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Reducing wasted food

Would you like to save $30 a week? Every family in Lyon County could save at least $30 if not more just by learning how to reduce wasted food in your home. Households are responsible for most of the wasted food in the United States. Wasted food not only does just that, waste food, it also wastes water, land use and fuel. If we think about what it takes to plant, harvest, truck and get our food to the store shelf, wasted food adds up to a lot. It is also one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases in the United States.

We can combat this problem by doing a few simple things that can be applied not only to our daily living but also to holiday parties, graduation parties and so forth. There are three areas where waste happens. Before the meal, during the meal and after the meal.

22% of Lyon County’s waste (trash) is food. This includes food that was still good that was thrown away as well as food scraps, expired food, liquids and unopened/unexpired food. Comparing our numbers to the United States as a whole, we are doing pretty well because as a whole, the United States throws away about 40% of the food we purchase.

It is a challenge to change how we do things in our homes and if we can focus on even changing one habit, it can help us to become more efficient in combating food waste. Meal planning helps to make sure that we are not purchasing too much food and having it go to waste. Preparing and planning meals to make sure that we are not making too much also helps. If you have a family like mine that doesn’t appreciate leftovers, this is particularly important. When grocery shopping make sure that purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables are kept to a minimum or only to what your family can eat in a few days as they can spoil quickly.

During the meal, make sure that proportions will be given out to children and having them ask for “seconds” will also help. Let older children and adults serve themselves, keeping in mind to tell children to “take only what they are able to eat.” Those who do most of the cooking and serving can also help younger children by giving them a smaller plate to eat from. The plate still looks full but proportionately is it appropriate for a smaller appetite.

After the meal, there are a few key things that residents can do. I would guess that most of us already do some of these things. Refrigerate leftovers immediately. Keep a Post-it note or tape handy and write down on the note what is in the container and the date that it was placed into the container. Stick the note to the container. Keep an area in your refrigerator marked as “Eat First” so that leftovers are not left behind. Create new meals from leftovers whenever possible. Offer a meal, for example, lunch, that your family members can choose their own meal from the leftovers.

Remember that your freezer can be your best friend! There are times that we can place items into the freezer for use later in the week or the following week. Remember to keep the items labeled with the date and what is in the container for your reference later. Family members can take things out of the freezer and quickly heat them up for a quick meal.

Composting food scraps such as carrot tops, banana peels, potato skins, egg shells, coffee grounds and the like, mixed together with leaves, garden plants and so forth will also help. Even if you do not have a garden, compost can be spread over lawns for fertilizer. You can purchase compost containers or build your own. A simple compost container can be made from wood pallets. For more information on composting, go to the U of M Extension’s website at https://extension.umn.edu/managing-soil-and-nutrients/composting-home-gardens.

By keeping our food waste to a minimum, we can reduce our waste by roughly one bag of trash a week. Further savings can be made by being able to reduce the size of trash can you need to have at your home. While recycling has been made easy to do, reducing waste in the first place should be the first thing we try to do everyday.

For more information, please call the Lyon County Environmental Department at (507) 532-8210 or the Lyon County Landfill at (507) 865-4615.

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