Tips & Tricks
Mary’s tips will help you to combat food waste in your own kitchen
20 Tips to Prevent Food Waste!
There is a lot you can do in your own kitchen to combat food waste. Get inspired by our tips for home use!
1. Meal Prepping
A good tip to save food, time, and money is to plan your meals ahead. The trick is to make various staples, that can be combined during the week for quick and nutritious meals. Making staples that have multiple uses will lower the risk of having leftovers, because most ingredients will taste great in combination with others.
Get inspired by the food blog Green Kitchen Stories, who seem to have mastered this skill.
2. Shop Smart
We tend to buy more food than we actually need. Buying in bulk is a good way to reduce package waste, but research has proved that his shopping method could lead to more food waste.
How to avoid buying too much food?
Make frequent trips to the grocery store, rather than buying in bulk.
Challenge yourself to use all the food at home first, before buying more.
Make a grocery list before going to the store. This will help to reduce impulse buys.
3. Store Food Correctly
Storing your food incorrectly can lead to a massive amount of food waste. Learn how to store fruits and vegetables properly to avoid premature ripening or rotten produce.
Potatoes, tomatoes, garlic, cucumbers and onions should never be refrigerated. These products should be kept at room temperature.
Store foods that produce ethylene gas separate from those that don’t. Ethylene gas speeds up the ripening process, and could lead to spoilage. Foods that produce ethylene gas while ripening include: banana, avocado, tomato, cantaloupe, peach, pear, and green onion. Keep these away from ethylene-sensitive produce like potatoes, apples, leafy greens, berries and peppers.
4. Learn How to Preserve
Fermentation might be all hip and happening these days, but these food preservation techniques have been around for thousands of years. For example, pickling is believed to have already existed in 24th century BC.
Pickling, drying, canning, fermenting, freezing and curing are all methods you can use to make food last longer and avoid food waste. Not only will these methods shrink your carbon footprint, they will save you money as well. What’s more, most preservation techniques are simple and fun! For example, canning an excess of ripe apples by turning them into applesauce, or pickling fresh carrots from the market will provide you with a delicious and long-lasting treat that even kids will enjoy.
5. Don’t Be a Perfectionist
Did you know that rummaging through a crate of apples until you find the most perfect-looking one contributes to food waste? Though identical in taste and nutrition, so-called “ugly” fruits and vegetables get passed up for produce that is more pleasing to the eye. The consumer demand for flawless fruits and vegetables has led major grocery chains to only buy picture-perfect produce from farmers. This leads to tons of perfectly good food going to waste. It became such a big issue, that some supermarkets have started offering “ugly” fruits and vegetables at a discount, in an attempt to reduce waste. Do your part by selecting slightly imperfect produce!
6. Keep Your Fridge Clutter-Free
While having a well-stocked fridge can be a good thing, an overly filled fridge actually leads to more food waste.
By keeping your fridge organized you can clearly see what foods you have left, and nothing gets forgotten in the back.
A good way to stock your fridge is “first in, first out.” For example, when you buy a new carton of berries, place it behind the old one.
7. Save Leftovers
Leftovers aren’t just for the holidays. Though many people save excess food from large meals, it is often forgotten in the fridge and tossed when it goes bad.
Store leftovers in clear glass containers – rather than opaque ones – so you can see what’s inside.
If you happen to cook a lot and regularly have leftovers, designate a weekday to use what has accumulated in the fridge. It’s a great way to avoid throwing away food. What’s more, it saves time and money.
8. Eat the Skins
People often remove the skin before eating fruits and veggies. The skins contain many nutrients and fibers, so by eating them you would not only reduce your food waste impact, but also make your meal more nutritious!
9. Save the seeds
Out of the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins produced in the United States every year, most end up getting thrown away. While carving pumpkins can be fun for the whole family, there are ways to reduce the waste that comes along with this activity.
Aside from using the tasty flesh of your pumpkins in cooking and baking, a great way to cut waste is to save the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are tasty and packed with nutrients; they are very high in magnesium, a mineral that is important for heart and blood health and helps control blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
To save pumpkin seeds, simply wash and dry the seeds, then toss them with a little olive oil and salt and toast them in the oven. Acorn and butternut squash seeds can be prepared the same way.
10. Blend It Up
Blending up a nutrient-packed smoothie can be a delicious way to reduce food waste. While the stems, ends and peels of produce may not look appetizing, adding them to a smoothie is a way to reap their many benefits.
The stems of greens like kale and chard are packed with fiber and nutrients, making them a great addition to smoothies.
The tops of beets, strawberries and carrots also make great add-ins.
Other items that can be used to make your smoothie more nutritional are fruit and vegetable peels, wilted herbs, overripe bananas and chopped broccoli stalks.
11. Make Homemade Stock
Whipping up a homemade stock is an easy way to use excess food.
For an aromatic vegetable broth, simply sauté vegetable scraps – like the tops, stalks, and peels – with some olive oil or butter, then add water and let it simmer.
Veggies aren’t the only scraps that can be transformed into a flavorsome stock. Rather than letting the chicken carcass or leftover meat bones go to waste, simmer them with water, veggies, and herbs and to make a homemade stock that will put store-bought broth to shame.
12. Perk Up Your Water
Many people don’t drink enough water, simply because they don’t like the flavor or lack thereof. Making water taste good will help to increase your water intake. Here are tips to make water tastier and reduce your food waste impact at the same time.
Use peels from citrus fruits, apples and cucumbers to add a kick to your glass of water or seltzer.
Wilted herbs and berry tops also make excellent additions to your water bottle.
After finishing your water, add the leftover fruit or herbs to your smoothie for a zero-waste nutrition boost.
13. Keep Your Serving Sizes in Check
Overeating is a problem for many people. Making sure your portion sizes stay within a healthy range doesn’t just help to keep your weight down, it also reduces food waste. While you may not think twice about scraping leftover food from your plate into the trash, remember that food waste has a major impact on the environment. Being more mindful of how hungry you actually are and practicing portion control are great ways to reduce food waste.
14. Befriend your Freezer
Freezing food is one of the easiest ways to preserve food.
For example, greens that are a bit too soft to be used in your favorite salad can be put in freezer-safe bags or containers and used at a later date in smoothies, soups or other recipes.
An excess of herbs can be combined with olive oil and chopped garlic, then frozen in ice cube trays for a handy and delicious addition to sautés and other dishes.
You can freeze leftovers from meals, excess produce that is left at the end of the week, and bulk meals like soups and chilis. It’s a great way to ensure you always have a healthy, homemade meal available for those nights you don’t feel like cooking.
15. Best Before Date vs Throw Away After
“Sell by” and “expires on” are just two of the many confusing terms companies use on food labels, to let consumers know when a product will most likely go bad. The problem is that many governments don’t regulate these terms. Food producers often determine the date they think a product is most likely to spoil by. The truth is, most food that has just passed its expiration date is still safe to eat.
“Sell by” is used to inform retailers when the product should be removed from the shelves.
“Best before” is a suggested date that consumers should use their products by.
Neither of these terms mean that the product is unsafe to eat after the given date. While many labels are ambiguous, “best before” is a good one to follow. This term means that the food may not be at its best quality past the listed date. A movement to make the food expiration labeling system more clear for consumers is underway. In the meantime, use your best judgment when deciding whether food that is slightly past its expiration date is still safe to eat.
16. Compost If You Can
Composting leftover food is a beneficial way to re-use food scraps, turning food waste into energy for plants. While not everyone has room for an outdoor composting system, there’s a wide range of countertop composting systems that makes this practice easy and accessible for everyone, even for those with limited space. An outdoor composter may work well for someone with a large garden, while a countertop composter is best for city dwellers with houseplants or a small herb garden.
17. Pack Your Lunch
Though going out to lunch with coworkers or grabbing a meal from your favorite restaurant may be enjoyable, it is also costly and can contribute to food waste.
A helpful way to save money while reducing your carbon footprint is to bring your own lunch to work.
If you tend to generate leftovers from home-cooked meals, pack them up for a satisfying and healthy lunch during your workday.
If you’re strapped for time in the morning, try freezing leftovers in portion-sized containers. That way, you’ll have pre-made, hearty lunches ready to go each morning.
18. Don’t Toss the Grounds
If you can’t fathom getting ready for your day without a hot cup of coffee, chances are you generate a lot of coffee grounds. Interestingly, this often overlooked leftover has many uses.
Those with a green thumb may be delighted to know that coffee grounds make excellent fertilizer for plants. The grounds are high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which are nutrients that plants crave.
Coffee grounds also make a fantastic natural mosquito repellent. In fact, research has shown that sprinkling used coffee grounds in grassy areas deters female mosquitos from laying their eggs, reducing the population of these pesky insects.
19. Get Creative in the Kitchen
One of the great things about cooking your own meals is that you can tweak recipes to your liking, by adding new flavors and ingredients. Including parts of foods that usually aren’t used is an excellent way to repurpose scraps when you’re experimenting in the kitchen.
Stems and stalks make tasty additions to sautés and baked dishes.
Garlic and onion ends can bring flavor to stocks and sauces.
Whipping up a fresh pesto using broccoli stalks, soft tomatoes, wilted spinach or cilantro – rather than the traditional basil – is an inventive way to add a tasty twist.
20. Pamper Yourself
If you want to save money and avoid potentially harmful chemicals found in some skincare products, try preparing a scrub or mask yourself.
Avocados are packed with healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin E, which makes them a perfect addition to a natural face mask. Mix overripe avocado with a bit of honey for a luxurious combination that can be used on the face or hair.
Mix used coffee grounds with a bit of sugar and olive oil to make an invigorating body scrub.
Cooled and used tea bags or excess cucumber slices an be used to reduce puffiness under the eyes.
The Bottom Line
There are endless ways to reduce, re-use and recycle your food waste. Not only will our tips help you waste less food, they may also save you time and money. By thinking more about the food your household wastes every day, you help to create a positive change to conserve some of Earth’s most valuable resources. It doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming and every little bit helps! With a small amount of effort you can cut your food waste dramatically, save time and money, and help take some pressure off Mother Nature.