This happens every week to most of us: we find moldy, expired, stinky things in our fridge, throw them away, then go buy new stuff that eventuallly goes moldy. Can we break the vicious circle?
Sad reality of wasting foodThe numbers are distressing: according to statistics, up to 40% of all food in the West is wasted, costing the gloval economy 1 trillion dollars annually (more details in this study). A whole 1% of the US GDP is spent making, packaging, transporting, and then recycling uneaten food. All this while a billion people around the world go hungry. What’s just as bad, there is a lot of energy wasted carrying this food around in trucks, to say nothing about their CO2 emissions and all the methane that comes out as the wasted food rots in landfills. And just think of all the money you spend on things you never eat – around 1000 dollars a year, according to some studies.
What you can doThere are many methods to reduce food waste at home; don’t concentrate on one, use them all:
- Inspect your fridge (and freezer!) before you go shopping – this way you’ll avoid buying stuff you already have;
- Set your fridge to a right temperature – no more than 5 degrees Centigrade or 40 F;
- Plan your meals a week ahead (it may take some time, but it will save you money at the supermarket) – and find ways to use all the food you already have in the fridge (you can use specialized cookbooks, such as this one) ;
- Freeze what you can’t eat – especially leftovers, such as cooked meat, egg whites, bread, milk, herbs, leafy greens, etc.;
- Use older food first – before chopping up freshly bought tomatoes, use those from last week;
- Cook and use things that don’t look good anymore – even if some fruit and veg may seem wilted and unappetizing, it can still do great in a salad, soup, or sauce;
- Don’t discard it if you can eat it: stop peeling potatoes and fruit, roast stems and stalks and beetroot leaves, and use bones to make stock.
- Donate unused food – search online for “food banks” or “donate food” in your area and find out how you can help people who are less lucky than you are;
- If you have your own garden patch, you can help your plants tremendously, reduce food waste, and save on fertilizer by composting leftovers. Buy or build your own 3-container composting system and fill it with your kitchen leftovers. Remember to turn it over regularly, and you will soon have beautiful black compost.
Keep up with the technologyAuthorities around the world acknowledge the fact that the food waste issue has to be solved; and hi-tech manufacturers follow suit. Already now you can buy smart fridges that have a wifi connection and show you what’s inside while you are at the supermarket; they can even zoom in to show you the label with the expiration date! Some models will let you know when you need to buy more eggs or yogurt, for example. On the other hand, useful apps provide ways to plan food-saving menus, create shopping lists, and even buy food from restaurants before they throw it away – here’s an example.
Reducing food waste is great for your budget and, more importantly, it can help save the planet we live on. So what you are waiting for? Go check your fridge right now, search for recipes to cook with what you already have, install a food-saving app, and make a smart shopping list! Of course, you will have to enlist your whole family – a great way to teach your kids about preserving the environment and saving money.
Reducing Wasted Food At Home – EPA.gov
Tech innovations that could reduce food waste – TheGuardian.com
The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact – Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov