This blog post also is available in German.
Every year 2 tons of food gets thrown away. And that`s only the number for Switzerland, imagine how much it`s going to be for all the industrial countries. Not only that food could have been eaten by people who are starving, but also the production of these products kind of were a waste of resources. Resources, like water and electricity, got depleted for groceries that weren`t eaten, how crazy and sad is that. Throwing away food briefly spoken is UNNECESSARY, sheer waste and harming our planet. Yet it`s so easy to reduce food waste to practically almost zero in every household. Yes, even in yours, if you start implementing the 18 tips in this blog post, which by the way are absolutely doable and not time consuming. Please do rembember, the action of every individual can do great things!
Ready to dive into the subject matter on how to reduce food waste super easy? Ok, let`s start!
1. Plan you meals
One of the biggest cause of food waste is people buying too much food, they can`t even consume before it gets bad. The best thing to avoid this, is planing your meals ahead. You can plan for a week or if you are rather a spontaneous person or a single household, you might just plan for 2 or 3 days in advance. Use a paper, list, meal planner or even an app to note down your dishes. Find out what works for you, as everyone is different.
2. Shop with a list & stick to it
After you planned your meals, write down the ingredients – amounts included – you will need for cooking these dishes. This prevents unnecessary purchases. And most important; try to stick to that list, especially in terms of groceries that spoil quickly, like vegetables and fruits. If sticking to this you will make sure to only buy what you can eat.
3. Avoid bulk shopping & bulk discounts
Extremely important if you are a single household or don`t cook at home on a regular basis. Families with kids that eat and cook at home a lot, might ignore that point, as they are going through bigger amounts of fresh ingredients within a shorter amount of time. It`s always better to do several visits to the market or grocery store during one week instead of one big bulk shopping once per week. Like that you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits and make sure they don`t spoil if you decide to not eat at home. Also don`t buy bulk discounts of fresh produce if you aren`t sure you can finish all of them. It doesn`t save you money if you buy 2kg of bananas instead of 1kg because you get a discount on them, but then they all turn black within 3 days and you need to throw them away. Bulk shopping and discounts are ok for products which don`t spoil quickly or which you consume in huge amounts.
4. Don`t enter a store with an empty stomach
Never ever do a grocery shopping if you are hungry? Why? Well I guess we all know the moment when we feel like we can eat a whole fridge full of things, right? In these situations your subconciousness will guide you through the supermarket hallways, making you buy tons of things you don`t need and won`t be able to eat either. In other words shopping hungry makes you overestimating your feeling of fullness.
5. Buy regional & seasonal
I`ve dived into this several times already and I explained how buying regional and seasonal produce is very sustainable. But did you know that it also helps preventing food waste? Seasonal and regional products normaly are available in great amounts. If you decide to rather buy other products, these products spoil and have to be thrown away. So try to stick to what is available in your region and offered in excess as it`s in season. Buy local berries in summer and stick to apples and pears in summer, just to give you an idea.
6. Do meal prep
If you`re part of the working kind of group, make sure to do some meal prep or even better bring leftovers to work. Not only is this cheaper than eating in restaurants or buying lunch, but also you`ll make sure to use up everything you bought before it`s getting bad.
7. Master your storaging skills
Learn how to store certain foods the right way to prolong their durability. Some should be stored in the fridge, others shouldn`t. And most important get to know your fridge and learn where you store certain type of foods, as temperatures aren`t equal. To give you some examples; vegetables and fruits go into the crisper, potatoes should be stored outside the fridge in a place that is dry and dark, beetroot stays fresh longer if wrapped into paper, fresh herbs don`t wilt if you put them in a glass with water and asparagus doesn`t get dry if wrapped in a damp towel. These are only a few tips. You can find a good article about what to store where in the fridge here. Also make sure to not crowd your fridge with too many groceries, as this will reduce ventilation and cooling taking place.
Do you know the concept of FiFo? It actually stands for first in first out. Which means, what you bought first has to be used up first. Makes sense right? So keep track of the date of expiry of your fresh products and staples as well. Finish what you have before you buy new supplies. If you use jars for storing, make sure to note the date of expiry directly on the jars.
9. Have some leftover dishes up your sleeves
It`s always recommendable to learn a few leftover dishes, that will work great with lot`s of different ingredients. Make these dishes a staple and reinvent them every time you need to use up food that soon will waste. Meals that work great for clearing out your fridge or leftovers are curries, casseroles, smoothies (for fruits and greens), soups, stews, buddha bowls, banana bread for brown bananas or salads. These dishes never get boring and there are thousand of variations out there which makes them very suitable for all kind of leftovers.
10. One leftover day a week
One day per week should be dedicated to your leftovers. Or in other words, when making your weekly meal plan, try to leave one day free, which is where you can use up everything that`s still in your fridge or on your counter waiting to be used.
11. Use all your natural senses
Yes there might be best-before dates on the groceries that you bought, but it`s very crucial to understand what that really means. As the name best-before already suggests, these dates are just an indication. Up to that date the company or store can guarantee an impeccable quality, everything that happens after that date is out of the legal hands of the company. In many cases products are still good after their best-before date. Which is why I highly recommend to use your five senses. If something expired based on the date written on the packaging, open it, smell it, look at it. If your senses can`t detect anything wrong with it, the product probably still is pretty ok. Although if you aren`t sure, spot any mold or weird smell you definitely shouldn`t consume that product.
12. Eat everything
It`s a fact that many of us, throw away half of the veggies or fruits they consume, although most of the parts are eatable. You can eat the skin from lot`s of fruits and vegetables if you clean them properly, for example apples, pears, kiwis, carrots or potatoes. Also there`s no need to throw away the leaves of certain veggies, as you can eat them as well. Fennel or carrot leaves make great chips or garnish if you fry them. Swiss Chard can be used completely not only the stems. And you can definitely eat the stems of cauliflower or broccoli as well, you just need to cook them a little bit longer.
13. Get creative with kitchen waste
If you decide for whatever reason to not eat the skin of the vegetables or fruits you need in the kitchen you can always use them for other purposes. Cook your own vegetable broth out of your kitchen waste. I always collect my waste from peeling veggies, freeze it and then I prepare my own stock out of them. Dry or roast leftover seeds, for example from pumpkins. They can be great toppings for breakfasts, any other meal or even ingredients for granola. Use lemon or orange peels to infuse water, oil or use them to make your own beauty products.
13. Learn how to preserve food
If you can`t finish food you have at home or just have kind neighbours or friends that endow you with lot`s of fresh produce, then you should learn how to preserve food. There`s different ways to do that. You can pickle, process or dry. Everything is super easy, resulting in great tasting alternatives. To give you an idea; you can pickle summer vegetables, like that you can still enjoy them in winter. You can make your own tomato sugo, ketchup, sauces, chutneys, jams or pestos with leftover fruits and vegetables. Or you just dry herbs or berries. Everything is possible just get creative. There`s actually a great book with tons of ideas on how to preserve different foods and make your own staples at home, but for now I believe it`s only available in German, but I`ll link to it anyways.
14. Fill your freezer
Whenever you see fresh produce getting bad, think a second about putting them in the freezer. Freezing is a great way to preserve vegetables and fruits. Just remember for some vegetables it`s highly recommended to first parboil them before freezing.
15. Practice composting
The final destination of your food waste should always be the composting bin. Like that your waste finds it`s ultimate purpose, which is to be used as fertilizer or biogas. Composting is super easy and works with all kind of waste that is biodegradable. All you need is a composting bin and you`re good to go.
16. Sharing is caring
Nowadays we live in a connected world. We have neighbours, friends and somebody invented public fridges. In case you have groceries at home you won`t be able to finish before they go bad, why not donating them to your friends, neighbours or bringing them to a public fridge. Not only you`ll make sure your products get eaten, thus you avoid food waste, but also you`ll make other people happy by giving them something.
17. Join the leftover movement
Right now there`s the possibility to join or support different leftover projects or stores. There are apps, like too good to go, that show you stores and restaurants that have leftover food they are giving away, instead of throwing them away. There are stores, like bakeries that sell bread or pastry from the day before instead of throwing them away. These movements are slowly starting and you can be part of it by promoting them. Inform yourself what`s happening in your country.
18. Take what you need
If you are eating outside in restaurants, make sure to only order or put on your plate what you can eat. Or if you can`t finish what you ordered, then at least pack it and take it home for the next day.
I truly hope my 18 tips will help you to minimize food waste in your household to a minimum. It only takes small changes to make big impact on our environment.
Read you soon,