We are faced with so many paradoxes in our current world. You probably don’t even realize it, but we are surrounded by them. We usually pay attention to those that are close to our hearts. One of the paradoxes that worries me is the global issue of food waste.
The lucky ones that live in developed countries might not even think about tossing that apple that rotted because we forgot about it. Its just one apple. But the problem is not one apple, and it’s not just us the consumers.
Food waste paradox
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the US, we waste 1.3 billion tonnes of food globally throughout all the production-consumption chain. This is one-third of the food that we produce!
We are losing food during production, mostly due to pests, or inefficient harvesting methods. And the worst of all, because of the so-called beauty standards of the produce. The produce that does not fulfill specific criteria of color, shape, and size, will never leave the fields. It will stay in the ground to rot, even though it is nutritious and safe for consumption.
In later stages, we lose smaller amounts of food during transportation, storage, and distribution. Unfortunately, once on the market, more food fit for eating is discarded. Supermarkets, smaller stores, or farmers markets throw out 35% of all food waste because they are close to the expiry date.
And at the end of the cycle, we as consumers are responsible for another food waste. We buy in excess and throw food out because it goes bad before we had time to consume it. If we want to help, we can directly impact the amount of food waste from our kitchen. This is where individuals like you and I have the most control.
On the other hand, more than 690 million people still go hungry, affecting almost 9% of the population. The paradox is that we could feed all these people with the food we are wasting. Actually, we could feed all the hungry people with just a portion of wasted food. We could feed all the hungry with less than one-quarter of wasted food, according to The World Counts.
This is true on a global level, but in some countries, it is true even on a national level. Countries with high levels of inequality could feed its hungry population with the food that the wealthy are wasting.
Apart from this paradox of people dying from hunger while we waste enormous amounts of food globally, food waste has other detrimental effects.
Other issues with food waste
Food waste has a huge carbon footprint, and so it greatly contributes to climate change and global warming. It is estimated that 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere each year. We don’t compost much of the food waste, we simply send it to the landfills. There it undergoes anaerobic processes releasing greenhouse gases. Plus, we need to take into account all the energy, water, and land used to produce it was also wasted.
Now that you understand that this is an important issue, maybe you are interested in how you can help to decrease food waste. We almost always think that we have little impact individually. I am a firm believer that each small action counts. A journey of thousand steps starts with just one step.
- Use what you have
- Divide your shopping
- Shopping list
- Weekly menu
- Organize your fridge
- Correct way of storing food
9 tips to lower your food waste
1. Use what you have
Before you head to the supermarket, when you are short on some specific ingredient, try to get creative and use whatever you have left to prepare your food. We all have favorite ingredients and ingredients we once bought and never used. If you keep adding your favorites, you will never use the more unusual foods, and they will end up going bad.
I like to challenge myself and go as long as possible without going shopping. This way I use even the ingredients that I might not love so much. I usually do it only with non-perishable foods, because I am really good at using all the produce without waste. I learn from each challenge, and I won’t buy that ingredient that was so hard for me to use.
2. Divide your shopping
This might not apply to you, but for me, it is best to divide my shopping into two. I shop for fruits and veggies and for non-perishables separately. I shop for produce once a week on a farmers market. We are a vegan family, so we eat a lot of it. I buy my non-perishables in bulk in zero-waste stores once in 4 or 6 weeks.
This system helps me use almost all my non-perishables before I go and buy more. If I bought them weekly, we would probably end up buying more of the very favorite stuff, and some ingredients would go bad in the pantry.
3. Shopping list
Often we go to the store with no plan of what we need. In the end, we end up buying too much, and we buy items we already had at home. It is best to go to the store with a list of what you need and stick to it. Prepare the list while at home, looking at what you have. Review all the storage places. This way, you can be sure that you didn’t forget about that pack of rice you bought and placed on a different shelf because there was no space on the shelf where you usually keep it.
Be careful with foods that can go bad faster like fruit and veggies, meat, fish, dairy, etc. Try to learn what exact quantities do you and your family consume in order not to buy in excess.
You don’t need to have all kinds of fruits and veggies every week. Buy smaller quantities, but vary week to week what produce you buy. When buying non-perishables, you have a bit more room for buying bigger quantities.
4. Weekly menu
When you get back from the store and you stock all the fridge with goodies, it might be easy to forget about some easily spoiled foods and use others before. To help you consume all you bought, prepare a weekly meals menu, placing the ingredients that can spoil the faster on the first days.
It does not need to be a detailed plan, but it should remind you of what to use first. After a while of practicing, you won’t need to write it down anymore, it will become automatic.
5. Organize your fridge
If your fridge is messy, and you can not see all the food you have, you will most probably forget about those strawberries that you bought last week. Next time you see them, they will be moldy, and you will have to toss them.
To avoid this, try to organize the fridge the way that you can easily see all the food. If that is not possible, then place the foods prone to spoiling to prominent places in the fridge, to see them immediately when you open it.
6. Correct way of storing food
Correct ways of storing ingredients can go a long way. If you know how to best keep them, you can substantially prolong their shelf life. There are many grandmothers tips and tricks that you might already know. Search on the internet the best way of storing specific ingredients.
I will tell you my favorites that work wonders. When I buy celery, I buy the whole plant. That’s a lot of celery! The best way to store it is to put it in a jar with water (as if it was a flower in a vase) and store it in the fridge. You need to change the water every 2-3 days. It will last fresh for 10-14 days. Sometimes I bring home limp celery, and in two days it is fresher than when I bought it.
I store tofu in a sealable container, the whole piece of tofu submerged in water, inside the fridge. You need to change the water every 2 days. It will last for 7-10 days. If you store it without the water, it might spoil in 3-4 days.
When I buy an avocado that is a bit hard and not ready to consume, I will leave it out until the gets a bit softer to the touch. Then I store it in the fridge. If left outside for longer, it will ripe too fast and get easily spoiled.
It is great to know a few easy ways to cook foods before they go bad. Some of my favorites are making a stir fry with all the ingredients that might go bad soon. It is easy, fast, and delicious. Put a bit of oil on the wok, your favorite spices, and then all the ingredients you need to use chopped in cubes. Add them to the wok according to their cooking times.
Another great way is to make a creamy soup of all the veggies you need to use. Just boil them and then use a blender to make a creamy, yummy, and healthy soup.
If you have ripe bananas and other fruits that you need to use, you can make a delicious nana cream, homemade banana-based ice cream. Just freeze chopped bananas and other fruits and process them in a food processor. Store in the freezer again until you have a sweet craving.
There are many ways to preserve food. Learn at least a few of them. I regularly ferment vegetables, preserve sauces, and fruits, make jams, freeze prepped veggies for later quick use, and dehydrate fruits and even veggies. There are other methods I personally don’t use, but you could like smoking, sugaring, salting, or bottling, etc.
When anything else failed, and you still found spoiled produce, it would be great if instead of sending it into the landfill with your trash, you could compost it.
You can have your compost bin, a vermicomposter, or use services that will collect and compost the food waste for you. Properly composted food will have a lower carbon footprint than if the same amount of food is sent to landfills. Home composting has the potential of diverting around 150 kilograms of food from going to landfills!
If you want to learn more about having a worm bin at your home or even at your apartment, read this article. A complete beginner’s guide to starting and maintaining a worm composting bin.
Make your impact. Start today from your kitchen. Later, look out for organizations fighting food waste in your local area and help them out. Educate others. Every small step counts.