- Plan your meals
Yes, we are stating the obvious, but it is definitely one of the most important steps on the road to waste-free living.
How often have you forgotten that something is already in your fridge while shopping? Has it ever happened to you that you discovered a new life developed in your fridge because you forgot about that meal you made a few weeks earlier? Have you ever gone on holiday leaving your fridge full, which led to a great amount of food going to waste? Well, it is high time to do something about it!
It is good to remember how much food is already in your fridge and buy only the things you know you will be able to eat before the expiration date. Yes, we are all busy these days, and we do not always check what is in the fridge before running out to school or work. Remembering what you find there can be even more challenging (especially if you are not a morning person).
However, technology is here to help us - for example the Canadian app Fridge Pal, which allows you to prepare a grocery list and cross items off as you shop. But that is not all the apps for food waste prevention can do! Many of them handle expiration dates - they allow you to set the expiration dates on items after you buy them. You can see what is about to expire and plan your meals accordingly. Some apps also give you the option of tracking how much you have spent on groceries to motivate you to keep on saving food while also saving money (and the whole planet: did you know that if food waste were a country it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases?)! When you have a lonely ingredient which is about to expire and does not seem to match any meal you can think of, check another app developed by Love Food Hate Waste. The app helps pair the lonely foods and match them to create simple, tasty meals.
- Educate yourself
Sometimes it might get tricky to figure out whether some items in your fridge are still good to eat or whether they can be frozen. Technology will not let us down here, either, providing us with plenty of resources that help with making our lives more sustainable. For example, check out the StillTasty, website which collects information about the length of time different types of foods and beverages stay safe to eat. It also provides tips on the best ways to store food products. You might find out some really interesting information. For example, did you know that you can freeze milk or butter? Or that, contrary to common belief, it is safe to refrigerate foods which are still hot?
Moreover, it is crucial to understand the date labelling on food products. In the European Union, for example, 50 percent of consumers do not know the correct meaning of “use by” and “best before” classifications. Why is it important? According to data from the European Commission ⅓ of food waste is linked to misunderstood date labelling on food products!
- Do not let your eyes fool you
The psychology behind food waste is worth knowing, too. As Dana Gunders from the Natural Resources Defense Council explained in an interview with Vox, research shows that we often do not realize our wrongdoing when it comes to food waste. For example, when asked how they would feel if they came back from the grocery shopping and dropped a carton of eggs on the ground, people responded with greater remorse than in the scenario where eggs go to waste because they stayed in the fridge too long. How come we feel worse when we accidentally waste food versus when we do not prevent food waste in a situation where we are able to do so?
Another thing we should realize when thinking about food waste is that we often overbuy because… we can. Storing food is a natural impulse, and research shows that we do not like seeing empty space when it comes to our fridges. And the industry is not making it any easier for us - according to published data, in the past 35 years the average size of refrigerators has grown by 15 percent. Similarly, we do not like having our plates not full. That is why one of the strategies to prevent food waste on an individual level is the use of smaller-sized kitchenware.
- Sharing is caring
In developed countries, over half of all food waste takes place in private households. But what if there were a way to save that lasagna that you were not able to eat on your own? From the smallest things such as sharing food with your flatmates or coworkers, to donating food to people in need, there are many ways in which you can prevent the food that is in your fridge from ending up in the garbage bin. Technology comes in handy again. OLIO, for instance, lets you offer your leftovers to local people in your area, who sign up to be notified when there is free food to be had in the neighborhood. Be part of a bigger change! As OLIO founders say on their website, “We believe that small actions can lead to big changes. Collectively – one rescued cupcake, carrot, or bottle of lotion at a time – we can build a more sustainable future in which our most precious resources are shared, not thrown away”.
- Choose wisely
Sometimes we just want to be fancy and eat out. But did you know that according to an analysis by the Green Restaurant Association, a single restaurant can produce up to 35,000 kilograms of food waste in one year? As reported by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, over 80 percent of unused food in American restaurants ends up in the trash, and only 1.5 percent is donated. These numbers lead many to quit going to restaurants or reduce eating out to minimum. However, there is another solution: choosing places which are sustainable. How to find out whether a place you would like to go to is sustainable? One way is to check online rankings. In Australia, for example, Fair Food Forager, ranks cafes, restaurants, grocers, and suppliers on how sustainable they are. Using their website or a smartphone app, you can easily get the information about how the food provider scores on food waste, plastic waste, sourcing local produce, and sourcing sustainable and cruelty-free food.
Similar choices can be made with grocery stores. Many shops, also some of the hypermarket chains, partner up with food banks and other NGOs that collect food which cannot be sold but is still good to consume and give it to organizations which take care of poor people.