Reduce Food Waste Starting Now
Since I’ve been living according to my values, I have made a conscious effort in all facets of my life to act according to my beliefs. Protecting and minimizing damage to the environment is important to me, so I began learning how to reduce food waste in my small apartment kitchen.
33% of all food produced globally is lost or wasted (Sustain Ontario). I read about landfills being full of rotting, wasted food, supermarkets rejecting “imperfect” foods because they are misshapen or have minor blemishes, and some restaurants solely operating on rejected foods or foods about to expire.
Throughout most of history, humans didn’t have the luxury to waste food. What was harvested, gathered, or caught must be eaten, preserved, or reused. Food shortages or famine could happen at any time and frequently did.
Food that wasn’t consumed right away was salted, dried, or encased in lard to preserve it. Grease was made into candles or combined with lye to make soap. Scraps were fed to farm animals. Canning began in the 1800s as a preservation method, using salt and sugar as preservation agents. Before powered refrigerators, there were ice-boxes and root cellars to keep fruits and vegetables cool.
With the Industrial Revolution came cheaper manufacturing and reduced food costs which increased consumerism. Whoever could afford a refrigerator, canned goods and even a garbage disposal obtained a higher status. With increased consumerism came luxury – the luxury to throw out spoiled or uneaten food.
Why reduce food waste?
The history of food consumption and food waste is interesting but why should you bother to reduce food waste in your home? Yes, it’s more work but only until you build the skills to reducing food waste into your kitchen and cooking.
Reducing food waste helps save money by using every part of every ingredient you buy allowing you to stretch your meals or create new ones. You reduce the impact on landfills filled with rotting food that has little to no access to oxygen, which creates methane gas as it decomposes, more harmful to the ozone than carbon dioxide.
By reducing the food you throw out or allow to spoil, you further reduce the impact on the environment by not wasting the resources that went into growing, producing, and shipping the food, whether it be meat, veggies, fruit, or grain. The water, fertilizer, and land used to grow and support the food items will not have gone to waste.
How can you reduce food waste?
- Buy less
This is a step many people don’t even consider. The first way to reduce food waste is to buy fewer perishable items. I’m talking fruits, veggies, raw meat, bread, etc. Look at your week before shopping and make choices according to the true time you have, not how much you hope to have.
2. Preserve and Portion
I don’t expect you to start salting and drying meats (though if you want to, send me some!) but preservation is a skill we still use – simply by refrigerating our foods. Portion what you won’t use right away and pop it in the freezer. Freezer ziploc bags (or better yet, reusable ones!) are nice and sturdy for holding large quantities of meat. If you have a small family, freeze your bread to extend its shelf life.
3. Utilize all parts
Here’s where the real fun comes in. Save veggie peels from onions, carrots, and garlic to make your own veggie stock. Stems and leaves from herbs like cilantro, parsley, or carrots can be made into a delicious pesto. The ribs from kale or chard can be washed, cut up, sautéed and thrown into scrambled eggs, spread onto toast, or used in a stir fry or as part of sauce over a pasta dish. With leftover bones from whole poultry, pork, or beef, make a bone broth for later soups and stews. The cobs from corn can be cooked into a corn broth. The point is to store these “leftovers” in the freezer until you have collected enough to make four cups (or more) worth.
If this seems overwhelming, choose just one way to use more of your food. Know that you are doing more than you were and, in that alone, you are helping to do your part to reduce food waste.
Give leftovers to family, friends, and even coworkers. If you city allows it, ask about donating to a homeless shelter.
If you have a house and the budget, investing in a composting bin is worth it for you. For the apartment dwellers like myself, it is a bit trickier but still doable. If you produce a decent amount of food waste, you can invest in or start a monthly composting service in your area.