How To: Reduce Food Waste (An Intern’s Perspective)

Posted on April 18th, 2018
With Earth Day quickly approaching we wanted to reflect on the ways we can help make an impact by just reducing food waste. Kerri, one of our dietetic interns, shows some simple and easy ways you can make small changes to make our planet a little more green and sustainable.
Meal Planning
Planning each meal in advance cuts waste by reducing the amount you are buying. Learning portion sizes and only buying what is needed for recipeshelps to reduce waste.Before going grocery shopping, make a list that you will stick to and write down how many of each item you need so it is the right amount. Incorporate the foods you have into your meal plans and try to avoid buying food you may already have in your cabinets. Also, try not to buy foods in bulk. Buying in bulk only saves money if you are using all the food that is bought. Go to ChooseMyPlate for more information on how to meal plan.
Taking a Food Inventory
Go through your refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets to identify what food items and how much of each you have. Then, incorporate the food items you already have into recipes and use them in your meal planning. On your shopping list, you can write down how much of each food item you may need based on what you already have. The rest of the food items that you do not use can be donated to a local food bank, soup kitchen, or shelter.
Re-purpose Food
Freeze any leftovers you have after preparing and eating a meal. Or, you can also use old items for a new recipe. For example, if you serve broccoli for dinner and have some left over, use it to put it into a broccoli casserole recipe.

At home composting
Food scraps can be used as composting material. Compost is organic material, such as food, that is added to soil to help crops grow. The remains of fruits and vegetables are considered the green part of the compost which provides nitrogen to the organic material. Composting provides enrichment to the soil and also reduces the use of chemical fertilizers. To learn more about composting check out the helpful handouts from Tulsa County OSU Extension Center Master Gardeners. 
Proper Food Storage
Foods are classified into Perishables, Semi-Perishables, and Non-Perishables. Perishable foods include meats, milk, eggs, and raw fruit and vegetables. When refrigerated, foods should be used within 5-7 days. Semi-Perishable foods include flour, grains, dried fruit, and dried mixes. Semi-Perishable foods will last 6 months to a year. Non-Perishable foods include sugar, dried beans, spices, and canned goods. Non-Perishable items do not expire but do lose their quality over time. If you know food won’t be used in the proper amount of time, it can be sealed and kept in the freezer. Fruits and vegetables can be frozen for up to a year while most meats can be frozen 6 months to a year. It is also important to follow the hierarchy of food storage to prevent cross contamination. This means that already prepared food needs to stay at the top of the refrigerator, followed by fruits and vegetables, then raw beef, and lastly raw chicken.
Label Dates
The Use By date is a suggestion based on the food quality. It does not need to be thrown out by that date but the quality will start to decrease.
The Sell By date is aimed towards retailers to sell the item by this date or remove the product from the shelf. However, it does not mean it is unsafe to consume after this date.The Best By date is a suggestion of when the food will be the best quality to consume.
Kerri Francis is a Dietetic Intern with the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She enjoys spending time with her family and learning new recipes.
Post reviewed by Heather Steele, RD/LD  a Reasor’s Registered Dietitian who offices out of the Reasor’s off 71st & Lynn Lane and also covers the 101st & Elm location for all of your food & nutrition needs.
Information included does not constitute medical advice and should only be used as a general recommendation for a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle. Reasor’s Registered Dietitians’ opinions and recommendations are their own; they are not paid to endorse any products or services.