It is now more important than ever to be mindful of how much food you need. Keeping food fresh and lasting longer is a common practice in the kitchen, and now many of us are trying to extend the shelf life even further.
Food waste accounts for the largest stream of material in trash in our country, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
Here are six tips to help you save food and reduce your trips to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Saving and eating leftovers: Leftovers can typically be kept in the refrigerator for three to four days. If you do not plan to consume them during that time, store in the freezer. You can also check out new recipes to transform your leftover food and meals into something new. Click here for ways to give new life to some common leftover ingredients.
- The freezer is your friend: Put fruits and vegetables on the brink of going bad in the freezer to be used later for other items, such as soups and smoothies. The USDA says, “Freezing preserves food for extended periods because it prevents the growth of microorganisms that cause both food spoilage and foodborne illness.” Bread, meat, and leftovers are also great options to store in the freezer.
- Go shopping in your own home: Before going to the grocery store or ordering your next delivery, take an inventory of what you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry. You might have ingredients already on hand that can be transformed into a delicious and creative meal. Here are 10 recipes for quick and easy pantry meals.
- Donate: If you are shopping your pantry and find items that you no longer want, consider donating. New, unopened non-perishables can be donated to local food banks or neighbors in need. Be sure to check locally.
- Preserve your food: By safely preserving food – from pickling and canning to drying and fermenting – you can keep food lasting longer. Pickling, for example, goes beyond cucumbers; give radishes, green beans, or carrots a try. Click here for a Master Class on preserving food at home.
- Compost: Rather than throwing away scraps, from vegetable remnants to eggshells, you can compost them into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Compost increases organic matter in the soil to help retain soil moisture and supports the healthy growth of plants, trees, and vegetable crops. Learn more about composting here.
It is always best to practice good hygiene in the kitchen, from disinfecting grocery items to washing your hands before preparing food. Items, such as canned goods, can be wiped down before storing and fresh produce should be washed thoroughly before consuming. Check locally for recycling regulations and always give a quick rinse to remove any food residue from your food carton, glass, plastic, steel, and aluminum containers prior to recycling. As a reminder, freezer bags and plastic wrap/film cannot be recycled in the bin.
Please note: COVID-19 is reported to live on surfaces for an extended period of time, according to a recent study:
- As an aerosol, for up to 3 hours (e.g. sneezing, coughing, etc.)
- Clothing – from several hours up to a day
- Up to 4 hours on copper
- Up to 24 hours on cardboard
- Up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel
- Up to 4 days on glass surfaces like a smartphone
General health and safety:
- Exercise physical distancing and wear a mask when required to interact with others.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and before eating or preparing food. (CDC)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. (CDC)
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