’s consider what might be done.
1. Buy less food. Just try it–unless you live in a remote village, stopping by the store again to grab something you’re craving or need for a recipe won’t kill you. If you have a large family and actually DO need to stock up, start taking note of what you’re throwing away. Only stock up on items with longer shelf lives that you use regularly.
2. Research household food waste for extra motivation to change your habits. I’ll be posting more on the topic in the future.
3. Have fun trying to find recipes that use what is already in your fridge, including lesser-used condiments. Use your creativity, crack open those dusty cookbooks, and ask friends for ideas. Create weekly meal plans with your fridge, freezer, and pantry as inspiration. You’ll be saving money and trying new foods and cooking techniques before you know it!
4. Don’t make the most of your space. Instead of cramming it all in, start storing food in clear containers with space between them. I realize this is unrealistic for big families, but for 2-3 people, it is possible to have a half-empty fridge with enough food for the week. If you think I’m lying, just try it.
5. Post your perishables. Make a list of everything in your fridge that will go bad in the next week. Post it on the fridge or write it on a chalkboard. Cross out or erase items as you finish them. This is also a great technique for tracking what you don’t use so you can buy smaller portions next time (or eliminate the item completely).
It takes time and art to eliminate food waste, and there will always be those times you add 3 tablespoons of cayenne instead of chili powder to your chili, but keep trying. It is well worth it, both for the earth’s sake and your wallet’s.