How to waste less food at home
Research has proven that, on average, 20% of the food in our homes is wasted. Now multiply that by a third of the population on the planet and then add the other third who have to really struggle hard to get something in their bellies and you'll realize how much we're letting our planet down.
On top of all that, the food that goes to waste that could, ideally, help feed the other 30% of the population, but instead rots and produces methane - a poisonous gas that causes an increase in heat retention much like CO2 only 100 times worse.
Combine these factors and you'll realize that we are in dire need of an intervention on ways with which we can tackle this global menace and the first step is very important because it should be personal. For me, it was about what I ate.
The process was quite simple! I just sat down one day ad really thought about how I eat, what I buy and how I cook my food and If it was sustainable and found out, it really wasn't! The kitchen is the center of the home and a place where all the love comes from, and all the yummiest dishes too of course.
It should also be a place where we practice more sustainable methods to avoid unnecessary food waste. But how do we do this? Below are some simple ideas to get you started. Please note that I have omitted anything around 'Food Prepping' as this will be a blog post unto itself in the near future. :)
Here are my basic tips below on how to waste less food at home:
Go in with a plan to waste less food
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it took me well into my early 30’s until I really got the hang of grocery shopping and stocking my pantry. Prior to that, I would go out each day to the local market and buy my food for that specific night.
I was obsessed with buying fresh for the day of. Granted, I was a childless, care-free city gal who only had to cook for herself and her non-picky boyfriend at the time. I was one of those ‘cook a different recipe every night’ person. And for some reason it was impossible to figure out what do with that left over half-cabbage I had bought for a previous recipe, so inevitably, it would sit in the fridge for a week, and then get tossed.
I look back now and think of how much food (and money..and time) I probably wasted, and it makes me sad. But, I am happy to tell you this is no longer me.
Now, I go in with a plan. I don’t buy food everyday, instead, I buy for typically about 5 days ahead, basing my purchasing choices on 3 recipes (assuming I will have 2 nights of leftovers) I know I will make, and their ingredients are all symbiotic, meaning that big bundle of carrots, or cilantro, or tomatoes I purchased will be used in at least 3 different meals.
I am more strategic, more thoughtful, and less wasteful overall. And guess what, we’re eating better than ever!
Buy only what you need to waste less food
When you create a budget for your groceries and buy food that, for instance, lasts you a week, you're halfway there because this habit significantly reduces food wastes by up to a half. Have a budget and stick to it!
I have taught myself to get comfortable to the sight of empty cabinets, fridge, and freezer. Believe me; this has helped me save a lot of money. I don’t need to see an abundance of food in my home to know that my family will be well fed.
I know that by following Tip#1, I’ve got my plan set for the next 5-7 days, and almost nothing will go to waste. Having a well-stocked pantry is key to this approach.
Build a well-stocked pantry to waste less food
Keep a nicely stocked pantry of non-perishable foods and you’ll be amazed what you can whip up with a canned of tomatoes, stock, coconut milk, beans, and spices. I can think of 10 different meals off the top of my head that could use these as a base! Just add a protein, some fresh veg and you've got yourself a world of options!
Always try to buy pantry items in bulk when they are on sale. Shop for items such as chia seeds, and nuts in bigger quantities because they don't spoil easily and they could take you a couple of months to go through if stored properly.
Common Pantry Staples:
Boxes of pasta
Couscous and Quinoa
Rice and Risotto
Dry good essentials:
Chocolate Chips, Cacao Nibs
Basic Herbs, Spices & Oils:
Cook your own meals to waste less food
To the slightly more domestic this might seem obvious that cooking your own meals leads to less waste..but for a large majority of people, cooking is just not their thing.
Now, that’s completely fair, if you really don’t enjoy it, but often when I ask people why they don’t enjoy cooking it isn’t due to the process of cooking or the time involved, it’s the fact they don’t feel confident cooking for themselves which leads to anxiety over what to make, confusion over what to buy, and a general dissatisfaction with what they prepared. This typically leads to a lot of waste. And a lot of Uber Eats deliveries.
The key takeaway here is education. We will live in age where information is right at our finger tips, so it’s as simple as watching some YouTube videos or download a cooking app and you’ll be off to the races. Learn how to cook, and appreciate that it takes time and a few fails before you can knock out a perfect risotto. But, those fails are still edible! Just give yourself permission to learn and grow and you will unlock a love for cooking.
Plus, you don't have to start with all three meals. Start small. Once you become more confident you’ll want to cook all your meals. When you start cooking your own meals, rather than relying on takeout, delivery, or dining out I you'll be surprised at how many benefits you'll be rewarded with:
-You'll get to try a lot of recipes and each culinary experience will be an adventure
-You’ll save a ton of money!
-You’ll feel and look better – being able to know what goes into your food is critical to a healthy diet
-You'll discover a new hobby!
-And of course, you will waste less food!
Buy in season and local to waste less food
By now we know (or should know) that importing food uses a lot of resources and this definitely negatively affects the environment. The only way we can reduce this impact is by sourcing for local foods that are in season. A decade ago this approach sounded almost abstract, but now it's common practice among professional and home cooks alike as an incredible way to waste less food!
Visit farmers markets and talk to vendors about what is in season and what's coming down the road (quite literally). They'll be happy to share their insight and may even given you some ideas for what to make from say that butternut squash, or zucchini. Local tastes better, has a lower carbon 'foodprint' and often is more affordable too!
You could even take it up a notch and get into foraging for mushrooms, berries and other fruits. But be sure to do your research here first, and learn to walk before you can run.
Some final thoughts on how to waste less food at home...
Overall, the key to wasting less food at home is really all about educating yourself, and having a bit of a plan to go on. The more you do this, week over week, the easier it becomes. Just give yourself time to get there and you’ll start to realize the amazing benefits it will have on your life, your family’s life, and the health of our planet!