Food Waste: How to Grocery Shop

Mindful Shopping
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How to grocery shop while reducing your food waste. Careful grocery shopping is the second step to reducing your food waste. Now that you have planned your meals and created a grocery list it is time to head to the grocery store. Here are some tips to help you reduce food waste through mindful shopping. As a bonus, many of the tips will also help you to save money as well.

1. Use a Basket

Using a smaller basket rather than a shopping cart will force you to only buy what you need and cut down on any impulse purchases.

2. Pay Attention to Deals

My local grocery store often sells corn on the cob for 4/$1. But that is only a good deal if my family will eat all four ears of corn. Often stores will still sell items at the sale price even if you buy less than the advertised quantity. If you are unsure, just ask.

Bulk Bins at grocery store

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3. Shop the Bulk Bins and Salad Bar

If you only need a small quantity of an item, often it is better to buy it from a bulk bin or the salad bar. That way you can purchase only the quantity you need.

4. Consider Expiration and Sell-By Dates as Guidelines

Food expiration dates have little to do with food safety. Depending on the food, many items will still be safe to eat days, weeks, and even months after these dates have passed.

From the USDA Website

  • “Best if Used By/Before” date indicates when a product will have the best flavor or quality. This is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale for inventory management. This is not a safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. This is not a safety date except for when used on infant formula.
  • “Freeze-By” date indicates when a product should be frozen to maintain peak quality. This is not a safety date.

Are Foods Safe to Eat After the Date Passes?

If the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe to eat if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident. Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten. A change in the color of meat or poultry is not an indicator of spoilage.

Bell Peppers in plastic bins

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5. Buy Imperfect Produce

Take a page from Charlie Brown’s book. Even though a fruit or vegetable may look “ugly” it is perfectly normal, will still taste the same, and has the same nutritional value as it’s “pretty” neighbors. If no one buys these fruits and vegetables the grocery store will toss them into the garbage. Major grocery store chains like Walmart and Whole Foods have started offering “ugly” fruits and vegetables at a discounted price in an attempt to reduce food waste.

Produce at grocery store

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6. Purchase Local Produce

Shop for produce at a farmers market or in the local section of your grocery store. Often this produce has been harvested more recently and will have a longer shelf life.

Part 1 – Food Waste: What is Food Waste?
Part 2 – Food Waste: Reducing Food Waste
Part 3 – Food Waste: Meal Planning
Part 5 – Food Waste: Food Storage
Part 6 – Food Waste: Using Food Scraps
Part 7 – Food Waste: Composting
Part 8 – Food Waste: Waste Reduction Programs

Mindful Shopping

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