This year I intend to cut down on food waste.
Wasting less food on a personal level takes a bit of work. You have to be diligent and creative and more than anything, you have to care to do it.
Recently I read that food waste is one of the leading contributing causes of greenhouse gas emissions, so I wanted to look at how much food is being wasted around the world.
I found these stats from The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations:
- Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
- Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$680 billion in industrialized countries and US$310 billion in developing countries.
- Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
- Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
- Global quantitative food losses and waste per year are roughly 30% for cereals, 40-50% for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20% for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 35% for fish.
- Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
- The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).
- Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, south and south-eastern Asia, each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.
Pretty crazy right? The reality is that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and wonder how something one person does would make a dent in the grand scheme of things.
But food waste is a big problem and we need to do something about it.
If we all do something on a personal level, we can start to make a difference as a whole moving forward.
Here are five tips each of us can start doing to cut down on food waste:
1. Before you shop in a store, shop your in your cupboards.
Over the holidays I didn’t want to do anymore grocery shopping so I went through my pantry to see what I could make with what I had.
I found some navy beans, onions, shallots and a sweet potato so I made ‘beans on toast,’ which was actually beans on sweet potato ‘toast’. I had leftovers which were fantastic the next day with a fried egg.
Now, If you’re like most people you might go to your cupboard and see a bunch of ingredients and that’s all your brain sees: ingredients, not dinner. But if you visit a site like epicurious, and add your ingredients into its search engine, it will give you a lot of ideas on what to make.
Once you get the hang of eating this way it could be a fun exercise to ‘make something out of nothing’ for dinner at least once or twice a week (doesn’t everyone find this fun?). You can save money on your weekly grocery bill and you’ll use up the food you have. Make sure you do the same in the fridge to eat up that produce before it goes bad!
2. Use the smell and taste test before you throw something out.
You’re probably thinking: Gross! But in all honestly the expiry date is just a date added to perishable foods for things like taste, texture, and freshness and not always because it will go bad and/or make you sick.
Use your discretion of course! I don’t want you to get sick, but be a bit more discerning on those expiration dates before you automatically toss them. For example, eggs last way longer than you think.
Cheese by its very nature is aged so you can cut the green stuff off and still eat it (gross but true!). Yogurt might still be ok, just smell it! If you’ve been eating something long enough your nose will know. Meat is a little more iffy though, so if you don’t think you’re going to eat it right away, freeze it.
Which leads me to:
3. Take advantage of your freezer.
Did you know you can freeze almost anything? Some weeks I’ll need beans for a recipe so I’ll make a big batch in the slow cooker and then toss the rest in the freezer for a later use. Yes you can freeze beans!
If you have leftover herbs, make a pesto. This is a great recipe for parsley pesto to use on fish, chicken, beans or pasta.
Store bread in the freezer—it’ll last so much longer than if you store it in the cupboard or counter. Sometimes I have leftover cut up fruit from the kid’s lunches so I’ll freeze it and add it to smoothies. If you have a bunch of bread ends like I tend to have, pop them into a food processor or spice grinder to make bread crumbs.
4. Use those stems and stalks!
Did you know you can eat carrot tops? Yes it’s true! Broccoli stalks are great in a soup or stir fry (just peel the tough outer layer). Beet greens are more nutritious than the beet root so eat them and those funny celery leaves add a lot of flavour to soups.
We’ve been raised to think we can only eat certain parts of the vegetables and fruit, but the truth is that we can eat so much more which means we can waste less.
5. Buy only what you need.
This is where meal planning comes in handy. I wrote a two-part post (one, two) on meal planning that goes over everything you need to do to meal plan effectively. But the biggest take away from meal planning is that you only buy what you need.
When you make a list and buy only what you need, you don’t have to worry about going to the grocery store without a plan. Without a plan you’re more apt to buy things you don’t need, or buy too much food that you won’t end up eating. It’ll get pushed to the back of the fridge and then into the trash.
Do yourself a favour and start planning your meals to save money and waste less.
I hope this helps you cut down on your food waste. There is so much we can do on an individual level—don’t get discouraged if you think you won’t make a difference. One person can make a difference and you’ll feel better for it.