Simple, Easy and Practical Ways to Reduce Food Waste
I am currently in a country that is going through a hard time. The Nicaraguan tourism boom has been cut off by the protest happening in the country, even though there really isn’t much happening now…doesn’t matter, people just are not here, and it hard impacted the economy.
Many people here find it hard to find paying work, and we know that affects their ability to have fun, plan for the future, and in some cases, even eat.
It makes me think how much we waste food back in Vancouver, where the only thing limiting our food waste is that houses cost too much to afford one big enough to load up at Costco.
We’ve all been guilty of wasting food at some point or another. We either make too much food and forget to freeze portions of it for use at a later date, or perhaps we forget all about that head of lettuce that got shoved to the back of the vegetable drawer and now have to toss it out or compost it.
And for those amongst us that do NOT compost…
DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR A DISCARDED HEAD OF LETTUCE TO DECOMPOSE IN A LANDFILL?
A month? 6 months? A year? More like…wait for it…25 years.
YEP. Twenty-five Y – E – A – R – S!
That is cray cray, as the kids say.
Unfortunately, food waste is a huge problem.
Not only are there people who don’t have enough food, both near and far, but also this disposed-of food rots in landfills and creates methane, wreaking havoc on the environment.
On top of that, wasted food is wasted money we could be using for other things.
If we just take a little time to be proactive, we can reduce food waste, make the planet a better place, and put our resources to better use. Win-win!
Here are a few ways to cut down on your own food waste:
Rearrange your produce by moving older produce to the front. It can also be helpful to clean your refrigerator out first and start out on the right foot. I know here everything is in a tiny holder or container I feel a million times better. Bring on the labels!!
Once your refrigerator is clean and tidy, begin the practice of moving older produce to the front of your refrigerator. After your grocery shopping trip, put the newer items behind the older items.
You’ll be more likely to use up the older stuff first before it goes bad if it’s in plain sight.
Plan things out before you hit the grocery store.
Now that you are really clear on what you still have…
(“Oh yeah, I thought I would really eat that rutabega, what was I going to do with it again? Oh yeah, fritters. I will need an egg for those…”
…make a habit of setting your menu each week and shopping smart. As hard as it may be, stick to only the perishable items that are on the list and just buy enough produce items for what you need that week. If you run out, you can always take a quick trip to the grocery store — but if it goes to waste, it’s useless.
Keep a notepad of scrap paper in your kitchen or a “Notes” list on your phone that can be used as a waste journal. Every time you have to throw a food item away, write it down on your waste list. Or write reminders:
“Only used half the bunch of bok choy. Could’ve used more, it reduced down a lot on cooking. Rutabega was ambitious. Barely used in time, luckily it lasted to make fritters.”
This will help you keep track of what you throw away so you can begin to see patterns. You can use this knowledge to plan better and waste less. For example, if you notice you’re always throwing out lettuce, you may need to plan on better storage for it or buying less than you usually do.
Get to know weights and measures and how much of each items your recipes call for. No need to buy a large whipping cream if you only need a quarter cup for the recipe, right?
Waste less food by getting creative with leftovers.
Mid-week, take the time to make it a leftovers night. You can either serve it up as original or jazz it up with some of your other on-hand ingredients.
Got too much of a good thing? Invest in proper storage containers and freeze it for later use. Just be sure to label it and date it so you’ll use it in time.
If you are a single person that likes a food item, but can never finish it the way that it comes at the store, see if it can be frozen, bought somewhere else in a smaller size, or batch-cooked.
See if another single person wants to hit the stores with you and split some of the things, or if you and your friends would be into ‘cook n shares’, where you each make larger batches, and then swap to give each other more variety of dishes.
In this image, you can see green onions in a glass of water. This way, they keep growing until they are ready to be used! More economical, less waste.
You can also see all the veggie scraps and bones that were saved to make a healing bone broth.
SCRAPS INTO STOCK
Turn your food scraps into a stock that can be used now or later.
Whenever you’re peeling carrots or chopping celery, save all of the scraps you have left over. This goes for all veggie scraps — toss them all in a ziplock bag for the freezer and save those scraps.
When your bag is filled, you can use it to make a stock for soups and stews, or for use in sauces. Keep onion ends, keep bones, save em up!
Think smarter with the produce you buy.
Your kids might not like the way the bananas look when they start to brown, but you know they’re still good to eat. Try peeling and cutting up the bananas in slices and freezing them to throw in smoothies.
[Or, turn it into banana bread. My friend Saro just baked some today and it smelled SOOO good going into her house.]
You can also consider buying long-lasting produce that doesn’t spoil quickly to reduce waste each month. Some lasting produce includes onions, oranges, potatoes, carrots, celery, and apples.
When in doubt, pickle it.
Ferments and pickled fruits and vegetables are all the rage — so when you find you’ve got more than you can eat before it spoils, consider pickling it. It is way easier than you might think – easier than fermenting, which is also easy!
When all else fails, donate food you can’t use before it goes bad.
Your friend at work might be happy to have some extra vegetables mid-week, or the local soup kitchen will be delighted to have something that can be used to help feed those in need.
There is a new app called OLIO that you can download to your phone. It’s essentially a food sharing app to share your surplus foods with those in your area that need it.
I hope these ideas made a difference and made saving food and diverting it from the landfill seem way easier to accomplish.
Also, did you know? There is a lot you can learn about how to properly store your produce.
There is an art and a science to it.
If you are in the Vancouver area, I do kitchen clean-out and shopping and restocking sessions with people AND they can even be done remotely!!
What tricks do YOU use to limit food waste?
Let me know!!