For most of us, food waste has become a bad habit: buying more food than we need to, only for it to go forgotten and spoil at the back of our fridges. The truth is, we must become mindful shoppers in order to aim for the goal of becoming zero waste. Food waste has become such a blooming problem that the 29th of September was officially designated as the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste in 2019. This is a wake-up call to us as everyday consumers to change our shopping & eating habits to be less wasteful.
There are so many benefits to reducing our consumption of food – from saving money and cutting down on methane emissions in the landfill, to conserving energy and resources from the supply chain and helping support your local community. Fortunately, most food waste can be reduced by changing our daily habits. Check out our top ten tips below!
“One-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, worth approximately US$1 trillion.” -World Food Program.org
List if off & Plan it out
Meal prepping isn't just for body-builders anymore. Planning out your weekly meals, will help you be more realistic when grocery shopping and not end up buying more ingredients than you’re likely to end up using - not to mention dramatically decrease your impulsive shopping habit meaning you'll SAVE MONEY! Who doesn't love saving money? Lists are a great way to go about this, they help us keep track of what we already have and what we may need to buy - and who said they need to be hand written? There are tons of apps available to create digital shopping lists, so no excuses please.
Labels aren't all they seem
Don’t judge food by its cover! Date labels on food products are actually not a hard and fast rule but more of a general guide. According to the National Resources Defense Council, 91% of American consumers toss food based on the “sell by” date and are unable to properly distinguish between “best before” and “use by” dates. Plot twist– these are only best guesses by manufacturers to measure when food reaches peak quality, so they are not even regulated by law for the vast majority of products. Yet so many of us have bought into the marketing mentality that these dates have something to do with food safety – which isn't true! So next time don't panic if your milk is one or a few days past the "best before" date, you're still safe to use it!
Ever heard the saying "we eat with our eyes" - well we'd say that's true and when food looks good it's easy to order, buy or pile on more than we can actually stomach - leading to a large amount being scraped into the trash. Being mindful of your portion size - and how much you're actually going to eat - doesn't just help calorically, but also helps reduce the amount that ultimately goes to waste.
Toss out the plastic
Ditch the plastic! This first step of reducing the amount of food packaging you use is essential if you want to live environmentally friendly. All that plastic packaging from perishable and processed foods is the food industry standard. By ridding your use of them you are saving a tremendous amount of food waste– not to mention making a healthier choice by forgoing all those processed foods full of toxic additives. Some helpful advice is drinking from reusable beverage containers like water bottles and coffee mugs or storing leftover food in glass containers. See our April Edition of Sustainable Swaps for more tips!
Organize your fridge
Take note of the items in your fridge. Designating different regions or food zones for produce, dairy, raw meat, poultry, seafood and leftovers can help you take quick visual inventory of what you have vs. what you need. There's nothing more annoying than buying a full bottle of something and realizing you already had one in your fridge. Pro tips: 1. Arrange by the FIFO method – first in, first out 2. label all leftovers with dates so you’re not playing the guessing game when you want to eat it.
Shelf life of produce
Knowing how to properly store fruits and vegetables will not help them last longer but they’ll taste better too! To prolong produce you can use tactics to retain freshness such as wrapping leafy greens and herbs in paper towels or produce in special bags such as Beeswax wrap from our Arbor approved Sustainable Swaps. Buying frozen produce like veggies is also handy!
We can eliminate so much of our food waste through preservation and a little planning, especially for seasonal produce. These traditional practices have been around for thousands of years and simply require some patience and time. Freezing is a great option for larger batches of leftovers with the ideal time allotted up to three months before the food starts to lose its flavour or texture. Dehydrating is great for compact foods in bulk like dried fruits such as raisins or prunes and lasts for many years if given the proper conditions. Pickling is popular in many cultures around the world as it’s so flavourful – you simply douse fresh vegetables like cucumbers into acidic solutions like vinegar and it lasts for many weeks. Fermenting foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and even kombucha use good bacteria and are amazing for your gut not to mention the added effect of vitamins and minerals. And lastly, canning is best to preserve food for longer periods without it rotting or spoiling and shelf-stable for up to a year.
“It’s a big problem. Worldwide, tonnes of edible food is lost or wasted every day. Between harvest and retail alone, around 14 percent of all food produced globally is lost. Huge quantities of food are also wasted in retail or at the consumer level.” -Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Shop your pantry! There are hundreds of zero waste food recipes in which you can up-cycle ingredients that have been stashed on your shelves for way too long. And you don’t need to be a master chef either. From using apple peels as roasted chips to using wilted veggies in a soup – the possibilities are endless! And it’s not only our hot tip, check out the Netflix series Best Leftovers Ever! for more inspiration.
Buy in bulk
Buying in bulk for staple foods (that don't spoil) like flour, grains, nuts, beans, spices, oils, chocolate, coffee, dried fruits and more is a great way to save both money and some trips to the grocery store. Some additional benefits to buying in bulk include: saving energy and resources used in the production and packaging of those products.
Why throw your food scraps away if you can feed it to your garden soil? Composted waste emits way less methane than organic waste that’s directly tossed in the landfill and can be repurposed as wholesome fertilizer for gardening soil. There’s brown matter rich full of carbon and green matter full of nitrogen. DO toss in cardboard, paper, grass clippings, all kinds of produce, bread, coffee ground, eggshells, tea bags. DON’T throw in dairy products, cooking oils, meat or fish scraps or pet waste.
“Any change you make is a step in the right direction, I would just say truly commit to it and give it a go.” -Kathryn Kellog (@going.zero.waste), Zero Waste influencer
So there you have it! Ten easy ways on how to reduce your food waste. If you're interested in learning more about how the way we produce, distribute and consume food contributes to your eco footprint - check out Earth Overshoot Day to learn how to get involved to #MoveTheDate and more! This is the day indicates that we have crossed the finish line as humans by having exhausted nature’s budget of resources for the year. Have any other suggestions for how we can actively reduce our abuse towards food? Leave us a comment below!