How to reduce the amount of food you waste in your home
Globally, over a third of the food produced on the planet goes to waste. That’s 1.6bn tonnes of produce a year, with a value of about $1tn. If this wasted food were stacked in 20-cubic metre skips, it would fill 80m of them, enough to reach all the way to the moon, and loop around it.
Why is this happening?
Food waste occurs at many different stages along the journey from farm to fork. There is no one contributing factor to the problem, but many, with produce being discarded in fields, warehouses, factories, supermarkets, restaurants & household fridges.
Three of the biggest reasons for food waste are:
- Strict cosmetic requirements from stores who demand that fruit & veg adhere to a narrow definition of perfection. That means perfectly edible produce is rejected because its is too big, too small, too ripe, wonky, blemished or pear shaped.
- Imbalance in supply and demand leading to overstocking and over-purchasing.
- Household waste and confusion about sell-by and expiration dates.
Why does it matter?
One of the main concerns about food waste is for the simple fact that people are still hungry and malnourished, including in the US. The idea that nearly 50 million people in the United States live in households without suitable access to healthy food whilst over 30% of food produced is discarded, is an uncomfortable reality.
The second main reason that food waste matters is environmental and economic. We spend $165 billion and use 25% of our freshwater just to produce the food that gets thrown away. The amount of resources that go into growing, harvesting & distributing food that ends up in landfill takes a toll on the environment, with food waste accounting for about 8% of global climate pollution, more than India or Russia.
How can you help?
It’s easy to point the finger at supermarkets or restaurants for their strict cosmetic requirements for food, but a significant amount of food waste takes place in the home.
Today we waste about 50% more food than we did in the 1970s and the average american household spends up to 2200$ per year on food that they don’t eat.
Tips for reducing food waste
At BOU, we always encourage people to try and reduce the amount of food they waste at home by carefully planning meals and making the most of every ingredients. Here are some of our tips to get you started!
At the Store
- Over a third of us go shopping without a list, which means we are more likely to pick up items at the store that we don’t actually need and won't end up using. Try planning your meals and going to the store with a list of what the recipe requires, which will also save you money!
- Don't go to the supermarket hungry! This may sound obvious but a grumbling tummy will lead to some impulse buys that will likely end up in the trash.
- Think about your schedule for the week ahead… how busy will you be? Will you have time to cook or will you need quick meals on the go? Having an idea of what your week is going to look like will help you complete your grocery shopping more efficiently and effectively!
- If you are shopping for a recipe, try and purchase exact amounts of, e.g fruit and veg, by buying loose at the store rather than packaged together in a bag. Likewise, try buying grains, nuts and spices from bulk bins if possible, so you can measure out exactly what you need and avoid the unnecessary packaging.
- Embrace imperfection - Don’t be put off by wonky shaped fruit and veg. They taste just as good!
- FIFO (First in, First Out) is a great way of organising your fridge, freezer or cupboard. When you unpack your shopping, make sure you rearrange the older food to a more visible place so that items approaching their sell-by date won't be left un-noticed at the back of the fridge!
- Get to know your freezer - Make a list of what is in the freezer and the date it was frozen and stick it on the freezer door for easy reference.
- Challenge yourself to preparing one meal a week where you use up all your food that needs to be eaten. Get creative!
- Adopt a root-to-stalk approach - lots of people chop the tops of carrots or throw potato peelings in the bin without thinking about using them in a recipe. Often, the discarded bits of fruits and vegetables are where the most goodness is. Why not try cooking the broccoli stems, making vegetable peel crisps or even use the tops of leeks in a stir-fry?
- It’s estimated that 70% of us set our fridges at too high a temperature, meaning our food can go bad faster. Keeping your fridge between 1-5 degrees celsius keeps your food at its best for as long as possible.
- Get creative in the kitchen! Turn fruit & veg into smoothies or crumbles, make banana bread from over-ripe bananas and transform past-its-prime veg into delicious soup.
- Treat expiration dates with a pinch of salt. ‘Use-by’ dates are usually an indication of when food reaches its peak quality but if you store food correctly, most of it will still be absolutely fine to consume after the use-by date. Obviously, some foods are more high-risk than others and you should be more cautious with meat and fish, but generally, if it looks, smells and tastes OK, it's probably fine!
- If you find you are throwing away lots of crackers, biscuits or cereals, store them in an airtight container so they don’t go off so quickly. While you are at it, check that the seals on all the containers and food bags in the fridge are still airtight and that the fridge itself is operating at the correct, most efficient temperature.