CLOSE
iStock
iStock

8 Easy Ways to Cut Back on Food Waste (and Save on Groceries)

iStock
iStock

First, the bad news: If you’re like a typical American, you’re probably tossing more than 200 pounds of wasted food in the trash every year [PDF]. That’s not just bad for the planet (thanks to all of the wasted energy for growing, transporting, and selling food)—it’s bad for your grocery budget as well. The good news: Slashing your food waste and fattening your wallet is easier than you might think. Start here:

1. CREATE A USE-IT-UP SHELF. 

The back of your fridge is full of forgotten leftovers, which you dump—with a sizable twinge of guilt—each week before packing your fridge full of new food. Ouch. The best way to make sure you keep those leftovers top-of-mind is to move them front and center, says Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of its Food (and What We Can Do About It). When you’re wrapping up food, stick it on the top shelf so it can serve as a visual reminder every time you open the fridge.

2. TURN THE FREEZER INTO YOUR BFF. 

If you buy something and don’t get around to cooking it, toss it in the freezer rather than letting it languish and go bad in the fridge. You can freeze so much more than just meat and berries: milk, baked goods, hard cheeses, nuts, fresh herbs (chopped and frozen with water in ice cube trays), butter, and eggs (whisked and frozen in ice cube trays).

3. START A SUNDAY NIGHT SOUP HABIT. 

Soups, stews, and stir-fry are all great ways to use up any odds and ends from the weekly groceries before they go to waste. And keep that in mind the next time you’re staring at a quarter-onion wondering, "Should I really bother freezing this?" “It can be stored in the freezer for use later in soups, stews and casseroles,” says Bloom.

4. GET CREATIVE IN THE KITCHEN. 

When the pantry runs a little bare, most of us run to the store to flesh out the ingredient list for a new recipe. Instead, try entering what you already have on hand into the app Supercook. It instantly generates recipes from popular cooking sites.

5. MEAL PLAN IN DUETS. 

Try to pick two or three recipes for the week with overlapping ingredient lists—like a quinoa bowl one night and quinoa veggie burgers the next, or pork loin followed by spicy banh mi sandwiches. You’re less likely to end the week with a bit of this and a half-used box of that.

6. COOK EVERY BIT OF EVERYTHING. 

Just like high-end chefs pride themselves on cooking animals nose-to-tail and not wasting anything, before you toss anything in the trash, challenge yourself to ask, "Could I cook with this?" Carrot tops, for instance, make a tasty pesto; and you can cook vegetable peels and scraps into crunchy baked chips. By cooking even the castoffs, you’ll be able to cut out other purchases—like, say, jars of store-bought pesto.

7. TAKE STOCK OF YOUR PANTRY.  

Canned goods might seem like they’re indestructible, but they do eventually go bad. Not to mention the bags of pasta, beans, and crackers lurking in the far recesses of your pantry. Once a month, move anything that should get eaten soon to the front and try to work those ingredients into the next week’s meal plan.

8. EXHALE ABOUT EXPIRATION DATES. 

“Treat expiration dates as a guideline, not the gospel truth,” says Bloom. Confusion over food dates—including expiration dates, buy by dates and best by dates—has caused approximately 9 out of 10 people [PDF] to toss safe, edible food at some time, according to a survey by the Food Marketing Institute. Keep in mind that these dates aren’t regulated: They’re a suggestion from the manufacturer about when the food will taste its best, not an indication of safety. If something looks, smells and tastes fine, eat up! Even if you’re a few days past the date printed on the package. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
These Are the Top 25 U.S. Cities With the Lowest Cost of Living
iStock
iStock

Coastal cities like New York and San Francisco bustle with excitement, but residents pay plenty of hard-earned cash to enjoy perks like Central Park and world-class museums—and to pay their sky-high rents. If you’d rather have a full bank account than a hipster ZIP code, consider setting down roots in America’s most affordable region: the Midwest.

Niche, a data analysis company, has ranked the 25 cities with the lowest cost of living across the United States—and the top 10 are all located in America’s heartland. Their selections were based on factors including access to affordable housing, food and fuel costs, and median tax rates, all of which were gleaned from U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Indiana was the most-represented state in the list’s top 10 section, with Fort Wayne, Evansville, and South Bend nabbing the first three spots. The remaining cities were mid-sized metropolitan areas in Kansas, Ohio, Iowa, and Illinois, all of which offer urban conveniences at a fraction of the cost of their coastal counterparts. After that, other cities in the mix included municipalities in Texas, Michigan, Alabama, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

Check out Niche's top 25 list below, and visit their website to view their methodology.

1. Fort Wayne, Indiana
2. Evansville, Indiana
3. South Bend, Indiana
4. Topeka, Kansas
5. Toledo, Ohio
6. Wichita, Kansas
7. Akron, Ohio
8. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
9. Davenport, Iowa
10. Springfield, Illinois
11. Rochester, Minnesota
12. Dayton, Ohio
13. Springfield, Missouri
14. Wichita Falls, Texas
15. Kansas City, Kansas
16. Odessa, Texas
17. Cleveland, Ohio
18. Indianapolis, Indiana
19. Abilene, Texas
20. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
21. Montgomery, Alabama
22. Lansing, Michigan
23. Des Moines, Iowa
24. Brownsville, Texas
25. Warren, Michigan

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Weird
Switzerland Flushes $1.8 Million in Gold Down the Sewer Every Year
iStock
iStock

Switzerland has some pretty valuable sewer systems. As Bloomberg reports, scientists have discovered around $1.8 million worth of gold in the country's wastewater, along with $1.7 million worth of silver.

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology examined sewage sludge and effluents, or discharged liquid waste, from 64 water treatment plants and major Swiss rivers. They did this to assess the concentrations of various trace elements, which are "increasingly widely used in the high-tech and medical sectors," the scientists explained in a press statement. "While the ultimate fate of the various elements has been little studied to date, a large proportion is known to enter wastewater."

The study, which was recently published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, revealed that around 94 pounds of gold makes its way through Switzerland's sewage system each year, along with 6600 pounds of silver and high concentrations of rare metals like gadolinium and niobium. For the most part, these metals don't harm the environment, researchers say.

With gold and silver quite literally flowing through their sewers, is there any way that Switzerland could turn their wastewater into wealth? Scientists are skeptical: "The recovery of metals from wastewater or sludge is scarcely worthwhile at present, either financially or in terms of the amounts which could be extracted," the release explains.

However, in the southern canton of Ticino, which is home to several gold refineries, the "concentrations of gold in sewage sludge are sufficiently high for recovery to be potentially worthwhile," they conclude.

Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, watches, and mountains, but it's also home to major gold refineries. On average, around 70 percent of the world's gold passes through Switzerland every year—and judging from the looks of it, much of it goes down the drain. As for the sewer silver, it's a byproduct of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, which is a cornerstone of Switzerland's economy.

[h/t Bloomberg]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios