For most of us, food is not only something that sustains us: it’s something we use to connect with others and celebrate life’s joyous moments. Yet for all of its positives, food can also cause some of our anxiety, particularly when it comes to waste.
The good news is there are many creative solutions being tested by sustainability organizations to find new ways to reduce food waste. These practices are generally called waste-free cooking or zero-waste cooking.
What is Waste-Free Cooking?
The name really does say it all: waste-free cooking means trying to prepare meals and have a little food and packaging waste as possible. This concept relies on the 3 Rs you’ve probably heard of before:
- Reduce – Use less food, cook smaller portions, etc.
- Reuse – Instead of throwing out usable food scraps, reuse them in imaginative ways. You know, like grandma used to.
- Recycle – Get into the habit of composting your food scraps.
Benefits of Waste-Free Cooking
Let’s start with some of the big, obvious benefits of adopting this way of eating and preparing food.
Current estimates suggest nearly 133 billion pounds of food are thrown away each year, just in the United States alone! In some cases, a single person may throw away over 600 pounds of food each year. How many dollars end up in landfills by doing this? When you waste less food, you waste less money.
Waste-free cooking also reduces waste from food packaging and takeout boxes. The EPA reports that nearly a quarter of all trash in landfills is from food-related, single-use plastics and other materials. Waste-free cooking helps protect the environment.
And finally, waste-free cooking can be incredibly fun because it forces you to think in new and creative ways!
It’s easy to get started with waste-free cooking. Here are three important tips:
- Plan well – Meal planning needs to go beyond WHAT you’re going to eat and incorporate HOW you’ll prepare the meal and the ingredients you need (and can leave out).
- Repurpose what you can – Get creative when using those leftovers. Experimenting is a key component in this lifestyle!
- Store foods properly – Most of us mean well when we grocery shop, but food inevitably spoils when it sits too long on counters and shelves. Buy the right storage containers and learn how to store different foods properly to extend shelf life.
Reducing waste when preparing and eating meals is a great way for you to have fun, save money, and lessen your environmental impact.