Food wastage is a massive problem across the globe. Millions of tons of food are discarded every year, while millions of people go hungry. It is estimated that 43% of food waste happens at home. 40% more food wastage happens in restaurants and the food-service industry. The rest of the waste occurs in farms and manufacturing plants. With the largest proportion of waste occurring in our homes, we can take steps to reduce waste. Following are 9 tips on how to reduce food waste at home:
1. Better Planning
The best way you can reduce food waste is to plan your meals. For instance, you can plan your meals for the week and list all the ingredients you need to prepare your meals. Using this list, shop for groceries as needed. Importantly, try and include the quantities of the ingredients you need to make the meals whilst making your list. Taking this approach will negate overspending on groceries and ensure you can save money by reducing food wastage. For businesses, investing in a food waste collection service could actually save you time and money in the long term.
2. Better Storage
According to the UK’s Natural Resources Defense Council, over two-thirds of all households in the United Kingdom waste food due to spoilage (https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/wasted-food-IP.pdf). The main reason for food spoilage, in this case, is poor or inappropriate food storage. Many few do not know how to store their fresh produce to last long. For instance, when you store fruits and vegetables inappropriately, there is a likelihood they will ripen prematurely and rot before you’ve had the chance to consume them.
With this in mind, you can take simple steps to ensure your food lasts longer. Do not refrigerate food items that store poorly in the refrigerator. Such items include onions, cucumbers, garlic, tomatoes, and potatoes. These items keep best at room temperature.
In the same light, do not store items that produce ethylene with other fresh produce. The ethylene that tomatoes, bananas, avocados, peaches, green onions, pears, and cantaloupes produce promotes ripening, leading to food spoilage.
3. Stock Your Pantry With Non-Perishable Food Items
Instead of buying perishable food items in bulk, stock your pantry with the non-perishable food items that you use often. For instance, keep your pantry well-stocked with:
- Canned fish, especially the low sodium salmon and tuna variety.
- Canned fruits and vegetables such as pineapples, mandarin oranges, corn, carrots, low sodium canned tomatoes, and mushrooms.
- Grains – Grain products you can store include whole-grain items, including kasha, rice, whole grain pasta, and much more.
- Baking products – Include all the product items you need for baking, such as baking powder, baking soda, sugar, corn starch, flour, plain oats, yeast, salt, and cornmeal.
- Canned or dried beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Cooking oil – You can stock your pantry with various cooking oils, such as canola oil, sesame oil, extra-virgin olive oil, light olive oil, and avocado oil.
- Unopened condiments, including ketchup, salad dressing, Dijon mustard, wasabi, and hot sauce.
4. Reduce Your Fridge Size
For families with oversized fridges, there is a temptation to overbuy so that you can fill up the available storage space. Inevitably, overbuying increases food waste as you cannot consume all the available food.
To remedy such a situation, consider reducing available storage space and fridge space. To this end, you can remove one or two drawers or shelves from your fridge, effectively reducing its storage capacity. In doing this, you will not overbuy, even when you’re are tempted to fill up every nook and cranny in your fridge. This strategy is especially effective if you have an oversized fridge.
5. Rotate Items On Your Shelf
Take the first-in-first-out approach when consuming stocked food. After restocking food items, you should bring all the older items to the front of the refrigerator shelves, pantry, and cupboards. Consuming the older items as you restock ensures you will not waste food because older food items are inaccessible. For businesses, investing in software for managing food waste is the best solutions
6. Understand Food Labels And Dates
According to the FDA, about 20% of all food waste results from confusion over the food labels used in packaging. That’s because the vast majority of consumers do not have an intricate understanding of the labels. Additionally, manufacturers use a wide variety of food labels, further confusing consumers on what to do with their stocked food.
Generally speaking, there are no laws and regulations mandating food companies to use safety-based labels on the packages, except for infant formula. As such, the dates used in labels indicate quality, not safety.
Consequently, it’s common for consumers to simply throw away perfectly good food just because they misunderstand the food label. To avoid wasting food due to misunderstanding labels, you should learn more about dates used in food packages.
How to reduce food waste by understanding the information written on some of the labels in use today
- Sell By – A sell-by date is meant to be used by store managers and owners to manage their inventory. It shows how long the store should display for the store to sell items while in peak flavor. Again, it’s a safety date.
- Before/Best If Used Before – This date indicates when the product will have the best quality and flavor. It’s not a safety date.
- Use By – The Use-By date is a recommended date within which using the product will ensure you get peak quality. However, in infant formula in infant formulas, Use-By is a safety date.
- Freeze By – This date indicates when you should freeze the product to ensure you maintain peak quality.
Given the date labels are generally not safety labels, you should not throw away food just because it is past its labeled date by a day or two. Rely on your senses to unearth signs of spoilage. Look for signs such as flavor, odor, and texture that indicate spoilage.
7. Shop In Your Fridge And Pantry First
More often than not, we head out to do grocery shopping without checking what we have in the fridge. A good way of avoiding food waste is to cook and eat what you’ve already purchased. As such, always check what you have in your fridge and pantry before shopping for groceries. Additionally, avoid stocking too much of what you already have in your home.
8. Cook Smarter
Do not throw away vegetable scraps as a normal part of cooking. If you only use half an onion, save the other half to use in cooking some stock later on. Doing this ensures no food goes to waste.
9. Compost The Waste Food Rather Than Binning
Compost refers to the organic materials that add nutrients and minerals to the soil. Typically, you can add vegetable and fruit peels, eggshells, tea bags, and other organic matter from your kitchen. Instead of throwing scrap foods in your regular waste bin, consider creating compost with the waste. Doing this ensures the food does not go to total waste and instead, it’s used to nourish your soil.
If you do not compost, consider taking the food scraps to your local community garden. Alternatively, you can take it to your local farmer’s market, where farmers need compost materials to nourish their farms.
While every tip on how to reduce food waste listed herein will take you a step closer to eliminating food waste in your household, these tips are most effective when used together. Combining everything you’ve learned here will increase your efficiency in food consumption, decrease your cost of food, and, ultimately, cut down food wastage.