5 ways to reduce food waste at home

Food waste represents a bigger problem than most of us realize. If it feels a little too abstract and if you think that it doesn’t affect you, well… think again!

As individuals, we are told by big companies that the responsibility is on the consumer to be more climate conscious while system policy-based changes might be far more effective than individual actions in stopping climate change. However, for the reduction of food waste the situation is different. The majority of food waste that is still consumable happens in private households. Therefore,  we can do far better to contribute to help fight global food wastage with relatively little effort than we think. So if you are at the start of your journey to be more sustainable we will provide you with helpful tips to reduce your private food waste but we also recommend supporting your local climate activism group. 

If you think now that the problem of food waste is too abstract here is an example:

Imagine a scenario when you go to the grocery store. You spend time navigating through the aisles, looking for those fresh goodies and selecting the freshest veggies. You line up at the cashier, put all the items you have bought into bags, and you head home. On your way, though, you drop a bag.  Would you consider not picking it up but leaving half of your food there to rot? Probably not, but what about this second scenario?  

You pick up the bag and once home, you store the food in the refrigerator, in the freezer or on the counter. It’s dinner time, and you are craving roasted potatoes. You pick the potatoes you bought a few days ago, but they are now soft and start sprouting, so you toss them in the bin. You decide to make pasta instead. You open the fridge and you see an open can of tomato sauce…there is a green nasty fluffy spot floating on it. You opt for a simpler solution now, a sandwich, what can possibly go wrong now? Well, the bread has mould on it, so you toss the bread as well. Suddenly, all the fresh, colourful, tasty food you bought turned out to be soft and smelly and stopped looking so appealing. Maybe you can relate more to this scenario? Is it less abstract? Don’t worry, you are not alone. It is estimated that at least ⅕ of all food items that you buy go directly in the trash!

We are here to help you reduce your food waste with those 5 simple steps that you can start applying immediately.

  1. Shop smart

Most people buy way more food than they actually need. You can prevent this behaviour by making a list of all the items you might need and stick to it. You can make several trips during the week instead of buying in bulk, to always have fresh products.

Bonus tip: Do not go grocery shopping while you are hungry to avoid impulse buying.

  1. Understanding expiration dates

Most products are labelled with “sell by”, “best before” and “use by” dates. Over 30% of retail food is thrown away because of those dates on their packages. The truth is that most products are still safe and good to consume even after the expiration date has passed. While “sell by” is aimed at the sellers and indicates the time the shop can display the item; “use by” and “best before” dates are aimed at the consumer. Both terms are chosen by the manufacturers to guarantee the best quality of their products, but the products are good even days, weeks or even months later. 

“Use by” dates are typically on meat, fish, dairy or ready meals, and are usually accompanied by instructions on the best way to store the food. Those are items that can put you at risk of food poisoning, and if miss-stored can easily spoil even before the use-by date. 

The “best before” label is on products with a longer shelf-life (such as pasta, rice, bread) and gives an indication of when the food is at its best quality. 

EatByDate is a  public resource where you can check how to best store your favourite food and for how long. 

  1. Organize your fridge

It is good practice to clean your fridge every few weeks, and organize the items in the designated zone. This will make it easier for you to see what is at your disposal and use them in a timely manner. The leftovers and food that do not need to be cooked should be stored on the top shelves, so it is easier for you to spot them. The lower shelf is the coldest and that is the best place to store food such as meat and fish. Crisper drawers are perfect for storing fruits and veggies separately when possible. When fruit ripens, it releases ethylene, a compound that can speed up the ripening of other products and might cause your vegetables to age faster. The fridge door is the warmest zone, and it is the ideal place to store condiments.  

  1. The freezer is your friend

An easy and convenient way to preserve food is to freeze food that is leftovers from single and bulk meals, like soups, rice, curries, pasta…

We can also store herbs in freezers and a possible way is to wash your favourite greens, chop them, and distribute them in ice cubes with oil, and it is a handy way to have aromatic oil for sauteing your veggies. 

5. Meal plans

Meal planning might feel like an intimidating task, but it can reveal to be a way to free your creativity and stress from the usual evening question: what should I have for dinner? The main idea is to find a list of recipes to make in the following days. Few steps will make meal planning realistic: look for recipes, shop for the ingredients, prep the ingredients in advance. Choose recipes that are in line with your lifestyle and social calendar, and that you enjoy. Have a look at your fridge and freezer while making the grocery list, you might have many of the ingredients at your disposal already. Add the meal plan to your calendar and allow yourself to be flexible with it, don’t let perfection be the enemy of good. 

Bonus tip: Plan a day for using all your leftovers.

Written by Eugenia, October 2021

Published by bruisedfoodclubuppsala

Non-profit organisation that saves food, reduces food waste and hunger and promotes sustainable food consumption.

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