Go Further With Food!
March 19, 2018 09:00AM
Can you imagine a weekly shopping trip where you select and pay for your groceries and then toss one out of every three bags directly into the garbage on the way to your car? Of course this sounds ridiculous, but according to USDA, between 30-40% of the American food supply is wasted! And the biggest source of food waste is actually food that is purchased and then thrown out, uneaten. Instead of nourishing bodies, food is sent to landfills or processed through sewer systems (via the garbage disposal).
Not only does this impact our wallets and the planet, it also impacts our health when we miss out on the benefits of nutrient-dense food. Every year, Americans toss about 19% of the vegetables and 14% of the fruits they purchase.
This year’s celebration of National Nutrition Month® highlights this issue, urging consumers to “Go Further with Food.”
In keeping with this year's theme, here are 10 ways to make your food budget go further, eat well and avoid waste.
- Inventory your kitchen before you go shopping. Plan meals around what you already have and pay attention to the “use by” dates for dairy products, eggs, fresh meats, chicken, seafood and other perishable foods.
- Low cost fresh vegetables that have a longer shelf life include carrots, winter squash, onions, garlic, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Apples and citrus fruit have a longer shelf life than most other fresh fruits. Dried fruits and canned fruits without added sugars are waste-friendly options as well.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are a nutritious option and retain their quality for two months or longer. Since they are generally picked and frozen at the peak of freshness, they are actually more nutrient-dense compared to fresh options that have been transported and spent days at the store (or in your frig). Frozen fruits and vegetables are great to have on hand to add to smoothies, soups, stir-fry dishes and a variety of other recipes.
- A true "super food," dried beans are a shelf stable food that is underrated and under-utilized. In fact, beans are such a nutrient powerhouse, they are recognized in two food groups – both vegetables and protein. Besides being rich in protein, fiber, iron, potassium and a whole host of nutrients, they are extremely affordable, shelf stable and versatile. Dried beans such as kidney, black, garbanzo, pinto, split peas and lentils work well in soups, pasta dishes, casseroles and tacos.
- In addition to beans, affordable protein sources include eggs, tuna, peanut butter, plain yogurt in quart tubs and sunflower seeds. Stretch beef, poultry, pork and seafood by using in stews, soups, casseroles and other mixed dishes.
- At around ten cents per serving, oatmeal from a canister is a nutritious, high fiber whole grain that makes an ideal breakfast, especially when combined with milk and dried or frozen fruit.
- Milk is a low cost option that fills several important nutrient gaps, including protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin D and several additional key nutrients. If you find you are throwing out milk before you can use it up, consider purchasing ultra-pasteurized milk, which can last up to 45 days.
- Growing fresh produce in containers or a garden plot is a great way to add inexpensive, organic produce to your diet. Arugula is perhaps the easiest to grow with seeds sprouting in just 3 days! Your local extension service is a great resource and master gardeners can often assist consumers in getting started with gardening.
- Practice good storage habits to prolong the quality and taste of your produce. The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics has published a very helpful infographic on the topic – How can we keep produce fresh longer?