Tips to reduce food waste

Tags: Food

Author: Amanda Pokki

You’re not only solving your own problem, but a global issue.

Apples on the ground (Joshua Hoehne from Unsplash)

Food production causes 8 % of all greenhouse gas emissions, uses 24 % of the freshwater supply, and accounts for 28 million tonnes of fertiliser and pesticide use. Globally, about one third of all food that is produced goes to waste and it has an enormous impact on the environment. That’s the same as going home with three bags of groceries and just dropping one on the ground and letting it go to waste. That means a huge portion of resources used for growing food, as well as the land used for farming and cattle feeding ground is being used for no purpose at all!(1)

In Finland people throw out 120-160 million kilos of food every year. Domestic food waste produces roughly a third of the food waste and is the biggest contributor in the supply chain. In total 400-500 million kilos of food are thrown away in Finland. On average, that means that each of us throws out 20-25 kg away per year, worth over 100 euros!(2)

It usually comes down to not planning, changing situations, lack of skills or simply not bothering to cook. Many don’t know how to use food scraps, or don’t want to. Clearly, food going bad before having time to use it is the biggest reason that we throw food away. (3) More than 20 % of your environmental footprint comes from what you eat. (4) Reducing food waste at home is a simple, yet incredibly efficient way to reduce your environmental impact! Below you can find a list of ways to reduce your food waste.

1. Plan your meals before going to the store and write a grocery list. This way you know what you need and won’t end up buying things you don’t have a plan for.

2. Check your fridge and pantry before shopping. This might be obvious, but this way you will avoid buying something you already have. You can also plan to make food with an ingredient that is going bad soon, using it before you have to throw it away.

3. Don’t go to the store when you’re hungry or you might do some impulse buying.

4. At the store, try to choose ripe fruit and vegetables, rather than choosing the half-ripe ones. You may save them from being thrown away!

5. Know the difference between the “use by” and “best before” date. Food that has passed its “use by” date should be thrown out. Food that has been stored properly can still be eaten after the best before date.

6. Rely on your senses rather than the best before date! It’s easy to look at a best before date and chuck something in the biowaste bin but remember that if the food or ingredient looks good, and smells good and tastes good, there’s probably nothing wrong with it.

7. Use your freezer! You can use it to store many ingredients, just remember to check the contents every once in a while.

8. Using see through containers to store your left-over food might help you reduce food waste. It is so easy to forget something in a Tupperware box, but if you can see the contents, it’s much easier to keep track what you have in your fridge!

9. Go through your fridge and pantry regularly, to make sure you haven’t forgotten a food or ingredient that is going bad. Also, keep your pantries and fridge neat and clean and move the older products closer to your eye level and new products behind them.

10. Don’t hoard too many ingredients unnecessarily, even things that last for ages like flour, oats and seeds go bad at some point.

11. Store food properly! Be aware of how your food should be stored, for example potatoes should be stored in the dark in room temperature and bananas (ethylene producers) should be not be placed with other fruit and vegetables.

12. Avoid recipes with exotic ingredients for which you have no future plan. Do a quick search online to see if you can replace that ingredient with something you already have at home. If you desperately need that ingredient, ask your friends if they already have some you could use.

13. You can also swap food with friends or family, maybe they have an ingredient that is going bad soon that you need, or a rare spice that you only need a little of in your cooking.

14. Be creative with the leftovers! Have a list of foods where you can easily hide leftovers, these include smoothies, homemade muesli or pureed veggie soup. Below we’ve listed a bunch of websites to give you more ideas about how to use the leftovers!

There are many websites with creative ideas for how to use leftovers in new dishes. Below we have listed a few of them. The following links lead to Finnish websites:
- Martat have a whole list of ideas for leftover foods.
- Check out the ideas by Yhteishyvä.
- Leftover recipes by Saa Syödä!
- Valio also has a bunch of ideas on using leftovers.
- Do you have ingredients in your pantry, but have no clue how to use it? In this webpage by Saa Syödä you can type in the ingredient in the search bar and you will get a list of recipes on how to use that item.

The following links lead to similar websites in English:
- 10 smart uses for food that about to go bad.
- Recipe ideas and a search bar to see how you can use specific ingredients from your fridge or pantry.
- Jesse Sparks has an amazing blog with plenty of left-over friendly recipes.
- You can make a “fancy” dish like the one served in the restaurants from leftovers. The Leftovers Recipe page on BBC Good Food will show you how.

Learn about why food spoils in the first place, food preservation methods, what is food security and how it can help prevent food spoilage, and thus, food waste? (Read also the Food security challenge)

Inevitably some food will go bad and we have to throw away food. Read more about how to use kitchen scraps to make your very own compost! (Read also the Home compost challenge)