Food waste is one of the major waste fractions generated everywhere, especially in houses and restaurants. Given its main characteristic, namely biodegradability, it is necessary to collect it regularly and to treat/dispose it quickly.
Food waste consists of leftovers, excessive and/or spoiled meals. Unfortunately, no potent measures are taken and about 95% of the food waste ends up in landfills and incineration facilities. According to the EPA US, only in 2014, the amount of food waste disposed of in landfills exceeded 38 million tons.
Why it is important to reduce food waste
Several arguments can be used to convince you to reduce food waste. However, the following three are the most important:
Support your community
You can support your community by donating untouched meals which otherwise would be thrown away as food waste.
Lower your carbon footprint
When landfilled, food waste biodegrades and produces methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more drastic than CO2. In that way, by reducing food waste you prevent methane emissions and lower your carbon footprint.
You can save money from buying less food. Simple as that!
How to reduce food waste
Appropriate planning, preparation and storage can help you to reduce food waste. A list of useful tips per category is provided below:
Basic goal of planning is to avoid buying more, or at least much more, than what you will need. The benefits from appropriate planning include saving money, keeping fresh the materials and of course using them all. The only thing you need to do is to prepare a list with the weekly meals you intend to prepare and you are ready to start.
- Write down the meals you will prepare and the ingredients required for them. In that way it becomes much easier and clearer what ingredients you need to buy. If you have no idea how to start choose the meals you enjoy more and begin with them.
- Adjust the quantity of ingredients after answering the following two questions:
- How many meals should I prepare this week? Check your schedule and see if you have arranged any dinner out, etc.
- How many meals will I prepare with each item? In that way you can adjust the quantities to avoid overbuying.
- Before going out for shopping, check first your fridge and cupboards to avoid buying stuff you already have. A list of “forgotten” ingredients not only will save you money but it can also give you very good ideas on what meals to prepare.
- Do not deviate from the list. Buy only the ingredients you have written down and you will use. Materials bought in excessive quantities may spoil before used.
These tips will be useful if you can’t avoid overbuying of ingredients. Appropriate storage will allow your fresh fruits and vegetables to taste better and to remain fresh by the time you will eat them. In that way you will be able to eat more of them.
- Find out which is the best way to store the fruits and vegetables you buy to maintain their freshness either inside or outside the refrigerator. The main reason is that while ripening, many fruits produce gases that can make other fruits to spoil faster. In general try to store vegetables and fruits in separate containers, especially tomatoes, apples and bananas.
- Overplus fruits and vegetables can be frozen, preserved or canned. This approach can be quite useful especially for abundant seasonal production.
- If you prefer to eat fruit at room temperature but it needs to be stored in the fridge to maintain its freshness, take what you will eat for the day out of the fridge in the morning.
As soon as you get home from shopping prepare all the easily spoilt ingredients. In that way it will be much easier to quickly prepare meals later in the week, saving valuable time and effort.
- First of all wash, dry, chop or dice, and put your ingredients in clean and appropriate storage containers. The ingredients will be easily available for cooking and snacks.
- Freeze meat, vegetables, sliced vegetables and even bread in case you know that you will not eat them in time.
- Following the above prepare all the perishable ingredients and then freeze them. They will be available for use at anytime.
- Reduce the time you spend in kitchen by preparing and freezing your meals in advance.
- When eating out avoid ordering dishes you will not be able to finish. To do so, ask about the portion sizes and of course do not to forget the side dishes you have ordered.
- At all-you-can-eat buffets, take only what you can eat.
- Even if not very fresh, your ingredients may be fine for cooking. Use them and make tasteful soups, sauces, smoothies, baked goods, etc. It would be beneficial if you would navigate on the web and learn the difference between “sell-by”, “best by” and expiration dates.
- Use your leftovers or the edible parts of food that you do not normally eat to make new dishes. You can visit websites that propose recipes from leftovers. Simply and fast stale bread can be turned to croutons; vegetable scraps can make a salad, etc. Actually you can schedule a night every week that you will make meals only from leftovers.