15 Ways to effectively reduce food waste
Lessening the amount of food you waste on a daily basis takes simple steps
“Finish your food. Think of the starving kids around the world,” my grandma would often say when we were kids. Guiltily, my brother and I would try to finish all the food off our plate.
Back then, we really couldn’t grasp how big a problem world hunger was. What’s more, we felt like we couldn’t do very much to help these kids. But I later realised that we can all do our part, to waste less and save more, in our own little way.
Today, about a third, or 1.3 billion tons, of the world’s food is not consumed and wasted each year. While we can’t do really do much overnight, we can make little changes towards lessening the amount of food we waste in the future. It starts with simple daily habits.
Here’s where to start to reduce food waste in your household
1. Don’t overbuy
One of of the most important ways to reduce food waste is to be a smart shopper. Buy only what you need and can consume. Yes, buying in bulk is more economical in some instances, especially when there’s a sale, but when overdone, you’ll end up wasting more in the long run.
2. Control serving sizes
Don’t pile food onto your plate without managing portions. The danger of over-serving meals is that it’s easy to overestimate your appetite as well. Try to avoid this, and in turn food waste, by using smaller plates. You can always get seconds when needed.
3. Keep (and don’t forget about) leftovers
Don’t throw out leftovers that you think you can reheat or reuse for other recipes. It’s easy to forget about leftovers, so make sure you mark them and post reminders in your kitchen of what’s in your fridge.
4. Store food properly
Make sure you keep food in a proper way to avoid spoiling. Label them accordingly, with the date of purchase or production. This way, you can plan what you need to consume before it goes bad to lessen food waste.
5. Keep a log of what you throw away
When you write down what food you’re wasting, you can help yourself avoid overbuying certain items or simply forgetting about them in the future. You can even add an amount to the food you’re wasting just to get a clearer picture of how much you could be saving, which will motivate you to waste less.
6. Declutter your fridge and pantry
When you store food messily, you tend to forget about certain items that are pushed to the back of the fridge. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Always keep stock of what you have and throw out what’s no good. Reducing food waste means being aware of what you need to make use of at all times.
7. Freeze properly
Prolong the shelf life of certain food, like meat and fish, by freezing them. Remember to keep them well wrapped in airtight containers to avoid spoiling or freezer burn. Take care not to overbuy meat and produce, though. Just because you have the option to freeze doesn’t mean you can stuff your fridge to your heart’s content.
8. Don’t rely too much on expiration dates
Note that a ‘best before’ label means the food can still be consumed beyond the date indicated so long as the product doesn’t appear or smell perished or damaged. In cases of ‘use/consume before’ labels, don’t risk it. This warning means it should be consumed on or before the date indicated.
9. Plan ahead
Plan meals in advance so that when you head to the store, you’ll only get what you actually need. Specify meals, recipes, and ingredients you will need to make these meals. Resist the impulse to buy spontaneously. Not only will this increase the risk of food waste, but you could go over-budget without even realising it.
10. Put your blender to good use
Be creative! Are there pieces of fruit you plan to throw away, but would still make good additions to smoothies and shakes? Or perhaps you can search for recipes for smoothie bowls and yogurt that you can make out of extra food in the fridge. This way, all ingredients that are still safe to consume are put to good use.
11. Learn to pickle!
Pickling is a preservation method that helps prolong the life of certain ingredients, like fruits and vegetables with vinegar, which is a common practice in making relishes and garnishes. (I personally love pickling papaya to come up with a Filipino relish known as atsara.)
12. Make homemade stock
Even leftover scraps can be repurposed, like vegetables and meat bones, can be made into stock and broth. Just make sure to use those that haven’t gone bad yet. This is where planning ahead and keeping tabs on expiration dates comes in.
13. Always have backup recipes
Make sure you have backup recipes in place in case you have a surplus of food. This is where your resourcefulness in the kitchen comes in. For instance, you planned on making salted egg prawns for lunch, but ended up with more prawns then you needed. You can always add them to stir-fry noodles for dinner.
14. Don’t throw parts of food you can still eat
Instead of throwing them out like you normally do, eat the skin of fruits and vegetables, like apples, cucumbers, carrots, and potatoes, or even chicken skin. Some say the skin holds a lot of nutrients that we could be missing out on because of our habit of peeling and throwing it out during food preparation.
15. Give away leftovers
Just because you can’t eat leftovers, it doesn’t mean no one else can enjoy them. Reheat or repurpose leftovers (that are perfectly fine and delicious) and share these meals with friends and loved ones. Not only will you reduce food waste, you will also be able to show them you are thinking of them through this simple gesture.
When thinking about how to reduce food waste, we must always remember that being creative and resourceful goes a long way! Ending world hunger might be a tall order, but we can all do our part and it starts with ending our simple, wasteful habits one day at a time.