Wasting food remains a huge global problem without a definite solution. Every year, there is around 80 billion pounds of food waste in US alone, equating to 40% of all food produced. This fact is especially shocking when we consider that, on the other side of the coin, about 690 million people in the world are undernourished.
Food waste occurs at every stage of the food production chain, from farmers and food manufacturers to retailers and consumers. To reduce it, everyone has to put effort on their end and attempt to waste as little as possible. As a consumer, you might be wondering what exactly you can do to contribute. In that case, you’ve come to the right place — we have a few excellent tips.
1. Shop Responsibly
The key to responsible shopping is making lists of only those items you actually need. Before each trip to the grocery store, carefully consider what you want to put on your list. Once you’re there, stick to your decision — it might be tempting to buy a few extra groceries, but they’ll only go to waste if you don’t eat them. It’s fine to treat yourself once in a while, but don’t make it a habit.
Also, instead of bulk shopping once a week or every two weeks, go on smaller shopping trips every few days. You’re more likely to buy items you don’t need when bulk shopping than otherwise. So, put in that extra effort — you might not like it much at first, but you’ll surely get used to it.
And finally, don’t go shopping until you’ve used up all the food you bought during your last trip. If you buy more items before you’ve eaten everything you had in your fridge, you risk leaving it to spoil. And in such a case, throwing food out becomes inevitable.
2. Learn How to Properly Store Food
For most people, storing food means simply putting it into the fridge and leaving it there. While that is enough for certain products, others may require some extra thought if you want them to last longer. Those usually include fruits and vegetables that release natural gases and speed up the spoiling of nearby foods.
So, make sure to store your apples, bananas, tomatoes, leafy greens, and potatoes away from other fruits and vegetables. If you do that, you’ll keep them fresh and extend their shelf life considerably. Also, onions, garlic, cucumbers, and potatoes don’t need to be refrigerated — room temperature will keep them fresh and tasty.
Other than that, we advise you to store cooked food above raw food, and put all leftovers in sealed containers. That way, you reduce their chances of going off and avoid unnecessary food waste.
3. Freeze Leftovers You Can’t Eat
If you have any leftovers or other perishable foods that you know you won’t eat anytime soon, freeze them. By doing so, you’ll preserve their freshness and prevent them from spoiling. Later down the line, you can take them out of the freezer and eat them when it suits you.
Items such as bread and meat can also be frozen and used later — just make sure to check how long each can stay in the freezer. Then eat the frozen food before it expires. That way, you’ll ensure that nothing needs to be thrown away.
4. Don’t Let Expiration Dates Confuse You
One of the biggest reasons consumers waste perfectly edible food is confusing expiration dates. To many people, they seem pretty absolute — once a particular food item is past this date, it’s no longer usable.
That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. In fact, expiration dates are there for the retailers, not so much for consumers. They show when grocery shops should rotate their stock because the items are no longer fresh.
But no longer fresh isn’t the same as spoiled. Rather than religiously throwing out food that’s one day past the expiration date, trust your senses. If the food looks or smells strange, you should absolutely throw it out. But if it’s still fine even after it’s “expired,” don’t worry — it should be perfectly safe to eat.
5. Compost Unusable Food
When preparing meals, you’ll probably leave out many peals, stems, and other scraps of food. Those will likely end up in the trash, along with spoiled produce and other such items.
But as long as the food is organic, it can have its use even after it’s no longer edible. For instance, you can compost it and make a nutrient-rich fertilizer for your plants and garden.
So which food items can you compost, and are some foods off-limits? Well, fruits and vegetables are always an excellent choice, but you can also add tea leaves, coffee grounds, rice, eggs, leftover pasta, and bread. Meat and bones can technically be composted too, but they come with the risk of drawing unwanted pests, so it’s often best to avoid them.
While you can’t single-handedly end food waste across the globe, even just reducing it in your household is helpful. It doesn’t take that much effort, either — you just need to be a little more aware as you go about your daily business. Soon enough, responsible buying and consuming will turn into a habit, and you’ll no longer have to think about it.
And don’t try to change all your habits at once. Start with these five tips we’ve given you, and then slowly add more over time. That way, you’ll avoid feeling overwhelmed or like you’ve failed before you’ve even started.