Food waste is becoming a serious problem. On a global scale, food products that end up rotting in landfills produce huge amounts of methane gas, significantly contributing to climate change. On a more personal scale, wasting food at home is literally like throwing money in the trash can.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to reduce food waste at home. Let’s take a look.
Plan Your Meals
Having a weekly food plan allows you to keep your kitchen organized and your food supplies in check. It’s also a great way to make the most of your shopping trips, ensuring you pick up the things you know you’ll use. Don’t worry; you can keep things flexible and change it up a bit, but with a good idea of what you’re eating most days, you can soon reduce food waste.
Avoid Buying in Bulk
In today’s hectic world, many of us prefer to do one big weekly or even monthly shop to save time. This generally means you’ll need to buy a lot of your food in bulk. However, incorrect storage or unforeseen circumstances can result in a lot of that food ending up in the trash can. So, if it’s possible, it’s better to head to the store more frequently and buy smaller amounts of things like fruit, veg, meat and dairy products. This way, things are less likely to expire or get forgotten about.
Explore Pickles and Preserves
If you do happen to buy too many fruits or vegetables, there’s no need to panic. Humans have been preserving foods for millennia, and there’s no reason not to in this day and age. Pickling, canning, fermenting or making chutneys and jams out of your excess fruit and veg is a superb way to prolong their lifespan and create some tasty treats. Extra meat can also be cured, smoked or dried to ensure it stays good to eat for months.
Use Your Leftovers
One of the biggest sources of food waste at home is the odds and ends thrown out. Peels, stems, tops and tails all seem to end up in the trash can. But they can still be put to good use, and they’re filled with nutrients, fiber, vitamins and more. For example, broccoli and mushrooms stems can make an excellent addition to stocks or soups, while berry tops, fruit and veg peels and wilted herbs are much more appetizing when blended into a smoothie.
Take Expiry Dates with a Pinch of Salt
Another major source of food waste at home comes from misread expiry dates on food packaging. Most products feature a sell-by date, used to aid stores and markets in stock rotation. However, many people interpret this date as the expiry and often throw such goods out without even checking that they’re still good. Even the actual expiry date should be taken with a pinch of salt. Trust your senses, and if an ‘expired’ product still looks, smells and feels okay, there’s normally no reason to throw it out.
Make the Most of Your Freezer
In terms of food preservation, the home freezer is one of the greatest achievements of the previous century. It allows you to prolong the lifespan of a whole host of foodstuffs, from raw meat to cooked meals. A freezer can be a superb way to ensure you never have to throw excess food away and is also an excellent place to keep batches of stocks, soups and even lemon and lime juice.
Use Sensible Storage
Poor storage can cause things like fruit, vegetables and meat to degrade faster. Meat and dairy should almost always be stored in the fridge, but be careful with things like onions, tomatoes, garlic and potatoes, which are better stored at room temperature. Also, keep bananas, apples and tomatoes away from other fruit and veg to ensure they don’t ripen too fast. With packaged goods, use stock rotation methods to ensure that the items with the shortest expiry date are always at the front and easiest to reach.
Think Before You Throw
Before you throw anything away, catch yourself and think if there’s a better option. If you end up with excess raw food, look to see if any local food banks or charities could make better use of it.
Set a Compost Challenge
So much of the food we throw away can be put to excellent use as compost. From vegetable peels to tea leaves, coffee grinds to eggshells; each can break down slowly to create a superb natural fertilizer. If you have a garden, a compost heap is a no-brainer. However, even if you don’t have an outdoor space, it’s worth keeping a compost container. Many municipalities run composting programs and will gladly take your leftovers from you.