Apparently an average European citizen wastes 179kg of food a year. We throw out almost 20% of the food we buy. This is a horrendous waste!
The food waste is not only limited to our households. Supermarkets and restaurants waste an even higher percentage of food, but there isn’t a lot we can do about it… We can however take a look at our “wasting” routine and try to do something about it.
We are not the most innocent family when it comes to reducing food waste, this is why I did some thinking and put a plan in place to help us reduce our food waste.
Know what you already have
This might sounds funny but do you really know what you have in your cupboards? I thought I did but I was wrong. I tend to “stock up” on things when they are on a special offer and at times I simply forget about them later on. Like the time I bought four large jars of mayonnaise despite still having two in my pantry (luckily they were still in date so nothing was wasted, we just had a lot of salads that month).
Anyway knowing what you already have in the cupboard is the key to success. It will allow you to avoid double buying but also it will help you to plan meals ahead.
Buy local, buy smart
Large superstore are designed to make us spend more; make us buy stuff we don’t really need; make us buy too much. Buying local will help us to buy only what we need and when we need it.
Going shopping with a shopping list is a great way of sticking to what we need to buy, if we can stick to our pre-written shopping list of course.
Learn to read labels
Not all food that has passed its “label date” is actually out of date. A lot of foods have labels which are actually design as recommendations for the store selling them.
Sell-by date – a date printed on the packaging of perishable goods, indicating the date after which the goods should not be offered for sale. This doesn’t mean they can’t be eaten. Sell-by date can be found for example on fresh cakes or pastries. Store can’t sell them past the date but we can still enjoy them 🙂
Best before – the length of time a packaged food will last without deteriorating. Food eaten after “best before” date is perfectly safe to eat, it might just not be “perfectly perfect”; its taste, texture, aroma or appearance might start to change slightly.
Use-by date – refers to safety and are the required form of date mark for foods considered to be highly perishable from a microbiological point of view. This is the only label we should be really concern about and should try to avoid products which have passed their use-by date.
Learn how to store food properly
A lot of food goes to waste due to poor storage. Investing in a good, clever storage solution will help us save money (and a lot of food) in the long run. A nice set of plastic air-tight containers (like the ones I reviewed for you in the past from Addis) or simple Fresha bags, which are design to keep your food fresh for up to 25% longer are perfect food storage solutions. They will help your food stay fresh for longer, giving you more time to enjoy it.
Storage containers are just one side to the proper storage solution… the other is correct fridge placement. When unpacking new grocery shopping, move your “old” food to the front of the fridge. This way you will not forget about that pack of half eaten butter or an already opened bottle of milk.
Learn to experiment in the kitchen
I must agree that recipes are made to be followed but I am also a believer in variety and freedom. Product substitution might not be ideal every time but you never know what your new “upgraded” dish will taste like until you try it. Experimenting in the kitchen is a great way of “using” all the odd things we have left. Challenge yourself and cook once a week a “what’s left in my fridge” dinner. You might be surprised with the results. To give you an idea on what sort of thing we create, check my “Something from Nothing Dinner” post.
Learn to use leftovers
Big portion of the food ending up in the bin come from leftovers… Depending on the type of leftovers, they can be eaten the next day, turned into a new meal or frozen, to be consumed at a later date. Very often you can find the dish gets better with time, so don’t be scared of a “leftovers” dinner.
Freezing it on the day is a great way of avoiding binning it a few days later. Just remember to clearly label your meals, so you know exactly what’s inside and what date you put it there.
Donate it, jar it or compost it
No matter how careful we will be, there will always be a time when we have too much food on our hands. Depending on the type of food we can donate it to a local food bank or try your hand at a new skill and re-make it for future use in the months to come, for example turning fruit and veggies into pickles and chutneys.
Last summer when we went to Poland we drove back to the UK with three cases of fresh apples. We knew that we will not be able to eat them all, so I turned some into jars of grated apples, ready to become a filling in my Apple Pie.
And when we have food which still needs to go to the bin, compost it. Instead of putting it to the bin, give it a second life and turn it into a useful resource… your garden will be truly thankful for it 😉
Anything you would add into my list?