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How to Eliminate Food Waste from Your Fridge
Food waste is a bigger problem than many people realize. I was guilty of it as many of us are, with a lot of us tending to buy more than is needed. I would easily spend $150 on a weekly shop and at least one thing wouldn’t get eaten either because I didn’t get time to eat or I didn’t end up wanting to eat it before it went out-of-date or rotten.
In fact, nearly one-third of all food produced in the world is discarded or wasted for various reasons. We throw away 7 million tonnes of food and drink from our homes every year, much of which could have been eaten. Though buying in bulk may be convenient, research has shown that this shopping method leads to more food waste.
Food is resource-heavy to produce. Tossing edible food doesn’t just waste money. Discarded food is sent to landfills, where it rots and produces methane gas, which releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Throwing away all this food is contributing to climate change.
The good news is that there are endless ways you can reduce, reuse and recycle your food waste. Not only will they help you waste less food, they may save you money and time as well.
Always Shop with a List
The step to reducing food waste is to inject a bit of organisation into our food consumption. Pre-planning your week’s meals and buying accordingly is the best way to do this. The easiest way I find is to have a wipe board on the fridge or a sticky pad and write down things I need and my meal plans over the week. I’ll then take the note or a picture of the board before I go shopping. Plan your meals ahead and shop with only those specific meals in mind.
To avoid buying more food than you need, you could make frequent trips to the grocery store every few days rather than doing a bulk shopping trip once a week.
Don’t be tempted by supermarket special offers. While they may seem like great value at the time, buying things just because they’re on offer is a sure-fire way to generate more waste, and what do we want? Mor.. Less! We want less! A deal is never a not a good deal if you’re just going to throw it away.
Store Food Correctly & Keep Your Fridge Clutter Free
Improper storage leads to a massive amount of food waste. By keeping your fridge organized you’ll be able to clearly see foods and know when they were purchased.
We’re visual beings. If something gets shoved to the back of the fridge, we are likely to forget about it. While having a well-stocked fridge can be a good thing, an overly filled fridge can be bad when it comes to food waste.
Many people are unsure what temperature their fridge should be and how to store fruits and vegetables, which can lead to premature ripening and, eventually, rotten produce.
Your fridge should be between 0-5C. Food, especially milk, will go off much quicker if it’s warmer. Some foods keep better outside the fridge. This includes bread (keep it in a cool dark place like a bread bin or cupboard), bananas, pineapples, potatoes, garlic, cucumbers, tomatoes and onions.
A good way to stock your fridge is by using the FIFO method, which stands for “first in, first out.” When you’re putting your shopping away, take a couple of minutes to rotate the contents of your cupboards and fridge: make sure older stuff is brought to the front and your shiny new groceries are placed further back. This will save time when you come to actually use them and significantly reduce the chances of anything festering at the back.
Always Stick to the Food Plan
I’m sure we have all bought something for dinner, only to not fancy it come dinner time and order a takeaway instead. I would often buy groceries with grand plans to make something great, and then at the end of the day, I’d end up making something quick and easy, not including any of the ingredients that I’d spent my cash on.
Not sticking to the food plan will end up costing more, and most likely causing more waste. Keep your meals interesting, fresh and enjoyable so you’re more likely to look forward to cooking and eating what you’ve purchased.
Sticking to the food plan will help eliminate the money for food you’re throwing into the garbage as well as that spoiled food.
Always Use Leftovers
Leftovers aren’t just for Thanks giving and Christmas, they’re for life!
Many of us save excess food from a large meal but it is often forgotten or left unwanted in the fridge before being tossed when it goes bad.
If you happen to cook a lot and you regularly have leftovers, designate a day to use up any that have accumulated in the fridge. If there are multiple servings left over, freeze them. Mostly, I try to only make one serving of leftovers, and eat it for lunch the next day. Invest in some decent Tupperware and jars to help store and carry your food. It’s a great way to avoid throwing away food and saves you time and money.
If all else fails and you know you have food that is nearing the end of its life, which you are unlikely to use, a quick Google search can bring up your local food bank. A massive 90% of foodbank food used to provide emergency nutrition to people in crisis is donated by the public, so every little really does help.
Get Friendly with Your Freezer
Another great way to minimise food waste is by using your freezer. While most of us are clued up on batch cooking or freezing leftovers, many of us don’t realise that almost any food can be frozen, so long as it’s frozen before its use-by date.
Got fresh fruit and veg that you can’t use in time? Freeze them! Most fruits can be put straight in the freezer, things like grapes and berries, make great ice cubes. Most vegetables need to be blanched first (chopped and boiled for a couple of minutes then transferred immediately to cold water) to avoid freezer burn. Freezing is not recommended for the following: artichokes, chicory, aubergine, lettuce greens, potatoes (unless they’re mashed), radishes, sprouts or sweet potatoes.
Semi-skimmed and skimmed milk freeze better than whole. If it separates once defrosted, just give it a good shake. Hard cheese also freezes well so you could cut it into smaller portions, or grate some ready to use later. You could use tomato puree for pasta and pizza dishes. Greens that are a bit too soft to be used in your favorite salad can be put in freezer-safe bags or containers and used at a later date in smoothies and other recipes. Strawberries can be used in smoothies or as a sauce for other fresh fruit or ice-cream. Apples can be used in your porridge or a fruit crumble base, and so much more!
Revive Past It Dates
A whopping 20% of food waste is due to confusion about what the dates stamped onto packaging really mean. “Best before” or “sell by” and “use by” or “expires on” dates are two very different things, but we often mistake the former for the latter. “Sell by” is used to inform retailers when the product should be sold or removed from the shelves. “use by” is a suggested date that consumers should use their products by.
Neither of these terms means that the product is unsafe to eat after the given date. Don’t throw away food just because the label says so.
If it’s off you’ll be able to tell and remember almost any food can be frozen, so long as it’s frozen before its use-by date.
The bottom line is if your start thinking more about the food your household wastes every day, you can help create positive change to your wallet, waste-line, your time and help to conserve some of the earth’s most valuable resources.