Every year, around $1 trillion worth of food goes to waste. From bananas left to spoil to unfinished food on one’s plate, wasted food is a common problem for households, retailers, and food establishments. But like many global issues, food waste is a problem we can start solving at home.
This article focuses on how to reduce food waste at home. But first, let’s take a look at why food waste is an issue worthy of our action and attention.
Why We Should Care about Food Waste
Food waste is a bigger problem than most of us realize. In fact, one third of all the food produced in the world is discarded for various reasons. But if we manage to reverse this trend, we’ll have enough food to feed around 2 billion people.
While you may think that tossing edible food in the trash is bad enough because it’s a waste of money, the problem doesn’t end there. Discarded food ends up rotting and producing methane in landfills. In other words, the food we throw out contributes to the production of greenhouse gasses, and ultimately, to climate change. Additionally, all the water and resources used to produce the food we discard is also wasted.
A bulk of the food that ends up in landfills is traced back to households. Bad habits such as cooking more than one’s family can eat lead to leftovers that eventually become spoiled food. That’s why our tips to reduce food waste are tailored for the household.
Here are five ways to reduce food waste in your home.
1. Plan your food purchases
Having a packed fridge might be fulfilling to some, but buying less can save you a lot of food and money. Planning your purchases is a better way to manage your food supply.
The simplest way to do this is to write a grocery list and stick with it. Impulse buying can lead to more food waste because you might end up buying something just because it was on sale, not because you want to eat it.
Also, do your best to use up all the ingredients you bought from your last grocery trip before getting some more. So, make sure you check the contents of your fridge before you buy anything. Most of the time, you’ll find that you can actually whip up a dish with the ingredients you already have.
Keep in mind it is better to take shorter trips to the grocery. Bulk buying often leads to an overestimation of what a household can consume.
Last but not least, buy local produce whenever possible. Not only does this help the farmers and businesses in your community, but it’s also a more sustainable option because of reduced delivery distances and pollution. If you don’t know how to reach local food producers, you can use the grocery delivery app Farmstead.
2. Give meal planning a try
Meal planning sounds like a tough task but it doesn’t have to be. While people who use meal planning to take charge of their diet will need a detailed daily meal plan, a weekly menu is enough for cutting down on food waste.
Planning your menu for the week will help you organize your food usage because you’ll know which ingredients to buy and how much. If you’re feeling uninspired, you can always use the internet or consult a cookbook to help you plan out a general menu for the week.
Your meal plan can also be the basis of your shopping list. Though it might take you and your family a few tries before you get your weekly menu right, it will save you more resources in the long run. Just imagine not having to worry about what to have for dinner every day!
3. Know your portions
Keeping your portion sizes within a healthy range is not only good for your body. It’s also one of the best ways to reduce food waste.
Be mindful of how hungry you are and only get what you know you can finish. Getting smaller portions and coming back for seconds is better than scraping excess food from your plate to the trash bin.
If you cook for your family, using low-cost tools such as measuring cups and scoops for appropriate cooking and serving sizes is a good strategy. You can also try using smaller plates to control portions.
4. Store and organize your food properly
If you’re unsure how to store fruits and vegetables, they can ripen prematurely and end up in the garbage. So, knowing how to store the vegetables and fruits you buy is crucial.
Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cucumbers should never be refrigerated. It is also good practice to separate foods that produce the ripening gas ethylene from ethylene-sensitive produce (e.g., apples, leafy greens). Fruits that produce this gas include bananas, avocados, and tomatoes.
Other storage tips include storing food and leftovers in sealed containers, ensuring that your refrigerator’s temperature is below 5°C, putting cooked foods on shelves above raw foods.
Speaking of shelves, organize your pantry based on the FIFO (“First In, First Out”) principle. In other words, the food you bought first should be the one you consume first. So, move older products to the front and new ones to the back.
And don’t throw out a canned item because of the “best before” date! Food is usually still safe to eat after the “best before” date but it has to go if it’s past the “use-by” date.
5. Think twice before throwing food out
Instead of putting your leftovers in the trash, ask yourself if there’s a way to save them. Sometimes, you can use leftovers to make a new dish.
If you don’t have enough for a full meal, you can use leftover meat or vegetables to make broth. Homemade broth is often healthier and tastier than store-bought. So, you can go ahead and freeze some of it, too.
If the food can’t be saved, consider composting. Stems, peels, tea leaves, and other unusable bits of food can be added to your compost heap to make a nutrient-rich fertilizer. If you don’t have a home composting site, you can give it to your community compost.
Reducing food waste is an important responsibility that we should all take seriously. Ways to reduce food waste in your household include planning purchases and meals, knowing your portions, and storing food correctly.
Most importantly, always think hard before you throw away food. There is almost always something better to do than trash it.