For every 5 bags of food, the average American throws away 2 bags.
For the month of August, I completed the #reducefoodwaste project over on Instagram inspired by the book "Waste Free Kitchen" by Dana Gunders. It was quite a learning experience and you think you know stuff, you are schooled yet again. Fitting as I am writing this recap in September while many are back to school.
This post contains affiliate links. See Disclosures for details.
Food waste is insane. Here are some stats from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
- Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
- Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
- Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
- At retail level, large quantities of food are wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.
- Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.
- Even if just one-fourth of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world
Whoa! Those are crazy stats and it's time we start changing habits to reduce all of that waste.
Food waste is a problem. Many of us are already struggling to make ends, yet, we readily throw away perfectly food. It’s time to change that and make it a goal to reduce food waste. After all, food is money, time and resources. Throw away food and you throw away everything else. Many of us are also now paying a premium to buy organic food, but if these do not get eaten, then organic doesn’t matter.
Know How to Store
We’ve come along away from storing food in dark caves. Now our smart fridges talk to us and let us know what we are missing. It’s time we take advantage of our fridges and learn how best to store food.
- Keep fruits and veggies in their drawers. Some may be stored in glass jars with water like herbs. Others like kale or spinach should be wrapped in a damp cloth.
- Keep food with natural preservatives in the door shelves as this is the warmest place
- Keep dairy in the lower and middle shelves
- Keep foods that don’t need cooking in the upper shelves as this tends to be warmer
- Consider switching to glass containers for an airtight seal and to see your foods better and easier.
Know When It’s Bad
We throw away food based on the date that is stamped at the bottom of the box. Unfortunately, there is no FDA regulation (with the exception of infant formula) that regulates these dates. Sometimes the nose knows better. Humans have evolved thousands of years to be able to detect rotting meat and vegetables without a "best by" date.
- Look for mold in your food products
- Smell it. If it smells funky or makes you want to gag. That’s a good sign it’s bad.
- If you are able to cut out a portion and the other parts look good, it’s ok to eat.
- Don’t forget to also hit up "Siri", "Ok, Google" and ask how to detect bad food
Know What To Make
Being comfortable in the kitchen is probably one of the best ways to reduce food waste. Once you are familiar with cooking methods, you’ll have a better sense of what foods work with what. You don't need to be An Iron Chef to make a great meal. Cook something simple and build from there.
- Cooking exposes the family to new flavors giving a sense of new likes and old favorites which informs your future shopping habits.
- Cooking at home can also reduce packaging waste and allows you to control the ingredients.
- Cooking also makes you appreciate the time and effort that goes into a meal.
- Cooking also allows you to experiment which exposes you to the fact that substitutes exists in the kitchen. Flax seeds for eggs, honey for sugar, the list is endless, but this does require some experimentation.
Know What to Buy
We throw away most of our food because we overestimate how much we really need. On many occasions, we end up buying duplicates and things end up getting pushed to the back of the cupboard to be forgotten. To combat, here are ways to help you get a handle on what to buy.
- Always, always make a list. Do an inventory before heading to the grocery store so that you know exactly what you need and you keep your shopping focused to reduce impulse buys.
- Buy from the bulk bins where you can get exactly what you need. If you have a recipe in mind that doesn’t require a whole box, getting just enough will help lower cost, but also reduce potential excess.
- Learn the habits of your household. Perhaps, family members no longer favor certain foods. Ask them so that you buy what will be eaten.
- Learn to love ugly produce. Buying fruits and vegetables that don’t look perfect may allow you get food discounts as well as ensure you save fruits and vegetables from the landfill.
Know How to Eat
Our bodies have not evolved as much as we thought post caveman days. There’s still a limit to what we can eat. There’s still certain nutrients our bodies crave. Learn to eat well to reduce food waste.
- Split dishes. Portion sizes at restaurants have gotten insane and certainly we don’t need those extra calories on our waistline. Consider splitting food. This saves money and reduces food waste.
- Brown bag it. Leftovers are a great way to ensure you have an adequate meal for lunch. Consider how best to store and transport it. One suggestion with regards to lunch for children was to split the bread, meat and cheeses so that the sandwich doesn't get soggy and the child can build their own sandwich.
- Fruits are great for smoothies and salads. Vegetables are great for soup and stocks. Understand that you can eat foods in other ways.
It's time we start thinking about the amount of food we waste because it all adds up. I've learned that it takes a lot to grow your own food. My little urban garden produces a few carrots and rosemary and strawberries. It took all summer to grow that and it's not even enough to feed me for a day. We have to be conscious that this all takes time. Time we spend at work to earn money. Time to grow this food.