We eat food every single day – so it’s our responsibility to value what we eat and be smart with how we eat it. Most people don’t believe that they’re contributing to the serious issue of food waste, but the reality is that household food waste is the largest contributor to the problem!
Globally, roughly 1.3 billion tons of food gets thrown out each year – food that ends up in landfills where it is not used and begins to emit greenhouse gases (primarily methane). In Canada, 47% of food waste happens in the home. In the US, it’s a similar number (between 40%-50%), with households wasting an estimated $1500 US in food that is thrown away every single year.
People everywhere are becoming increasingly aware of the issue of food waste, so we created 15 simple tips that will help you tackle it in your own home. By doing your part to reduce food waste, you’ll not only make a difference for the environment – you’ll also save yourself some money!
By following these 15 simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to reducing your household’s food waste footprint!
- Have a grocery list and stick to it
- Buy for your family size
- Pay attention to ‘Best Before’ versus ‘Use By’ dates
- Buy foods that are in season
- Buy ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables
- Know how to properly store your food
- Bring older foods to the front of your fridge
- Use labels
- Organization is key
- Practice root to leaf eating
- Get creative with your ‘tired’ fruits and vegetables
- Keep a ‘catch-all’ bowl in your freezer
By creating a grocery list, you’ll be less likely to stray from the necessities or buy more than you need. Buying more food than you can eat is one of the biggest contributors to food waste at home.
If you are a family of four, buy for a family of four. If you live alone, be realistic and don’t go for the ‘two for one’ deal when you know you won’t eat it all on your own. It isn’t worth it if you’re going to throw out half of your purchases because you can’t eat everything!
A ‘Best Before’ date is very different from a ‘Use By’ date.
‘Best Before’ means a product may not taste or perform its best after the specified date, but it is likely safe to use and consume – use your best judgement (but remember: when in doubt, throw it out). ‘Use By’ means that a product is highly perishable – products with this label should be consumed by the date listed on the package and disposed of if they weren’t eaten before that date.
Understanding the meanings behind ‘Best Before’ and ‘Use By’ dates is extremely important for curbing the issue of unnecessary consumer waste. For more information about product date labeling, visit the Food Marketing Institute’s website here.
Foods that are in season are more likely to taste better, which means you’re more likely to eat them! As well, food that is in season hasn’t spent as much time in transport from the farm to your plate, so it has had less time to potentially spoil and become waste.
They may not look as beautiful, but ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables are still delicious and nutritious. Bonus: they also usually cost less!
Be Smart About Storage
Once you bring your food home, you need to know how to store it to maximize its shelf life. For Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, and Cucumbers, check out our Veggie Storage Guide. For other perishable items, check out the Is My Food Safe? App. This is a great resource that tells you where and how long to store all your perishables!
To make sure food doesn’t get lost or forgotten about in your fridge, move it right to the front. This will keep eating it top of mind and will hopefully help you avoid throwing it out!
If you’ve got a family that likes to grab things out of the fridge independently, but you want them to know what food needs to get eaten first, label it! A simple ‘EAT THIS FIRST’ label could be the difference between throwing a food item out or it being eaten!
You are bound to lose things in your fridge or cupboards if they aren’t organized. Keeping your storage locations clean and orderly will allow you to keep track of all your food and hopefully use it productively.
Get Creative With Cooking
Cooking with all the edible parts of a plant is a great way to reduce your food waste at home (and make the most of the money you spend on fresh veggies). Popular ways to eat root to leaf include cooking with cauliflower leaves, broccoli stalks, watermelon rinds, and carrot greens. One more example of root to leaf eating – don’t peel your potatoes! Visit this site for other great root to leaf recipes.
There are many creative ways to cook with or preserve fruits and veggies that are on their ‘last leg’. From roasting, to blending into a soup, to pickling, it’s easier than many people think to stretch the life of fresh produce. Check out our blogs page for 14 Creative Ways to Eat Your Tomatoes and 12 Unique Ways to Prepare Your Peppers so you can get the most out of your favorite NatureFresh™ fruit!
A great way to minimize the amount of food scraps you throw in the garbage is to keep a ‘catch-all’ bowl in your freezer. You can put edible fruit and vegetable scraps into this bowl, and voila – you have the perfect ingredients for a soup base!
If it is necessary to get rid of any scraps, do your best to compost instead of throwing them into the garbage.
If you prepared too much food, or you went a little overboard at the grocery store, share with your friends and family! It’s a fact that not many people will say no to free food.
It’s a sad reality, but there are many people in our communities who face food insecurity every day. If you have extra food that you know will go to waste if you don’t eat it, it’s a great idea to donate to a local food pantry, shelter, church program, or school.
If you are interested in doing a deeper dive into your food waste habits at home, conduct a household Plate-Waste Study and track how much food you waste in a week. What you discover will likely shock you, but hopefully inspire you to act and reduce your household’s food waste footprint!
Start Reducing Your Own Food Waste
By following these easy tips, we can all do our part to reduce food waste at home. If you use other methods to tackle the issue of food waste, share them with us in the comments below!
Thank you to the Produce for Better Health Foundation for providing our team with many of the food waste resources needed to write this blog – your knowledge and support is greatly appreciated.