Do you throw away food? Maybe you cooked too much, or you forgot you had it in the fridge and it has come back to life. It happens to the best of us. Did you know that according to the FAO roughly a third of the food produced in the world is wasted yearly! A THIRD! That’s buying three loafs of bread and throwing one away! A person in Europe or North America wastes on average 95-115 kg of food a year! I don’t know about you but these numbers are shocking to me.
I know not all of this food is wasted in our homes. There is also food waste on farm level, during transport, and at the grocery store. But in order to change something we have to start with ourselves.
Why should we reduce food waste?
Uh well, why not? First of all, food is one of the most valuable resources we have, one of our basic necessities! I remember my mom always telling me when I didn’t like something: Kids in Africa would be happy to have your meal! And yet, we throw food away like any other disposable.
Did you know that when wasted food is taken to the landfill it produces methane? Methane is 25 times stronger than carbon. When food waste goes to landfills it will “compost”, the problem is that this process is anaerobic because it is not managed properly.
How about the cost of food? Imagine what you spend on food each month, now imagine a third of that and throwing that away… You could save a lot of money by not throwing away food!
How can you reduce food waste?
1. Check your pantry/freezer/refrigerator before you go grocery shopping
Check to see what you have on hand and what needs to be used soon. A smart way to do this is to have an inventory list with expiration dates so you know what you have on hand and when it needs to be used. If something will expire soon, put it on your meal plan for the following days.
2. Meal plan
Make a plan for what you want to eat each day and stick to it. Make sure to check your calendar while doing this so you can schedule an easier meal on days that you might be short on time. If you meal plan according to the activities that you have going on each week you are less stressed, and less likely to have to change your meal plans. You won’t be as tempted to just eat something else when you plan accordingly.
3. Make a shopping list
Make a list of the items you need for your meals before you go grocery shopping. When only buying what is on your list you should not have excess food that is going to be thrown out later. I used to shop without a list and didn’t meal plan, which meant I would just buy a bunch of random stuff that was on sale, and then I would have to go back to the grocery store later to buy other items so I could actually make a meal. By the end of the week some of the products I got for a “great deal” ended up in the trash because I had not planned out what we were going to eat and the food had gone bad.
4. Check dates on food
You can often get great deals at the grocery store on food that is close to expiration date, just make sure you can use it before that date. It really doesn’t make any sense to buy 5 jugs of milk for half price because they are expiring tomorrow, you are not going to use 5 jugs of milk in a day (unless you are, then you should totally buy them). Some items (like meat or dairy products) have limited shelf life, so make sure you can actually use them before they expire.
5. Buy only what you need
I often shop at the farmer’s market, because, first of all, the produce is fresh, and secondly, I can buy as much as I need. If you need 4 carrots for a meal, you can just buy 4 carrots at the farmer’s market. In the grocery store food is usually pre-packaged and you may have some produce left over after you make your meal. That means you either have to use the food soon or store it properly until you plan to use it. When I do buy produce at the grocery store and don’t plan to use the excess in the next few days I freeze them (how I prepare them before freezing depends on the type of produce), that way they don’t spoil and I can just take them out when I need them.
6. Store food properly
Food that is stored properly will last longer. For instance, tomatoes do not belong in the refrigerator, the cold temperature and humidity in the fridge will actually cause them to spoil sooner than when they are stored at room temperature. However, it is not just in or out of the refrigerator that causes food to spoil sooner, also the location in the refrigerator and the package may speed up the process.
7. Save leftovers and EAT them!
Saving leftovers is something most of us (hopefully) do, but all too often we forget about the leftovers until they are unidentifiable. So, save your leftovers and eat them! If it’s not enough for a full meal you can eat them for lunch, or combine the leftovers with something else.
8. Save leftovers to make broth
Leftover pieces of vegetables make great vegetable broth. Not only leftovers though, the ends or peelings of carrots, the stem of a broccoli or any other “inedible” part can be saved to make broth. I have a container in the freezer in which I store all leftover and inedible parts to turn them into soup. You can also do this with meat and bones, turn them into an awesome bone broth. Homemade broth tastes so much better than store-bought, and it is almost free since you would have thrown out the food otherwise.
9. Feed kitchen scraps to your chickens/pigs
Leftovers and kitchen scraps make great food for animals like chickens and pigs. Your animals will love the leftovers and end up turning them into eggs and meat. It will also put a dent in your feed costs because they need less feed when being supplemented with leftovers and kitchen scraps.
If you are really serious about reducing food waste and you have animals, you can ask your local grocery store or a restaurant in your area for food waste and feed it to your animals. You will keep even more food from going to the landfill and can feed your animals for minimal cost!
If all else fails, you can compost your kitchen waste. Make sure you mix it with enough brown material to create an aerobic composting process. This is much better than sending it to the landfill and ends up feeding your garden.