The statistics on food waste is really alarming! Statistics aside, I really just hate seeing food being wasted because in real terms it means money being wasted. I remember when my own daughter was younger I would chastise her for wasting food and informing her that many people in parts of Africa have very little or nothing to eat. Being a cheeky one, she would often tell me to take her food to them! I am glad that as an older teen she is not that wasteful anymore and we can move ahead doing our bit to eradicate food waste.
Look how Much Food Waste is There
One report says that UK households binned £13bn worth of food in 2015. That’s astronomical to even try to fathom! That is a whole lot of food (and money!) When you consider how that wasted money could be used to help so many families who are in dire need of basic essentials, I don’t know about you but it pains my heart. The report goes on to say that there is a stalling of the progress initiated years earlier to try to stop food waste! What are we doing! We all need to stop and take stock and make conscious efforts to reduce the amount of food and money we are wasting. Find out what works for you and your family and run with it.
I have found what works for us to minimize food waste in our family so I will be sharing these with you.
By the way, it is important to note that food waste comes from post farm food surplus and waste from households, retail, wholesale, manufacture and hospitality and food service waste in the UK. We might not be able to help much with the waste coming from all those industries but what we can do in our homes, we should.
I first became interested in food waste and its implications when as a college kid, about 5 of my classmates and I did our work experience placements at a catering firm which prepared the meals for an airline. We saw food waste on an epic proportion! As fresh college kids, we made some plans, documented our findings and recommendations and had a meeting with the company. We did not get anywhere with our enthusiasm, sadly.
Our recommendation for what to do with unused food fell on deaf ears. We even offered to take the unused food to help the needy, those who lived on the streets, those who could not afford to give their children decent meals, but not one bit of our suggestion was taken. Sadly (or maybe not) that company went bust and is no longer operating.
So here are the suggestions:
As part of a frugal lifestyle, in our family, we embrace meal planning. After the schedule is made up, we go shopping purposefully for the things we need to make those meals. It works every time! Nothing in excess is bought therefore less chance of food being wasted. If you don’t make a plan, then you are planning to fail. This little saying works in the area of meal planning too.
A lot of the food we buy is wasted because we do not store them effectively. Food manufacturers are required by law to state how packaged food is to be stored. We do well if we follow the recommendations and store food well so that they are at their peak when we are ready to use them so there is less likelihood of them going to waste. It is particularly important to keep cold foods cold. Check your fridge periodically. It should operate between 0 – 5 degrees Celcius. Foods which are to be stored in this temperature range will go off faster if your fridge temperature is not correct.
Strangely, some foods don’t like being stored in the fridge. So don’t store them there. Bananas are a good example.
Luckily, in our family, we love fruits and consume a lot of them all year round. Of course, some fruits are not available all year round. When they are available and there is a glut on the market, we buy a lot, prepare them for freezing and then later in the year use them for smoothies, pies, and toppings. If you do not have the capacity to store excess food, don’t buy it. If it is very cheap and you have others you would like to share with, go ahead.
CHECK PORTION SIZES
You know how many people are in your family right? So cook for them considering age, dietary needs, appetite and the storage space you have. Try to avoid cooking in excess especially if you have no space to store it safely. As well, if you cook meals to freeze, think about the container sizes so that you manage portion control better. By that I mean, think about the amount of food and size of the container for the meal for a 6-foot man as compared to an 8-year-old girl. Think smart!
BUILD YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF RECIPES
Sometimes food is wasted simply because of our limited knowledge of how to prepare and cook some ingredients in ways our family will love. The World Wide Web has thousands of recipes that you can have free access to. Make use of them. In our family, we sometimes have the best meals just before we are going on holiday and we try to use foods before we go. You can search for a recipe that uses stale bread and raspberries for example and you will be sure to find a lot on offer. Casseroles, stir-frys and soups are a great way to use leftovers. Some of my best meals are made when the cupboards are almost bare.
LET CHILDREN TAKE AN INTEREST IN FOOD AND COOKING
Children will be less inclined to waste food if they had some part in the making of it. They are also less inclined to waste if they know where their food comes from. I am amazed by the strange answers kids give when talking about where food comes from. I’ve even heard a child say they thought eggs grew underground!
What else can you do as a family?
Well, you know all you can eat buffet restaurants? If and when you do go there, only put on your plate, what you can in fact eat. Full-stop. What do you think happens to the food you’ve piled high on your plate if you don’t eat it.
Learn about best before, use by and expiration dates on food packages.
Grow and use what you can in terms of food.
If you have excess food, consider others. You can donate to charities.
Get to know your local food bank and help out with supplies or service whenever you can.
Do some stock rotation in your kitchen so that you use first the foods that have a shorter shelf life.
Start composting as part of a frugal lifestyle. Then you can use the compost in your own garden, give some to others, and generally add to cutting down on food waste.
If we all did our part we all will benefit. Think of landfill with lots of food dumped and piled high. Now think of that same landfill and instead of being piled high with food, it is piled high with money. Would you want to go retrieve some of that money? So let us all try to get at the food before it gets to the landfill.
Have a good week.
Do check out how frugal we were last week.