Updated: Jan 31
In this write-up, I am not going to give statistical data of tons of food wastage observed every year. Because numbers seem not to affect us viscerally and we will not realize the amount of food wastage unless we weigh them and get a palpable feel of it.
Here are 8 tips to avoid and reduce food wastage at a home scale.
Buy only what you need.
Prepare a checklist for the week and buy what you need. Even if you feel like trying out a new product/ ingredient, think twice and ask yourself if you will consume that product within its validity. If you have second thoughts about anything, do not buy that product! ‘Buy-one-get-one-free’ and other bulk deals lead to buying more than we need, shifting the waste from the store to our home. In food waste terms, it’s wise not to buy more than needed.
Remember our grandmothers. They used to make a list of all the food essentials required and get it done. We must get back to those habits, and that’s the only way we know what we are buying and to control wastage.
Prepare a meal plan for the week.
Use a shopping list, noting the amounts required. (allowance for two new products for trial)
Fix days in a month for eating out, so that you plan for those particular days. If unplanned, prepare what you’re supposed at home and eat in a lesser quantity outside.
2. Understand the shelf-life of each product you buy.
Know the difference between ‘Use-by date’ and ‘Best-before date.’ According to the validity of each product, prepare a meal plan for the week. Store perishables according to the temperature required, because they are highly susceptible to spoilage. Read the product label for storage instructions. Do not store dry products in a wet container or buy those that are tampered. By following the above guidelines you are preventing the products from spoilage and wastage.
3. Use what you have in the fridge and pantry.
Do not overstock. Overstocking lead to poor planning of usage of resources and hence lead to spoilage and wastage.
Check what’s in the fridge and cupboards regularly and use up foods nearing their expiry dates. Follow proper First-in-First-out system.
Rotate food stores when fresh groceries arrive so that those with nearer expiry dates are closer and visible. For fresh produce, follow First-expiry-First-out. Use up those that are highly-perishable and then move on to those that are comparatively lesser perishable.
If you notice a small number of vegetables/ fruits remaining, combine them in soups or smoothies. If you find them annoying, sautee the veggies and for fruits, make popsicles. During such a situation, find ways to use the leftover and enjoy a new recipe and avoid throwing out good food.
Freeze food before its date. I freeze my bananas and strawberries. They last for an extended period, and this is one of the best ingredients to smoothies.
4. Plan for the week
Calculative planning and decision are one of the best ways to prevent and reduce wastage. Because we are aware of what we need and what we buy, at the same time, meal planning for the whole week will allow us to prepare quantitatively and with much awareness. Hence, this way, there is no such food wastage. Even if there are such cases, we will find ways to incorporate it as soups, salads, smoothies, snacks, etc.
5. Avoid serving too much.
I understand when it comes to our favorite food, we tend to bite more than we can chew.
Here are some simple practices that help:
Serve small portions and come back for seconds, rather than scraping excess food from our plates into the bin and feel guilty about it.
Use leftovers for lunch the next day.
Not enough leftovers for a whole meal? Mix and match from different meals, add some salad or bread, and get more innovative to brag about it on your Instagram!
6. Know about molds
There is always this fear when it comes to mold. Despite storing the bread at ambient temperature and under dry conditions, within two days, the mold appears, and you are unsure if the bread is safe to consume — same way with the aged cheese. You don’t know if either of these is going to the trash.
The following general rules can help us know what to do.
Hard foods should be safe to consume once we remove the moldy part along with the surrounding area. These include hard cheeses, hard cured meats (such as salami and ham), and firm fruits and vegetables (such as cabbages bell peppers, root vegetables). The mold does not penetrate the product because of the harder texture.
Discard Soft foods, once they start to mold. These include cooked leftovers, soft cheeses (Feta, mozzarella), yogurt, and other dairy products, bread, jams, and soft fruits and veggies (such as cucumbers, peaches, tomatoes, berries, carrots, and so on). These are because mold can spread in soft foods (and we might not even see it).
So, the next time when you notice a cheese with a herd of mold- be happy that the cheese is aged beautifully and is going to taste delicious!
7. Share excess food with those who are in need.
If the food is still safe, and you know that you are not consuming that food, please do share it with those who are in need.
Ask around, friends or colleagues could make use of what we won’t.
Check if there are food banks around that accept donations and distribute them to people in need.
Invite neighbors over for a meal; it’s not only an excellent way to gain new friends.
Pack the food/ingredients and give them to the maid.
8. Repurpose wastes- Compost bins/ bio-enzymes.
Try to repurpose food wastes — vegetable stems and fruit peels, before they make it to the compost bin. For instance, the stems of Broccoli and cauliflower can be chopped and cooked just as well as the florets, and transform other scraps into vegetable stock/broth.
Composting is a natural process where microorganisms biodegrade food waste, turning it into a dark, earthy, nutrient-rich material that promotes healthy soil.
Follow waste segregations — Dry, wet, recyclable wastes, and oil. By doing this, you have already segregated the ones that will go into the compost bins.
We can feed our garden! Compost is an affordable organic alternative to purchased fertilizer. Still, it’s best to stick to plant-based foods (as meat and animal products could lead to undesired odors and pest visitors).
In the case of oils used for deep-frying, they can be repurposed by giving those reused oils to the aggregators, who use for mechanical and bio-diesel purposes.
Bio-enzyme cleaners are organic solutions produced by fermentation of fruits, vegetables, sugar, and water. The bacteria do this by producing enzymes specifically designed to break down specific molecules(waste and soils) into smaller pieces. For this, you can use the citric fruit peels and repurpose it as a bio-enzyme cleanser for home-purpose (Bathroomcleaner, floor cleaner, soap solutions, etc.).
Image Courtesy:- WikiHow.com
Citrus Peels — 3 kilograms (use peels of oranges, lemons, pineapple, and sweet lime/sweet lime)
Water — 10 Litres
Brown Sugar / Jaggery — 1 Kilogram
Yeast — 1 Teaspoon
Some of the mobile apps that I have been using to keep a track:
KITCHENPAL- Pantry Manager, Grocery List & Recipes
My Kitchen: Expiry Dates, Shopping List, Pantry
Best Before — Food tracker
Super Cook- Recipes by ingredients
Nosh- Food Inventory & Expiry date management