Around 88 million tonnes of food is wasted annually in the EU, with associated costs estimated at 143 billion euros (source). About 40% of loss happens at the consumer level. Fruits and vegetables are wasted most often. Tied for second are dairy products and bread. Meat is third, but it has the biggest impact.
Although I make sure not to throw any food away I still make mistakes. I am bad at estimating the quantities to cook, I have baking supplies I don’t know how to use and my fresh herbs go bad too fast. Moreover, I could learn what to do with food scraps, optimise fridge organization and use the freezer more.
So much can be done to prevent food waste:
- Keep a running list together with quantities of what you need. Shop smart, plan meals, buy accordingly. Don’t stock up on a product you will only need a little off for some fancy meal you will never cook or bake again. Buy less and more often. Monitor what you throw away together with its costs. Do not go food shopping when hungry, you’ll end up buying much more than what you need.
- Buy funny looking products, ugly fruits, lonely bananas. They are the most likely to get tossed. Buy local since it is fresher. Support responsible groceries instead of big chains that are known to waste a lot.
- When unpacking groceries, put new things at the back and old one in front in order to eat them first. Put things that will go bad soon “in your face” so that you see it immediately, or even make a box for them. Plan meals around what you already have at home. Check expiry dates and use up that. Designate one dinner each week as a use-up meal.
- Use all the pieces of food- check the internet for suggestions. If it is too ripe, use for baking or smoothies.
- Wait to wash berries until you want to eat them to prevent mold. Many fruits give off natural gases as they ripen, making other nearby produce spoil faster. Store bananas, apples, and tomatoes by themselves, and store fruits and vegetables in different bins. Store garlic and onions separate from potatoes to prevent onions from ripening quickly.
- Eat leftovers. Freeze what you cannot eat. Freeze food such as bread, sliced fruit, or meat that you know you won’t be able to eat in time. Share with friends. Donate to other people what you cannot eat via Foodsharing or similar and save food that would go to waste yourself. If you are on the wild side, try dumpster diving.
- A full freezer retains cold better than an empty one. When you open the door, the mass of frozen food will help keep in the cold, and the unit won’t have to work as hard to cool empty space. But don’t jam pack the freezer either, as the air needs to circulate. Wrap and pack appropriately and label. Cut everything before hand.
- While most fresh produce does well in the freezer, certain items become inedible after some time in the freezer. Avoid freezing very watery fruits and vegetables, like cucumbers, citrus, melon of all types, and apples. They can turn mushy and tasteless.
- Store dry foods in airtight containers. Store food properly in the fridge and in the freezer. Check the fridge if it is working on maximum efficiency 1-5 C. Avoid clutter in your fridge, pantry and freezer.
- To extend the shelf life of fresh herbs place the herbs in the plastic bag, add a couple of tablespoons of water into the bag and then tie the bag with a loose knot, and store in the fridge.
- Trust your nose more than the expiry dates. We throw food away because we misunderstood that when food is old, it makes us sick. The main reasons for illness are pathogens that contaminate food during production. We mostly just need to be careful with mold, green potatoes, and rancid meat, oil, or nuts.
- Try some of the food preservation methods: Drying, Freezing, Canning, Vacuum Treatment, Sugaring, Salting, Pickling.
- Compost but also rethink what you compost. Keep a broth bag in the freezer. Put in carrot ends, the knobs and peels from most veggies, mushroom stalks, stems from herbs, the occasional potato peels, garlic that is about to go bad the papery garlic shells or anything that would be good in broth. Turn into stock and use for soups.
- Eat smaller portion as you can take more if needed (probably the easiest way to lose weight). It helps to have smaller plates. Do not over-serve people like the grandmas like to. Listen to your body. Consider splitting the dish at a restaurant if the portions are big. Take leftovers home. Don’t use trays as people tend to take too much food and without trays, they can only carry as much as they can eat.
- Support restaurants that prepare wasted food, if there is any around.