Introduction – Annual Food Wastage Fills 1,230 Great Pyramids By Volume
Every year the world wastes enough food to fill a bin 1.2km wide, 1.2 km deep and 2.1 km tall. Such a bin would makes the worlds tallest buildings look like matchsticks (see below). A big question for our times of carbon and waste is how to reduce food waste.
About three quarters of this waste occurs before food is ever sold, during production, post-harvest, processing and distribution. The remaining quarter occurs at the consumer level. The food we waste as consumers in our homes totals about 50kg a person each year, and rises to as much as 100kg a year in some wealthy countries. This is the equivalent of pushing every trolley of food straight into a skip.
A Person Puts $1,000 Of Food To Waste Every Year
Your home could easily spend as much as $1,000 a year on edible food that is never eaten. In the US the average is $900 a year, in the UK it’s £700 and in Australia it’s over $1,000!
We don’t waste food on purpose, but somehow between the demands of our busy lives and being bombarded with food on sale we’ve gotten in the habit of wasting a colossal amount of food. Here are five simple hacks to help you save food in your home.
How To Reduce Food Waste – 7 Practical Solutions
We outline 7 practical solutions for how to reduce food waste and creative uses for leftovers in order to reduce food waste. In addition, because of the great synergy with the zero-waste concept, we’ve prepared a zero-waste meal preparation guide separately for you to read.
1) Plan For Perishables
About half of household food waste occurs due to things not being consumed in time (or people being squeamish about dates). This food waste is dominated by bread, fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and pre-made meals. Meat is especially egregious due to its relatively high carbon intensity.
Any person that runs a busy home plans meals each week. But when it comes to stopping food waste the key is to plan for perishables. If you’ve got too much dry spaghetti or tinned tomatoes in the cupboard its really doesn’t matter. But when you buy stuff that will go of in a week you need a plan to eat it or store it soon.
Love Food Hate Waste have some cool menu planning tools.
The other issue is people’s fear of dates. “Use by” dates are about food safety and “best before” dates are about quality. “Best before” dates are conservative. The food is still fine to eat after this date, it just may not be at its best. “Use by” dates are more about food quality. The food may still be safe to eat after this date but it will not taste as good. If you are worried about food waste try and plan ahead. And when it comes to dates, use your common sense. If it looks and smells ok then it probably is.
2) Eat Dinner Earlier Than Usual
Studies have shown that the optimal time to eat for your health to eat dinner is early in the evening around 5pm. The simple reason is that the later it is, the greater the tendency to overeat due to accumulated hunger. By eating earlier, you regulate yourself to have smaller amounts of food. This only works if you don’t stay up too late and stuff yourself with late night snacks.
For added benefits, eating earlier in the evening has been shown to help with weight loss and weight management, as well as reducing the risk of developing obesity and other chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
3) Love Your Freezer, Fight Your Fridge – Save Food
The refrigerator has a mystical ability to disappear food from your consciousness. With the best intensions in the world we put things in the fridge to ‘eat later’, only to bin them when we eventually journey to the back row.
Getting in the habit of moving the food in your fridge is a good one. And if you can freeze something, then do consider it. Food stored in freezers is far more likely to be eaten eventually than things in a fridge. If you are tempted by ‘buy one get one free offers’ then checking that they can be frozen is a useful thing to do.
On our site, we cover a good way to freeze food in glass jars. It’s highly in line with the “zero waste” movement. Glass containers are a great choice for long term storage, whether freezer or at ambient temperatures. It’s really quite simple to get the jars, clean them, prepare the food. Think about bulk and scale to make it efficient for yourself.
To be very systematic about preparing large quantities and freezing them down, consider batch cooking. If you are batch cooking, this is a great way to make the most of your efforts. The process is simple and easy to follow, and the end result is really satisfying. You’ll have healthy meals on hand, and you’ll know exactly what’s in them.
4) Quickly Measure Portions
The second half of household food waste arises due to preparing more than we eat. For things like cereals, rice, pasta just having a very simple measuring cup or scale that takes 5 seconds can do wonders to reduce ‘plate waste’. It is also much easier to add a little something to a meal if you’re still peckish, so experimenting with smaller portions is a good one.
For meat, veg and other perishables, energy can be wasted cutting them up if they are not used. There are a few ways to get around this. One is to buy things like carrots in baby form, which are great for snacking on and easily used in stir fries or salads. Another is to choose recipes based on what you already have. There are great websites like SuperCook that do this.
Reusable containers are great for storing leftovers, but make sure they are small enough to eat. It’s also good to have a system for labeling and dating food. This can help to make sure that food gets eaten in time. Some foods can be frozen before they go off and used at a later date. This is especially useful for things like bread, which can be defrosted as needed.
5) Grocery Shop Online
Have you every noticed that the closer you get to the checkout the more sweets and treats you see. Supermarkets are well studied in helping you buy food you don’t need or isn’t good for; in fact, supermarket food waste is a huge problem. It’s even worse if you shop while hungry.
Somehow, due to the magic of the internet that allure is quite there online. Sitting on a computer, checking the fridge and cupboards it always seems much easier to buy the food you actually need. This isn’t for everyone. One issue is that grocery stores charge a delivery fee which increases the cost of your food. Another issue is that ideally you get to the groceries in time to put things away in the fridge and freezer.
There’s however one problem with buying food online is that it takes away from one of the best parts of grocery shopping, trying new things. We love checking out the new items in the store and seeing what’s on sale and find inspiration for recipes and meals. The convenience of buying groceries online is great, but it doesn’t replace the experience of going to the store.
6) Upcycle Your Scraps
Stale bread plus garlic equals garlic bread. Bubble and squeak can be nicer than a roast. Old bananas make bread, smoothies, cakes.
If you have fruit that is starting to go off, cut it up and freeze it. You can use it in smoothies or baking. Or if you want to do something with it right now, make a fruit salad or fruit crumble. Similarly, if you have vegetables that are starting to go off, make soup.
What about meat? Meat is another common item that gets thrown out. There are loads of ways to use it up. Here are some ideas: – If you have meat that is starting to go off, cut it up and freeze it. You can use it in stews, curries, casseroles, etc.
And dairy? Dairy is another common item that gets thrown out. There are loads of ways to use it up for example if you have milk that is starting to go off, make a smoothie.
When you have moment, grab any food that looks like it is going to be wasted soon. Put it on your kitchen bench, and invent a new meal. You will amaze yourself.
7) Use a Food Waste App
Finally, this is not for saving your food but rather about putting to good use that food SOMEONE ELSE might be wasting. That someone else is a business. These businesses, whether for conscientious or profit motives, subscribe to a “food waste app”.
When a customer signs into the app, they can browse stores which have too many food products like bakeries, restaurants, supermarkets, at risk of being thrown out but which if you purchase you only have to pay a highly discounted charge. After all, if you don’t buy it, the food would have gone to waste. We recommend trying out Too Good To Go. We happen to review 3 other food waste apps at our green apps page in case you’re interested.
There are certainly other ones depending on where you live. Watch out for businesses that are using the app just to advertise their wares. They’re supposed to be only selling things that they’re about to throw out so you get an excellent deal. Otherwise this is another way to promote food wastage if the business is using it as a way to lure in more customers.
Conclusions – How To Reduce Food Waste
To reduce food waste, plan ahead when meal planning, store food properly, buy in bulk and online, and use the new apps that locate throw-away items that are perfectly fine to use.
I founded Shrink That Footprint in November 2012, after a long period of research. For many years I have calculated, studied and worked with carbon footprints, and Shrink That Footprint is that interest come to life.
I have an Economics degree from UCL, have previously worked as an energy efficiency analyst at BNEF and continue to work as a strategy consultant at Maneas. I have consulted to numerous clients in energy and finance, as well as the World Economic Forum.
When I’m not crunching carbon footprints you’ll often find me helping my two year old son tend to the tomatoes, salad and peppers growing in our upcycled greenhouse.