It’s not a problem in my home with three growing boys but when it does happen, it’s typically around food items like a tub of sour cream – purchased as an ingredient for one recipe yet afterwards, left to develop green scum in the back of my fridge. But, here’s the deal: This is a real problem and while I could already surmise that the U.S. would top the wasteful list, it’s a global issue.
Food waste isn’t something that I’ve given much thought to. Then the green blog of an environmentally conscious church, fumcgreen shared some tips for reducing household food waste. I was inspired to learn more and now feel bitterly disappointed but inspired to share and to cultivate thoughts about ways to improve this scenario.
The Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology commissioned an in-depth study on food waste which revealed that 30% of the world’s food supply is lost or wasted. This waste occurs at every step in the food chain from agricultural production to processing to distribution and consumption. The more industrialized the nation, the further along on that chain, the waste occurs. And at the consumption level, which is the stage I’m talking about in this post, the most wasted items are fruits and vegetables including roots and tubers.
Think of the impact. If 30% of food is wasted it also means that the efforts and resources that went into producing were wasted. And there is still a significant population living in food insecurity throughout the world. This issue deserves more attention. Here are a few ways to start in your home:
1. Begin to notice what’s in your trash. Start paying attention to what you throw away and share that information with your household. Get your kids involved documenting it for a full week and then put together a plan to adjust your purchases accordingly. (This goes way beyond food items.)
2. Inventory your pantry and your refrigerator. Move older items to a more visible spot so you’ll use them first. Check the temperature and keep it somewhere between 35 and 38 degrees F (1.7 to 3.3 degrees C). That will slow bacteria growth without freezing your food.
3. Make a meal plan ahead of time to ensure you use what you have on hand. This will also help you avoid supermarket “three for two” specials designed to drive consumption. And everyone knows the bit about not shopping when hungry!
4. Learn to save food by canning, freezing or dehydrating. Freezing is also great for nuts, leftovers and bulk purchases.
5. Put pressure on your childrens’ school to have outdoor playtime before they eat. That way the kids aren’t tossing their PBJs in order to get to four square and the swing set.
6. Find ways to use the whole vegetable; carrot tops, beet, radish, and kohlrabi greens. This can be fun and you’ll end up with some new specialties.
7. Find useful substitutes for those one off items required for your recipe that you might not use again. This is easily the greatest space hog in my fridge. In the future, I’ll use kefir for sour cream.
8. Share. If it’s a better deal to buy a larger quantity, try to find a friend who’ll split it with you. I’ve even done this with strangers in the store! After purchase, when you have a big quantity, send some to a neighbor or have them over for a meal.
9. Compost the peels, coffee grounds, egg shells and other items that you don’t make stock with.
10. Buy seasonal food directly from farmers. I’ll bet you saw that coming!