Since food waste is getting the attention it deserves, it’s time we all made a collective effort to reduce and prevent it. While many people experience food insecurity, food waste is still a major part of the waste stream.
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways to reduce food waste that we can incorporate into our lifestyles. From the home to the workplace and even in restaurants, reducing food loss and waste is something everyone can get involved in.
Why is the wastage of food a problem?
With the farm-to-table movement taking over, Californians are looking for more ways to live more sustainably. But there’s always room for improvement. Food is wasted at every point in the food chain—farms, fishing boats, stores, restaurants, and everything in between.
Wasted food has environmental, economic, and social consequences. Beyond the wastage of food, you’re also throwing away natural and human resources that are used to grow, produce, process, and transport that food. The amount of food that’s thrown away can easily solve many families’ hunger issues.
Here are a few ways wastage of food impacts the environment:
- Uneaten food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste in the U.S.
- In landfills, food gradually breaks down to form a greenhouse gas known as methane. This gas is up to 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide
- Food waste accounts for more than 25 percent of all the freshwater consumption in the U.S. per year
- Food waste is among the leading causes of freshwater pollution
All this and more signify that finding solutions to food wastage is a duty we should all take more seriously. Anyone can make a move in the right direction and eventually reverse significant damage by following these tips.
Easy ways to reduce food waste at home
1. Make a shopping list
Preplanning what to buy from the store not only reduces food waste, but also helps put a stop to impulse buying. While buying in bulk is more convenient, it also leads to extra wastage of food. Make a list and buy things you know you’ll use. Most times, this step is enough to significantly reduce food waste in households.
2. Store food properly
Stop food waste by storing your groceries the way they should be stored. One way to start is by separating foods that produce ethylene gas from those that don’t—for example, bananas and potatoes. Failing to do so can lead to premature ripening and fast-rotting produce.
3. Check expiration dates
Checking the expiration date before buying an item ensures that you have enough time to use it. While many labels on products are ambiguous, the “use by” label is the best to follow. This term means that the food may not be at its best quality past the listed date—this term is not to be confused with the “sell by” dates.
4. Preserve what you can
Pickling, drying, canning, and fermenting are just a few ways to reduce food waste through preservation. These tips to reduce food waste have been around for centuries and are great ways to reduce your carbon footprint. These food-preserving activities are fun ways to bond with your family while enjoying organic snacks.
5. Don’t get rid of the leftovers immediately
Leftovers aren’t just delicious after Thanksgiving. You might already be storing excess food in the fridge, but how often do you actually eat it? A great tip to reduce food waste and save money is to dedicate a day to use up the leftover foods in your fridge. Call us biased, but some foods do taste better the second time around.
6. Save the seeds
The flesh and seeds of most fruits and vegetables end up being tossed away. But there are actually multipurpose uses you’ve been missing out on. Besides planting seeds in your garden and growing fresh produce, did you know you can eat the seeds as healthy snacks? This solution to food wastage has been around in many Middle Eastern cultures for a long time.
Pumpkin seeds are a great example of a food wastage solution. Wash and dry the seeds, toss them in a bit of olive oil and salt, and toast them in the oven. Enjoy the addictive activity of peeling and eating them for days to come.
7. Make a smoothie
Stems, peels, and ends are not exactly the most appetizing part of a food, but they’re still packed with nutrients. A great way of reducing food loss and waste, while still reaping health benefits is to blend them up in a smoothie. Fruit and vegetable peels, wilted herbs, overripe bananas, and chopped stalks are a few examples that can be great add-ins.
8. Befriend your freezer
Freezing food is one of the easiest ways to preserve it for longer. The amount of foods that this method could be applied to are endless. Fruits and vegetables, herbs, leftovers, and more—everyone should take up freezing as a means to preventing food waste.
9. Get creative with your recipes
Most of the time, people forget that they control their own kitchen. Tweak your recipes to your own liking, adding and removing ingredients as you like. Repurpose scraps, use ingredients you already have, and include parts of foods that aren’t used to add your own twist to the recipe.
10. Find alternative uses for your food
Bring out your inner DIY master and get creative with the ways you can use your food. Use honey in face masks, vegetable oil to remove splinters, vinegar for carpet stains, and sugar for lip scrubs. The medicinal and cosmetological properties of food are many—reduce food waste by taking advantage of it all.
Ways to reduce food waste in restaurants
11. Be mindful of stock rotation
Use the first-in, first-out rule to ensure newer stock is routinely stored behind the older stock. This solution to food wastage keeps things in order and guarantees older stock will always be used up first before it has a chance to go to waste.
12. Pay attention to temperature control
Temperature control is essential to manage food waste in restaurants. This includes cooling hot food quickly, reheating food to the correct core temperature, and storing high-risk food in fridges and freezers. This solution to food wastage lessens the possibilities of spoiling and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria in foods.
13. Use eco-friendly products
Many companies make eco-friendly products that can be used instead of single-use items. Straws, utensils, takeaway bags, and cleaning supplies are several items that restaurants routinely throw away.
14. Always update your inventory
Preventing food waste starts with knowing what you have in your inventory. This means keeping a detailed list of the items in your storage areas (pantries, fridges, freezers), the expiration dates, allergenic details, and anything else you can easily refer to. This avoids wastage, double-buying, and forgetting foods you already have.
15. Control your portion sizes
Quality is always more important than quantity. Keep an eye out for oversized portions and jumbo side dishes. If you notice that certain foods are always ending up in the trash, rework your portion sizes to avoid food wastage.
16. Avoid large batch cooking
How much food does your restaurant really need to prepare in advance? And how much of it can be made-to-order? Large batch cooking means that food may not get used before it goes out of date—a waste of money, time, and product.
17. Incorporate fresh daily specials into your menu
Fresh daily specials are a great way to spice up a menu and make sure extra ingredients have a use. Gloss over your inventory, determine what items have their expiration dates coming up, and cook up a fresh storm as a solution to food wastage.
18. Donate leftover foods
Local food banks and charities are always grateful to have a helping hand. Connect with shelters in your vicinity to ensure that your leftover food goes to those in need rather than to waste.
19. Suggest packing up the leftovers
Make a point of suggesting a to-go bag for your customers. The food left over on customers’ plates is hard to repurpose. Whether they take it home to eat, give to someone in need, or compost, it stops food waste in its tracks.
20. Compost what you can
Getting a compost bin is a worthwhile addition to your restaurant. Grains, coffee grounds, tea bags, fruit and vegetable peelings, and old bread products can be composted to reduce food waste.
21. Train employees on food waste management
Last but not least, reducing food loss and waste is a group effort. If everyone in the restaurant understands the importance of food waste management, they’ll put in the necessary effort. After all, everyone in the chain—from the waiter to the manager and cook—is responsible for at least one step that affects food waste in restaurants.
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