According to World Resources Institute nearly one third of all the food produced in the world goes to waste.
Some of that waste occurs at the start of the food processing cycle (at the farm or being transported from the farm) but most of that waste is perpetrated by us, the consumer.
For example, we like our produce to be perfect so if you’re a banana that’s too big or too small or bent at the wrong angle, you’ll be thrown on the scrap heap. The big retailers know we wont buy produce that’s not perfect. It doesn’t matter that an ugly banana still tastes like a banana, or that a small apple is just as nutritious as a large one.
We want what we want and the rest goes to waste.
In a world where hundreds of millions of people go hungry every single day, that’s just crazy.
If you look at the situation from the perspective of our own households, it’s even crazier. If you spend $100 per week on food for yourself and your family, that ‘one third’ turns into more than $30.
Can you picture throwing three crisp $10 notes in the bin each week?
No? Well, if you’re among the majority of folks out there that’s exactly what you’re doing.
What else could you do with $30? Or, to really put it in perspective, over $1500 per year? Think about the impact that money could have if it were added to your debt repayment plan, your emergency fund or even your grocery stockpile?
Easy ways to reduce food waste and save money
1. Shop at stores that offer ‘ugly’ fruit at a discount
Some grocery stores now sell a range of misshapen fruit and veg at a discount. Interestingly, I often can’t see what’s so ugly about this produce. I’ve picked up bags of potatoes that look exactly like the ones being sold at full price yet are nearly 50% off.
If you’re looking for bargain produce, take a closer look through your store’s produce section to see if they’re hiding a similar range in the corner somewhere.
2. Buy fresh and in season
One of the most frustrating things when buying fresh produce is it going off before you can use it. Even just a day or two after purchase. This situation is most likely to occur with fruits or vegetables that have been in long term storage.
When you buy produce that’s in season, you’re getting fruit and vegetables that have spent the least amount of time (hopefully none) in any kind of storage facility. That means it will last longer after purchase.
3. Store fresh food appropriately
That crisp bunch of celery wont stay that way if it sits on the kitchen counter for a day or two. As soon as you get your purchases back from the store, store them correctly:
- Vegetables in the crisper
- Meat on bottom (coolest) shelf or divide into portions and freeze
- Milk on a shelf (sitting in the door exposes it to temperature fluctuations)
- Potatoes stored in a dark, cool place
- Onions also stored in a dark, cool place (but not with the potatoes or they’ll both sprout).
4. Rotate stock in your pantry
Always make sure you put items with the longest use-by or best before date at the back and bring everything else forward on the shelf. It’s also a great idea to make the date on the packaging with a big black sharpie. That way, you wont need to get a magnifying glass out each time you need to check the date on an item.
If you get your shopping home and discover that the packaging on an item is damaged, put that to the front of the shelf so it gets used first or decant into container immediately. Damaged packaging is an open invitation for any critter lurking nearby.
It’s also a good idea to freeze dry goods like flour or rice or beans for 24 – 48 hours before you store them. This will kill off most things you don’t want to find in your food at a later date.
5. Compost produce that slips through
Sometimes life happens and you can’t use everything you bought. If that’s the case, give it a second chance at being useful by composting it.
Composting all your vegetable matter saves valuable landfill space and adds value to your garden. If you live in an apartment or don’t have a garden, you can still compost the vegetable scraps from your kitchen using a Bokashi Compost Kit.
6. Plan meals and shop accordingly
Meal planning is one of the best ways to make sure you only buy what you need and use everything you buy. The trick to making it work is keeping your meal plan simple and sticking to it.
If you can add a meal preparation day (or a few hours) you’ll be even more likely to be sure of using everything you bought.
7. Find a way to use overripe fruit and veg or freeze for later use
Even with the best meal plan in place, you can have fresh produce, especially fruit, becoming overripe and at risk of not being eaten. It’s guaranteed in my home that a ripe banana wont get eaten. My daughter and I prefer them just before they are perfectly ripe, after that, they’re just too sweet. So, the standby solutions for ripe bananas are to slice and freeze them for smoothies or make banana muffins.
Vegetables that are a bit past their best get cooked up with some bone broth and lots of tinned tomatoes to make Red Sauce then frozen in portions to be added to everything from spaghetti sauce to chilli. No wasted vegetables and lots of added nutrition. Definitely a win/win situation.
8. Choose entree size meals or get a doggy bag when eating out
Avoiding food waste when you’re eating out can be a little bit trickier than avoiding it at home. However, if you know the restaurant always serves big portions, ask for an entree size instead. You’ll save money, save potential food waste and maybe your waistline, too.
If a smaller serve isn’t an option, maybe you can share a main meal instead or get a ‘doggy bag’ to take home.
9. Serve smaller portions at home
Another easy way to save money and food waste is to serve smaller portions at home. Dinner plates now resemble platters more than plates and we tend to load them up to capacity. This results in us either consuming too much food or scraping a heap of uneaten food into the bin. Both are a waste.
If you can, use smaller dishes to serve your meals. The bonus is you might have an extra serve for lunch the next day or to put in the freezer. Which brings us to the last point…
10. Eat leftovers – always
Am I the only one who thinks some meals taste better the next day?
Leftovers can either be served up the next day or portioned out and frozen for future lunches or emergency dinners. Even if the amount left over doesn’t make up a full serve it can probably be filled out by adding pasta or rice or more vegetables. You’ve bought the food and spent the time and energy to prepare the ingredients and cook the meal, don’t let any of it go to waste.
- Zero Waste Lifestyle
- How to Slash Your Grocery Bill by 50%
- An Anarchist’s Guide to Meal Planning
- Your DIY Food Bank – Insurance you can eat!
- How to Shop from Your Pantry
Reducing food waste saves more than just money
Oil and water are precious commodities, too. Reducing the amount of food you throw away each week also saves vast amounts of wasted water and oil.
Everything you eat requires water and oil to grow, the spinach in your salad, the yoghurt on your fruit and the steak sizzling away on the BBQ. And, oil and water are needed to transport the food you buy from the farm all the way to your kitchen.
When you buy in season, shop with a plan and make use of all the food you buy, you not only save money but you’re helping save the environment, too.
Can you think of more easy ways to reduce food waste and save money? Why not share your ideas in the comments.
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