“Kids are starving in Africa.” This was a common phrase used when we were young to make us feel guilty for wasting food. And it worked.
The amount of food wasted every year is enough to feed about 1 billion hungry people. America is infamously known for food waste. An estimated 40% of our food is thrown away every year. This is equivalent to approximately $165 billion. The sad thing is that a lot of resources are used to produce the food that is thrown away.
At an individual level, we can change the culture of food waste by taking small actionable steps towards minimizing it. Cutting back on waste does not mean that we should continue eating even when we are full. No, this will not do you any good. But you can minimize food waste by applying some of the tips listed below.
1) Love Your Leftovers
Consider reusing your leftovers. Sometimes, you may cook more than enough or get served a big portion at a restaurant. Instead of throwing away what’s left on your plate when you’re full, save it for tomorrow. Pack your leftovers nicely and freeze them for eating later. Always keep track of them by noting down when they were put in the fridge so you may know how long they have been there. You don’t have to upset your stomach just because you are on a mission to cut back on waste. Get creative with your leftovers by adding new ingredients to make them tastier.
2) Control What Goes In and Out of Your Fridge
Take time to clean out your fridge. While you are at it, examine the foods that you never eat (which you eventually throw away) so you can plan better next time. In addition, maintain order in your fridge. Avoid cluttering it with unnecessary items. Declutter by observing proper storage strategies. This way, you will not have a lot of foods piled up at the back. We tend to forget things that are out of our sight. A cluttered fridge will prevent you from seeing the things that are far behind, and you risk forgetting them until they go bad. It is easier to take note of your foodstuff when it is neatly stored.
Regularly rotate stuff in your fridge. Use the “first in, first out” rule to move food around. Older items should be moved to the front so that they get used first. Remember that you cannot freeze food forever. Freezing will extend its lifespan, but it will not keep it as fresh as the day you bought it or cooked it.
Knowing what you have in your fridge is important in managing food waste.
3) Track Your Waste
Keep tabs on the foods that you constantly throw out either because they are not safe for consumption or because you do not need them. Such a list will help you the next time you go shopping. You will know whether to buy small quantities of the product or not to buy at all. Either way, you will be limiting waste.
The other way of making sure your trash can is free from waste is taking note of what is in your fridge before you shop.
4) Monitor Your Stock
Maintain a log of food expiry dates and stick it in a visible place. Experts argue that the expiry date is not a “tell-it-all” sign that the food is safe for consumption, but it sure gives you a guideline on how long the food can last in your freezer or pantry. Use the foods that are close to their expiration date first.
5) Shop Smart
Avoid impulse buying by planning your meals and using a grocery list. This way, you are likely to buy things that you need and in the right quantity. You are less inclined to buy things that you are unlikely to consume. Use up all perishable goods before buying more. Shopping smart is a wise decision that will not only help you to avoid food waste but also keep money in your pocket.
Another strategy is to avoid buying all food items at once. Often, when buying items in bulk, your mind is fixed on the next shopping date. You think whether what you have bought will last you until then. Shopping this way causes you to stock things that you may end up not using. Instead, try shopping for your foodstuff in bits and only replenish when you are out of stock.
6) Donate Foodstuff
If you have food that will go to waste at the same time, think of donating before you throw it out. Donate to food banks and food rescue programs. Give items that have not gone bad and those you know you won’t use anytime soon.
7) Don’t Over Serve
Before serving, listen to the needs of your body. It knows how much food you need and the kind of food you should eat. This way, you will be able to control the amount of food that goes onto your plate. Start with a small serving and go for another one if you need to.
8) Plan Ahead
Life happens. There are days when you plan to cook a healthy meal at home only to find yourself working late. Develop a plan for days when you are unlikely to cook. Set days for cooking new recipes and others for eating leftovers. Every week, set aside a day or two for an unplanned dinner.
9) Use Everything
When cooking, use every part of the ingredients (if possible) to make your dish. Don’t peel the skin of cucumbers and carrots and make use of broccoli stems. Simply wash the foods well. You’ll be surprised by how wonderful they make your meals taste. They are also an addition to your nutrients.
10) Store Food Safely
Storing your food properly will make it last longer. Read food storage guides to learn more about proper storage.
Waste Not, Want Not
By applying some of the tips outlined here, you will avoid food waste and save a lot of money. It may be hard in the beginning, but you’ll get better with time.