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Food Waste (Part II)

Food waste is a major concern in the fight against climate change. In most developed countries, over half of all food waste comes from within our homes. Preventing food waste not only helps to conserve energy and resources, but it also reduces methane emissions and saves money. In the second part of our Food Waste series, we’re considering ways in which we can reduce food waste at home.

1. Plan Ahead

One of the biggest causes of food waste is over buying. Before doing your weekly food shop, check what you have in your fridge and freezer. Plan your weekly menu and make a note of the ingredients and quantities you need for these meals. When you do your food shop, make sure that you use a shopping list and stick to it.

2. Store Food Items Correctly

Many people store their food items incorrectly, which leads to food spoilage and premature ripening. Make sure that you know which items should be stored in the fridge and which should be kept at room temperature. For instance, onions, garlic, cucumbers, potatoes and tomatoes should be stored at room temperature.

Some foods also produce higher amounts of ethylene gas than others. Ethylene gas promotes ripening. By storing foods that produce high quantities of this gas near produce which is sensitive to ethylene gas, you could be unwittingly speeding up the ripening and subsequent spoilage process. Some foods which produce higher levels of ethylene gas include bananas, avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, pears, peaches and green onions. In particular, avoid storing these near peppers, berries, apples and leafy greens.

3. Use Leftovers

Avoid throwing surplus food away by using it for leftovers. If you have made too much food, store it in a clear container in the fridge. This way, you’ll be able to clearly see what food it is and avoid forgetting about it and letting it spoil. You can also freeze surplus food or leftovers if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it in time. Alternatively, you can use leftovers to make casseroles, soups or for broths.

4. Use Your Freezer

Your freezer is a fantastic resource in the fight against food waste. In addition to freezing surplus food or leftovers, you can also freeze batch cooking. Batch cooking is a great strategy to use for saving time during the week, saving energy and ensuring that you have used up your food in good time.

If you find that you have foods which are due to expire and you’re unlikely to be able to eat them in time, you can usually also freeze these. However, it’s important to freeze items before their use-by date. You can also chop, dice or slice fresh vegetables and freeze them if you think they are likely to spoil.

5. Understand Labels

Misunderstanding around food labels is believed to be one of the dominant reasons for food waste within the home.

“Use by” labels refer to food safety. This is usually used on food which perish quickly, such as on meat products, fish and ready-prepared salads. You should not consume any food after its “use by” date, even if it looks and smells fine. This is because it could contain harmful bacteria, which could lead to food poisoning and put your health at risk. Of all the food labels, this is the most important date to consider because it refers to food safety.

“Best Before” food labels refer to quality. After this date, the food is still safe to eat, but it may no longer be at its best quality (for example, the flavour or texture may begin to deteriorate). Before throwing away food that has gone past its “best before” date, look, smell and taste it to see if it’s good.

“Display by” and “sell by” dates are used by retailers to control the quality of the stock on their shelves. These are not required by law and are meant as guidance for staff in shops, rather than for consumers.

6. Recycle Your Food

You can also recycle your food and help prevent it from ending up in landfill. Use a food caddy for food waste and make sure that you use a caddy liner to prevent odours and to absorb moisture. You can also try composting or even preserving foods, by pickling or fermenting them.

An Invitation...

This week, we invite you to evaluate your household’s food waste and to implement at least one of the strategies discussed above.

If you’re busy, batch cooking and freezing may be a good starting point. Perhaps this week you’ll try creating a weekly menu and sticking to your dedicated shopping list? Or maybe, you’re going to reorganise your food storage to ensure that you’re storing items properly?

However small, if we all make at least one change, we can help to reduce food waste and in turn, help to care for our planet.

What changes will you be implementing this week? Share your ideas and experiences with us in the comments below, or on our Shared Thoughts Forum or Facebook page.

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