At present, up to one third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people*. This is certainly an excess in an era where many people are still struggling to get food. Moreover, food waste carries a high impact on water, energy, land, labour and other inputs related to production.
If you have access to a wide variety of food, all year long, consider yourself lucky. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many countries in the world. There are obviously rational decisions when deciding to throw away food. It might be for waste, time constraints, and the likelihood of becoming sick. Fair enough. But what if these motives are sometimes just not strong enough? What if people simply decide to throw food away out of a lack of knowledge on what to do with it? What if they fear being poorly for improper handling? We sometimes take for granted that “luck” we have. Before throwing food away, (please) think about the total cost and impact it has, not just how much you paid for it. Think about how much water was needed and how much land was devoted to produce it, how much a farmer was paid, how many people are deprived of food and seek for leftovers.
I would like to share a few easy tips to change our behavior towards throwing food.
First of all: Educate yourself on shelf life of foodstuff and storage conditions
Are you actually able to say when a product is no longer safe to consume? Most of the people are not. We rely on food labels because they provide all the info needed to understand what and how to consume a foodstuff. But when you have that “best before” date, it does not mean that the day after it the product will be no longer consumable. Common sense should normally be applied: a swollen milk carton does not look right, as well as an apple covered in worms and flies or a rotten vegetable. That is definitely waste, and you should not consume it.
Tips!! Reducing food waste
1.Manage portion sizes.
Firstly, the best thing to start with is being conscious of portion sizes. When food is available, we tend to oversize portions or buy more than what is needed. Let’s take the example of a buffet: we take an empty plate, make a line along the food display and stop at every single dish and grab a spoon or two “just to try a bit of it.” We end up with a plate that looks like Everest, a mountain of food with different flavours, everything mixed up, but you would not give it up because “you are paying for it” or “you have not tried yet that stuff of the other one…” Because food seems to be so easy to get, we forget what the body truly needs.
Another point that comes to my mind is the disliking of a food. Of course, if you have on your plate something you find hard to swallow out of dislike, do not force yourself. Instead, allow adding a sauce or an extra ingredient to see if you could make a twist, make it work better.
A leftover could also be integrated in another meal. But I will extend my thoughts in the next bullet point (recycle.)
Yes, recycle. Think of recipes where you could integrate that leftover into a new creation. Become an innovative master chef. What comes to my mind is the the famous French toast called pain-perdu. Its origin dates from the 15th century when poor French people were soaking hard or stale bread in a mixture of milk and eggs and then frying it, with the aim of not throwing food away. There many things that could be done to recover leftovers. Remember that marmalade from grandma? Banana bread? Croquettes? Many foods that today we prepare with fresh ingredients have a different origin.
4. Leave for later.
Do not just throw food away that could be reheated for later or the day after. Can you freeze it? Even better - food for a day when you didn’t want to cook!
5. Look around.
Is someone willing to finish your dish for you? It does not sound very fancy (especially if you are in a restaurant), but what if you are eating with someone that would love to have that broccoli you moved to a side?
(*) FAO Food loss and food waste.
My inspiration for writing this post has come from the following sites/ texts:
Bell R. (2012) Reducing food waste has economic, environmental and social benefits. Michigan State University.
Daily Mail.com reporters (2017) America throws away enough food each year to feed most of the WORLD: Study claims Americans dispose of nearly 40 percent of the produce they buy.
Hawthorne J. (2017) 5 ways food waste is destroying our beautiful planet. New Food Magazine.
QA Magazine (2018) Wasting Food May Be Safe, Reasonable Decision for Some.