After a few Google searches and TED talks, I discovered some crazy statistics about the extent to which we toss food:
- If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest producer of greenhouse gas in the world, after China and the United States.
- To grow the food that is thrown away annually in the U.S. required the equivalent of about 70 times the oil released in the Gulf Horizon spill
- 13,000 slices of fresh bread slices thrown away from a single factory because sandwich shops don’t use the end pieces of a loaf
I think the worst part of all is that thousands of pounds of food are wasted due to cosmetic appearance, best-before dates, and societal norms (cow tongue, anyone?)
Therefore the food that eventually makes it to your house has beaten all the odds; survived all the tests and come out on the other side in one piece. The food you buy is the all-star team. And there’s absolutely no reason it should go to waste. We eat every day, and it shouldn’t take that long to figure out how much we need to buy to fill our stomachs and no more.
Forget ‘Best Before’ Labels
An estimated 15 percent of food entering our homes is wasted due to the misinterpretation of best before labels. In Europe, there is pressure to ditch the labels entirely. This makes complete sense- I don’t need a date to tell me if something is off. I can see the mold on the bread, I can smell the yogurt.
But what about things like pasta and canned food you say? These items don’t ‘go bad,’ they simply are no longer at max freshness upon reaching their expiry date.
“‘Best-before’ does not mean ‘toxic-after.'”
– Katherine Martinko
This misinterpretation suits food production companies just fine: the more you throw out the more you need to buy. So my advice: save money, and decide for yourself if the food is good or not.
Don’t be Afraid of Mold and Bruises.
That apple with the bruise on one side is simply that: a perfectly good apple with 1/10th of it damaged. Same with that big block of cheese: cut the moldy outside off, or do like the French and eat it avec mold. It’s not gonna kill you.
Recipes aren’t rules, but simply guidelines. If it asks for potato and you only have sweet potato, give it a try. And don’t be afraid of adding other stuff; this not only helps avoid food waste but makes you a better, more creative cook. That spinach close to the end of being fresh for a salad? Toss it in a smoothie or a soup.
Choose a meal or recipe based on what you need to use up. If I have a bunch of cauliflower, chicken and cheese, type those ingredients in Google and I guarantee you there will be loads of recipes using those ingredients.
Get a Smaller Fridge
As humans we naturally fill empty spaces with stuff. If I suddenly moved in to a 5000 sq. ft. home tomorrow, I’d start accumulating more things to fill it up. The same goes for our fridges.
My wife and I got by perfectly fine with a beer fridge for the last few years, and now having moved to a place with a full size fridge, lo and behold, the fridge fills up! All of a sudden, those leftovers get lost in the twilight zone in the back shelf behind the Costco-sized peanut butter, never to be seen again. So on that note:
Don’t Allow your Fridge to be Full. EVER.
And do lots of fridge check-ups: move things around and make sure the poor pizza dough you made last week doesn’t get forgotten.
Be Less Picky.
To all the moody 14 year olds in us: it doesn’t matter if you crave pasta tonight, you need to use up the soup mix, so you’re having soup tonight. Beating these specific cravings will save you heaps of money in the long term.