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Fighting Food Waste in Your LIfe

Fight Food Waste

Have you ever bought a bunch of groceries, only to have plans change and food go to waste? Fresh fruits and veggies that go bad in your fridge before you make that recipe or snack on them? Leftovers that you got sick of without finishing?

This is a problem millions of Americans run into every day, and it’s called food waste.

Food Waste by the Numbers

Right now, the world produces more than enough food to feed everyone, 17% more per person than it did in the early 1960s. And yet, in 2015, 42.2 million Americans faced hunger and trouble affording food.

An estimated 25 to 40% of food in the U.S. goes to waste instead of being eaten. And when food goes into a landfill, it also produces a greenhouse gas that’s bad for the environment. All those lost groceries add up to about $165 billion lost every year.

Reducing your food waste can help you save money, and it’s good for the rest of the world. And the great news is it’s easy.

Shop Smart

  1. Prepare to shop. Have a plan and buy exactly what you need to at the grocery store .
  2. Make smart decisions at the store. Don’t stock up on a sale item if you know you can’t use it before it goes bad.
  3. Know yourself. Pay attention to how much of something your family really eats so you can buy the right amount. If you live alone, don’t buy fruit in bulk (unless you really love apples). If you hate cooking, don’t stock up on things that have to be cooked.
  4. Buy the odd-looking fruits and veggies. Many are thrown away because their size, shape, or color doesn’t look perfect, but they’re actually just as good.

Save at Home

  1. First In, First Out. When you unpack your groceries, make sure you’re putting the newest food in the back so older things get used first.
  2. Store food in the right place. Many foods will last longer if you know how to store them.
  3. Pay attention to what you toss. If you keep throwing away half of the spaghetti sauce you make, try freezing half of it or cutting the recipe in half.
  4. Think about expiration dates. Make sure you know how they work, and try to make meals that let you use up things that are closer to expiring.
  5. Use all of an ingredient. Whenever possible, use all of what you’re cooking with, like leaving the skin on potatoes. Use citrus rinds and zest to add flavor to sauces and desserts. And the skin and stems of most fruits and veggies are safe to eat and have extra nutrients that you need.
  6. Use your freezer. Freeze fruits and veggies you can’t use up before they go bad for easy smoothies. Store extras from recipes.
  7. Eat leftovers. Take them for lunch, skip cooking the next night, or freeze them for an easy dinner later.
  8. Share. Split a huge dish when you’re eating out or take home the leftovers for an easy meal later. If you made too much of a meal, bring a dish of it to family or friends.

A little thought can go a long way toward helping you reduce food waste in your home and save you money.

Up Next:

Prepare your food safely and make sure you’re cooking your food safely to protect your family and prevent illness.

Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns at Your Farmers Market

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

There are lots of reasons to get out to your local farmers market, but going to a farmers market for the first time is very different than going to the supermarket. We can help make sure it goes smoothly with these tips from a farmers market veteran:

1. Prepare.

  • Illinois has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Check it out on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site for details and participating counties and markets .
  • Many vendors only take cash (and some take SNAP and WIC benefits). Some booths only take small bills, 20s and smaller.
  • Many vendors don’t offer bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few cloth ones you can use.
  • Most markets don’t allow dogs, so leave them at home.
  • Have an idea of what is in stock at that time of year, so you know what to expect. Use this map to find out what’s in season where you live.

2. Check the info booth first. If your market has an info booth, check there before you start shopping. The people working can let you know if there are any special things going on that day, like cooking demos.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

3. Go early or go late. If you go early, you will have first pick of the freshest and largest selection. If you go late, some farmers will offer discounts to clear out their stock before heading home.

4. Take a lap. Unless you know your market really well, don’t just buy the first things you see. By walking a lap through the market first, you can get the lay of the land, compare prices and selection, and taste samples.

5. Talk to the farmers. The farmers can answer questions about how the food was grown and harvested, talk about why their produce is or is not organic, offer recipes, give info about something you’ve never tasted, or recommend their favorites.

6. Be mindful. It’s considered rude to squeeze stone fruits, like peaches, plums, or tomatoes, because it can bruise them. And it’s considered rude to open husks of corn before buying them, which can actually make them less sweet. Also, look for whole produce, meaning veggies like carrots and beets with their green tops still whole. These will stay fresh longer, and you can make things like pesto sauces with the greens.

7. Take a risk. Sometimes you find things that are new, different, or even strange at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new because the farmers can usually give you advice on how best to use it.

8. Bring a friend or the family. Grocery shopping, unlike the farmers market, can feel like a chore. Take people with you to talk and walk with outside, and the farmer’s market instantly becomes a more fun activity. And you can always save money and split certain produce.

9. Keep it simple. When you’re cooking your food at home, go for simple recipes. Because you bought such fresh produce, you should let it shine. Put fresh wild strawberries over a salad or in a breakfast parfait instead of baking them into a cake. If you’re worried you won’t be able to use all of something you bought you can always freeze it and use the rest later. Use this guide from the FDA to make sure you’re storing and washing produce correctly.

10. Find the right market. Many areas have more than one farmers market within driving distance. If you can, test them all. Large farmer’s markets have a lot of energy, selection, and sometimes even dining options, but smaller markets often have good deals. Find the one that works best for you.

Find farmer’s markets near you. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Up Next:

Do you really understand what you’re getting when you buy organic? We break it down in Organic 101.

And make sure you’re cleaning your fresh fruits and veggies the right way to keep your family safe.