Monday, July 13, 2015

7 easy ways on how to minimize food waste

Posted by Amanda Villaruel |
Do you know how much food waste we generate?

In the US, Americans threw out roughly 35 million tons of food, according to Environmental Protection Agency.1 According to Institute of Food Research, UK households waste 6,7 million tons of food every year.2 In tiny Norway, where I live, Norwegians throw 300,000 tons of food each year - food that is still edible. 
How to minimize food waste in  the household
How to minimize food waste in  the household


First of all ... 

Before you start reducing your food waste, you should first make a list of what food you throw and why you throw the food. If you know the reason, then you can do something about it in the future ;-)

Making food waste lists also make us more conscious about how much we throw, and hopefully this will have a preventive effect in the future :-)

A tip is to write a list every day for one week, and keep tabs on what goes in the trash.
Dinner from leftover groceries
Dinner from leftover groceries

For example: What is thrown away: Leftover from Thursday. Reason: forgotten about it and now it's moldy.

After one week, go through the list and work out the solutions. Below you'll find some tips on reducing food waste :-)

1) Plan a weekly menu and stick to it

By planning the menu for the week and shopping accordingly, you're kind of forced to follow the plan and use the ingredients you bought. There's no room to deviate :-)

Things to think about: Are you cooking new dinner almost every day? Maybe cook one dinner that will last for two days? Having a leftover day or two?

2) Don't make more food than what you actually can consume

Just because you're making dinner for four persons, doesn't mean that everyone needs and eats the same amount.

When I make dinner for me and my boyfriend, I always ask him how hungry he is and ultimately I cook more food (for him). If I'm cooking food for my parents and sister, I know that they don't eat as much rice as I do.

3) Check the fridge/cupboard regularly and use the food you have 

... before going on another trip to the grocery store. It's easier than you think! Make it a habit of checking the fridge and cupboard before you head out to the grocery store ;-)

You may have:
  • Vegetables and fruits that have gone a bit soft such as potatoes, carrots and tomatoes 
But instead of discarding them, throw them in the pot and make a stew or a delicious wok noodle or rice dish. Or maybe try a Spanish omelette to 'get rid' of the potatoes, or tomato soup to use up the tomatoes.

Got any leftover tomato sauce? Store it in the fridge and use it for homemade pizzas and pasta dishes.

Leftover rice or noodles? Save it for a Thai or Vietnamese dish later on.

Fresh bread is also a food article that many throw away, because it dries out fast. Well, why not make french toasts?

Leftover lunch/dinner should be placed visible in the fridgeso you don't forget about it the next few days.
French toast with cheddar, tomatoes and broccoli sprouts - how to minimize food waste
French toast with cheddar, tomatoes and broccoli sprouts -
how to minimize food waste

4) Leftover Sunday

Make it a habit of making lunch and dinner from leftover food, on Fridays or Sundays. You can of course be flexible about which day to have leftover dinner, as long as the leftovers are used :-)

Read: An environmentalist choosing between the lesser of two evils.

5) Learn how to store fruits and vegetables properly

Certain fruits that give off high levels of ethylene gas will speed the decay of vegetables that are ethylene-sensitive, increasing the chances of spoiling the vegetables before you get the chance to eat them.

According to Vegetarian Times, you might be storing incompatible fruits and vegetables together if they rot just after a few days.3
Organic lemons - ethylene gas
Organic lemons

Lemons as an example, should be stored in a bowl on the kitchen bench, separated from ethylene-sensitive fruits like bananas and avocados.4 The ethylene-sensitive eggplants shouldn't be stored with apples, pears and tomatoes.

Gas releasers like apples, figs, honeydew, apricots and cantaloupe should be refrigerated, according to Vegetarian Times. While avocados, unripe bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and tomtoes, that are also gas releasers, should not be refrigerated. See the list here.

Read: How to keep the lettuce crisp and fresh.

6) Smell the food, or at least know the difference between Best Before and Expiry Date

If I was you, I wouldn't depend solely on the expiration date. The only way of knowing if something isn't edible anymore, is by smelling it! Cooked rice as an example, leaves a distinguish smell when it's overdue, and the regular milk smells sour. In many cases, you'll notice mold on the food.

Although you shouldn't be dependent on expiration dates, it is still important to know what the different date labels mean.

It seems like use-by dates have different meanings depending on where you live. According to NSW Food Authority in Australia, the use-by dates are usually applied on milk and shaved meat - meaning that you shouldn't eat it after the date, because the nutrients in the food may become unstable or a build-up of bacteria might occur.5

The relevant regulation in the European Union prescribes the use of two different types of expiry date, including the use-by date, which is defined as "the last date on which the product should be consumed".6

And in the US, the use-by date means that this is the last recommended date for the use of the product while at peak quality.7

I wonder why there's a difference between the definition of use-by date in the EU and Australia, and the definition in the US...?
The best before date on organic eggs in Norway
The best before date on certified organic eggs in Norway -
how to minimize food waste
"Best before" dates typically occur on dry food, canned food, frozen food, cereals, biscuits, chocolate, sugar and flour.

Here in Norway, the best before date means that the producer guarantees a certain quality up to the written date. It doesn't mean: "Throw Me Now, Please." It means that after the best before date has expired, it might begin to lose its flavor and texture.8 But it's still edible (as long as you store it according to the label).

The same meaning of 'best before' also applies in the US, EU and Australia, as far as I can see.

7) Please Don't Egg Me

Eggs might last longer than you see on the label.

To check if an egg is bad; fill a glass with water and then put an egg in the glass. If the egg floats, it has gone bad. If it sinks, the egg is still edible. Eggs may last beyond the expiration date, but this depends on the quality of the egg.

Eggs from Sweden, Norway and Finland are considered to be of higher quality than eggs in the rest of the world. Norway for instance, follows European guidelines for date marking of eggs, but these guidelines are strict, in the light of the quality of Norwegian eggs, compared to eggs from other countries.9


Also read: 
The Plastic Free July Challenge - simple ways on how to reduce the plastic in your everyday life.

Urban farming project in Oslo - Day 1 - A Newbie's Journey.




Sources:

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