The goal of homesteading is sustainability and stewardship… Providing for our families without much outside help and respecting the resources that we have available. A huge aspect of a sustainable lifestyle is reducing waste. We try to lessen the amount of time, money, resources, energy, etc. that we spend each day. Cutting back on food waste, as homesteaders or otherwise, should be at the top of that list. Whether you have extra food left on your plate after supper or you have extra produce left in the garden at the end of the season, you can make sure that every bit of it is put to use. We have a few tips and suggestions for steps that you can take to reduce the food waste on your homestead starting today!
8 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
According to Feeding America, over 199 billion pounds of food goes to waste every single year in The United States. While much of this waste comes from grocery stores and restaurants, a good portion also comes from overabundant harvests and excess food waste within households. We can lower this statistic one person at a time by taking the 8 simple steps to reduce food waste within our households and homesteads.
1. Compost Food Scraps
Composting is a great way to reduce food waste! When you find yourself with extra food on your plate after supper or you have scraps leftover from preparing a meal, toss it all into the compost bin instead of the trash can. You can keep a small compost pail in the refrigerator so you don’t have to go all the way to the outdoor compost bin multiple times a day. When this pail is full, take it out and let the air and the worms do their work!
After a few months, this food will be turned into compost that will nourish your garden and help you grow more food for your family and community. If you aren’t sure how to start building your compost pile, you can get a free composting guide here.
2. Feeds Extras to Animals
If you have livestock, you can feed most scraps to them as supplemental animal feed. Chickens, pigs, goats, cows, etc. can eat your meal leftovers and extras from the field. Be sure to research so you will be aware of any foods that may be toxic to the species you are feeding. I place my food scraps in a rubber tub for the chickens. Whatever they don’t eat goes into the compost bin.
3. Make Tea & Broth
Keep carrot tops, celery root ends, onion and leek skins, broccoli stems, potato skins, bones (from chickens, turkeys, cows, etc.), and any other raw food scraps to make vegetable broth or bone broth.
If you make elderberry syrup, you can use the spent berries one more time to make tea before they go to the compost bin.
You can also use bits/skins of ginger, lemon, oranges, and herbs to make healthy & tasty teas giving these food scraps one more use before being turned back into the earth.
4. Utilize Leftovers
Do you have extra food from yesterday’s meal? Repurpose them into today’s lunch! Use roasted vegetables to make a stir fry or stew and add leftover meat to soups & pot pies.
5. Repurpose Foods Past Their Prime
Don’t toss food just because it is a little bit “too far gone”.
- Overripe bananas and apples can make delicious quick breads & cakes or be frozen for smoothies.
- Stale bread can be used to make croutons or bread pudding.
- Add overripe vegetables into a sauce or stew.
5. Reduce Food Waste by Garden Planning
Be intentional when you plant your garden. Don’t just plant any and everything that looks fun to grow. Instead, think about the foods that your family eats the most. Plant those things. Take into consideration how much you typically eat of each variety so you don’t plant too much or too little. Taking steps to reduce food waste at the production level can make a dramatic improvement in the amount of food wasted each season.
Start planning your garden now with The Homestead Journal Planner!
6. Meal Planning
One of the most effective ways to minimize food waste is to meal plan before you grocery shop. Think about the week ahead and plan each breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can even plan out your snacks if you want. It is a good idea to plan your meals around food that you already have at home so “shop” your pantry for ingredients as you go.
Once you have your meal plan, make a shopping list so you can purchase any foods that you don’t already have in your pantry or fridge. Stick to this list and avoid impulse purchases that don’t fit into the meal plan.
7. Learn to Preserve Food
Extra food can usually be preserved in some way. Freezing, canning, pickling, dehydrating, fermenting, and even freeze-drying can reduce food waste in your household. Research each food preservation method so you can keep your food safe and tasty until you are ready to use it.
8. Share Your Abundance
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. These words taken from Scripture could not be more true. There is an incredible amount of food wasted before it even leaves the field! With extra hands and a little extra work, this food could be in the hands of a hungry family instead of rotting away. Consider donating your extra fruits, vegetables, and herbs to local food banks, churches, or other food distribution agencies.
If you aren’t able to harvest and deliver the food yourself, contact the Society of St. Andrew to see if there is a gleaning coordinator in your area. If so, he/she can get volunteers together to glean the excess fresh produce in your garden or field and get it to a local nonprofit organization that will then get it into the hands of people who need it.
U.S. food waste could be considered an environmental, social, and economic crisis. By implementing these practical tips on a producer & consumer level, you can help to support a more sustainable life for your family and future generations.