One of the biggest problems our food industry faces is the rampant waste that accounts for almost 50% of our food purchases. According to a report done by the United Nations, Canadian households account for 61% of the total food waste in the country - that's around 79 kg per household every year! There are many reasons that lead to food wastage but we are here to discuss how we can alleviate some of these issues and in turn help our environment and your wallet. Here's six simple tips you can implement in your life to help reduce the food waste problem.
1. Overpurchasing and Meal Planning
Most people tend to buy more food than they need. Though buying in bulk may be convenient, research has shown that this shopping method leads to more food waste. Proper meal planning can help reduce food waste and also bring down your shopping cart expenses. Additionally, try making a list of items that you need to buy and stick to that list. This will help you reduce impulse buying and reduce food waste as well.
Make a point to use up all the food you purchased during the last trip to the market before buying more groceries.
2. Storing Food Correctly
Improper storage leads to a massive amount of food waste. Many people are unsure how to store fruits and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce. For instance, potatoes, tomatoes, garlic and onions do not need to be refrigerated. These items can be kept at room temperature. Separating foods that produce more ethylene gas from those that don’t is another great way to reduce food spoilage. Ethylene promotes ripening in foods and could lead to spoilage.
Foods that produce ethylene gas while ripening include:
- Green onions
Keep these foods away from ethylene-sensitive produce like potatoes, apples, leafy greens, berries and peppers to avoid premature spoilage
3. Re-purpose, Re-use and Extend Shelf Life
While fermenting and pickling are new fads lately, food preservation techniques like these have been used for thousands of years.
Pickling, drying, canning, fermenting, freezing and curing are all methods you can use to make food last longer, thus reducing waste. Not only will these methods shrink your carbon footprint, they will save you money as well. What’s more, most preservation techniques are simple and can be fun.
For example, canning an excess of ripe apples and turning them into applesauce, or pickling fresh carrots from the market will provide you with a delicious and long-lasting treat that even kids will enjoy.
4. UGLY Food
Did you know that rummaging through bins of produce until you find the most perfect-looking one contributes to food waste?
Though identical in taste and nutrition, so-called “ugly” fruits and vegetables get passed up for produce that is more pleasing to the eye. The consumer’s demand for flawless fruits and vegetables has led major grocery chains to buy only picture-perfect produce from farmers. This leads to tons of perfectly good food going to waste.
Do your part by choosing slightly imperfect produce at the grocery store. Slight blemishes, color spots and irregular shapes do not have an impact on flavor or nutritional value of the produce. Don’t ugly shame your vegetables and fruit!
5. Make Homemade Stock
Whipping up a homemade stock is an easy way to use excess food.
Sauté vegetable scraps like the tops, stalks, peels and any other leftover bits with some olive oil or butter, then add water and let them simmer into an aromatic vegetable broth.
Veggies aren’t the only scraps that can be transformed into a flavorsome stock.
Rather than letting the chicken carcass or meat bones leftover from your dinner go to waste, simmer them with veggies, herbs and water to make a homemade stock that will put store-bought broth to shame.
Stocks freeze well and you can pull them as needed.
6. Understand Expiration Dates
“Sell by” and “expires on” are just two of the many confusing terms companies use on food labels to let consumers know when a product will most likely go bad. The task is often left to food producers to determine the date they think a product is most likely to spoil by. The truth is, most food that has just passed its expiration date is still safe to eat.
“Sell by” is used to inform retailers when the product should be sold or removed from the shelves. “Best by” is a suggested date that consumers should use their products by.
Neither of these terms means that the product is unsafe to eat after the given date.
While many of these labels are ambiguous, “use by” is the best one to follow. This term means that the food may not be at its best quality past the listed date
Eliminating your household food waste will have a great impact on your grocery bill and in turn, help out our environment. Understanding where you can save, how you can manipulate your food to extend it and not throwing anything out are all positive steps in helping eliminate unneeded waste.