The COVID Diaries: Shopping Smart and Reducing Food Waste During a Pandemic

Rebecca LaChance, MS, RD, LD addresses the topic of reducing food wasteIn this presentation on shopping smart and making food last during a pandemic, Dietitian Rebecca LaChance discusses reducing food waste, optimizing your food shopping habits, food storage best practices, ideas for repurposing ingredients, and methods of food preservation. She also offers additional food-related resources at the completion of the presentation.

Rebecca LaChance, MS, RD, LD is an adjunct faculty member in the UNE Online Master of Science in Nutrition program. She is an active member of the Maine Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is currently working as a dietitian among the geriatric population in Midcoast Maine.

The importance of reducing food waste

In 2017, Americans disposed of 38.1 million tons of food waste. The USDA estimates that a family of four loses $1,500 every year to uneaten food. Reducing food waste saves money and helps the environment. By reducing your frequency of store visits, reducing food waste also reduces exposure to COVID-19.

Optimize your shopping habits

You can reduce the frequency of your store visits by using non-perishable foods such as dry milk, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats, and nuts. Having baking staples on hand such as flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, yeast, butter, oil, and eggs, is also helpful. You can also reduce your in-store visits by using curbside grocery pickup, or delivery services.

Meal planning also helps reduce food waste. There are many approaches to meal planning available. Many people create a master list of meal ideas, factor in how many meals will be eaten at home and check out grocery store circulars for coupons and weekly specials. Successful meal planners also create a list before they go to the grocery store, include the amounts needed for each meal, and then they stick to the list.

Buying in bulk is also a fantastic option for those with the storage space that allows them to do so safely.

Proper food storage

To properly store food, be sure to place items in appropriate storage areas. Freeze items that you will not use in the first few days. Wash, dry, prepare, and store fresh food items for easy access once you get home. Prepare and cook perishable items to freeze for longer use. Meal prepping can save time in the long run, and can also reduce food spoilage. Spoiled food will develop an off odor/flavor/texture. This is from the naturally occurring microorganisms.

Repurposing your ingredients

Repurposing and preservation is also an effective means by which you can reduce food waste. Find ways to use leftover ingredients in dishes such as casseroles, stir-fries, quiches, frittatas, and soups. Find ways to use every part of a food item, such as using vegetable scraps to make a stock. Find ways of using your past-peak food in smoothies, soups, baked goods, pancakes, muffins and granola bars.

Regrowing vegetables is another option, and popular vegetables to regrow include potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, celery, fennel, carrots, turnips, parsnips, beets, lettuce, bok choy, cabbages, basil, mint, cilantro, and many more.

You can also repurpose past-peak fruits and make jams, chutney, or sauces. Freezing or canning past-peak food is another option, especially for abundant seasonal produce.

Planning ahead

Food waste is preventable if you follow some – or all – of these tips to reduce food waste, presented by Rebecca LaChance.

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