Reducing food waste in fresh produce

produce with pamela

I recently had the pleasure of joining the Produce for Kids Healthy Families Project podcast series.

Amanda Keefer, the Orlando-based organization’s director of marketing communications, asked me to share some tips for reducing food waste, to help families start the New Year on the right foot.

Food waste is a subject I’ve been following for years and is something we take quite seriously in the Riemenschneider house.

I have two young boys, and am trying to model not only environmental stewardship, but also … I hate wasting money!

Food waste is dollar waste, and nobody wants that.

I’ve been covering the retail produce industry for the past 13+ years, and a lot gets said about how growers, shippers, packers and, of course, retailers contribute to food waste, not very many people want to own up to their responsibility.

ReFED, a group dedicated to finding meaningful solutions for food waste across the board, found that Consumer Education Campaigns have one of the highest potential aggregate benefits to society when it comes to reducing food waste.

Many of the usual suggestions I hear for consumers involve planning ahead, making lists and sticking to them.

I’m about as good at sticking to a grocery list as I am sticking to a New Year’s Resolution, so I offered tips for people like me, who need a spur-of-the-moment nudge to use what they have.

Step 1: Shop with a purpose. Supermarkets are built to tempt. Go ahead and give in to the temptation to try something new, but maybe that means subbing out jicama sticks for carrots sticks for your fresh produce snack purchase that visit.

Step 2: Store it properly. People often turn straight to the refrigerator when they’re storing things at home. That’s not the best place for things like citrus, watermelons and tropical fruit. This handy chart from the University of California-Davis has great tips for fresh produce storage.

Step 3: Plan meals to re-use ingredients until they’re gone. We’ll have pitas, then tacos, then curry, and re-use the onions, cilantro and peppers until they’re used up.

Step 4: Add just one thing to snacks or dinner – make it easy and available. I’ll often put a bowl of sliced apples or cucumbers on the table at dinner – whatever needs to get eaten. Fruit salad doesn’t have to be a big, recipe-inspired event. It can be a bowl of chopped apples, bananas and grapes. And if that doesn’t get eaten, throw it in the freezer and make a smoothie the next day.

Step 5: Know when it’s truly time to pitch something. I’ve talked about this before, but use-by dates aren’t an indication of food safety. They’re quality-based and a product could be expired and still have another week of freshness, or – if not maintained at optimal temperature – it could have gone bad days before the best-by date. Oftentimes, the sniff test honestly is one of the best ways to tell if something’s still good.

Check out the podcast for more tips.

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.