When we think of food waste, some of us may directly think of grocery stores, farming facilities, food producers, you know, the big stuff.
But individuals can have a large impact when it comes to wasting food. The average person in the US produces about 2 kilograms of trash a day, so in total, they produce 725 kilograms per year.
Additionally, according to a report by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), the UK produces around 10 million tons of food annually. The Brits purchase 41 million tons of food yearly, meaning that a quarter ends up as food waste.
Out of the 10 million tons of food waste, 71% come from households. A large amount compared to other sources like manufacturing, retail, wholesale, hospitality and food service.
If that amount of waste comes from the UK and US only, imagine how significant it is when we combine annual food waste from each person all over the world—particularly the developing and developed countries.
Per 2020 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, food that goes bad is one of the main culprits of this food waste. We humans tend to buy too much food and then throw away so much.
Other than actual spoilage, perceived spoilage or ingredients that we can’t prepare or find yucky after tasting it. Basically, households actually contribute to the food waste issue.
So, here are some ways that you can reduce it at home in a much doable way. Meaning, there’s no compost. Nothing against those who want to do it, it’s just that it’s not the number one choice in households all over the world.
“What does this have to do with food waste?”
Well, surprisingly, it actually does. Places like grocery stores really test our ability to be realistic about what we eat.
We’re all aiming to make healthier choices in life and are tempted by the usual good deals we can find there. But, it’s important to know what we’re actually going to eat.
I completely understand that it’s more preferrable to get two-for-one deals on perishables and other bulk purchases. But, it’s also crucial to consume all the food.
Sales are so clever when it comes to making us buy more than we need. While it’s more economically advantageous to us, it’s not actually savings if we’re going to throw the food away later on.
That’s why, spending wisely and buy the things we can consume without wasting play a major role in grocery stores.
It’s okay to be prepared, but do it realistically. Overstocking may lead to food being disposed of unnecessarily. Expiry dates, too many leftovers going bad in the fridge, or simple food spoilage because it’s been left alone are usually the main causes.
If one starts to do this and then everyone would do it, it may end up being an influential impact.
Note down stuff
At one point, we’re all guilty of ignoring food until they’re inedible.
For those of you who don’t know this yet, storing food, especially in the fridge, needs a technique called FIFO: first in, first out. It’s done so that we remember to consume items in the order we purchase it.
When unpacking groceries, move older products to the front, and put the new ones at the back. This way, you’re going to notice the older items and use or consume them before spoiling.
If you want, write and manage a waste log in order to know what you’ve thrown out so far. That way, you’re less likely going to do it again in the future. When you notice food items get thrown away often, note it down. Therefore, you can consume them sooner, buy less, use them in recipes, or freeze them.
You can make it more significant by writing down the cost of each stuff you’ve thrown away. It’s a good reminder about how actually expensive food waste is.
For items that are not stored in the fridge, it’s wise to still keep a list of things you have at home. So, you have a reminder of how many canned items, pastas and grains you’ve got. And when you don’t know what to eat, you can look at the list.
Speaking of freezing food, it’s a great way to store excess food when you have more than you can eat. Therefore, it doesn’t rot or go stale easily.
That said, also don’t forget to make a list on what’s in the freezer door. Remember to write down the dates you stored or bought them so that you won’t forget about the food and use it before it passes the prime.
Make a grocery list weekly
Planning meals are not easy to start right away, but it’s doable when we start it slowly—for instance, start with a few meals a week and build it up from there.
Many say that meal planning saves time and money, and that it is a good investment.
The tip here is that whoever cooks or preps meal in each household start with thinking about the following week and what the family’s eating habits. This means that not only one thinks of how many meals will be eaten at home, other events such as sports, classes, and work trips will affect the prep.
Start with go-to ingredients that one usually uses in multiple dishes as opposed to shopping constantly. So, if your family loves mainly Asian food, then stock your home with garlic, chili peppers, veggies, and other ingredients that are found easily.
It’s true that with this tip, you may buy stuff in bulk. However, when you plan it, you’re not going to end up wasting.
If your family doesn’t mind, then you can also apply “cook once, eat twice” way of eating. This eases the burden of meal planning, helps to decrease food waste, and saves the cook’s time.
Some people even cook for two or more days in a row. I personally will get bored of the food easily with this mentality, but if your family can take it, you’re more than welcome to try this at home.
Another tip: if you find it persnickety to write down everything on a pocket book or paper, do it on your mobile phone apps.
Whenever possible, use every piece of any food you’re cooking with. If it doesn’t need to be peeled away, leave the skins, leaves, and stems in. Those usually-unwanted parts, usually provide additional nutrients for our bodies.
For instance, eat the broccoli stems, not just the florets. If you do need to peel some vegetables, or you have unwanted parts of meat, keep them so you can make homemade stocks.
And when fruits and other veggies don’t look that pristine because they’re reaching the end of their peak, don’t throw them away. I mean, banana bread needs overripe bananas, doesn’t it?
So, turn those soft or soggy fruits into something else—cakes or nutrient-packed smoothies, or other desserts.
If you don’t know what to do with the things not mentioned here, look it up on the internet or simply surf your social media. There are plenty of channels or accounts that encourage waste prevention by using other parts of veggies or meats for other purposes.
Doing our part to reduce food waste
There are plenty of benefits when we try to reduce food waste collectively. It can help conserve resources on Earth, reduce the amount of garbage sent to landfills, and eventually the carbon emissions released into the atmosphere.
When that happens, we can mitigate the harmful impact of pollution and in turn encourage biodiversity, and healthy, productive balance.
For those of you who say that there are more factors and things to consider when we talk about food waste within the food system, you’re right. It’s true that consumer behavior isn’t the only one to blame, and shouldn’t be.
Just like other issues happening on our planet right now, everything is complex and sometimes multi-layered.
But it doesn’t mean that our personal efforts don’t count at all. Consumers can do many things that eventually leave an impact.
That’s why, let’s do our best to reduce food waste. And hopefully, the tips above can help you start.