Buying fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat can be tough. After all, after a certain amount of time they do go bad. This can have a major impact on your diet because it might sway you to buy processed food that lasts forever.
But this doesn’t have to be: you can have a healthy diet and curb food waste by adopting some really easy tricks! Eating a diet rich in fresh food can help save you money, improve your health and give you more eating options than you might have thought possible.
It’s hard to imagine how many times children have been told to eat all of the food on their dinner plates. Parents probably make this request multiple times nightly in households across America. But for some reason those standards don’t apply to adults. If they did, it’s unlikely Americans would combine to create more than 133 billion pounds of food waste per year.
Going through the refrigerator to find neglected items is nothing new to most people. There are always leftovers that keep getting pushed further back in the fridge (i.e. the half-used onion you needed for a recipe or even a bowl of wilting carrots that you conveniently forgot to eat). Some of these items, however, can be saved. Seemingly old food can be revived from the dead, or live longer than you thought possible.
The Real Cost of Food Waste
As mentioned, America generates 133 billion pounds of food waste annually, translating into about $1,500 of wasted food per family each year. That’s just like purchasing a week-long all-inclusive vacation and deciding not to show up for your flight. All of those leftovers, half-used ingredients and expired eggs really add up!
Aside from the big hit absorbed by your bank account, food waste can impact your health too. When food is sitting in a landfill, for example, it makes up the largest component of solid waste. But because it’s alive and rotting, it’s releasing methane gas into the atmosphere that can contribute to global warming, which might indirectly impact your health. Lower air quality, shorter growing seasons and other changes caused by climactic variations can have health impacts we may not currently understand.
Healthy Diet Tips to Get More From Your Food
Here are some ways you can save money and prevent your food from spoiling prematurely:
1. Expiration dates are not carved in stone
Most foods are perfectly safe to consume beyond the marked expiration date. Those dates are posted by food producers to indicate when the product is at its prime freshness, and even still, it is little more than an estimate. Research has shown food can be safe for days, weeks, months and even years beyond its posted “best before” date. And remember, the term is “best before,” not “dangerous after.” A fresh piece of salmon caught an hour earlier may have a distinguished taste. But can you really tell the difference between one that was caught two days ago or four days ago? Unlikely. It might not be a 10, but you sure won’t notice the difference between a seven and an eight on the flavor scale!
Eggs are usually good well beyond the freshness expiration date listed. If you’ve got some expired eggs in your fridge, determining their safety is actually quite simple. Just fill up a bowl of water and place the egg you want to eat in it. If it sinks, it is perfectly safe to eat. If it floats, however, you might want to chuck it.
Milk is another product that usually finds its way down the sink before it’s consumed. But sour milk can actually be used in different ways that actually taste good. It can serve as a great buttermilk alternative for use in pancakes or biscuits—which is especially useful considering the holiday season is just around the corner. It will provide the fluffiness you want and there won’t be the slightest hint of sour flavor.
Meat and cheese can also be scary, but once again the labels won’t always give you the whole truth. For meat, the smell test is always the true indicator. Even if your beef slightly changes color or you chicken looks a little slimy before cooking, if it doesn’t smell bad or strange, it’s probably safe to cook and eat. If you notice some mold growing around the outside of a cheese block, cut it off and smell the rest; it’s probably totally edible.
2. Water your wilting veggies
A little bit of cold water can go a long way to boosting the longevity of wilting vegetables. Try and think of your vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and other greens like flowers. When your flowers go a few days without water they start to wilt, but you certainly don’t throw them out! You simply add some water and watch them rejuvenate almost right before your eyes. If you soak wilting vegetables in ice water you can expect the same results.
For leafy greens like lettuce or spinach, or bags of mixed greens, your best option is to sauté them. They can then be added to a number of dishes like a stir-fry, soup, or stew.
Use your freezer to avoid throwing away things you use sparingly. Onions, peppers or other veggies you might only use in certain recipes can be frozen for later use, instead of being thrown away. You can also freeze bread and milk to keep them fresher longer. And because most toasters now come with a defrost option, thawing bread for immediate use is very easy.
4. Smart storage
Think of your fridge as a big thermometer: the higher temperatures are at the top, the lower temperatures at the bottom. To maximize the longevity of your food, store items that need a cooler atmosphere, like meats and eggs, at the bottom, while using the top for items like fruits, veggies and dairy. It’s also wise to store raw meat at the bottom of your fridge to lower the risk of bacterial cross-contamination. Store eggs on a main storage shelf and not on the door. Too much exposure to warmer temperatures can shorten their lifespan.
Let These Tricks Improve Your Diet
It can be hard to improve your diet when you’re worrying about how long food will stay fresh. It’s way easier to buy processed food with an endless lifespan than it is to eat quality ingredients that can go bad. But by adopting these tips, you can eat healthy and make sure you don’t waste any of the quality nutrition essential for improving your health!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Aubrey, A., “Don’t Toss That Sour Milk! And Other Tips To Cut Kitchen Food Waste,” NPR web site, September 23, 2015; http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/09/23/441460163/don-t-toss-that-sour-milk-10-tips-cut-food-waste-in-your-kitchen, last accessed November 20, 2015.