Ultimate Guide to Reducing Food Waste

by Cath
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Why reduce food waste

You cannot control if what you put in the recycling bin will be recycled.

You cannot control the amount of waste the industry generates to make your food reach you.

But you can reduce your food waste.

Reducing your food waste is one of the most actionable things you can do to live a more sustainable life.

But you think: oh well, everything that I’m putting in my trash bin is organic matter.

It’ll be eventually decomposed in the landfill, it doesn’t matter.

That’s where you’re wrong.

And until recently, I believed the same thing.

Why food waste shouldn’t be in the landfill

Food waste that decomposes in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide.

See? Organic matter does decompose in the landfill but it’s not the right place to do it. Composting is the best solution but at this moment, there’s not a good infrastructure in place in most countries.

Everything that we can do to keep food waste out of the landfill is helpful.

Being thankful for your food

While I’ve discussed mostly this topic through an environmental standpoint, I also want to discuss how much food is thrown out that could be used to feed someone else.

You don’t need to go to poorer countries to see hunger.

There’s hunger everywhere and yes there are food banks and institutions that try to help those in need, but regardless we shouldn’t be throwing this much food out.

We need to be thankful that we’re able to afford this and why not do it by using up every last bit of food?

And without further ado, let’s go to actual actions that you can do to reduce your food waste.

How to Reduce Your Food Waste

Most of the food waste that we produce in your homes, it’s waste that we didn’t even get to eat.

Food that was perfectly fine when it arrived at your home.

But you forgot that it even existed.

And all that rotten food needs to go to the landfill.

Which means, that above all else, you should prevent food waste from happening.

And by this, I mean taking action before something goes bad. Or even not buying it at all, which leads me to my first point.

Buy Less

If you’re throwing out fresh food every week, you’re buying too much.

I know that sometimes we feel like we need to be prepared for everything.

If you want to have food for any unexpected visitors, why not buy extra canned food for a quick meal? Beans are such a versatile food, it’s something great to be in your pantry.

The truth is, if you’ve less food in your fridge or your pantry, you’ll take faster decisions because there are fewer options.

And fewer options means less anxiety which eventually leads you to a happier self.

Decision fatigue is real.

Meal Plan

Most of the food waste that occurs is a product of not knowing what’s in our fridge or cupboards.

That’s where meal plan comes in.

If you take the time to plan your meals, you know what you need to buy and what needs to be used up first. Hence reducing your food waste.

Another plus is removing the question “what’s for dinner?”, I bet that I’m not the only one who is anxious with this question. Sometimes it pops up during the day and because I don’t have a definite question it keeps nagging me.

When I meal plan, I know what I’m going to eat, I know that I have everything to cook it and I just arrive home and execute it.

Grocery shop with a plan and not hungry

Everyone’s already said it but I’m going to say it again: don’t go to the grocery shop when you’re hungry.

Not only are you going to buy more than you need but you’re also going to buy more junk food.

If I’m going to the supermarket hungry, I know that I’m going to buy that chocolate bar.

Recognize these patterns and fight them by going grocery shopping with your tummy full.

This will be good for your health, your wallet, AND the planet. Can’t beat that.

Also, to prevent food waste, make a grocery list. This ideally would be done after you’ve planned your meals for the week.

You’ve created a list based on what you’ve at home and everything that you’ve to buy is what’s left, nothing more, nothing less.

Go shopping only when everything perishable is eaten

This is a bit more extreme but might work better for you if you always stray off from your grocery lists.

You can only go to the supermarket, after eating all your perishable food.

It’s a fun challenge to take. Try it!

Meal Prep

tupperwares de comida

If meal planning is a good way to don’t think about the question “what’s for dinner?”, meal prep is the answer when you don’t want to cook.

I get it, you’re tired and the last thing that you want is to cook that healthy food that you planned earlier in the week.

Maybe you want to order takeout or go to a restaurant.

You’re too tired.

Meal prep is possible even for busy people.

And by meal prepping, you are not only eating homemade delicious food that you prepared, but you’re also reducing your food waste.

Because if you’re often going out to eat with a fridge full of food, you’re throwing out perishable food that could be used.

Regularly take pantry challenges

Even if we don’t want to, we always end up leaving things forgotten in our cupboards.

We are creatures of routine so we’ll often eat the same thing over and over again.

But we also buy food for fancy recipes that we see online. And don’t use up that ingredient completely.

That’s where a pantry challenge comes in. These pantry challenges are meant to push you to use up everything that’s in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Without grocery shopping.

Giving you constraints to push you to think outside the box and reducing your food waste.

You hate throwing out expired food that you forgot to eat right? I hate it too.

So take pantry challenges, they’ll push you to eat what you would otherwise forget.

Trust your senses instead of expiry dates

Many expiry dates are estimates and you don’t need to throw out good food just because it’s expired.

I eat expired yogurt all the time, as long as the seal is not puffed up, the yogurt is good and I never got food poisoning.

Another example is spices.

In my experience, they don’t go bad, but they do lose their potency which means I’ve to use more than I’d normally use.

Use your senses to figure out if you can eat it or not.

Color, smell, touch, can all be indicators that something is off.

Eat your leftovers

If you have leftovers, eat them.

You can make a plate full of leftovers once a week or eat them with a different side dish so you can mix it up a bit.

You can also make meals with leftovers, like using the chicken that you made roast to make some tacos, so it doesn’t feel like you’re eating the same every day.

If you don’t like to eat leftovers (I don’t know how! You’re totally missing out!), focus on making less and only cook what you’re going to eat.

Correctly store your food

A very easy way to reduce your food waste is to correctly store your produce.

How many times did you buy vegetables and just after a few days they’re no longer good to be eaten?

If you can extend the life of the produce in your home you don’t have to worry so much about letting things go to waste.

Find out how to correctly store your produce without plastic with my free guide, sign up below!

Preserve food

Freezing

Wanna know a fun trick?

If you know you won’t be able to use it before going bad, freeze it.

You can freeze meals or vegetables.

I like to chop fruits and vegetables and then freeze them.

This helps me reduce my food waste because I’m freezing food that I was going to let rot in the fridge.

Another bonus point is that having frozen fruits and vegetables it’s the best thing when you just want a quick nutritious meal. Everything is chopped and ready to go!

Canning

Get the most out of each and every season and consume local fruits and vegetables for months by canning.

If you have the luck of having trees full of fruit or people that give you tons of produce that they grew in their gardens, you don’t even have to spend money.

One of my favorite things to can is tomato sauce.

I make a big batch of tomato sauce every year and I can spend a few months (not all year, we’re big tomato sauce fans) eating this sauce.

But honestly, there is so much food you can preserve. I’ve recently tried to can peaches, my parents had lots this year, and it was a great success.

And if you don’t think you’re able to eat all your preserves, they make great gifts.

Cook your scraps instead of throwing them out

There’s so much potential with kitchen scraps, something that we always thought to throw away can actually be eaten.

Start by noticing what you’re throwing out everyday.

You’re throwing out more food than you thought, right?

Kitchen scraps can be used to make chips, like vegetable peel chips or make delicious homemade vegetable stock and freeze for later. Carrot peels can be used for a number of things too.

You can make apple cider vinegar from apple scraps.

There’s a bunch of food that you’re putting in the trash every day that has potential!

woman giving vegetables

Photo provided by OLIO

Donate

If you know you can’t eat it, donate your food! To your friends, to your family, to your neighbors.

Many organizations will also kindly accept it, find out if you’ve any nearby.

Another great option is to donate your food using your smartphone, through the OLIO app.

Throw a party

Too many things to eat?

Throw a party and make a big cookout.

Make several appetizers instead of a huge meal.

That way not only you’ve variety, you will also be able to use up small items.

Ask your friends to bring their leftovers too.

Call it “The Reduce Food Waste Party” and create awareness of this problem.

people holding wine glasses with too good bags

Photo provided by Too Good to Go

Reduce food waste when eating out

Restaurants produce a huge amount of food waste, from what we can’t see, from huge portions that we’re unable to eat, there’s a huge amount of improvements to be done in this space.

But you too can make changes the next time you’re going out to eat.

If you’re not too hungry ask for a smaller portion or opt for a different dish.

This seems pretty obvious but it’s sometimes hard to do.

You’re eating out. You want to feel special. But you’re not hungry. But you want to eat something special anyway.

You don’t have to compromise, you can find something special on the menu that doesn’t have so much food.

Or you can also ask the waiter if it’s possible to ask for a smaller portion of the dish.

Many will accommodate as long as you don’t expect to have a discount because you’re eating a smaller portion.

Bring your food container to bring leftovers

This is a common norm in some countries, others like Portugal, are still adapting.

If customers start demanding this kind of behavior, restaurants will inevitably change because they want to keep their customers, that’s how it works.

Ordering takeout

Instead of ordering from your most popular app, support apps that strive to reduce food waste when ordering takeout. We all know that sometimes we feel too lazy to cook and we want to order takeout, why not make the best of both worlds?

Compost

Ideally, this should be your last option.

Choosing to compost means that you’ve used up everything that you can.

It’s very difficult to completely reduce your food waste without composting.

If you have a garden or a small space outside you can make your own composter with recycled materials, you can even have just a pile of stuff and start composting.

If you don’t have access to a garden, you can also compost in your apartment by vermicomposting.

If none of these options works for you, find out if you have a community compost program happening in your area.

In some cities, the municipality will pick up your organic waste. Honestly, I can’t wait for this to happen everywhere! There’s already a pilot in the city that I live in but it’s still not available in my area.

Another alternative is to use Sharewaste, ShareWaste is an application that connects composters with people who have organic waste.

Are you ready to reduce your food waste?

Start with just one of these tips today and start reducing your food waste. Let me know how it goes in the comments. I’d love for you to share your experience.

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