10 ways to reduce food waste at home
Every day, around the world, so much food is wasted. Here are ideas to for ways to reduce food waste, and save money too.
Food waste is a huge problem
Worldwide, a huge amount of food waste is created every day. Food waste happens at every step, from harvesting, processing, transporting, at supermarkets, and all the way to the end of the process – at our homes.
Food has become so abundant for many of us over the last few decades, that it has become almost a habit to waste food.
Wasting food puts pressure on natural resources and damages the environment. It’s not just the food itself that is wasted when we throw it away, it also includes all of these factors:
- The labour, money and effort put into growing food.
- Resources such as water, seeds, and animal feed.
- Fossil fuels / alternative energy that goes into harvesting, processing and transporting food.
- Animals that are raised to produce food items.
Food waste in landfills increases greenhouse gas emissions, which contributes to climate change.
What are some ways to reduce food waste?
People throw food away for many reasons. Sometimes we buy too much, or we don’t quite know what to do with the leftovers.
With food becoming more expensive all the time, finding ways to reduce food waste is good for the environment and our bank balance.
Here are 10 tips om ways to reduce food waste:
General tips for avoiding food waste
1. Plan your meals and make a shopping list
Planning meals in advance is useful for avoiding buying items you don’t need and might not use. Making a plan for a week, or even a month, will help you buy exactly what you need.
It doesn’t have to be set in stone that you will eat a particular meal on a particular night. If you have all the ingredients in stock for meals for the week, you can swap meals around if you fancy something different.
Check what you already have in your cupboards, fridge and freezer before you make the meal plan. This will help you write a shopping list of all the things you need.
Related article: Meal planning to save you money, food and time
2. Use leftovers to reduce food waste
If you make too much dinner, save the leftovers for another time. Put them in the fridge for eating the next day, either as lunch or to turn into a meal. There are some great Leftover Makeover recipes on the Love Food Hate waste website.
Store leftovers in the fridge in a clear glass container, rather than in an opaque container. This helps you see them more easily, and you will be less likely to forget they are there.
Freeze individual portions of leftovers in takeaway containers, making sure you label them with the name of the dish and the date. They are handy to pull out for nights when you need an easy dinner.
Curries and chilli freeze especially well, as does leftover rice.
3. Freeze food to use later
If you have vegetables in the fridge that you won’t use before they go off, pop them in the freezer. Many types of fruit and vegetables still keep their quality after freezing. Although vegetables with high water content like cucumbers and lettuce are not as suitable for freezing.
Frozen fruit like bananas and berries are excellent for adding to baking or smoothies. Vegetables such as mushrooms, capsicums, zucchini, and pumpkin can be chopped and frozen. They are good to use from frozen in stews, soups, curries, and many other recipes.
4. Understand food labelling dates to help reduce food waste
There are differences between the meaning of ‘Use by’ dates and ‘Best before’ dates on food packaging.
- ‘Use by’ dates are about food safety, and show the date that the product should be used before (unless it was frozen at home before that date). Food can start to spoil after that date, and may not be safe to eat.
- ‘Best before’ dates are about food quality. Food eaten after that date may not be at it’s best quality. Use your senses to smell, look at and taste the food, to make a judgement on whether it is ok to eat.
5. Compost any scraps to put food waste to good use
Composting food scraps or leftovers turns food waste into a valuable source of nutrients and energy for plants.
See my guide How to make compost – step by step
Keep a small container in the kitchen for food scraps, and a compost bin outside. If you don’t have space outside for a compost bin, there are other options such as bokashi bins.
Some households in towns and cities have food waste collections, which are diverting tonnes of food waste from landfill.
6. Preserve seasonal produce
When you have an excess of seasonal fruit or vegetables in your garden, or when the prices are low in the shops because there is a glut of a particular food, you can preserve produce to use all year round.
Methods to make food last longer include:
- Bottling or canning,
- Curing or dry smoking.
There are many articles online about ways to preserve food, this one from The House and Homestead is one of my favourites.
7. Share food that you can’t use
Donate extra food that you can’t use, while it is still in date.
It could be given to friends or neighbours, or to strangers via apps like Olio. You could also donate food to local food pantries or food banks.
Tips for storing different foods to reduce food waste
Many of us are unsure about the best ways to store fruits and vegetables. This can lead to produce ripening too quickly, and adds up to increased food waste.
8. Store foods that produce ethylene gas away from those that don’t
Some fruits produce more ethylene gas as they are ripening. This ripens other fruit more quickly, and means they may go bad sooner than you would expect. Keep these foods in a different storage place, rather than all in the fruit bowl together.
Fruit that produces ethylene gas while ripening include:
Store these produce away from ethylene-sensitive items like apples, berries, apples, leafy greens, and capsicums, to help them last longer.
9. Store potatoes and onions away from each other
Potatoes and onions have similar storage requirements – cool and dark conditions, and both do better stored out of the fridge.
However, they shouldn’t be stored together, as it will make both of them start to spoil more quickly. Similar to the fruits above, onions produce ethylene gas, while potatoes have a high moisture content that can make onions start to liquefy.
10. Store bread in the freezer
Bread is at the top of the list for one of the most wasted types of food. In New Zealand alone, roughly 20 million loaves of bread are thrown away every year.
The easiest way to stop wasting bread is to keep it in the freezer until you need it. If you eat a whole loaf a day in your family, you might get a loaf from the freezer the day before. If you eat less, freeze half a loaf, and store the rest in the pantry.
Bread that is a bit stale can be revived easily – sprinkle a little water on it, and give it 20 seconds in the microwave or 10 minutes in a medium heat oven. And leftover bread can be made into croutons or breadcrumbs.
Extras for experts – a few more creative ways to reduce food waste
11. Save pumpkin seeds
Save seeds from pumpkins and butternut squash, to make a tasty snack. Wash and dry the seeds, toss them with some olive oil and salt, and toast them in the oven.
Items that might end up wasted can be delicious and healthy in a smoothie.
Blend up things such as fruit and vegetable peels, stems of leafy greens or stems of broccoli. This is a great way to avoid food waste.
Making a homemade stock or soup is an easy way to use food that might be discarded.
Sauté vegetable peels, stalks or tops in olive oil or butter, and then add water and simmer it to make a vegetable stock.
Meat / chicken bones and leftovers are also useful in making a meat stock or broth.
Coffee grounds make excellent fertilizer for plants. They are high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are all nutrients that plants love.
Add them to your compost, or sprinkle them on the ground a little way from plant stems.
In conclusion – there are many ways to reduce food waste
There are many ways to reduce the amount of food waste we produce. And the added benefits are that they can save us money and time, as well as reducing packaging waste too.
Pick a few of these practical ideas to try out, and see if you notice the difference.
What will you try first?