According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation, one-third of all food produced worldwide is wasted and if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest emitting country in the world, after the United States and China.
In a recent Australian food waste survey, the four main reasons for food waste are: food going off before it can be completely consumed, buying too much, food not being as good as expected and not planning grocery shopping sufficiently.
If you’re keen to reduce your household food waste and stop throwing precious money and resources down the proverbial drain? Here is a comprehensive list of things you can do to drastically curb the food you waste:
1. Audit your fridge and pantry.
Check the fridge, freezer and pantry and use up what’s already in there before going grocery shopping as you may end up overbuying or buying multiple items that will inevitably go to waste. One great hack is to place all items that need to be used up sooner at the front of the pantry or fridge.
2. Plan your meals.
Plan your meals in advance so you know what’s on the menu for the upcoming week. For example, spend some time on Sunday planning meals – lunches, dinners, snacks etc – for the week ahead. This will save you from buying unnecessary food items and other perishables at the supermarket that will only need to be thrown out because you didn’t think to use it in a dish.
3. Use a shopping list.
The obvious next step when planning your meals is to create a shopping list of the ingredients you will need to buy. By writing down the items you need and sticking to this list, you’ll stop yourself from spending on items that you won’t use and will likely go to waste.
4. Don’t shop on an empty stomach (if you can help it).
Not only are you more likely to buy plastic-packaged snack junk foods, but you’ll also likely overbuy food as your hunger will rationalise any food purchase. Avoid shopping on an empty stomach if you can.
5. Buy and use imperfect produce.
Shoppers have been trained to look for cosmetically perfect produce but the reality is that imperfect produce will do the same job, taste the same – and it usually costs less as supermarkets aim to entice customers to buy it. Furthermore, if you find that a fruit or vegetable is starting to spoil, don’t throw it out. Just remove the affected area and use the rest.
6. Try not to over order.
Don’t over order when dining out, and if you do, make sure to take a food container with you so you can take leftovers home. If you’ve ordered home delivery and can’t finish your meal, remember to save your leftovers and eat it the following day or two so that your takeout meal doesn’t go to waste. If you aren’t inclined to eat the same thing, you can add leftovers to future meals as a side dish or turn them into a new dish entirely.
7. Consider serving sizes.
When cooking or dining out, consider portion serving sizes. Don’t fill your plate up to the brink if you know you won’t be able to eat all the food on it – which tends to happen if you find yourself at a buffet restaurant or at a self-serve special event particularly. If you’re only cooking for one and you’ve just made a batch of pasta or stew enough to feed a small army, consider leaving some aside to eat over the next couple of days and freeze the rest. If you’re dining out and didn’t anticipate being served huge portion sizes, make sure to take any remaining food home with you. If there are leftovers, freeze them or take to work and eat for lunch (or dinner) the next day.
8. Root to stem.
One way to reduce food waste is to adopt the ‘root to fruit’ or or ‘root to stem’ philosophy where no part of the fruit or vegetable is wasted. In fact, many parts of plants are often discarded such as carrot tops, broccoli stalks, radish and beetroot greens and even potato skins, but these are all edible and actually contain valuable nutrients. By learning which parts of produce you can eat and learning how to make the most of it so as not to waste, you’ll reduce your food waste.
And don’t throw away your vegetable ends or peels either; these can be placed in a freezer bag or container and saved until such time as you make a vegetable stock.
9. Learn how to store food properly.
When returning home with your groceries, take the time to store your food properly. Inspect produce to ensure that any spoiled pieces won’t spoil the rest. When placing fruit or vegetables in the fridge, use fabric bags such as The Swag Storage Bag which is specifically designed to prolong the freshness of fruits and vegetables and reduce food waste. Use rubber bands or pegs to seal packets and packaged foods such as cereal or quinoa. Alternatively you can store these dry items in mason jars. Pack leftovers in airtight containers and for any half-eaten or half-used fruit or vegetables, make sure to wrap in reusable beeswax food wraps (or the vegan version if you prefer) as this will keep it fresh until you decide to eat it or use it again.
10. Grow your own.
When you grow your own herbs, fruit and vegetables you are less likely to waste it as you appreciate the time, energy, resources and effort that has gone into producing the food.
11. Preserve your food.
This is something you will naturally want to learn if you grow your own food but even if you don’t, learning how to extend the life of the produce you’ve purchased by using preservation techniques will go a long way to reducing food waste. There are many ways to pickle, dry, ferment, freeze or salt cure food, all you need to do is quick online search for guides on how to do this. There are also some wonderful books on preserving food such as the bestselling Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving which features plenty of recipes and in-depth how-to guides.
12. Compost any food scraps.
Composting should be the last resort, but if you haven’t been able to use up leftovers, kitchen scraps and odds and ends of produce, then composting is the sustainable option to throwing in the trash bin and sending it to landfill.
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Cover image by Daria Shevtsova.