Food waste is a massive problem – globally every year we waste an incredible 1.4 billion tons of food. The USA is one of the most wasteful countries with between 30 and 40 percent of the food supply being wasted. This is reflected in USA landfill space with most of it taken up with food waste. This large amount of waste has wide ranging economic and environmental impacts.
Everyone can help reduce these impacts by making simple changes to their food routines at home – often these small changes can also save you a significant amount of time and money. It’s a win-win. Lets have a look….
(If you have already tried these ways – get creative with our alternative food waste ideas here!)
The simplest, and perhaps obvious, way to reduce food wastage is to create a meal plan and shopping list before going shopping. That way, you won’t overbuy things that you don’t need and miss things that you do. Furthermore, by planning meals, if you are having a ground beef-based meal one evening but will have excess beef you can incorporate this into the next evening meal – reducing potential for food waste.
Tidy your fridge!
It is great to have a wide selection of food in your fridge – but make sure it is not rammed full. Like with the leftovers, food gets stuck at the back and forgotten about all too often. Organize your foods to ensure that the products with the least time left get used first. Rotate the time-sensitive products – just like the supermarkets do when filling the shelves – move the food that is close to expiry towards the front so it can be seen and used in upcoming meals.
Making sure that you are storing your food correctly is really important – massive amounts of food waste is caused by spoilage rather than food going out-of-date. Fruit and vegetables stored incorrectly can lead to early ripening and, ultimately, spoilage. It is a common misconception that all veg needs to be refrigerated. Many actually benefit from room temperature – tomatoes, potatoes and onions, to name a few.
Its also important that some veg types are kept apart in storage. Some items produce ethylene gas whilst others don’t. Ethylene can cause premature ripening in items that are ethylene-sensitive spoilage. The most well-known example is bananas. However, ethylene is also produced by other items such as avocados, peaches and pears. Keeping these separate from ethylene-sensitive produce such as potatoes, apples and berries will minimize food wastage.
Having the correct temperature settings set in your fridge-freezer is also really important – if the freezer temperature is too cold this can affect the produce in the fridge, potentially leading to frostbite and spoilage.
Leftovers for lunch
Although saved with good intentions, often leftovers get forgotten and end up going moldy in the fridge – ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Make sure that they are stored in a transparent tub, so you don’t forget about them – and why not take them as a packed lunch for work the next day? As well as reducing food wastage it will save you money – you won’t need to buy that over-priced, excessively-packaged salad from the work restaurant! Ensure your leftovers are stored in an appropriate container and at the right temperature – and not for too long….
You can reduce the need for leftovers entirely by making sure you are serving appropriate portion sizes. Often people throw their plate leftovers in the bin without thinking, but this also contributes to the food wastage issue. Cutting portion size is a win-win. Not only will keeping portions a healthy size reduces the calories of the meal, and prevent potential weight gain, it is also a great way to reduce food waste and help save the planet.
Use the freezer!
Whether it be bulk-cooked meals or leftovers, freezing is one of the best ways to preserve food. As well as being a great way of reducing food wastage, freezing bulk-cooked dinners is ideal for ensuring a home-cooked meal on evenings you just cannot summon the energy to cook from scratch! If you have grown your own veg, you might not have time to use it all before it becomes inedible – why not chop it up, put it in bags and pop it into the freezer?
If all else fails – compost!
Composting enables you to convert food waste into a high-quality energy source for your plants whilst diverting food waste from landfills. Most foods, but not all, can be composted. Be sure to avoid meat and dairy products. If you are new to composting, we have answered a few beginners questions here.
The good news is you don’t even need a garden or outdoor space to compost – lots of discreet countertop composting systems are available, producing plenty compost for urban-dwellers houseplants. Don’t worry though, most are fitted with a replaceable carbon filter that prevents any odor creeping out whilst the lid keeps any pests out. Larger outdoor models are available for those people lucky enough to have a backyard!
The bottom line
As you have seen, there are many ways to reduce your food wastage – we have touched on just a few. Several of which are easy to implement and have added benefits such as saving time and money. Just implementing one or two of our recommendations can have a dramatic affect on how much food your household wastes and, as a result, the impact on the environment. Give it a go.