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How to Reduce Food Waste at Home

Posted by Didi Gorman on

Did you know that almost half of all the food produced in our country never gets eaten?

Forty percent, to be exact, gets thrown away. Forty percent! 5,9

Food waste occurs in supermarkets, restaurants, food factories, farms, and our own kitchens. Most of it ends up in landfills, 5,9 taking a heavy toll on the environment and on climate change.

Think of all the effort, energy, water, soil, money, and time it took to grow and produce all that food… only to feed half of it to the dumpster. 10

On the flip side, it means we could feed two Americas with our current food supply. 11

Is there anything we, as individuals, can do about it?

Yes, there sure is.

Today we’ll look at some simple steps we can all take to reduce food waste at home. The three ‘R’s reduce reuse recycle will serve as our guiding principles.

Let’s start with our shopping cart at the supermarket.

We’ll agree that buying food and never eating it is a waste of resources and is not a smart use of our income.

Shopping responsibly would therefore be greatly appreciated by the environment as well as by our pockets: 

  • Get only the groceries you’re really going to use. This is key. (To help you out, make a list or use your smart phone to take pictures of your current fridge content10)
  • Smaller carts will curb the temptation to purchase unnecessary stuff.
  • Don’t do the groceries when you’re hungry.
  • Don’t do the groceries with young kids. (If you must bring your kids along, limit the extras going into your cart.)

Let’s now head to the kitchen.

Proper maintenance and storage: 

  • Properly sealing open packets will extend the product’s life. (Use a Ziploc bag, for example)
  • Fresh produce in your fridge should be kept dry. Too much moisture will spoil the veggies sooner. Put a few paper towels at the bottom of the veggie drawer, and take the produce out of any unaired bags.
  • If your fridge is too cold, you might want to keep fresh produce away from the coldest area. (In my fridge it’s the far back and the motor, on the top shelf.)
  • Do you know what’s in the hidden corners of your fridge and freezer? Arrange your fridge and freezer in a way that you can see (and be able to retrieve) the stuff at the back.

Cooking wisely:

  • Before cooking anything new, finish the food you already have. Check in the fridge, freezer and in the pantry if there’s anything that needs using first.
  • Be prepared to freeze extras for future meals (if applicable).
  • Don’t cook more than will be really eaten. We tend to overestimate how much our families will consume, especially in big get-togethers and around the holidays.10
  • Share the surplus with others (neighbors, friends, or food bank if suitable)
  • Cooking from scratch?
    Let’s follow in the footsteps of countless generations who believed in using the whole ingredient rather than only part of it. For example:
    • If you squeeze an orange into juice, add the pulp.
    • Fruits or veggies with nice edible skins  don’t need to be peeled (apples, carrots, cucumbers, and the like).
    • If a recipe calls for half a jar of tomato sauce, keep the rest for another dish.
    • If a recipe calls for egg whites, make an omelette with the yolks.
    • Leftover salsas and sauces may be used as spreads.
    • High quality chicken or beef bones will make a nice bone broth.
  • Leftover fruits, herbs, and veggies:

    • Leftover fruits (in a reasonable state) will make a great compote. See the picture? (Click here for this awesome refreshing compote beverage, and here for a delicious compote dessert
    • Leftover veggies and herbs (in a reasonable state) will be great additions to soups, stews, sauces, and salsas. Onions, tomatoes, peppers, dill, and parsley are great in omelettes and when mixed with ground beef.
    • Fresh herbs such as parsley, cilantro and dill can go into herb-based dishes such as Tabbouleh salad (parsley), Chimichurri sauce (cilantro), and Greek Tzatziki (dill).
  • As last resort toss compostable foods into the compost or feed it to animals, if suitable.
  • It may be worth noting there’s a hot debate in the food world regarding ‘best by’ labeling. ‘Best by’ indicates quality rather than safety,7,10,11 which often means the food is still good but simply not at its peak freshness. Whether to consume it or not will be your decision. (I don’t take the risk with raw meat and fish, but I’m more lenient with non-perishables, where my nose, eyes and taste buds have so far proven to be trustworthy in determining whether the item in question is still good.)

Now let’s eat:

  • Putting food on your plate? Take only as much as you think you’ll actually eat. This applies to all ages, but is especially important with young children.
  • Use a smaller plate for smaller appetites.

Eating out?

  • What do we do when there’s a ‘combo’ or ‘trio’ but we don’t really want all the components? As tempting as it might be (especially if offered for free), order only the components you’ll actually eat.
  • Another option is to pack the leftovers and take them home for a bonus (free!) meal.

Out of respect for the food and the environment, let’s cut our adverse environmental impact down, by being conscious consumers and using food mindfully.

I’m pretty sure if we all took a tour of our kitchens right now and looked on the counter, the pantry, the fridge and the freezer, we’d be faced with at least a few orphaned foods which unfortunately, are going to be chucked.

Starting today, let’s act differently and be part of the solution. It’s the ethical thing to do and our duty towards our planet.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,

Wise Choice Market


References and inspirations for this post:
1. EE 101: Teaching Slow Food Values in a Fast Food World - Alice Waters and Craig McNamara (YouTube)
2. Edible education 101: what’s next for the food movement, with Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman (YouTube)
3. Cooked, by Michael Pollan
4. Food Inc. (YouTube)
5. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, with Chef Anthony Bourdain (YouTube)
6. Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, by Joel Salatin
7. The Big Waste: Why Do We Throw Away So Much Food? (YouTube)
8. Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables (YouTube)
9. A recipe for cutting food waste | Peter Lehner | TEDxManhattan (YouTube)
10. How to Avoid Food Waste Traps | Selina Juul | TEDxKEA (YouTube)
11. How to End the Food Waste Fiasco | Rob Greenfield | TEDxTeen (YouTube)

This article represents its author’s opinion, and is not a medical, nutritional, or professional advice.