For today’s post, I thought we would talk about practical tips on how to avoid food waste. I do not know about you, but I have noticed that food has gotten considerably more expensive as of late. Food waste is not only a shame for beautiful produce, but it can also have an impact on our wallets. However (and more significantly) food waste is a staggering problem for our earth 🌎.
Food Waste is a universal problem
If food waste were a country it would be the third biggest country in terms of CO2 emissions. Directly behind China and the United States. On average, about 1.3 billion tons of food is being thrown out every year. Interestingly, most of this is not from restaurants, but from private households. These 1.3bn tons of wasted food result in approximately 3.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions. This also means that about 1.4 bn hectares of agricultural land (28% of the global agricultural land) are used in order to produce food that essentially goes to waste. You can learn more about CO2 emissions here. Deliciously Ella also did a fantastic podcast on it here.
Whereas this may sound staggering (and potentially a bit frightening). I also find it empowering, because it is something we can influence, directly from our own homes – and straight away! 🙂🙃. So, what are some practical tips on how to avoid food waste?
Ever gone into a food store on an empty (or god-forbid) hungry stomach, bought far too much and completely random things that you did not really know what to do with once your hunger was satisfied? 🙋🏼♀️I have. My lesson from this was (1) do not go shopping when you are hungry, but also (2) go prepared.
Have a think about what recipes you want to cook for the week. Write them out, look at what you still have on hand and can use from your pantry, and then buy the rest. OR look first at the pantry and then look at what kind of recipes you want to make with it. Ensuring that you have a plan for the week may sound like a bit more work. But it will not be come the random Tuesday night when you are staring at your fridge thinking “I have nothing I can make from this”. Even though the fridge still feels awfully full…. (also been there 🤦🏼♀️).
Store your food the “right” way
The proper storing of food can significantly prolong the life-span of your food. This one is a key tip for this practical tips on how to avoid food waste post. If you take about 30 minutes after shopping to do this, it also means that you have prepped food a lot easier at hand during the week. Onions, potatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, ginger, and pumpkin are best stored in a dry, cool space in a wicker basket so that the air can circulate. Wash your salad, dry it, and put it with a kitchen roll into a sealed plastic bag. Herbs are best stored in a glass of water with a plastic bag over the top and some kitchen roll in them. This glass should be placed near the top of the fridge. Carrots and celery can be sliced in advance and put into a container with water filled to the brim (and then stored in the fridge). Flour and nuts are best stored in (glass)containers somewhere dry and cool.
I sometimes feel the freezer is seriously underrated in order to help us to store food. If you buy a loaf of bread and you know you are only getting around to eating half of it, cut the other half, put it into a plastic bag, and put it into the freezer. Next week, you whip out that bag instead of buying a new loaf. Too many herbs at hand? Make pesto or soup stock and freeze it into ice cube trays. Once frozen, take out of the ice cube tray and continue to keep it in the freezer. You can then take out one “pesto ice cube” at a time when needed.
Virtually all fruit and veg can be frozen. As a universal rule though, peel the fruit and veg (e.g. bananas are a pain to get off the peel when frozen) if you would normally do so. Cut it into bite-sized pieces. You can pre-cook the food as well. The easiest way is to lay the food then out on a baking tray, freeze it, and once frozen transfer to a plastic bag or glass jar. That way, your food will not “cling” together in a plastic bag for example. I do not have the space to do that but I use a sieve, which also allows me to freeze up the veg. It easily breaks when then putting into a plastic or silicone bag.
Ripe fruit lens itself perfectly to bake with or to make a jam of it. There are loads of recipes on the blog for baking where riper fruit works. You could also always make a fruit crumble based on my Plum Crumble recipe. Simply mix together the fruit that you have, add a bit of sweetener and maybe cinnamon (or vanilla?!) and fill into an oven-proof dish. Then bake in the oven for ca. 25 – 30 minutes. Ta-dah 🥰. You just used up your fruit AND have a lovely dessert.
The date on the package is a minimum date
We do not buy a lot of packaged food, but I swear everything we take out of the fridge, my husband asks: “Can this still be eaten”?. I think by now he only does it to annoy me. Usually, vegan food and soups can last for about 6 days in the fridge. Eggs tend to have an expiry date on them but they last much longer. The easiest way to check whether they are still good is to fill a tall glass of water and put the egg in there. If they swim at the top (and trust me you will know when they swim on the top) – throw them out. In my entire time testing eggs that way which is possible for the last 15 years I have only had one egg swimming on top. Bottom line – have a sniff to see whether the food is still good. Your nose will tell you if it is not the case 😉.
Get inspired with new recipes
One of my friends does this one all the time. You are seeing veg in the fridge and you have no idea what to do with it. Simply google it. Just type the vegetable and recipe (or two vegetables and recipe) and get inspired.
Make a vegetable juice
One of the easiest ways to get rid of a lot of vegetables fast is to make vegetable juice. If I do get a lot of cabbage in my farmers’ box and I have enough Sauerkraut at home, I juice this with a bit of ginger and apple. This is not only great for your digestive tract but also clears out the fridge significantly. Get creative and try new varieties. You can also juice herbs 😉.
Create a compost
If you have the possibility, try and compost. This is something we are currently looking into, coming up with options, and how to best do this. There are in-door composts if you live in a flat (that do not stink), there are outdoor composts, compressing ones… we are just getting started on this project… I can update you once we have made a decision on this. In the meantime, the internet will likely provide you with everything you want to know about composting.
Use a food swapping app
This is a relatively new trend here in Germany, but I know loads of countries are already a lot more advanced on this. If you have food you do not want to eat or get rid of – simply upload it in the app and have someone come and pick it up (in a safe way and environment obviously). Google your country and food swapping app and I am sure there are options that are coming up. It is also a way to potentially get your hands on cheaper produce at the same time.
I hope the above has provided you with some practical tips on how to avoid food waste. Please do not feel overwhelmed by the list. A little goes a long way and small habits change over time. I am trying to be super mindful of this and yet there is still sometimes food that I have not managed to eat up, or prepped in time in one of the ways laid out above. Progress over perfection 💕. By the way – I found a tree covered in moss with the rotting apples on it in our local forest. How perfect is it as the backdrop for this post?? No apples were harmed by me in this process 😉.
Do you have any hacks on how to avoid food waste? If so, let me know in the comments below and we can continue the conversation 💚.