Simple Ways to Save Food

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 above).

About three quarters of this waste occurs before food is ever sold, during production, post-harvest, processing  and distribution. The food we waste 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 strait into a skip.

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.

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.  

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.

2) Love your freezer, fight your fridge

The refrigerator has a mystical ability to dissapear 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.

3) 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.

4) 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.  It’s even worse if you shop while hungy.

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.

5) 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 . .

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.

This post is based the continuing feedback from this post Save Money of Food by Wasting Less.  The overwhelming lesson thus far has been that most effective strategies are the ones that are the simplest to implement.

Lindsay Wilson
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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.