Waste Not, Want Not: 20 Ways to Stop Food Waste
Updated: Aug 17
Did you know that in the US 30-40% of all the food produced never gets eaten? This results in more than 85% of greenhouse gas emissions from landfilled food waste. This includes the disposal itself but also activities before disposal, like production, transport, processing, and distribution.
Sadly, industrialized countries like the United States waste more food than developing nations. The average American generated about 219 pounds (99 kg) of food waste in 2010. But why does it matter? When you throw out edible food, you are not only wasting money, but you are also wasting land area and resources like water, pesticides, and fertilizers that were needed for production but also lots of gasoline as the food needs to be harvested and transported. Not only that, food waste produces methane gas when it decomposes, this has 80 times the warming power compared to carbon dioxide.
Luckily, reducing food waste is easy. In this article, we'll share some simple tips to help you prevent food waste at home and contribute to a more sustainable world.
Did you know that most people tend to buy more food than they need? While bulk shopping may seem convenient, research shows that it can lead to more food waste. To tackle this issue, consider making more frequent trips to the grocery store and using up all the food from your last trip before purchasing more.
If this is not your style, make a shopping list before you visit the store. This ensures you purchase the right amount of each ingredient and it also helps to avoid impulse buys.
Meal planning is not only a great way to stay organized and save time in the kitchen, but it can also help prevent food waste. By planning your meals ahead of time, you can avoid overbuying ingredients and ensure that you use up all the food in your fridge before it goes bad. Plus, meal planning allows you to get creative with your leftovers and turn them into delicious new dishes, rather than tossing them in the trash. With just a little bit of planning, you can not only save money on groceries but also contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle by reducing food waste.
Store food in the right place
Have you ever found yourself throwing away a fridge full of spoiled produce? You're not alone. Improper storage is one of the biggest culprits behind the massive amount of food waste we produce each year. In fact, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council, about two-thirds of household food waste in the United Kingdom is due to food spoilage. But fear not, there are simple ways to store fruits and vegetables that can extend their shelf life and prevent food waste. Did you know that potatoes, garlic, cucumbers, and onions should never be refrigerated? By keeping these items at room temperature, you can prevent premature ripening and ultimately avoid throwing them away.
Ethylene is a plant hormone that enhances the ripening of fruits. They emit this hormone during ripening so it is important to separate ethylene-producing fruits from ethylene-sensitive ones. Bananas, apples, pears, melons, and peaches are known to be high in ethylene production and should be stored separately from other products to avoid ripening too fast and therefore spoiling.
Did you know that the art of food preservation dates back thousands of years? It has been done for centuries and it is getting more popular recently. By pickling, drying, canning, fermenting, freezing, or curing food, we can make it last longer and prevent waste. But if pickling and fermenting are too challenging for you creating a jam out of brambelberries or making apple sauce from over ripe apples is much more doable.
Go for imperfect
Next time you're at the grocery store, take a moment to pause and consider the impact of your product choices. Did you know that by only selecting the most perfect-looking fruits and vegetables, you may be contributing to the global issue of food waste? Grocery chains' demand for flawless produce has led to tons of perfectly good food going to waste, simply because it's not considered visually appealing. Fortunately, some major chains are now offering "ugly" produce at a discount in an attempt to reduce waste.
Have you ever found yourself throwing away spoiled food, even though you thought you had plenty of time to use it? The truth is, an overly filled fridge can lead to food waste, and it's time to get organized. By keeping your fridge clutter-free and using the "first in, first out" (FIFO) method, you can help avoid food spoilage and save money in the process. This means placing new items behind the old ones, so you use the older food first. Not only will this prevent waste, but it will also help you stay on top of what's in your fridge and make meal planning a breeze.
Don't let your leftovers go to waste! We often associate leftover food with holiday feasts, but the truth is that it's an everyday occurrence for many of us. Unfortunately, these leftovers often get forgotten in the fridge and end up being tossed in the trash. But fear not! There are simple steps you can take to make sure you use up all your leftovers before they go bad. Storing them in clear glass containers is one great way to ensure you don't forget about them. And if you find yourself with a surplus of leftovers, why not designate a "leftovers day" where you can get creative and use them up in delicious new ways? Not only will you prevent food waste, but you'll also save time and money in the process. So let's embrace the power of leftovers and make the most out of our meals!
Do you tend to peel the skins of fruits and veggies? You may want to reconsider! Believe it or not, many nutrients are located in the outer layer of produce. For instance, apple skins contain a large amount of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including a group of cancer-fighting compounds called triterpenoids. And it's not just apples; the outer layers of potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and eggplants are all edible and nutritious.
Do you hate the idea of throwing away the stems and ends of your fruits and veggies? Well, blending them into a delicious smoothie may be the answer to reducing your food waste! Despite their unappetizing appearance, these scraps can be nutrient-rich and packed with fiber.
However, I am not so much into smoothies and I blend my veggie leftovers into a pasta sauce. I add a little garlic and some basil to make an amazing green pasta sauce.
Spice up your water
Staying hydrated is important, but many of us struggle to drink enough water simply because we don't enjoy the taste or lack thereof. But fear not! There are ways to make water tastier and reduce your impact on food waste at the same time. One simple trick is to add some flavor to your water using leftover peels from citrus fruits, apples, and cucumbers, or even wilted herbs and straw berry tops. Not only will this make your water more enjoyable, but it also gives a second life to ingredients that might have otherwise gone to waste.
Use your freezer
Freezing food is a simple and effective way to make your groceries last longer, and the possibilities are endless. From extra herbs to wilted greens, almost any type of food can be frozen and used later in recipes. Imagine throwing those slightly wilted greens into a smoothie or adding a frozen herb cube to a sauté - delicious and easy! And don't forget about freezing leftovers or bulk meals like soups and chilis for a quick and healthy dinner option. By utilizing your freezer, you can stop food waste, save money, and ensure that you always have fresh, home-cooked meals on hand.
Understand expirations dates
Know the difference between the ‘best before date’ and ‘expiration date or use by date’.
The expiration date tells consumers the last day a product is safe to consume. Consuming a product after the expiration date could make you sick and should be avoided. This is usually for meat and dairy products. The best-before date tells the consumer that the food is no longer in perfect shape from that date. It may just lose its freshness, taste, aroma, or nutrients but it says nothing about safety. Use common sense on products that have passed their best-before date by smelling and tasting to determine if it is still ok for consumption.
Did you know that instead of throwing away food scraps, you can turn them into a powerful energy source for your plants? Composting leftover food is a great way to stop food waste while creating nutrient-rich soil for your garden or houseplants. While an outdoor composting system is ideal for those with a large garden, not everyone has the space for it. Luckily, there are plenty of countertop composting systems available that make this practice easy and accessible for everyone.
Repurpose coffee grounds
For many people, a morning cup of coffee is a daily ritual. But what about the leftover coffee grounds? Did you know that they have many uses beyond just being thrown away? Coffee grounds are a fantastic fertilizer for plants, packed with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. So if you have a green thumb, why not sprinkle your used coffee grounds on your plants to give them a boost? But that's not all - coffee grounds also make a great natural mosquito repellent! Studies have shown that female mosquitos are deterred from laying their eggs in grassy areas where spent coffee grounds have been sprinkled. Who knew that such a simple and often-overlooked item could have so many benefits?
Share a meal
Restaurants often serve generous portions, and sharing a meal means you get to enjoy a meal without leaving any leftovers behind.
Share your leftovers
Instead of letting your leftovers go to waste, consider donating it to those in need. With the help of innovative apps, you can easily connect with your neighbors and local businesses to share surplus food, rather than throwing it away.
By learning how to save food waste, we can create a more sustainable world by reducing the amount of food lost or wasted, decreasing the strain on our environment, and maximizing the food’s potential. We can conserve resources, help feed people in need and work toward creating a more sustainable planet. By being mindful of our food waste and taking steps to prevent it, we can make sure that the food we do have is used to its full potential. Let’s make sure that the food we have is used to feed people and the planet, not the landfills. Now is the time to take collective action to reduce our food waste and help create a more sustainable future.