Ever since our childhood, our parents taught us to never waste food. “Clean your plate, there are kids starving in Africa” is what every child has been told at some point. And we learn to feel some guilt about wasting food while countless people out there don’t have food to eat.
Maybe that feeling of guilt is a good thing considering how one-third of the food produced globally goes to complete waste. This massive amount is enough to feed a billion hungry people worldwide.
Then, should we stuff ourselves with more food even when we’re full? Of course not, that’s not going to help anybody. What we should do is cut back on food waste by making a few lifestyle changes. An individual or a family effort for a zero-waste lifestyle can make a difference and influence others to follow.
Where is Food Wasted?
Experts tend to differentiate between food waste and food loss. Food loss occurs when food is thrown out or damaged during processing, storage, and transportation. This accumulates to 16% of food wastage and is an issue for developing countries in general.
Food waste, on the other hand, is a major issue for developed countries. In this case, the food reaches the end consumer in the supply chain but it is not consumed. This amounts to 1.3 billion tons of wasted edibles and this is one of the largest components of solid waste in the world.
Besides, wasted food ends up creating lots of greenhouse gases while needlessly consuming our land and water resources, not to mention the economic resources.
How to Cut Down on Food Waste
Now, let’s not fret over the damage done, let’s take the initiative to reverse the trend of wasting food. Reducing and eliminating food waste is all about changing our habits and routines so that we buy less, use more, and save money in the process.
We have some tips for you to follow in this regard. Just go through them all.
1. At the Store
Shop More Frequently for Smaller Quantities
Although we prefer bulk shopping for some tempting savings and convenience, most of the time this results in us buying items that go bad before we can consume them. According to research, shopping more frequently is, in fact, cheaper and healthier in the long run. Many expensive ingredients end up in the trash due to bulk purchases.
Plan Meals Before You Shop
Sometimes people end up wasting food and ingredients because they shop without a clear idea of their meal plans. Hence, having a clear plan will help you buy only what you need for specific meals. You will also have the right amount for the right number of people.
Buy Funny-Looking Products
Lots of fruits and vegetables are thrown away because of their awkward size, shape and colors don’t quite match as they should. But most of the time it’s completely fine to eat. In that sense, companies should use more of such groceries in manufacturing their products so that this huge portion does not go to waste.
Get Multipurpose Ingredients
Opting to buy ingredients that can be used in several recipes will help you out in lots of situations. There may be a sudden change of plans for a party, or you have to make breakfast during rush hour, you can change the entire menu in those cases and use these multipurpose ingredients to cook up something fast.
With eggs, rice, bread, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, etc. you can think of several recipes on the go.
Plan Around the Shelf Life of Ingredients
Some ingredients rot faster than others so it’s best to plan accordingly. Certain items are very fragile, others can be used after weeks in the open. Therefore, shop smartly and stock up only non-perishable items.
2. At Home
Clean Fridge Regularly
Thoroughly cleaning out your fridge is a good step towards a greener lifestyle. Not only will you have a clear idea of your inventory, but you’ll also be able to properly use the leftovers. You can even learn more about your own buying, cooking, and wasting patterns.
Keep the Kitchen Organized
It might sound obvious, but keeping your kitchen neat and clean and well organized is the core to reduce food waste. If you only take your time to maintain your kitchen according to your needs, you will find it way more enjoyable and functional. Moreover, you’ll feel much more empowered and this will certainly reduce the waste in the long run.
FIFO means First In, First Out. When unpacking groceries, be sure to put the new goods at the back of the fridge and bring the old ones to the front, rotating their positions. This makes it less likely for the groceries to rot and it’s the proper way to store inside the fridge.
Monitor What You Throw Away
Think twice before throwing anything away. When in doubt, use your eyes, nose, and common sense to decide if it’s still good to eat. Keeping notes of discarded items can also help you to use the item before it goes stale the next time. Understanding expiration dates are also important as they’re usually the manufacturer’s suggestions for peak quality, not food safety.
Learn Recipes for Leftovers
Sometimes we waste food just because we’re bored and overwhelmed by our leftovers. Use your creativity, the kitchen is your canvas. Learning some “catch-all” recipes can bring out the juiciness in the leftovers and can be packed for work or school.
Pickling is an easy and effective way to store vegetables for much longer while making them more delicious. Fruits can be canned too.
If you’re having trouble finding another use for scraps, make sure they end up in a compost bin instead of your kitchen trash can. Just start a compost pile in your backyard or even under your sink. This way it becomes a resource and does not end up in the landfills releasing greenhouse gases.
We ought to reduce waste however we can from within our families and communities, and this will bring about a huge change. The impact may not be immediate but what matters is that we keep learning and work hard to improve. Nobody’s perfect; sometimes well-intentioned people waste food but that’s okay.
The silver lining to a big problem is that it provides many opportunities for innovation. To quote Zero Waste Chef Anne Marie Bonneau, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions doing it imperfectly.”