When looking at the way we organize our meals, most of us follow a day-to-day or meal-by-meal logic. While such irregularities have a series of affects on our daily rhythm, this blog post focuses on another seemingly small but still relevant symptom: the waste of food produced due to a lack of planning.
As hunter-gatherers of the 21st century, we daily cross the grocery store, become enthralled by aesthetics or hunger and snatch all these fresh beauties. Sometimes other unanticipated tasks pop up or the laziness kicks in and the meal is not being prepared. Not a problem, the food will still be good the next day. But what about all the other days to come? How can we make sure that the goodies in our fridge and cupboards are not going bad that quickly? How can we plan more efficiently so that as little as possible – or in the best case nothing – goes to waste?
As a food surplus organization we engage with these questions on a daily basis. In doing so, we are always eager to learn and brainstorm with our fellows in the search for best practices, be it through workshops, lectures or panel discussions. Zoe, one of our hosting coordinators, therefore set up a workshop series consisting of three sessions to identify better food surplus management. The first workshop engaged with the question of how to treat your foods appropriately to postpone present symptoms of spoiling. Zoe worked out different guiding themes that play a relevant role in the according planning, and allocated the themes to the workshop tables in the first session. Each group of participants was invited to discuss ideas related to their table theme, followed by a plenary session on more general ideas and know-how from the audience. We were surprised by the many ideas that were brought to the tables, mostly household insider tips and some good old grandma tricks.
In the following you can find an overview of these tips and tricks:
Daily physical check
Check what is in stock: Take a photo or write a list of fridge contents. This helps to avoid buying doubles or unnecessary foodies, which eventually end up in your trash bin.
Make a shopping list of things that would complement your stock. For example, use sticky notes or download one of these modern grocery shopping apps!
Stay strong towards marketing strategies from supermarkets; don’t give in to ‘buy one and get one for free’ if it doesn’t serve your own consumption well. Also, don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry, which definitely ends up in steering your choices according to the momentary craving for food.
Bread: Always keep your bread in paper, never in plastic, and in a dry, dark place instead of the fridge. It will most likely not mold. Moreover, think of ways to process it once it is not fresh and soft anymore. For example, cut slices and put them in the freezer, every time you crave bread you can portion what you need.
Leafy greens, spring onion, leek, and herbs: But them in a glass with water or roll them into a wet towel and but them in the fridge. It keeps them alive like a flower, and it might even keep growing a bit. Alternatively, chop herbs before they go bad and fill them into an ice cube tray with a bit of oil, this way you can always add a dose when you cook and need it.
Bananas, avocados, tomatoes, apples, citrus fruits, peaches, apricots, and nectarines: Keep them outside of the fridge in a dry place; they will keep their taste and durability.
Potatoes and carrots: If possible, keep them in a pot of earth or sand in a dry and dark place, or leave them dirty, they like that!
Most other delicate veggies and fruit like mushroom, broccoli, cherries and berries: These need respectful and delicate treatment, most suitable in the fridge (or freezer, if you want to keep them for later).
Also your fridge has different climates, so to say: The coldest spot is at the bottom, which makes it the perfect storing space for veggies (yes, that’s what these plastic drawers are for!) On the top, you can keep your cheese and other foodies that don’t suffer from the minimally higher temperature. In general, keep your raw ingredients at the bottom and away from the cooked food. The door is the warmest area of the fridge, suitable for condiments and juices.
Vegetables and fruits affect each other’s ripening process when kept in close proximity (they release ethylene gas). For example, ripe bananas will make other fruits and veggies ripen faster, and green apples will make potatoes keep longer. Foods that release ethylene include:
Fruits: Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, cranberries, figs, honeydew, grapes, mangoes, nectarines, papayas, passion fruits, peaches, pears, persimmons, plums, and prunes.
Vegetables: Green onions and tomatoes.
First In, First Out
Don’t wait until the last moment and organize your fridge so you eat first what went in first.
Weigh your dry pasta, rice and grains before cooking to avoid making too much. For an indication, check the packaging or experiment and note down your personal quantity, usually around 50 – 100g dry per person.
In general, freezers work like a time capsule for fresh food – it locks nutrition and preserves the taste. You can freeze your fruits, coconut milk and curry pastes, as well as cooked meals. Use labels to recognize the icy things in your freezer. Portioning it beforehand will save the hassle to cut frozen food.
Some good old granny tips:
When you know you will eat your avocado but it is still too hard, you can wrap it in newspaper and put it in a dry cool place. It should be ready to eat in a day or two. The same goes for bananas.
Some say that its better to keep eggs outside of the fridge since it has a natural layer that protects it from going bad. But it depends in which country you live, or if it’s organic or not.
When you separate bananas from their bunch, they will continue ripen more slowly.
If any of your veggies are looking soggy like carrots or lettuce, soak it in ice-cold water. It will harden it and bring it back to its natural state. Soak flabby salad in ice-cold water right before serving.
We are looking forward to see you at our next sessions!
Please note that there are different opinions and perspectives concerning some of the tips we prepared. In most cases, the appropriate treatment depends on factors like temperature, durability and moisture. Try out for yourself and note down what works best in your case. Also, please feel free to comment and share your feedback and tips with us!