Food waste is a more serious issue than many people realise. Nearly one-third of all food produced in the world is discarded or wasted for various reasons. This equates roughly to nearly 1.3 billion tons every year.
With the rising food prices across many countries, it is only wise that every household becomes more conscious in their food usage to curb wastage and save cost.
As well as the several benefits involved in reducing food waste for individual households, there are also significant impacts it provides for the environment. When food is discarded and taken to dumpsites, it produces methane – a greenhouse gas that is more potent than carbon dioxide, thereby contributing to the already worsening climate change. Also, the energy and resources it takes to grow, harvest, transport and package the food is wasted as well.
The World Resources Institute notes that reducing food waste by half would benefit the environment significantly by reducing the need for land, water, and other resources to grow food. The World Resources Institute states that cutting food waste in half would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050. The institute further stated that 24 per cent of the water used for agriculture is lost through food waste every year. This amounts to about 45 trillion gallons.
While each household can help with this process, governments, corporations, and farmers will need to make significant changes to reduce their waste to achieve these goals.
Reducing food waste benefits individuals in many ways, including saving money from buying and wasting less food. Organising and structuring meals may save a person significant amounts of time in the long run and make their eating habits much simpler and healthier.
While the average consumer is not the greatest environmental polluter compared to large corporations, finding ways to reduce food waste can help a person to avoid contributing to the problem. Thus, reducing the impact food wastage has on the environment and also creating a healthier food future for all.
Below are eight ways to effectively reduce food waste in homes, save money and time and take some pressure off the environment.
Avoid buying too much
One of the simplest ways to cut down food waste in the household is to buy less. While it is tempting to buy food items when they can be found cheap to store them for when they might be needed, this can inadvertently lead to wastage.
For many Nigerian families, there is a temptation to stock up on certain food items, especially those that get expensive as they go out of season. But in many cases, these hoarded food items might go bad even before they are used.
A nutritionist, Amelia Winslow, said, “Just because something is ‘buy two, get one free’ doesn’t mean you should go for it. If you buy more than you need and most of something goes to waste, then it was not much of a deal. Think about what you will use up and buy just that amount.”
Always make a shopping list
Even the most experienced shoppers will get sidetracked without a list. Save yourself time, money and food waste by going to the market with a list of ingredients for a few meals and snacks. Buying foods that are already in the home can ultimately become another source of waste. In the end, while stocking the home with what is already there may look appealing, it may lead to food waste if the household cannot eat all of the food.
According to a dietitian, Jillian Kubala, making an inventory of the food in the house and making a list before going to the store might help people to avoid purchasing unnecessary foods and cut back on potential waste.
Organise the kitchen with FIFO
Organising the fridge and pantry can help people keep track of what they have at home and help them to identify foods that are ready to eat.
FIFO stands for “first in, first out” and is a useful way to organise food at home. Many restaurants and grocery stores use this system to reduce waste, too.
Winslow stated, “Placing newly bought foods at the back of the cupboard or fridge will encourage people to use the food in the front row first, which will ensure freshness and reduce waste. For example, if a person keeps lots of tins at home, ensure that the ones closest to their expiry dates are at the front of the cupboard and use those first.”
Store food correctly
One of the most profound problems Nigerian households face is how to properly store food items to prevent them from wastage. With the erratic power supply plaguing the country, this dilemma is further worsened. Perishable items, such as fruits and vegetables, each have their best ways to store to avoid spoilage.
Kubala advised that keeping the refrigerator below 5°C (41°F), storing cooked food on shelves above raw food and storing food in sealed containers in no small way helps to prevent food spoilage. Potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers, and onions should however never be refrigerated. They should be kept at room temperature.
She said, “Always transfer leftovers from open cans into a suitable container. Do not store it in the can. Also, freeze extra fruit or vegetables if they can’t be used before they go bad. Freezing foods can help preserve them for later use and prevent them from spoiling. Many fresh fruits and vegetables keep well when frozen, extending their shelf life and reducing waste.”
Be familiar with expiry dates
The dates on different foods mean different things (for example, the “expiration date” on milk is a sell-by date, not a use-by date), so just because you see a date in the recent past doesn’t mean food should be tossed. When stored properly, most foods will last a little longer than their printed date anyway. If a product looks, smells and tastes good then it’s probably fine. (Note: food-borne illnesses don’t usually come from eating expired food; they come from mishandling and cross-contamination).
Also, writing down the types of foods that go bad can help you identify the foods that you can cut back on. For example, if you find yourself throwing out many tubers of yams as they go bad, the solution might be to buy fewer yams to avoid this spoilage.
Some people don’t mind eating the same thing for days, while others never touch leftovers. If you’re not the leftovers type (or will be eating out/away from home a lot in the coming days), make only what you will truly eat in a given meal.
Although many people save excess food from large meals, it is often forgotten in the fridge, and then tossed when it goes bad. Storing leftovers in transparent containers rather than in opaque containers helps ensure you don’t forget the food.
Kubala stated, “If you happen to cook a lot and tend to have leftovers, designate a day to use up any that have accumulated in the fridge. It’s a great way to avoid throwing away food and saves you time and money.”
Economical serving sizes
The world over, overeating is a problem for many people. But making sure your portion sizes stay within a healthy range doesn’t just help keep your weight down, it in no small way reduces food waste.
While you may not think twice about scraping the leftover food on your plate into the trash, remember that food waste has a major impact on the environment. Being a lot more mindful of how hungry you are and practising portion control is great ways to reduce food waste.
Pack your lunch
Even though going out to lunch with co-workers or grabbing that tasty meal from your favourite amala seller may be enjoyable, it also contributes to food waste.
A healthy way to save money while reducing food wastage is to take a pack of lunch with you to work. If you tend to generate leftovers from home-cooked meals, pack them up for a satisfying and healthy lunch for your workday and also for your children to take to school as well.
Kubala noted, “If you’re strapped for time in the morning, try freezing your leftovers in portion-sized containers. That way, you’ll have premade healthy lunches to go each morning.