If necessity is the mother of invention, then abundance might just be the father of wastefulness. Despite the fact that the overall food production of the world is more than enough to cover the needs of our current population, plenty of people continue to face the threat of famine and substandard alimentation each and every day.
That’s because approximately one-third of all the food produced on Earth is going to waste every year, either through spoilage or by simply being thrown away. Aside from the dire repercussions on the human side of the equation, wastefulness also has a negative impact on nature.
In fact, the organic matter in landfills counts for up to 20% of all methane gas emissions, a potent greenhouse gas that has been linked to climate change.
This in itself is nothing new. Chances are that you’re already familiar with the debilitating effects of famine throughout the world. But even without donating money or doing volunteer work you can still play an important role in the fight against world hunger.
Just by cutting down on wasteful habits and promoting responsibility in your own household, you’ll have made a valuable contribution to the cause.
Add in the fact that you can also save up quite a bit of money by getting the most out of your food, and it’s plain to see that reducing food waste should be on everyone’s list of priorities.
So let’s start by counting down the most effective strategies that you can implement right away to stop wasting food in your home:
1. Shop wisely
You can’t waste something if you haven’t bought it yet. Most people have a tendency to wander aimlessly through the supermarket without a shopping list in hand, which can often lead to unnecessary purchases that end up as waste. Before going to the store, always verify which items you already have in the house, and then make a list of what you need for the meals you’d like to cook.
2. Plan your meals
One of the best ways of keeping track of what you have is by planning all the meals you eat at home. If you know that you’re going to cook an omelet for your next breakfast, then you can calculate the number of eggs you’d need for said omelet and find out how many you have left. You don’t have to go overboard with this.
Just plan three of four meals in advance by getting accustomed with the items at your disposal and their respective expiration dates.
3. Use your leftovers
Everybody has had instances when they’ve cooked too much food or simply didn’t have much of an appetite to begin with. In such cases, it’s customary for people to either throw out the remaining food directly or store it somewhere in the back of the fridge, where it’ll usually linger until it turns into a science project. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Leftovers can provide the basis for many tasty meals, and you can find recipes for them all over the Internet. Of course, this policy of letting no leftovers go uneaten should extend to dining out as well. Doggy bag whatever food you can’t finish on the spot so you’ll be able to enjoy it later.
4. Make sure you store things correctly
The science of proper storage deserves its own article, but, suffice to say that keeping all the different types of food in the right places at the right times is essential when it comes to preserving them for as long as possible. Some require refrigeration, while others stay fresh longer when kept at room temperature.
Learn what works best for each of them and, in turn, you’ll be rewarded with longer lasting products.
5. Have your refrigerator and freezer running efficiently
By default, some refrigerators are set to run at slightly higher temperatures than required for storing most foods effectively. Usually keeping them set at around 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) should do the trick. Also, make sure you place the products that need an even cooler environment in the freezer, where the ideal temperature is 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 degrees Celsius).
6. Donate food
There’s no quicker way to feed mouths than by directly doing it yourself. Contact local food banks to donate the extra food you have before it goes bad. There’s bound to be plenty of people in your area who are in need of a healthy meal. Even your scraps can be donated to local farmers who will happily accept them as food for their livestock.
7. Try canning and pickling
Remember all those delicious jams and compotes that your grandma used to prepare? Well, it’s not rocket science to figure out the basics of canning fruits and vegetables. This will drastically increase their shelf life and give you the opportunity of enjoying your favorite produce in the off-season, without having to splurge on pricey imported goods.
8. Opt for “imperfect” items
Speaking of fruits and vegetables, the sheer quantity available nowadays has led to discrimination based on their appearance. Many customers have been led to believe that only “perfect” looking produce will suffice. So seek out those funny-shaped fruits and vegetables and add them to your bin. They taste just as good and are considerably more likely to end up as waste.
9. Organize your food
With so many things going on, it’s easy to lose track of the food you already have, making it altogether likely that plenty of it goes to waste in the hidden corners of your pantry and/or fridge. So it’s best to have a system in place to prevent this from happening. We recommended moving your older groceries to the front whenever you buy new items so that they’ll always stay first in line for consumption.
10. Monitor what you throw away
In order to get a handle on your habits, have a pen and paper handy whenever you throw something in the bin. This way you’ll be aware of what can be prevented and improved on in the future. It’s generally a good idea to store the note next your fridge and use the other side to keep track of what’s inside.
11. Let technology lend a helping hand
It’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to go at it alone. Nowadays there are plenty of apps and gadgets that can aid you in the fight against food waste. Handpick, for example, lets you plan meals around the ingredients you already have, while LeftoverSwap makes it easier to find people in need of the food you’d be willing to part with.
There are also plenty of tools to help you calculate how much you’re spending on groceries each month and what percentage of that could be saved if you drastically reduced waste. Overall they offer a fun and interactive way of supporting your efforts, so don’t hesitate to try them out.
12. Consider composting
If you’ve done everything so far, you’ll still notice that you end up tossing a lot of organic material into the trash. Things like potato skins and wilted vegetables, despite not really being edible, will still end up in landfills and contribute to global warming. Which is why you should consider starting a compost pile and turning them into nutrient-rich fertilizer. This can then be used to help you grow your own produce, thus perpetuating a cycle of sustainability that leads to healthy living and minimal waste.
These tips should be enough to give you an idea of the many small things you can do to help prevent food waste. If some of this stuff is new to you, it’s generally advisable to take things one step at a time. Most good habits will take around 3 weeks to be fully integrated into your lifestyle, so remember to stay patient and be willing to try out new things.
Enjoying good food is one of the life’s great pleasures and we’re lucky enough to live in an era that affords us this kind of abundance. It just makes sense to do our part to keep it from wasting away.
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