Food is precious and necessary in sustaining life. Why are we throwing away so much of it? I hope this article helps you reduce food waste in your household. Let me tell you why this matters to me.
I’ve been on a journey of only having what I need. In the last year I’ve cleared out most of my junk in my closet and garage, but my next step was to tackle my kitchen.
Minimalism isn’t just about owning less, it’s about needing less too. This extends to food as well.
My pantry used to be packed with food. Then every year or so, I’d go in and throw away anything that was expired. I couldn’t believe how much stuff I’d throw away. I felt like I was throwing not only food away, but my hard-earned money.
I know I needed to reduce food waste if I wanted to be a true minimalist.
Here’s why reducing food waste is important.
Did you know that almost half of all food that is produced for you and me to consume ends up being wasted? Yep, in a landfill instead of our stomachs. Food waste is a serious problem and we all need to do something about it.
The reason why food waste is such a major issue is that it has taken land, water, nutrients, energy and manual labor to produce. Then it takes fuel to transport from the farm to your local grocery store and on to your household.
All of this work and almost half of it will end up going into the garbage. What a waste!
At the very same time that we are all throwing away our food, people in poverty around the world go hungry. It’s not just people in third world countries, there are people who go hungry in your own community as well.
Read on to see 6 methods on how to reduce food waste once and for all.
1. Ignore Expiration Dates
You are smarter than the “best if used by” tag on the bread you bought. Use your own best judgement to recognize if something has spoiled yet.
Look at it, smell it, cut it open, taste it. If it passes all of those tests, that food is good enough to eat.
We all age differently too. Not all 40, 50 or 60 year olds are built the same. We all have unique expiration dates if you will.
Remember, retailers have an incentive to setting pre-emptive expiration dates – they want you to come back and buy it again sooner.
2. Store Your Food Items Properly
In order to reduce food waste in your home, you also need to store your food the right way.
• Transport them carefully
When loading items to you car, be careful not to squish sensitive items like cookies or soft fruit. If you do, your picky housemates might not want to eat those afterward.
• Organize your refrigerator
When you are putting items away in your refrigerator, don’t just put the new items in front and shove the older ones backward. If you do, the older ones are destined to become food waste.
• Put your items away as soon as you get home
Your milk and eggs have been in your shopping cart for half an hour and the hot car for another half hour. Don’t let these items sit out any longer than they have to.
• Put other non-fridge items in the fridge
Items like tortillas, bread, tomatoes and avocados won’t spoil as quick when placed in the refrigerator. You can extend their shelf life by weeks by placing them in the fridge.
• Place items in sealed plastic containers
Some food items, like fruits and veggies that are cut in half, also tend to keep better when placed in airtight containers.
3. Eat Imperfect Fruits and Vegetables
If a piece of a veggie or a fruit has gone bad, just cut that part off. It’s much better than throwing the whole thing out.
We’re all different too, with our bruises and scars. Imagine if we were thrown out just for an imperfection?
Many items we all throw away every day are salvageable. The only exception here is a serious mold issue.
Extend this further to your grocery store shopping habits. If you see a sad tomato that you need for your dinner today, reduce food waste and save that tomato from the landfill! A little wrinkly skin or dent never hurt anyone.
4. Do Not Buy More Food Than You Need
Businesses, including grocery stores, are in it to make money. Their number one goal is to get you to add more items in your shopping cart. That’s why you see the well produced product boxes, the well thought out layout of the store and of course the mega sales left and right.
More often than not, grocery stores succeed at getting us to buy more than we need. How often have you gone to the store to buy “only one thing” and end up with a shopping cart full of food? We’ve all been there.
The grocery chains don’t want you to reduce food waste, they encourage it! The more food is wasted the faster you’ll come back to buy more.
Become consciously aware of their tactics and do not fall for the “buy one get one free” trick.
There are three consequences of buying more than you need:
• The extra food you buy ends up being wasted food.
What’s the point of buying two packages of strawberries if the extra one ends up in the garbage next week?
• You end up spending more money.
You do not save any money when you buy two and get the third for free. You probably only needed one in the first place.
• You fill your pantry with more clutter.
Items in the back of your fridge or pantry are destined to end up in the landfill.
To stop buying more than you need, do the following five things:
• Do not shop when you’re hungry.
When you need sugar, everything starts to look good after a while! When you shop after eating, you only end up buying what you truly need.
After I’m done with a meal, honestly I just want to sleep, or at least rest. The last thing I want to do is go to a grocery store and spend money.
This is precisely why those are the times I specifically choose to go.If you typically go to the grocery store at 4PM every Friday before dinner, plan instead to go at 12PM every Friday after breakfast/lunch! Your pocketbook will thank you.
• Bring cash to the grocery store.
You can’t overspend if you physically limit yourself! On the other hand, if you bring a credit card then the amount of money you can spend is practically limitless. Even though you get rewards points with your credit card, it’s not worth it compared to the amount they make you overspend.
• Be consciously aware.
When you practice minimalism, you end up being more aware of your actions. You are freeing your mind to see the actions that you’re taking.
In my pre-minimalist life, when going to a grocery store to buy food I would walk around like a zombie, going aisle to aisle and dropping things in my cart left and right.
Never did I give an ounce of thought to what I was doing. If it looked good, in it went. A credit card swipe and off I went back home to unpack bags and bags worth of junk.
By practicing mindfulness, I now can clearly see not just what I’m buying, but why I’m being it! Everything I do (and buy) now has a purpose that matters.
• Carry a basket, not a cart.
When I was trying to lose weight, one of the tactics I employed was to use smaller plates to control my portion sizes.
The same principle applies with shopping at the grocery store. When you carry a basket, you think twice about what you have to put in there.
The sheer weight of it will make you want to get what you need and leave, before your arm falls off.
• Plan your meals.
When you have a meal plan set in place, you know what you are going to eat and when you are going to eat it. Leave little to no room in deviation from this food schedule.
This way, when going to the grocery store, you know what you need every week – and what you don’t.
5. Plan Your Meals
When you have no meal plan for the week, you are bound to throw food away. If you are serious about wanting to reduce food waste in your household, you need to have a meal plan.
The food that is the most perishable needs to be used first before the longer lasting food does.
Food items that rarely spoil, such as beans, rice and pasta, should be eaten once all of your perishable items have already been consumed.
If the other members in your household don’t cooperate, be the fridge-nazi and just rearrange items in the fridge (and the pantry) so that the most perishable items are in the front.
6. Don’t Throw It Away Just Yet
You used your hard earned money to buy an item. Why waste it? If you can no longer find a use for some food, whether it’s because you have too much of it, or because there’s not much left of it, don’t throw it away just yet. You can reduce food waste by doing the following:
• Make a soup.
If some veggies are going limp, make them into a soup.
• Eat the skin.
If it’s a potato, for example, why not eat the skin too? The outside of the fruit/veggie is sometimes just as nutritious, if not more, than the inside.
• Make compost.
Your food scraps can also be composted and turned into rich soil for your plants. Even better if you have a small garden where you grow your own food.
• Feed it to the dog (or cat).
Trust me they’re not as picky as you are. Just be sure to do a quick google search on whether it’s safe to feed to your pet.
• Give it away on Freecycle.
If you have an orange tree, for example, that gives you more oranges than you can handle, you can list it on Freecycle and someone can come pick them up.
• Dig a hole in the garden.
If you don’t want your food waste to end up in the landfill. Let mother nature (including worms) take care of your food waste for you. Dig a hole and throw your food scraps in there.
Do you have any tips on how to reduce food waste? Let me know in the comments section below.