Want to fight climate change, save money, go food shopping less often or all of the above? You can start by wasting less food at home. An estimated 40% of food produced in the US goes to waste, and about half of that happens in our very own households. When we toss out our food, most of it ends up in the landfill, where it rots and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to Earth’s rising temperature.
One of the keys to reducing food waste is learning how to keep food fresher for longer. There are plenty of tricks that require no buying at all (more on that below) as well as some helpful products that can help you cut down on your plastic waste while keeping your food pristine in the process. And, if you want to think about it in these terms, wasting less food ultimately means wasting less money. Here are some things that can help you get started:
Goodbye, plastic baggies; hello, Stasher. This cult-favorite reusable, resealable bag comes in a number of sizes and does way more than a standard sandwich bag. If you haven’t yet discovered Stasher, well, it’s time to get familiar with the meal-prep standout. These silicone-based containers can be stored in both the fridge and freezer; are dishwasher-, oven- and microwave-safe; and can even double as a sous vide.
“They seem to keep food fresher longer in the refrigerator than typical plastic bags,” says registered dietitian Kaleigh McMordie, founder of Lively Table, who loves using these bags to reduce her plastic waste.
If your Stasher bag somehow gets damaged, the company even encourages you to send them back so they can repurpose the materials and build safe playgrounds for kids.
You wouldn’t keep a brick of cheese unwrapped in the fridge (right?!), but you don’t have to use plastic wrap to ensure it says fresh. Consider these Bee’s Wrap food wraps a sustainable alternative to single-use plastic or foil for food storage. These washable, durable sheets last up to a year and seal food for freshness in the fridge, when everything cools. When they do reach their end, they’ll leave no trace, as they can be fully composted.
Leftovers are only good if you actually eat them. “When you can see the food that’s in your fridge, you’re more likely to remember it’s there and eat it before it goes bad.” McMordie says, adding that glass storage containers are best for this purpose. “They’re also more environmentally friendly than plastic,” she says.
Simple and reliable, there’s a reason why you see Mason jars in virtually everyone’s kitchen. These staple glass containers have endless uses, including food storage, food freezing, food growing (think scallions) and bulk shopping. Many bulk stores require you to subtract the weight of your container (called a tare) from the overall weight of your purchase, so Mason jars are convenient here because of their consistent, standardized weights. For example, the average tare of a 32-ounce Mason jar is 1.02 pounds, a 16-ounce jar is 0.65 pounds and an 8-ounce jar is 0.38 pounds.
Your freezer is an impeccable resource for preventing food waste. “If I know I won’t use something before it goes bad, I always pop it into the freezer and use it when I get to it,” McCordie says. “Some things, like berries, avocados, meat and fish, can be frozen raw; others should be cooked or blanched first, especially vegetables.”
Now that you’ve unlocked the secret to cutting back on food waste (your freezer), you might want some assistance keeping everything organized so you actually use what you’re storing. These simple shelves function on the counter, in the fridge and, importantly, in the freezer, and can help you keep things neat as you fall deeply in love with your new sustainable hobby.
The freezer is also a great place to store bread. If you find your loaves get moldy before you have the opportunity to eat them, consider stashing half (or all of it) in the freezer and toasting up a slice whenever the desire hits. This special bread bag is freezer-safe and can also be used to store your homemade loaves on the counter, a great thing if you’ve succumbed to the sourdough frenzy.
When you have too much fresh produce to use up at once, you can chop and freeze them for future soups and stews. You can also extend the life of herbs like mint, parsley, dill and cilantro by freezing them in ice cube trays with oil or butter for fancy infused cooking fat.
Have extra tomato sauce left over? Freeze it in individual cubes too, and then you’ve got portioned-out amounts ready for the making. Or try freezing yogurt with ripe fruit for a nourishing, icy treat available on demand. Silicone ice cube trays like this one are easy to stack and pop from — you can either keep your foods stored in the tray or pop them into a Stasher bag and keep frozen until you’re ready to use your individually portioned fancy infused oils.
Why let good fat go to waste? This bacon grease storage container allows you to bring that savory, bacony taste to so many dishes, elevating your recipes to a new level. The stainless steel container comes with a mesh strainer to sift out any remaining meat or burnt piece, leaving you with impeccable flavor to cook with.
These plastic containers have a perforated removable shelf that keeps your lettuce from getting mushy. By keeping your produce separated from any residual liquid, everything stays fresher longer. Plus, the fact that you can see what’s inside means that more people in your household will be inclined to reach for veggies and fruit. (FYI: It’s best to wash your produce right before you eat it rather than before you put it away for storage.)
You certainly don’t need a special bag for your spuds and onions, but these might help you remember a very important rule: Neither potatoes nor onions should be stored in the fridge. Instead, you should keep both of these in a cool dark place, and this is where these bags can come in handy, since they have ties you can use to hang them from if you don’t have the cupboard space. Another thing to keep in mind: Potatoes and onions need to be kept separate from each other. If they’re not, they’ll both end up spoiling before you have the chance to cook with them.
Fruit and veggies that are almost on their way out make for great smoothies and soups. Just pop them in the freezer, and when you’re ready for them, blend them up for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We love the BlendJet 2 because it’s portable, quiet and easy to clean, but any old blender will do for this trick.
“For people who shop in bulk often, a vacuum sealer is a great tool to prevent food waste,” McCordie says. “Vacuum sealing helps to prevent freezer burn: Larger packs of food can be portioned out into the amount your family will eat in one meal, vacuum sealed and placed in the freezer.” These can also come in handy for your meal-prep purposes.
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