Tips to Reduce Household Food Waste

Originally published on FoodUnfolded.com in October 2021

A third of the food grown on this planet ends up being lost or thrown away. A big chunk of this comes from our own homes – but the good news is that all of us can take small steps to stop the problem from getting any bigger.

HOW TO REDUCE HOUSEHOLD FOOD WASTE

Want to make a difference by reducing the amount of food you throw away? Here are 5 tips to reduce household food waste that can help you make a difference in your very own home.

1. USE RECIPE TEMPLATES

Did you know that vegetables, fruits, cereal-based products, and meat are the most discarded foods at the household level?1 Keeping a couple of leftover-friendly recipes handy can help give these foods a new life. Recipes that can incorporate a variety of ingredients are your best friends: stir-fries, curries, and pasta dishes, for example, can work well with a broad range of vegetables. Fruits can be turned into baked goods like cakes, pies or even jams and preserves. Leftover rice makes for great fried rice, and stale bread can be turned into croutons or breadcrumbs, while leftover meat can be used in sandwiches and salads. 

Documenting how you use leftovers can help you build your own recipe templates, but there are also several free apps that can suggest recipes based on ingredients you have at home. This can be of great help if you’re starting to use up leftovers creatively for the first time.

2. MAKE STOCK FROM VEGETABLE SCRAPS

Vegetable peels, stalks, roots, and ends don’t have to be destined for the bin. Instead, they can be used for making stock that adds extra flavour and nutrition to your food! One meal’s worth of scraps may not be sufficient for a batch of stock, so start by cleaning and freezing scraps at the end of each meal prep. Once you have enough saved up, simmer them in water to make a batch of stock. This stock can be frozen in an ice cube tray and used as needed over a period of several months. 

Tip: Carrot, celery, onion, leek, mushroom, turnip, chard, squash, parsnip, asparagus, bell pepper, beet, and fennel are some vegetables that make excellent stock. Adding a touch of seasoning can transform your stock and make it even more delicious. Bay leaves, peppercorns, tarragon, rosemary, parsley, fish sauce, soy sauce, dried kelp, dried shiitake mushrooms, ginger, and garlic make for great additions. 

3. TURN TO THE FREEZER 

Freezing your food is a great way to make it last longer. Cooked too much pasta? Bought too much bread? No worries, just put them in the freezer and bring them back when you’re in the mood for a quick, hassle-free meal! Some other foods that can be easily frozen include yoghurt, meat, fish, eggs, baked goods, stocks, and cooked leftovers.2 Products that come with an expiry date should be frozen before they expire.3 

It is important to remember that some foods freeze better than others. For instance, if you freeze vegetables with a high water content, they may come out of the freezer with a different texture.2 This is because water expands when it turns into ice: in the case of vegetables with a high water content, this expansion causes cell walls to burst.3 As a result, thawed lettuce or tomato will turn mushy and may not taste very good in a salad – though they are still safe for consumption and can be incorporated into dishes that allow for such textures.2 For some vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and squashes, this can be prevented by blanching or steaming prior to storage.3 

Tip: Dividing large portions of food into smaller ones makes it easier to freeze them. This way, you can thaw the quantity you need without having to thaw and refreeze the whole batch.

4. STORE LEFTOVERS SAFELY

Improper storage is a major cause of food waste at the household level.3 Cooked leftovers, as well as half-used packaged foods, may require refrigeration. Where applicable, check storage instructions on the packaging. Remember to keep leftovers at the front of your fridge so they’re not forgotten, and if you’re dealing with several different kinds of leftover foods, make a list and with tentative deadlines to finish each. 

Storage in clean containers made from food-safe materials like glass, steel, or certain kinds of plastics will help keep your leftovers safe as well. And if you’ve got a lot of surplus food? Divide it into batches and store some of it in the fridge and the rest in the freezer, where it will last longer without going off!

5. EXPLORE NEW CUISINES

Expanding your culinary knowledge can be a fun way to cut down on food waste. Odds and ends that do not go together in any recipes you know might make for a fantastic dish from another part of the world. Watermelon rind pickles anyone? 

Learning new cooking techniques and recipes can also help break the monotony of repeating the same ingredients to make the same meals. Bored of making soup out of potatoes, carrots, and meat? You’re just one stock cube away from turning it into a delicious Japanese curry! Don’t know what to do with half an aubergine? Chuck it in the oven and turn it into Baba Ganoush – a smoky Levantine dip! The more you know, the easier it is to create a great meal out of very little. Visiting ethnic grocery stores is a great way to figure out what speciality ingredients are available to you. Several of these foods come with recipes at the back too!

Have you already tried some of these tips to reduce household food waste? Let us know if they worked for you in the comments below!


REFERENCES
  1. Caldeira et al. (2019). “Quantification of food waste per product group along the food supply chain in the European Union: A mass flow analysis”. Accessed 28 August 2021.
  2. “Freezing Fundamentals”. Stop Food Waste. Accessed 20 August 2020.
  3. Graham-Rowe, Jessop, & Sparks (2014). “Identifying motivations and barriers to minimising household food waste”. Accessed 30 August 2021.

Madhura

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